Ancestral Journeys

Jean Manco has a new book out on the peopling of Europe, Ancestral Journeys.  The general picture is that Europeans arise from three main groups: the Mesolithic hunters (Hyperboreans),  Levantine farmers, and Indo-Europeans off the steppe.   It’s a decent synthesis of archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence. I suspect that her general thesis is in the right ball park:  surely not correct in every detail, but right about the double population replacement.

It is a refreshing  antidote to previous accounts based on the pots-not-people fad that originated back in the 1960s, like so many other bad things.  Once upon a time, when the world was young, archaeologists would find a significant transition in artifact types, see a simultaneous change in skeletons,  and deduce that new tenants had arrived, for example with advent of the Bell Beaker culture.  This became unfashionable: archaeologists were taught to think that invasions  and Völkerwanderungs were never the explanation, even though history records many events of this kind.  I suppose the work Franz Boas  published back in 1912, falsely claiming that environment controlled skull shape rather than genetics, had something to do with it.  And surely some archaeologists  went overboard with migration, suggesting that New Coke cans were a sign of barbarian takeover.  The usual explanation though, is that archaeologists began to find the idea of prehistoric population replacement [of course you know that means war - war means fighting, and fighting means killing] distasteful and concluded that therefore it must not have happened.  Which meant that they were total loons, but that seems to happen a lot.

But the book could be better. Jean Manco relies fairly heavily on mtDNA and Y-chromosome studies, and they are not the most reliable evidence.  Not because the molecular geneticists are screwing up the sequencing, although there must sometimes be undetected contamination, but because mtDNA and Y-chromosomes are each single loci with an effective population size four times smaller than autosomal genes.  They are more affected by drift, and drift can deceive you.  Moreover, in some cases selection might affect the historical trajectory of mtDNA and Y-chromosomes,  which would add to the confusion. Now to be fair, we have more ancient mtDNA results than autosomal DNA,  and there is more published data on mtDNA and Y-chromosome than autosomal DNA in existing populations.  This situation is rapidly improving.

Autosomal DNA has zillions of loci and a larger effective population size.  Most of it is neutral.  That’s what you want, for investigating past mixing and movement  – and autosomal DNA yields interesting hints using publicly available data and software.  For example, using the program ADMIXTURE, you find a West Asian-like component in almost all Europeans (from Spain to Russia, and at about the same level) – but not in Sardinians or Basques. Which must be telling us something.

In addition, she’s not bloody-minded enough. She thinks that a fair fraction of the big population turnovers involved migrants moving into areas that had been abandoned by the previous owners. I can imagine that happening in a few cases.  Maybe the Greenlanders, living in an extremely marginal country for their kind of dairy farming, mostly left and/or died out  before the Eskimos showed up.  That is, in my dreams, because we know that the two groups fought. The Greenlanders may have been in trouble, but they didn’t just fall –  Eskimos pushed. The European colonization of the New World is closer, since there was a dramatic population collapse from the newly introduced Eurasian and African diseases, but even then there was a fair amount of fighting. I’m sure that there were serious epidemics in European prehistory, but  it seems unlikely they compared with the impact of the simultaneous arrival of  bubonic plague, diphtheria, leprosy, malaria, measles,  typhoid, and whooping cough on the Amerindians (with yellow fever and cholera for dessert).

I mean, when the first farmers were settling Britain, about 4000 BC, they built ditched and palisaded enclosures.   Some of these camps are littered with human bones – so, naturally, Brian Fagan, in a popular prehistory textbook, suggests that ” perhaps these camps were places where the dead were exposed for months before their bones were deposited in nearby communal burials.”  ! . We also find thousands of flint arrowheads in extensive investigations of some of these enclosures, concentrated along the palisade and especially at the gates.  Sounds a lot like Fort Apache, to me.

There are some new and fascinating results about European prehistory that beg to be incorporated in a revised version of this book, for example the stuff about how the Hyperboreans contributed to the ancestry of modern European and Amerindians, but that info is so new that she could not possibly have incorporated it. Not her fault at all.

Read it.

