Nahargarh Fort


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Nahargarh Fort

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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RoofTerrace of the Fort
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Jaipur city from Nahargarh Fort

Nahargarh Fort stands on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the pink city of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The view of the city from the fort is breath-taking.

Along with  Amber Fortand ,Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh once formed a strong defence ring for the city. The fort was originally named Sudarshangarh, but it became known as Nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers’. The popular belief is that Nahar here stands for Nahar Singh Bhomia, whose spirit haunted the place and obstructed construction of the fort. Nahar’s spirit was pacified by building a temple in his memory within the fort, which thus became known by his name.

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Stone Railing at Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

Built mainly in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, the fort was constructed as a place of retreat on the summit of the ridge above the city. Walls extended over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected this fort to Jaigarh, the fort above the old capital of Amber. Though the fort never came under attack during the course of its history, it did see some historical events, notably the treaties with the Maratha forces who warred with Jaipur in the 18th century. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Europeans of the region, including the British Resident’s wife, were moved to Nahargarh fort by the king of Jaipur, Sawai Ram Singh, for their protection

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Nahargarh Fort compound Jaipur, Rajasthan

The fort was extended in 1868 during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh. In 1883-92, a range of palaces was built at Nahargarh by Sawai Madho Singh at a cost of nearly three and a half lakh rupees. The Madhavendra Bhawan, built by Sawai Madho Singh had suites for the queens of Jaipur and at the head was a suite for the king himself. The rooms are linked by corridors and still have some delicate frescos. Nahargarh was also a hunting residence of the Maharajas. 

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Until April 1944, the Jaipur State government used for its official purposes solar time read from the Samrat Yantra in the Jantar Mantar Observatory, with a gun fired from Nahargarh Fort as the time signal.

Some scenes of the movie Rang De Basanti were shot at Nahargarh fort.

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File:Jaipur, Nahargarh Fort, Madhvendra Palace.jpg

File:Jaipur, Madhvendra Palace.jpg

Jaipur, Madhvendra Palace

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Astronaut Photo Shows Sun Glint Off Great Lakes


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Astronaut Photo Shows Sun Glint Off Great Lakes

 OurAmazingPlanet Staff – Jul 25, 2012 11:39 AM ET
Some of the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes from space, photographed by an Expedition 31 crew member on June 14, 2012.
CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station snapped this photo of several of the Great Lakes and New York’s Finger Lakes. The mirror-like appearance of the water bodies is due to sunlight reflecting toward the observer.

If the viewing and lighting conditions are ideal, that mirror-like surface can extend over very large areas, such as the entire surface of Lake Ontario, which is 7,300 square miles (19,000 square kilometers).

The photo was taken on June 14 by an Expedition 31 crewmember using a Nikon D2Xs digital camera with a 45 mm lens.

It was taken while the space station was located over Nova Scotia, approximately 740 miles (1,200 kilometers) ground distance from the center of the image.

Much of central Canada is obscured by extensive cloud cover in the photo, whereas a smaller cluster of clouds in the lower left obscures the Appalachian range and Pennsylvania . The blue envelope of the Earth’s atmosphere is visible above the horizon line that extends across the upper third of the image.

Such panoramic views of the planet are readily taken with handheld digital cameras through ISS viewing ports, according to a release from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Massive Greenland Iceberg Heads for Open Waters


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Massive Greenland Iceberg Heads for Open Waters

OurAmazingPlanet Staff – Jul 24, 2012 02:41 PM ET

Greenland’s Petermann Glacier ice shelf has given birth to a large iceberg, a July 21 satellite image shows.
CREDIT: NASA.

A massive iceberg that recently broke away from one of Greenland’s largest glaciers is making its way downstream and toward the open ocean, a new satellite photo reveals.

The drifting island of ice split from the Petermann Glacier’s ice shelf — the front end of a glacier, which hangs off the land and floats on the ocean.

The newly birthed berg is estimated to be about 46 square miles (120 square kilometers), and finally broke away from the floating tongue of ice on Monday, July 16, signaling that an ever-growing crack in the ice shelf first spied by satellites in 2001 had finally severed completely.

