Yearbook 2005

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Using state-of-the-art technology, the archaeological science labs of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology are an essential component in helping to answer key questions in palaeoanthropology. The Archaeological Science group in the Department of Human Evolution has at its fingertips a variety of methods which can provide crucial data on chronology, palaeodiet, migration and phylogenetics. In a first step the team managed to extract and sequence a bone protein, osteocalcin, from two 75,000-year-old Neanderthal specimens from Shanidar in Iraq, which failed to yield DNA. The protein sequencing was achieved using MALDI-TOF/TOF mass spectrometry, a technique which provides exceptional limits of detection. These are the oldest known proteins to be sequenced and have provided new phylogenetic and phenotypic data on the hominid line alongside osteocalcin sequences extracted from related, extant species (chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla and human). These data illustrate the potential for proteins to provide informative genetic data in the absence of recoverable DNA, and opens up the exciting possibility of applying these techniques to earlier hominids. more
Nation-states worldwide, both new and old, have to develop systems of law, governance and social control which can incorporate peoples of minority groups. A research project at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology investigates the contrasting ways Tibetan groups have experienced state control in India and China. It concludes that indigenous concepts of order are powerful factors influencing the groups’ reactions and responses to the legal regimes in each state. more
This research report captures a project examining the different meanings and dimensions of “culture” using the example of Siberia. This region is usually associated with a lack or absence of “cultivatedness”, yet it is also seen as a homeland of an amazing diversity of “cultures”. more

Mysterious Stellar Dust in the Early Universe

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Krause, Oliver; Birkmann, Stephan M.; Lemke, Dietrich; Klaas, Ulrich
In 2003, large quantities of dust were detected in the most distant quasars. So the question arose how this dust could possibly have formed within only about 700 million years after the big bang. The mystery soon seemed to be solved: a team of astronomers claimed to have detected enormous amounts of dust in the Cassiopeia A (Cas A) supernova remnant. The scientists concluded from this that type II supernovae were the first to produce dust in the universe. When astronomers at MPIA followed up this issue they came to a different conclusion: The dust detected at Cas A has nothing to do with the supernova remnant but actually belongs to an extended dust complex lying between Earth and Cas A. Thus the question about the origin of the dust in the early universe is still open. more
Researchers at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics have developed new relativistic models which allow predictions of so far unknown properties of short gamma-ray bursts. Their simulations will come under scrutiny by the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer, a NASA mission that was launched on November 20, 2004. more
Scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics have carried out the worldwide largest cosmological simulation of structure formation and used it to make accurate theoretical predictions for the growth of galaxies and supermassive black holes. For the first time, the model allows a detailed comparison of the theory of hierarchical galaxy formation to observations in a volume comparable to that of the largest spectroscopic redshift surveys, including rare objects such as the first quasars or massive galaxy clusters. more