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67 Responses to Ancestral Journeys

  1. jamesd127 says:

    when the first farmers were settling Britain, about 4000 BC, they built ditched and palisaded enclosures. Some of these camps are littered with human bones

    Farmers settling North America had the advantage of substantially superior technology, and plague creating elbow room, yet the hunter gatherers still gave them an exciting time. We may conclude that the early farmers had even more interesting times.

  2. B.B. says:

    gcochran9 said:
    I suppose the work Franz Boas published back in 1912, falsely claiming that environment controlled skull shape rather than genetics, had something to do with it.

    It is my understanding that Sparks & Jantz paper (which Harpending edited) originally contested the accuracy of Boas’ findings, but Gravlee, et al has defended Boas, contending that Sparks & Jantz basically knocked down a straw-man. To my knowledge, nobody has given any critical response to Gravlee, et al’s analysis, so that is essentially the last word on the matter. If there are any flaws in Gravlee, et al’s analysis, I would like to hear it.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The old-style physical anthropologists thought that there were noticeable average differences between what you might call sub-races, such as Celts and Germans. so that you could tell the difference between Celtic skulls and Germanic ones, at least if you had a number of skulls to work with. It seemed to them that there had been population turnovers in Europe associated with some artifactual changes, such as the Bell Beaker culture.

      As confirmed by ancient DNA studies, THEY WERE RIGHT.

      Franz Boas argued that the differences in skulls shape were environmental. He claimed that their shapes changed a lot when people moved to the US. That wasn’t the case: they changed a little, probably for the same reason that people in the US were noticeably taller than their Scandihoovian or Eytalian grandparents, but the changes were considerably smaller than the intergroup differences. It certainly looks as if he deliberately lied.

      I’ve run into some of the wonderful results of this horseshit. I had a friend who, as a student, was working with a physical anthropologist at the University of New Mexico to develop better classification methods for forensics. I remember how her professor had to fucking whisper when the door was open, because the non-physical anthropologist next door was offended by certain facts and would try to get him in trouble if she heard him mention them. In particular, the smaller average volume of African-ancestry skulls – just short of a standard deviation smaller. Just as the brain itself is about a standard deviation smaller in people of mostly-African ancestry in the US, as measured by MRI. Too bad S. J. Gould, that faker, isn’t alive to give us a hilarious story about the technical difficulties of magnetic resonance imagery. it could be as wonderful as Lewontin talking about mitochondria.

      Culture can make a big difference if you’re talking something like headboards. But of course that doesn’t happen much with Celtic or German babies, because they won’t put up with headboards. Navajo babies will, but then they are psychologically different at birth, as shown in that video by Dan Freedman.

      As for long-headed parents having long-headed babies, why of course they do.

      • JS says:

        I’d love for you to write a fire-breathing book taking down all these charlatans.

      • JS says:

        -cont- We really need all of this information in one place so I can hand a copy to someone every time they mention Boas, Mead, Gould, and the rest.

      • B.B. says:

        I’m also curious about the current status of Mead’s legacy. Paul Shankman wrote a book pushing back against the allegations Derek Freeman made against Mead. Last time I checked, Shankman’s thesis has gone unchallenged. Unfortunately Derek Freeman is no longer around to respond.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Speaking of having to whisper. This morning I discovered that I’m being stalked. Someone named Jake has taken it upon himself to warn everyone on Amazon about my awful views. He has posted the same notice on about ten of my Amazon book reviews over the past few years telling everyone that I’m a racist and a homophobe. Actually I take pains to always be polite and non-inflammatory. But I haven’t found a way yet to say – ‘blacks have smaller brains’ that doesn’t offend.

        I’m working on a video about the ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ legend – full of dates and statistics. He will probably go apoplectic. Nothing seems quite so infuriating to some people as facts.

      • jorge videla says:

        it’s come to the point that one shouldn’t deny he’s a racist or homophobe. he should be proud of it, whatever “racist” or “homophobe” mean to those who use these terms.

      • tommy says:

        Yes, I’d second the request for a more thorough take down of Boas and his boosters if you ever have the time. The opening parts of Wikipedia’s article on the “cephalic index,” citing those studies mentioned by B.B., leaves the impression that Boas has been all but vindicated.