Satellite images taken on Saturday, July

21, show the large iceberg, with a curved edge where it broke from the ice shelf, is slowly moving down the fjord, a flotilla of far smaller bergs crowding in its wake.

Scientists had been watching the inchoate iceberg for years, and predicted it would break away this summer.

In August 2010, a far larger iceberg — one about twice the size of the brand new berg — broke from the same Greenland ice shelf. A year later, in July 2011, a Manhattan-size remnant of the colossal iceberg was still roaming the northern seas, and was spotted near the coast of Newfoundland.

Images: Russian National Parks


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Images: Russian National Parks

Andrea Mustain, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Russiamap

Russiamap

Credit: WWF Russia.

Russia’s federally Protected Areas (PAs). Regions that are currently national protected areas are outlined with red, purple, and orange lines. The red-outlined portions are known as zapovedniks. These areas are set aside as untouched preserves and offer very limited or no public access. National parks are outlined with purple lines, the orange lines mark zakazniks, sanctuaries for bird or game, usually.

Proposed protected areas are marked by red triangles (zapovedniks), purple triangles (national parks), and light blue triangles (maritime buffer zones).

Russsibsnow

Russsibsnow

Credit: Darren Jew / WWF-Canon.

Nalychevo Nature Park, Kamchatka, Siberia. The park was established in 1995. Kamchatka is the massive peninsula that sticks out along Russia’s eastern coastline, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its east, and the Sea of Okhotsk on its west. The area is dotted with volcanoes, many of them still active, and home to great biodiversity. Sea otters and bears dwell here, eagles and peregrine falcons soar through the skies, and multiple species of salmon spawn in the area’s wild rivers.

Russsibpark

Russsibpark

Credit: Hartmut Jungius / WWF-Canon.

The Lena Pillars in Lenskie Stolby National Nature Park, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Siberia.

Russtiger

Russtiger

Credit: David Lawson / WWF-UK.

The largest of the tiger subspecies, the Amur tiger can grow up to nearly ten feet (300 centimeters) long, and weigh more than 650 pounds (300 kilograms). Once hunted nearly to extinction, in the mid-20th century only some 40 individuals survived in the wild. The species rebounded, and now around 450 Amur, or Siberian, tigers live in Russia’s Far East. Poaching is still a big problem, driven in some part by demand for tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine.

Russtrees

Russtrees

Credit: Hartmut Jungius / WWF-Canon.

A mixed forest in autumn colors in the Shatak Nature Park, in the rolling southern Ural Mountains, Bashkortostan, Russia.

Russwalrus

Russwalrus

Credit: Staffan Widstrand / WWF.

A Pacific walrus, Chukotka, Siberia. Larger than their Atlantic walrus cousins, Pacific walruses can weigh up to 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms). Once hunted heavily, the biggest threat to walruses in recent times is climate change. As ocean habitats warm, receding sea ice is forcing the beasts to stay on land in overcrowded conditions.

 

 

Creatures of the Frozen Deep: Antarctica’s Sea Life


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Creatures of the Frozen Deep: Antarctica’s Sea Life

Andrea Mustain, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer –
Ice fish

Ice fish

Credit: British Antarctic Survey.

This ghostly-looking fish has no red blood cells. Glycerol in its blood acts as antifreeze, allowing the fish to stay alive in the frigid Antarctic conditions.

Sea Spider

Sea Spider

Credit: British Antarctic Survey.

Arachnophobes beware: More species of sea spider are found around Antarctica than any other place on the planet. And like many Antarctic species, the sea spiders here grow far larger than their cousins in warmer climes.

These are some progressive spiders: Males of the species carry the developing young. When birthing time arrives, the fully formed baby sea spiders crawl out of their father’s leg

Amphipod

Amphipod

Hello world! A brand new amphipod — a type of tiny crustacean — makes its debut. Huw Griffiths, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, says at first scientists thought the upper amphipod was a specimen of Epimeria georgiana, the species shown below. DNA barcoding revealed the two are genetically different. The new, golden amphipod has yet to be named.

