The first glimpse of Japan from the plane was the sight of Mount Fujiyama poking through the clouds as we came into Narita airport. From there we went on to Sapporo and the city of Date, location for the RNMH 2014 conference. RNMH stands for Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans), and the research team involved held their meeting between November 30 to December 6, 2014. The PalaeoChron team presented 2 papers, one on the project itself and a second on the recent results of the final Mousterian dating work that was published in Nature earlier this year.
The conference was the second meeting of the Japanese research project Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans: Testing Evolutionary Models of Learning (RNMH). The first day of the conference featured a series of keynote addresses by Takeru Akazawa, Silvan Condemi, Tom Wynn and Marcel Otte, which were very well attended by a large audience. The second day was dominated by the Near East, with talks by Ofer Marder on the fantastic site at Manot Cave, a very interesting talk by Sharon Gonen on the site of Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet on the Jordan river, where his team had excavated a 65-55,000 year old Mousterian hunter encampment, and a nice review of the Ahmarian by Nigel Goring-Morris and Anna Belfer-Cohen. In the later part of the day Sonian Shidrang and Fereidoun Biglari presented talks on the Iranian Middle and Upper Palaeolithic.
Day 2 was dominated by environmental and climatic background to Neanderthals and modern humans. Saitou Naruya and his team presented a fascinating talk on human genetics in the Far East and particularly on evidence for Denisovan DNA in the region. Somewhere in Sundaland, Denisovan remnant populations admixed with ancestral Negritos or the ancestors of Sahulian people.
Katsuhiro Sano and Takayuki Omori talked about their work on modelling radiocarbon dates from the large database of results and interpreting their meaning. Yasuhisa Kondo gave a very interesting talk on eco-niche modelling of environments in western Eurasia at the time of the out of Africa 2.
The excursion on day 3 visited the Volcano Science museum and the Ainu Museum “Poroto Kotan”. It was a very cold day, with snow falling and sub-zero temperatures, so the lunch stop in Shiraoi was very welcome because we could cook our own food over a small gas fired barbecue inside the large shrimp restaurant! The place was adorned with large animals including a crab, trout and the large bear that you see below in the photo...
Day 4 focused on learning strategies and cultural evolution, with talks by Olaf Joris, Foni le Brun-Ricalens, Bonnie Hewlett, Barry Hewlett and others, while the final day was concerned with cognition and learning, as well the Neanderthal brain. Speakers included Maria Ponce de Leon and Christoph Zollikofer. Ofer Bar-Yosef summarised the meeting in a final talk.