        That’s amusing because the article then leads into a discussion of the cephalic index among animals (dogs, cats, rabbits) where it’s simply understood that genetics must be responsible for such differences. One is left with the vague impression that humans are highly unusual in displaying a great amount of environmental plasticity when it comes to cranial dimensions.

      • banned56 says:

        Interesting. Crib death researchers say that Asian babies are less prone to cot death. Yet if cot death is truly due to prone-positioning for sleep, but Asian babies are more accepting of whatever position they’re placed in, then why don’t Asian babies have higher SIDS rates?

      • Diana says:

        ” Yet if cot death is truly due to prone-positioning for sleep, but Asian babies are more accepting of whatever position they’re placed in, then why don’t Asian babies have higher SIDS rates”
        Because Asian mommies have figured this out and do not place their babies in the prone position? Howzaboutdat?
        I know this is truly hard to believe, but some moms have never read baby books and manage to raise kids fine. My gramma did and she couldn’t even read!

  3. Matt says:

    Re: pallisades, farmer conflict with hunter-gatherers might not be the only option, probable as it is. Conflict with one another is there too. I don’t know much about American history, but intra-European conflict was pretty common during settlement, for an analogy.

    With the Neolithisation of Europe, I’d also say, we don’t know how much was incoming farmers really took over the whole landscape so much as that they took over certain microclimates where their Near Eastern crops could grow well, and that these locations then became pretty clear to present day archaeologists because of their population density.

    There is the recent finding that – “Hunter-Gatherers and Immigrant Farmers Lived Together for 2,000 Years in Central Europe”, that gives some support to this.

    Work on Hyperborean (for convenience) ancestry in West Eurasians is going to be interesting. We may end up finding that its ubiquitous in all West Eurasians, but at a peak in Europeans (particularly those of the North East). This is suggested by some previous admixture modelling that finds an ancient West Eurasian (awe) and ancient North Eurasian (ane) group as ancestral to all present day West Eurasians, with ane at at a peak in Northeast Europeans. Or we may find that it’s exclusive or near exclusive to Europeans (and other populations who share a similar component, such as West Asian and thereby also South Asian people).

    • dearieme says:

      Interesting, Matt. May I invite you to use Awe and Ane when next you discuss this point?

    • That paper is interesting because the fishers existed for a prolonged period alongside separate, food producing populations. The interactions – cultural, economic, linguistic and genetic – between the two groups can be predicted to have followed the pattern seen in Africa and southeast Asia where equivalent populations are interacting and living side by side.

  4. dearieme says:

    “suggesting that New Coke cans were a sign of barbarian takeover”: good grief, are you implying that they weren’t?

  5. dearieme says:

    “they were total loons”: I loved reading about archaeology when i was a boy. “Crackpots studying cracked pots”: whether I invented that or came across it somewhere, I don’t know.

  6. dave chamberlin says:

    All over Sardinia are these bronze age defensive battlements. Thousands of them and when they are reconstructed they are obviously built to defend the inhabitants from attack. But the archeologists working in Sardinia say they were built as border markers. The Sardinians, the supposed experts say, weren’t violent because we haven’t found any weapons. Well of course their weapons are gone and only the stone structures remain. It’s lunacy to think they built those castle like structures to keep up with the Jones, they obviously built them to keep the Jones from killing them. We didn’t kill each other so that one population virtually replaced the original inhabitants and we didn’t drive multiple tasty critters extinct. Why? Because we were nice.

  7. Patrick Boyle says:

    Speaking of Greenlanders and the Eskimo, I’m reminded of the spin that Jared Diamond put on this event. At the end of his chapter on how the changing climate froze out the Viking settlers, he lectures those long dead Scandinavians on being more culturally accepting and flexible. He points out that the natives could manage to survive even when climate conditions deteriorated. So if the Europeans had just abandoned their suddenly inappropriate high culture and adopted Eskimo ways they might not have had to retreat back to Europe.