Polychaete worm

Polychaete worm

Credit: British Antarctic Survey, Tomopteris

Some species of this type of transparent swimming worm have bioluminescence, the ability to produce light through chemical reactions.

Octopus

Octopus

Credit: British Antarctic Survey, probably Pareledone

A sucker for travel: Octopuses are abundant around Antarctica, and they are spreading. These leggy creatures have expanded their territory far beyond the island continent, riding oxygen-rich, freezing waters that sink from the Antarctic sea surface down to the deeps. The life-supporting waters fan out into surrounding seas, and animals can follow the corridor.

The Southern Sea feeds into the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian oceans, providing food and life to oceans around the world.

Basket star

Basket star

Credit: British Antarctic Survey, Gorgonocephalus

This creature was filmed stretching out its curly, branching arms after cuddling with a coral. Posed here, above the seabed, the filter feeder can gobble food that goes floating by.

Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber

Credit: British Antarctic Survey.

This cold-loving, deep-sea dweller doesn’t share much with its appetizing namesake except, perhaps, an aerodynamic silhouette.

Images: Tracing the Ancient Incan Empire


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Images: Tracing the Ancient Incan Empire

Jesse Lewis, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor – Jul 24, 2012 08:32 AM ET
Re-imagining the Inca
Re-imagining the Inca
Credit: Jesse Lewis
The city of Cusco seems to hum in anticipation. Villagers dressed in colorful shawls, or chompas, mingle with city-folk and tourists. Processions parade down the cobble stone streets. Horns blare over the serenade of pan pipes, and people gather to celebrate an ancient Inca tradition. This is the festival of the sun, or “Inti Raymi,” held at the height of the winter solstice every year during late June in the Southern Hemisphere.

During the time of the Inca, Inti Raymi was one of the most important ceremonies of the year to pay respects to the supreme sun god. Nine days of processions and dancing, as well as animal sacrifices and ceremony, were meant to ensure good crops in the growing season ahead.

Outlawed in 1572 by the Catholic Church, it wasn’t until the 1940s that the secrets of this festival were again reconstructed. Following the Spanish conquest much was lost to history, but like old ruins gone to seed, the Inca’s secrets were just lying dormant waiting to be rediscovered. Today, archaeologists, historians and scientists are shedding new light on the Inca’s mysterious world.
Origins of empire
Origins of empire
Credit: Jesse Lewis
Emerging sometime during the 13th century here in the Cusco valley in Southern Peru, the Inca controlled the largest pre-Colombian empire in the New World, stretching from Southern Colombia to the edge of Patagonia. From dozens of fractious ethnic groups spread throughout the Andes, the Inca rose to power through military might and shrewd alliances. Out of so many competitors though, what set the Inca apart?

One benefit the Inca held over other groups was their fertile lands in the Cusco Valley. Irrigated by the Urubamba River and enjoying warmer microclimates, the Cusco Valley gave the Inca longer growing seasons and larger harvests than elsewhere in the high Andes.

After the former lords of the region, the Wari culture collapsed following a period of severe droughts around 1100, refugees flooded to the highlands. Resource wars for access to land and water followed, but in the fertile Cusco Valley, the Inca stood their ground. They united in organized defense — a foreshadowing of the adept military organization they became.

Farmers to conquerors

Farmers to conquerors

Credit: Jesse Lewis

Around the same time that the Inca were organizing in the Cusco valley, a warming trend in the Andes began to occur around 1150-1300. These warmer temperatures allowed farmers to expand their arable land up hillsides. Using elaborate irrigation and terracing systems on the steep slopes, they were able to reap bumper crops. Throughout many parts of the Andes these ancient terraces are still evident and increasingly being reclaimed by farmers.

And with a recent report from the United Nations Framework on Climate Change recommending restoration of diverse native Andean crops and rebuilding pre-Hispanic irrigation and infrastructure, people again are taking note that the Inca were master farmers whose legacy even now contributes value and influence.

