War Before Civilization

When you think of war, you usually think of organized states, or at minimum peoples with moderately sophisticated modes of production, agriculturalists or pastoralists. But hunter-gatherers manage as well. Not just war, but decisive war, the kind that that obliterates the enemy and results in a major geographic expansion. Before the Eskimos, there was a different population living in arctic North America and Greenland, the Dorset culture. Over a fairly short period, between 1000 AD and 1500 AD, the Thule (ancestors of modern Inuit) moved east, replacing the Dorset. It looks as if the Thule didn’t mix much with the previous occupants either: we have an early Dorset genome that looks very Na-dene-like, while the Eskimos are not. The conflict was recent enough to leave legends among the Eskimo: they say the first inhabitants were giants, taller and stronger but easily scared off.

While we’re at it, the Na-dene managed to pushed down from western Canada and Alaska all the way into the Southwest, leaving the Navaho and Apache where they are today. Although the Navaho surely mixed with generic Amerinds, they look different, more Asian, so they likely still have a lot of their ancestry coming from the second, Na-dene migration into North America.

Neither of these stories sound very much like like Excoffier/Currat diffusion models.

This has me wondering how many waves of population replacement occurred before agriculture in Europe. We know that homo sap replaced the Neanderthals, but we sure don’t know that population replacement stopped there. There were certainly waves of immigration in the Neolithic – middle Eastern farmers and probably Indo-Europeans – but what about earlier?

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20 Responses to War Before Civilization

  1. We do know that there are three major Y-DNA haplogroups in Europe, I-M170, R-M420 (aka R1a), and R-M343 (aka R1b).

    I-M170 individuals are most ancient and they were all over southern Europe before the Ice Age. During the Ice Age all Europeans pulled back into two “refugia”, in southern France and in the Ukraine. The rest of the continent was depopulated or covered by a glacier. At some point after the Ice Age, when the climate got warmer, I-M170 somehow got squeezed out of most of the continent, ending up primarily in the Balkans and in Scandinavia. The rest of Europe now belongs to R-M343 (west of Elbe) and R-M420 (east of Elbe).

    Beyond that, any details are murky. Both R’s probably originated in Asia. There is a theory that R-M343 corresponds to the wave of immigration associated with farming and R-M420 corresponds to Indo-Europeans.

  2. ironrailsironweights says:

    It could be that the taller Dorset were less adapted to the environment than the short-limbed Eskimo.


  3. Halvorson says:

    I’m totally baffled by these recent findings from Patterson et al that show Europeans to something like 10 percent East Asian (up to 20 percent in Russians). These percentages seem like a fairly close fit to estimates of Paleolithic ancestry in modern Europeans based on frequencies of old mtDNA haplogroups like U, although U is rarely found in East Asians today. This implies that the old Europeans that painted Lascaux were actually Mongoloids, who must have replaced an earlier wave of natives more closely related to neighboring Middle Easterners . This whole strange situation was actually somewhat anticipated by the old anthropologists like Coon:

    “In the totality of facial features, with a few exceptions, the Upper Palaeolithic people may be said to have resembled modern white men. Some, however, probably looked like a certain type of American Indian, notably that of the North American Plains, and of the Onas and Tehuelche of southernmost South America. This comparison, we must remember, is wholly morphological, since we do not know Upper Palaeolithic man’s pigmentation, hair form, or hair distribution.”

    But this whole scenario doesn’t seem to mesh well with uniparental markers (although it might explain the mysterious appearance of Y-Haplogroup Q in Scandinavians) and with the fact that no physical anthropologist, not even Coon and co., have ever claimed the UP Europeans to be Mongoloids.

    • The primary source of East Asian genes in Europeans is the mixing with Uralic people. Before Slavic people took over, the entire area north of the steppes and east of the Baltic was populated by people who came there from East Asia through Siberia shortly before. There are still pockets of them left, though most have been assimilated into Russians.

      Y-haplogroup Q probably showed up in Scandinavia because Vikings lived in close contact with aforementioned Thule and Dorset cultures (both haplogroup Q) for a few centuries and some of the genes made it back across the ocean.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I wouldn’t bet the farm on that Amerindian-like component coming from Uralic peoples. In fact I doubt it.