    Good idea. I’m sure when those Viking descendants get out of their Volvos and enter the sauna in their ski lodges they wish that they had spent the last millennium freezing in hole in the ice eating blubber.

    One wonders if Diamond’s unfettered romanticism about ‘noble savages’ is a worse influence of the public mind than Boas’, Gould’s and Lewontin’s naked Marxism.

    • I think you read politics into things where there is none, but the Greenlanders were actually hunting seals and fishing. The Greenland Norse were not inflexible as Diamond claims, mind you nor did they really have much of a ‘high culture’ at the time they disappeared. Greenland was a periphery of the North European culture area, not a centre of Scandinavian excellence.

      But once the Norse there did begin to adapt their subsistence to circumstances beyond their control, food production no longer gave the Norse as a population too much of an edge over that of the Inuit. There are examples around the world of food producers abandoning their way of life because of circumstance and reverting to a Late Pleistocene Appropriate mode of subsistence. The Greenland Norse appear now to have been on that track, but less well suited to it than the Inuits whose ancestors had already adapted and had become ecological competition. Indeed the two groups could likely have coexisted, as niche partitioning allowed the Sio-Sami to coexist in the historical period alongside Nordic people in Scandinavia, had the environment not forced the two races into competition for finite resources.

    • Olof the Frosted says:

      >freezing in a hole in the ice eating blubber

      Excuse me, but you just described my normal rituals of winter fishing.

      Except you forgot the aquavit part.

  8. Jim says:

    I believe the Greenland Vikings retreated mostly to Iceland not mainland Europe. The Greenland Vikings were heavily dependent on exporting ivory from walrus tusks to Europe. When the salt route accross the Sahara started to bring elephant ivory into Europe the trade in ivory from walrus tusks largely ceased.

  9. Davidski says:

    “For example, using the program ADMIXTURE, you find a West Asian-like component in almost all Europeans (from Spain to Russia, and at about the same level) – but not in Sardinians or Basques. Which must be telling us something.”

    It’s telling us about isolation-by-distance, which can also be applied to culturally isolated groups up in mountains and on islands.

    Isolation-by-distance is usually a slow process, and doesn’t need an invasion to work its magic across a whole continent. It just needs time and a steady gene flow. You know, like, from West Asia, or even the Balkans.

    And what’s the bet that ancient Y-DNA and mtDNA will turn out way more informative than modern ADMIXTURE clusters in helping to work out what happened in Europe during the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age?

    • gcochran9 says:

      You’re wrong. Are you even trying? Five thousand years ago, none of the people in Central and Western Europe had that West-Asian component. There were like Sardinians. Now everyone in those areas does (except the Basques) – and they have about the same fraction. It this was a product of gradual gene flow, diffusion, it would get smaller and smaller as you go farther west. If it had managed to get that far west in the first lace, which it wouldn’t have.

    • Paul says:

      The West Asian component is obviously a signal of the Indo-European invasions:

      • The linguistic evidence places the IE urheimat squarely upon the Pontic steppes to the north of the Black Sea. Although it is interesting to try and match linguistic to genetic evidence, the evidence from one discipline cannot refute that from another. An Anatolian homeland fails to fit with the reconstructed *PIE vocabulary and the Anatolian languages were late arrivals in Asia Minor as seen by the attested Hattic language that formed a substrate of Hittite.

      • Paul says:

        You’re wrong. The Pontic steppes (Kurgan) hypothesis is based on archeological evidence, as is the Anatolian hypothesis. The two main hypotheses that are based on linguistic evidence place the IE homeland in either the Caucasus or Afghanistan, which would also be consistent with the West Asian genetic component. There are many other hypotheses as well.

        In fact, the Kurgan theory and the Anatolian theory, around which the Science article pivots, are but two out of no less than a dozen diverse proposals for the homeland of the Indo-European language family (many of which also discussed in detail in my book). These varying hypotheses make the Proto-Indo-European language as old as 12,000 or as young as 5,000 years, and put its place of origin in locales ranging from Northern Europe to India. Some of these proposals—including Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis and Marija Gimbutas’ Kurgan theory—were put forward by archeologists trying to square evidence from their discipline with linguistic data. Other proposals come from linguists, such as Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav V. Ivanov (the latter teaches at UCLA), who argue for a recent origin of Indo-European languages in the area of the Armenian Highlands and the Lake Urmia region in northwestern Iran, and Johanna Nichols of UC-Berkeley, who placed the Indo-European homeland in ancient Bactria-Sogdiana (what is today northern Afghanistan and adjacent areas in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan).