Though we may never know the full extent of crop varieties cultivated by the Inca, many varieties continue to be passed down from one generation to the next throughout the Andean highlands. Here in the highland town of Pisaq in the Cusco Valley, the colorful variety of goods for sale — Indian corn, potatoes, coca leaf — gives a glimpse into the rich farming and gastronomic world of the Inca.

Food security

Food security

Credit: Jesse Lewis

Shivering and watching my breath condense in fog, the sun seems to take forever to reach into the dark clefts of the Andean valleys in the morning.

Here in the ancient town of Ollaytaytambo, beautiful stone terraces and granaries litter the valley walls — now, finally, bathed in bright sun. On these terraces the Inca grew grains and stored the excess in high, well ventilated granaries.

Hillside granaries like these lay at the foundation of the Inca’s expansion beyond the Cusco Valley. Extra food allowed the Inca freedom from farming and freed people for other roles such as laborers and soldiers. With a newfound army, the Inca were able to forge alliances and defeat rivals in war. By 1400 the Inca had come to dominate all the surrounding valleys to create one state, and one capital, the sacred city of Cusco. Only one major rival remained …

Jewel of the Andes

Jewel of the Andes

Credit: Jesse Lewis

The crown jewel of the Andes has always been the vast deep-blue waters of Lake Titicaca. The thin, blue air of the high Andes blends with the deep blue of the lake like an unexpected mirage. Then and now, this place is otherworldly and sacred.

Ringing the shores of the lake were numerous tribes, primarily ruled by a rival kingdom, the Colla. These lands were rich and desirable but would not be given up easily. Around 1400 the Inca King Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui ( meaning “he who reshapes the world”) began setting his sights on this last rival to power.

The two armies amassed on the cold, windswept plains surrounding the lake must have been a sight to behold. Decked out in battle gear, bristling with weapons and arrayed stone-faced in long battalions of intimidation, the Colla were no easy foe, but neither were the Inca. When the dust of battle finally fell it was the Inca who were victorious. Thus began the march towards empire.

Heirloom herds

Heirloom herds

Credit: Jesse Lewis

Military success in the Andes depended not just on men but on their livestock. Llamas like these are the only draft animals from the Americas, domesticated by early people in the Andes from wild ancestors thousands of years ago. For the Inca they provided meat, leather and fiber for clothing and were capable of carrying up to 70 pounds (30 kilograms) of gear, making them crucial to the Inca’s military success.

During Inca times these animals were meticulously bred and selected for specific traits. The Inca Kings kept esteemed “heirloom” breeds similar to thoroughbred horses among European royalty. After the Spanish conquest, though, these breeds were lost. Llamas went extinct in many parts of the Andes.

In highland Ecuador I accompanied a small group of researchers from the United States, Ecuador and Peru who are using genetic analysis to retrace the ancient heirloom herds of the Inca and their wild origins. In one village we visited, this gentleman stopped me to ask if I would take a photo of him and his granddaughter, proud to show off their family heirlooms.

Qhapaq Ñan - the Great Inca Road

Qhapaq Ñan – the Great Inca Road

Credit: Jesse Lewis

To quickly supply troops throughout their sprawling empire, the Inca depended on a spider web of ingeniously engineered roads. The greatest of these Inca roads was the Qhapaq Ñan, meaning “the beautiful road” in Quechua. As the primary north-south highway of the empire, it traversed over 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) across the rugged spine of the Andes.

These roads functioned for many vital purposes, providing quick and reliable routes for troops, trade, communications and logistical support. Similar to the ancient roads of the Romans, these Inca roads helped link people, goods and civil control across the entire empire. Since the conquering Spaniards either dug them up or let them deteriorate, the full extent of the Inca’s vast road system is still not completely known. New sections continue to be discovered.

This photograph comes from a section of the Takesi route I hiked in Bolivia. It was an Inca road linking the highlands near La Paz to the Yungas on the eastern edge of the Amazon basin.