        As for alleles making it back to Scandinavia from America – pretty unlikely. Those Q lineages in Norway and Sweden have a frequency of about 3%. Too high to explained by backflow from Greenland. I mean, Q-M242 account for 2.5% of men in Slovakia – you think that came from Amerindians?

      • I’m not sure where Coon found those “Amerindian-looking” UP remains from the quote, but it’s an occam’s razor explanation. Some Western Uralic people are quite distinctly non-Caucasian in appearance. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation. (Nenets people are 90% haplogroup N, and they can be mistaken for the Chinese. Finns and Estonians are 60% haplogroup N, but they generally look quite Caucasian.)

        Yes, 3% is quite a lot – if accurate. It seems to be an unsourced statement from Wikipedia. There is a 2009 study that tested all children born in Sweden in a single week (~900 boys) and it did not find any Q-M242’s at all.

        There may be small numbers of Q’s in Slovakia. The most recent study found 3 probable Q’s out of 250 males. But that study did not do full SNP testing. It tested for 12 Y-STR markers and used Bayesian-allele-frequency approach to guesstimate Y-DNA haplogroups.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      I don’t think that follows.

      What if the northernmost forest paleos were admixed with their east asian equivalent but the southern and middle ones weren’t so say 20% admixture in the far northern forest layer (where the global distance is the shortest) and not much at all further south for an overall *average* admixture across the whole paleo population of say only 4%. Then the neolithic farmers arrive and over-run most of the south and some of the middle but can’t spread all the way north because their crops aren’t adapted to the climate yet. So the surviving paleos in the north are the ones with the *most* east asian admixture.

      Then say there’s a northern backflow – related to the adoption of domesticated animals from the farmers at the edge of the northern farming limit imo – which extended into historical times with northern tribes pushing south mostly in an upside-down triangle with the flat edge in northern europe and the point in northern Italy.

      So first a concentration of the east asian admixture due to the advance of the farmers followed by a dilution during a northern backflow.

      There are other possibilities as well, one in particular where phenotype and y chromosome don’t match is raiding. European looking steppe raiders raiding China will eventually look Chinese with European y chromosomes. Chinese looking steppe raiders raiding Europeans will eventually look European with East Asian y chromosomes.

      (I’m not sure either of these fit all the facts but i think they work logically.)

  4. JIm says:

    The Southern Athabascans arrived in the Southern Plains and Southwest about that time. The
    Southern Athabascan languages are very similar indicating recent divergence from a common
    ancestral language. The Southern Athabascan languages are said to be most similar to Sarsi
    and Beaver which are two of the most southern of the Northern Athabascan languages.
    If the Dorset people were pushed to the south maybe that set off a domino effect among the
    Athabascans resulting in the ancestors of the Southern Athabascans being pushed into the
    Great Plains. That wasn’t an easy place to live in prior to the horse so they probably moved
    on to the south as rapidily as possible. They were few people living in the Great Plains prior
    to the horse so they wouldn’t have to fight much in such a migration.
    Coronado reported the Jicarilla in the Texas Panhandle. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 the
    Pueblo Indians acquired a large number of horses many of which were traded to or stolen by
    Southern Athabascans who became the first Plains Indians, using the horse to live off the buffalo.
    With the possibilities opened up by the horse other tribes began to move into the Great Plains
    included a Shoshoni band who became the Comanche and the Kiowa from the Taos Pueblos.
    The Comanche and Kiowa drove the Southern Athabascans to the south and west except for
    the Kiowa Apache.

  5. TWS says:

    Local Athabascan female children up to say early adult, are frequently mistaken for East Asian, Korean usually. They don’t appreciate it very much. Na Dene do not seem remarkably successful in the land acquisition department. Shoved out of history by eskimoes for God’s sake, the only places they seem able to live are wastelands no one else wants.