        Asya Pereltsvaig, “Tracing Indo-European Languages Back to Their Source—Through the False Mirrors of the Popular Press,” GeoCurrents, Sep 2012.

        Ultimately though, evidence from all disciplines needs to align for a given hypothesis to work. Just one—even if it’s linguistics—won’t cut it.

  10. 420blazeitfgt says:

    Lawrence Keeley’s book, War Before Civilization has a diagram of one of those arrowhead littered camps:

  11. dearieme says:

    Can’t anyone find a way to resurrect the wonderful “Japhethitic” for one of the races that are putative ancestors of us lot (I speak of NW Europeans))?

  12. Jim says:

    Bones and Behavior – While the Greenland Vikings were pretty peripheral they did have written records which have survived and they built stone structures including churches whose ruins still exist. So they were considerably more advanced than the Inuit. The collapse of the demand for walrus ivory after elephant ivory became available in Europe contributed to their decision to abandon Greenland and return to Iceland.

  13. Jim says:

    Of course Diamond’s take is silly. The Greenland Vikings certainly could have survived in Greenland by adopting a Stone Age hunting culture. But that was a much less attractive option than simply returning to Iceland.

  14. j3morecharacters says:

    Some people (not Prof. Cochran) seem to have difficulties to contemplate Scandinavians being pushed out of Groenland by Eskimos. Yet not one race has its life guaranteed. In Mongol vs European confrontations, Mongols pushed Europeans out of Central Asia and ruled the Scandinavian/Slavish kingdoms of Russia.

    • The Eskimos entering Greenland were not pastoralists like the Mongols, and whereas pastoralists are known to conquer and dominate plow farmers there are no examples of peoples without food production managing this (although they might be able to slow down their replacement by another population in case of conflicts.)

      The Greenland Inuit were ecologically close enough to the Sea Lapps for them to be able to coexist with the Norse. The Greenlanders cannot have been conquered or exterminated by the Inuit, although competition over marine resources as the Greenland subsistence economy was failing on land would have had an impact upon the Greenland Norse.

  15. Jim says:

    What does Mongols in Central Asia have to do with Greenland?

  16. Jim says:

    The silly thing about Diamond’s spin is that he seems to believe that the smart thing for the Greenland Vikings to do would have been to adopt Inuit culture. But if I imagine myself as a Greenland Viking used to such things as metal tools and manufactured goods and I face a choice between returning to Iceland or becoming a Stone Age hunter it’s clearly a no-brainer long before there were Volvos in Iceland.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      As near as I can tell, that’s because Diamond seems to think that stone-age hunting is a morally superior lifestyle. Of course, he hasn’t gone and joined a stone age tribe, but it seems that the rest of us should – or something.

      • No, its an ecological statement. The Greenlanders were shifting towards exploiting marine resources such as seals, for the same reason the Eskimos were expanding towards the Norse, and the Eskimos had the most efficient culture for that circumstance. This does not justify the silly idea that Eskimos exterminated the Greenlanders, but competition from Eskimos prevented some of the Norse reverting to hunters and fishers with no food production – something that happened in other parts of the world and, notably, in parts of Polynesia.

  17. dearieme says:

    Jim, did the return of Greenlanders show up in Icelandic records e.g. their genealogies?

  18. Arntor says:

    Do the Corsicans have the West-Asian component? They aren’t especially known for welcoming strangers.

  19. says:

    dearieme – Yes there are records in Iceland documenting this. For example there are surviving written records for one of the abandoned churches in Greenland. These records contain the names of the last couple married at the church before it was abandoned and their names can be found in Icelandic records. The written records in Iceland both in runic writing and the Latin alphabet are very complete.