The economy of empire

The economy of empire

Credit: Jesse Lewis

The ancient salt mines of Maras lie in the heart of the Cusco Valley and give a glimpse into one small part of the Inca’s vast trade network and economy.

The bizarre maze of white honeycombs looks like a giant beehive cleft in the mountains, but they are really ancient salt mines, still in use since the time of the Inca. Originating from a salty underground spring, hundreds of terraced pools collect and condense salt through the natural process of evaporation.

Control over the roads that linked the ancient trade routes over the Andes helped enrich the Inca Empire and consolidate its power. Much as the ancient silk roads benefitted both east and west, so too did the Inca roads benefit trade between the coasts and the jungle, and between the northern and southern Andes.

Rise and fall

Rise and fall

Credit: Jesse Lewis

In 1493, less than 100 years after conquering the Lake Titicaca kingdoms, the Inca King Huayna Capac ruled over a vast empire. Inca dominance sprawled across modern-day Peru, Bolivia, most of Ecuador and a large portion of Chile to the edge of Patagonia. They were at the zenith of their power, enforced through military control, a vast network of roads, access to trade and dozens of royal estates spread over their empire.

At the height of their reign, it seems unbelievable that by 1533, only 40 years later, the Spaniards had toppled their empire and executed the last rightful Inca King, Atahualpa. Civil war, a smallpox epidemic, superior weapons and treachery all contributed to a perfect storm to destroy one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen.

Today the most visible traces of the Inca lie in scattered ruins across the Andes like these at the site of Ingapirca, the remains of a large Inca temple and estate in southern Ecuador.

Inca rising

Inca rising

Credit: Jesse Lewis

Although the Inca Empire’s rule was broken by the Spanish conquest and centuries of oppression, many traditions, customs and beliefs survive, and in some places even flourish. Today, Inca heritage and pride continue to undergo a resurgence in the Andes — Symbolic like a phoenix risen from the ashes, the Andean condor triumphing over the bull.

If you look beyond the ruins, outward over the countryside and rolling green folds of the mountains, you will see that the Inca still remain. Over the highlands the descendants of the Inca and the many tribes that encompassed their empire are everywhere.

An old woman knitting a shawl outside her adobe house, men planting potatoes and corn in the fields, and young children watching over llamas and sheep on the hillsides — throughout the Andes the Inca’s legacy lives on in the present day. Traditional ceremonies and festivals, colorful highland markets, and the singsong cadence of Quechua reverberate the mystery of the past, like the echo of footsteps on cobbled village streets.

Does the African genome hold the secrets of a previously unknown species of hominid?


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Does the African genome hold the secrets of a previously unknown species of hominid?

 

Researchers have just finished performing the most comprehensive genetic analysis of modern day Africans ever. And they’ve turned up some absolutely incredible results.

Their findings suggest humans are more genetically diverse than we’d previously believed. But they also show that ancient humans may have interbred with an unknown species of hominin — what researchers surmise “could have been a sibling species to Neanderthals.”

When it comes to genetic variation, there’s no place on Earth like Africa. Numerous studies in recent years have revealed that human genomic diversity is greater in Africa than anywhere else on Earth. In fact, if you were to move outward from the continent along the migratory paths of early Homo sapiens, taking genetic samples along the way, you’d find that human populations tend to become more and more genetically similar the farther from Africa you get (the result of something called the founder effect).

To quote paleontologist Mike Novacek, provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History, the genes of modern day Africans “tell a very fascinating historical and evolutionary story about populations, where they once were, where they went to in migrations, and so forth.” Adds Novacek, “To find out where you are, you need a map,” and genetic studies of modern day African populations give us “orientation for a lot of great scientific and applied questions.”

Does the African genome hold the secrets of a previously unknown species of hominid?And yet, such investigations are lacking. In a groundbreaking new genomics study, published in the latest issue of Cell, a team of researchers led by geneticists Joseph Lachance and Sarah Tishkoff notes that “despite the important role that African populations have played in human evolutionary history, they remain one of the most understudied groups in human genomics.” To address this disparity, the researchers decided to sequence the genomes of five males from three different African hunter-gatherer populations: Pygmies from Cameroon (pictured up top), and Khoesan-speaking Hadza and Sandawe from Tanzania.