    My Eskimo cousins seem like the last people who’d win a war against ‘proto-Apache’ types. Cheerful, smiling, friendly and making friends easily, they got along with people wherever we went. The Athabascans (Na Dene) I live and work with are friendly when they want to be but many are horrifically strong and willing to fight at the drop of a hat.

    Worse their crime rate is terrible even if under reported. They act as if they have only been selected for living in a settled society for a few generations.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “My Eskimo cousins seem like the last people who’d win a war against ‘proto-Apache’ types. Cheerful, smiling, friendly and making friends easily, they got along with people wherever we went. The Athabascans (Na Dene) I live and work with are friendly when they want to be but many are horrifically strong and willing to fight at the drop of a hat.”

      I think fierceness is only dominant in war when it’s confined to small groups and individuals for reasons your post suggests. Peoples who are *too* fierce usually can’t co-operate in large groups for long before they start fighting among themselves. Of course on the few occasions they do manage it they steamroll everyone in sight.

  6. ironrailsironweights says:

    Local Athabascan female children up to say early adult, are frequently mistaken for East Asian, Korean usually. They don’t appreciate it very much.

    Sometimes at first glance I think that young Latin American females are Asian. In this area they would be mostly Mexican or Salvadoran, with the occasional Ecuadoran. There’s never any confusion with respect to females over age 25 or so or with males of any age.


  7. Holm says:

    I’ve met a number of Navajos who could easily photo bomb an Asian tour group pic and fit right in…

  8. Tom Cairns says:

    Looking at the maps on wikipedia’s Dorset Culture, I can’t help thinking that the timing of Thule takeover and the arrival of the Norse is not coincidental. I would guess that the Norse’s arrival, in 1000 AD, wiped out the Dorset with their diseases. Or at least, weakened them enough to allow for the Thule takeover.

    The article on the Sadlermiut (Dorset culture holdouts) – http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadlermiut – seems to confirm this. They were wiped out 75 years after being in contact with Europeans.

  9. dearieme says:

    Tom, why weren’t the eskimos also vulnerable to Old World diseases? Is it that their descent from Old Worlders was more recent?

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  11. Danny says:

    I don’t think the Thule had to kill the Dorset to take over their range, any more than they had to physically destroy the Greenland vikings. The increasingly cold weather alone could have done it. The Eskimo and Viking peoples of Greenland did not interact with each other and when they did it was hostile, but it appears they generally stayed away from each other. The viking economy subsisted on dairy and grains, which could grow in Greenland when they first got there. As it got colder, the harvests began to fail and the dairy animals started to freeze. Meanwhile, the Eskimo flourished in the growing cold as they hunted seals and fished. The Vikings never adopted the Eskimo techniques, so they all starved when the whole place turned arctic. A similar fate could have befallen the Dorset.

    The Na Dene speakers could have been pushed south by a changing climate. If they practiced agriculture, they would be forced south, no question about it. If you go to Colorado Springs you can see these marvelous little cliff dwellings created by a group that later coalesced into the Pueblo. Apparently about a thousand years ago they lived in cliff towns of stacked and shaped stones and farmed maize in the valleys. A thousand years ago drought and possibly cold made their crops fail, so they abandoned the cliff dwellings and moved south where they became the Pueblo peoples. Besides the climatic changes, there were hostile cannibal tribes that apparently forced them to live in fortified cliff dwellings.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The Skraelings gave the Norse in Greenland a lot of trouble, and there’s a fair chance they were responsible for the colony’s failure.

      Norse Greenland: dairy, no grain of any significance. Temperatures dropped maybe 1 degree Celsius in an extremely marginal habitat: I wouldn’t call that turning ‘arctic’.

      Of course the Thule killed off the Dorset. Reminds me of various nonsensical theories about how the Neanderthals died off just before moderns showed up. At times, I’m tempted to kill a few chuckleheads just to make it absolutely clear that people CAN be like that.

      • TWS says:

        We killed off every other closely related species on the planet. No reason to think we quit our old habits just because the last ‘hobbit’ bit the dust.

    • teageegeepea says:

      Jared Diamond claims the Vikings of Greenland didn’t fish, but he’s wrong.

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