  20. Jim says:

    “Asians outcompeting North West Europeans.”
    This has exactly zero relevance to Greenland.

  21. Greying Wanderer says:

    selection for low genetic load

    i’d really like someone to test the average IQ of special forces personnel especially in the NW euro descended countries. I think a lot of people would be very surprised.

  22. Pingback: linkfest – 12/05/13 | hbd* chick

  23. panjoomby says:

    @ greying wanderer: Navy SEAL applicant MINIMUM ASVABs (add percentile ranks below – waivers exist if someone does fine in the real world but doesn’t test so well) some scores are proxies, i.e., Mechanical Comprehension is actually a measure of Spatial Ability with common sense physics thrown in. Verbal & Arithmetic Reasoning are proxy IQ. Notice that Spatial (Mech. Comp) is the only thing common to all 3 formulas. They made 3 formulas b/c, e.g., if they just used the 1st formula, not so many hospital corpsman could qualify – we corpsman are higher IQ but not so whippy in electronics/shop class, etc. these are current minimum standards (along with physical tests, etc.) website at bottom. I’m sure they have data showing that folks farther above the minimum tend to make it through at higher rates than those just barely making the minimum, etc.
    1. General Science + Mechanical Comprehension [spatial] + Electronics Info = 170
    2. Verbal Expression (Word Knowledge/Paragraph Comprehension) + Math Knowledge + Mechanical Comprehension + Coding Speed = 220
    3. Verbal Expression (Word Knowledge/Paragraph Comprehension) + Arithmetic Reasoning = 110 AND Mechanical Comprehension = 50
    PLUS mystery score on CSORT (computer sorting test of strategy, resilience, & personality trait[s])

  24. aandrews says:

    “I mean, when the first farmers were settling Britain, about 4000 BC, they built ditched and palisaded enclosures.”

    Do you have a recommendation for a good book on ancient Britain?

  25. Reconstructed *PIE contains words for animals and plants associated with the region to the north of the Black Sea, suggesting an origin among people belonging predominantly to the Corded racial type. Terminology relating to horses and other livestock species have deep-level reconstructions in Indo-European, whereas words unambiguously denoting crops are confined to subsets of branches.

    I disagree that evidence from any one discipline may refute another. If a discipline has any validity, its methods stand up on their own.

    • jamesd127 says:

      The effective size of the proto Indo European homeland may well be quite large.

      When you conquer the world, you are all going to wind up speaking one tongue, which will be a fusion of aristocratic dialects. Before proto indo european split into dialects, it likely had a period of fusion of dialects, as hordes were summoned from vast areas, and made war on vast areas. Similarly, it is likely that Aryan genes went through the blender. One explanation for a uniform west asian component is that some of them were west asian, and they all got uniformly mixed in the process of conquering the world.

    • Paul says:

      I see you’re one of those Corded-obsessed racialist types. I though it was all about linguistic evidence? Guess not. Won’t waste any more time arguing with someone like you. Just one final quote to show you how utterly wrong you are about everything.

      The presence of steppe tribes in the Carpathian Basin is well established but other than an occasional exception such as the Jamnaja-like burial at Bleckendorf in eastern Germany, clear evidence of steppe expansions any further west of the Tisza remains elusive. Unless the steppe hypothesis can demonstrate that a steppe culture crossed the Tisza line, it is incapable of providing an attractive solution to the Indo-Europeans of central, northern and western Europe. From an archaeological point of view it requires there to be some form of historical relationship between the steppe cultures and the formation and expansion probably of the Globular Amphora Culture and certainly the horizon of Corded Ware (Single-grave, Battle-axe, Fatjanovo, etc) cultures. If the steppe hypothesis fails to make a case for identifying these central, north and west European cultures as descendents (socially, linguistically) of the Pontic-Caspian cultures, then it fails to resolve the Indo-European homeland problem. . . . Clearly, supporters of the steppe hypothesis have much to do if they want to integrate the proposed linguistic phase of Indo-European into the archaeological record of steppe expansions.

      Mallory J.P. (Belfast). The Indo-European Homeland and the Steppe Hypothesis: Research Agenda. 2010.