Not All Genome Sequences are Created Equal

But wait — hang on a second. Fifteen genomes? Groundbreaking? Even if you haven’t heard of initiatives like The X PRIZE in Genomics, or The 1000 Genomes Project, 15 probably doesn’t sound like a whole lot. After all, rapid advances in sequencing technologies have begun to make whole-genome sequencing (wherein a person’s entire genetic code is analyzed, as opposed to a small subset of genes) increasingly affordable — to the point that at least one company claims it can now accurately determine a person’s full DNA blueprint for less than $1,000.

But 15 genomes is a big deal, because not all whole-genome analyses are created equal. Lachance, Tishkoff and their colleagues have acquired what are known as “high-coverage” whole-genome maps. Their method involves sequencing each strand of DNA more than 60 times in order to achieve unparalleled accuracy (a DNA blueprint examined this closely is said to have been sequenced “at >60x coverage.”)

By comparison, note the researchers, “whole-genome sequencing in the 1000 Genomes Project has generally been at low coverage, and genetic diversity in many ethnically diverse populations is yet to be characterized, particularly with respect to Africa, the ancestral homeland of all modern humans.” That makes the work of Lachance, Tishkoff and their colleagues the first population genomics analysis ever conducted using high-coverage whole genome sequencing.

 

 

Did Humans Interbreed with an Unknown Species of Hominid?

The researchers’ investigation has led to a number of insightful observations. Results from whole-genome sequencing suggest, for example, that these hunter-gatherer populations have likely responded to distinct, region-specific environmental factors by evolving in ways that are markedly different from agricultural and pastoral populations. Analysis of Pygmy DNA sequences also revealed a collection of genes that likely underlies the population’s short stature. (Male Pygmies are typically less than five feet tall; Dr. Tishkoff is pictured here with women from the Western Pygmies of Cameroon.)

Even more intriguing, however, was the discovery of over 13-million genetic variants, that is: points in the genome where a single nucleotide differed from the human genome reference sequence. At the time of their discovery, a staggering 5-million of these variants were new to science.

“It was awe-inspiring to find millions of new variants that we never knew existed in our species,” said Lachance in a statement. “It’s humbling but invigorating to think about how to make sense of all this diversity.”

 

That’s not to say Lachance and his colleagues aren’t trying to come up with an explanation. On the contrary, in their search for answers, the researchers claim to have made a remarkable discovery: fragments of DNA, different from those found in most modern-day humans, that point to ancient interbreeding between H. sapiens and an as-yet unidentified species of hominid — not Neanderthals, mind you, but an entirely new species we’ve yet to discover. That’s a pretty bold claim, especially in the absence of any fossilized evidence to back it up. To date, hominid remains discovered in Africa have all resembled modern humans; and while paleoanthropologists often criticize geneticists for ignoring this derth of paleontological evidence (Stanford researcher Richard Klein has described Lachance and Tishkoff’s publication as“irresponsible”), the researchers believe their findings to be sound: 

“Fossils degrade fast in Africa so we don’t have a reference genome for this ancestral lineage,” explained co-author Joshua Akey in a statement; but the researchers report that they’ve gone to great lengths to show that the genetic traces they’ve discovered resemble neither human nor Neanderthal DNA, and that no genome sequences taken from outside of Africa show any evidence of the foreign genetic material. Consequently, explains Akey, “one of the things we’re thinking is it could have been a sibling species to Neanderthals.”

Further investigations will help substantiate these claims, and Tishkoff reports that she intends to continue sequencing the genomes of more and more Africans.

“Our study emphasizes the critically important role of next-generation genome sequencing for elucidating the genetic basis of both normal variable traits in humans as well as identifying the genetic basis of human disease risk,” she said.

The researchers’ findings are published in the latest issue of Cell.