  26. Greying Wanderer says:

    random thought of the day

    if average age of puberty follows (very simplistically) two paths:
    – fast life history, early puberty, early testosterone peak, early decline
    – slow life history, later puberty, later testosterone peak, later decline
    then you might expect populations with a faster life history (on average) to dominate sports that are dominated by younger men (say c. 18-26) and populations with a slower life history (on average) to dominate sports that are dominated by older men (say c.26+).

    If there was also a correlation between average age of puberty and academic achievement in a population then you might expect there to be a linked correlation of populations with high academic achievement also performing well in sports dominated by older athletes.

    “One study in the journal Pediatrics revealed that by age 7, 10 percent of white girls, 23 percent of black girls, 15 percent of Hispanic girls and 2 percent of Asian girls had started developing breasts, with researchers noting:2″

    black / hispanic / white / asian

    I wonder if the average age of puberty in Argentina is lower than the white average elsewhere?

  27. Greying Wanderer says:

    2nd thought of the day

    There’s an Anglo-Saxon poem called “The Giants” written by a guy walking around the ruined Roman stone walls assuming the people who built them must have been giants. I wonder if the Norse and Ancient Greek mythology concerning a war between ancestral gods and the giants may be an echo of a neolithic conflict around the walled towns of the farmers?

  28. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Someone argues that enough monkeys on typewriters could not, in fact, come up with a work of Shakespeare.

  29. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    The link for the previous posting about monkeys and typewriters …

  30. RS says:

    > When you conquer the world, you are all going to wind up speaking one tongue, which will be a fusion of aristocratic dialects. Before proto indo european split into dialects, it likely had a period of fusion of dialects, as hordes were summoned from vast areas, and made war on vast areas.

    Most people think that never happened. There was no Roman, Persian, Han, Macedon, or Mongol empire, it was much more like Germanic tribes displacing Celtic tribes (which was generally far more incremental than what happened in SE England).

    On Wik’s maps, the IE-speaking area takes a millennium to go from ‘pretty fair’ to maximal in size. I bet it had been another millennium to get from ‘established’ (200 miles by 200 miles) to pretty fair. It’s barely even a ‘conquest’, if you construe the word very narrowly.

    Probably yet a third millennium, or more, to get from the birth of lactase persistence to 200 x 200 mi — assuming lactase really is what drove the whole thing.

    Ghengis and the early caliphs were able to summon and command vast hordes of apparently rather barbarous/fractious people. (Heck even the Hellenes proper, let alone the Macedonians, were half-barbarous, ie not very inhibited, not very tame or lawful, and not very prone to stable large polity.) I don’t know how they did that. Apparently PIE and Old Germanics were not able to do that, otherwise they would have spread faster than molasses.

    Why is the putative PIE component so evenly distributed, all the way to Spain? I’d say each PIE group was conscious of their, and nearby PIE groups’, lasting and ingrained military superiority over preexisting West Eurasians — even though PIE were quite possibly too barbarous to be aware of much of the extent of the PIE domain. I think times were really too barbarous for overland travel. However, recognizing that their military superiority was in the blood, and having perhaps a rather different physical appearance from most preexisting pops, they may have practiced very strict hypodescent (i.e. if you are biologically 50%-PIE, you are socially 0%-PIE). Needless to say this practice did not go on forever, but may have lasted several centuries in each zone of incursion. Those who went out to grab the next little zone would have been from the edge of the expansion, thus pure PIEs in culture and blood, as opposed to something like Sinicized conquerers of China who don’t even know their ancestral language.

    • jamesd127 says:

      Most people think that never happened. There was no Roman, Persian, Han, Macedon, or Mongol empire, it was much more like Germanic tribes displacing Celtic tribes (which was generally far more incremental than what happened in SE England).

      That the “King of Stonehenge” was born in the alps suggests that he was the proconsul of Stonehenge, or earl of Stonehenge, suggests a single polity covering a very large area, an Aryan empire that subsequently fragmented.

      That the “King of Stonehenge” was born in the alps suggests a simple explanation for the fact that West Asian admixture is remarkably uniform over a very large area.

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