The Old Breed

More and more it looks as if Robert Howard (as well as most of the physical anthropologists in the first half of the 20th century) had it right:  every now and then, invaders move in and largely replace the the locals. So those potsherd-smoking archaeologists of the past few decades , who attributed all material cultural changes to learning and imitation, rather than spear-din, were wrong.

Usually, though, the replacement is not complete.  Even Neanderthals, a population that split off hundreds of thousands of years ago, left a trace in Eurasia.  My question is what local circumstances give the best chance for a substantial dollop of the formerly-common genotypes persisting for a long time – ideally, to the present day.  Where do we find the blood of the Old Ones?

For example, what about the first agriculturalists of southern Europe, the Cardial culture?  Their dominant Y-chromosome haplotype was G2a, but today that is not too common in Europe.  It reaches 10% frequency or higher in southern Italy (especially the Apennines),  Sardinia, Thessaly, and Crete.  It’s close to 10% in Asturias, Auvergne, Switzerland,  the Aegean islands, and Cyprus.  Looks to me as if they did best in out-of-the-way places, mountainous regions and islands.  Places that the newcomers didn’t want that much.

You might compare this to the way in which some Romanized populations survived the onslaught of barbarians.  Vlachs, speaking a Romance language, persisted as shepherds in the uplands of Eastern Europe as the Slavs flooded in – while the Greeks did best on islands. People are still speaking Romansh in central Switzerland.  Britons survived in Wales, etc.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to The Old Breed

  1. Gioiello Tognoni says:

    Yes, in that that was the Western Roman Empire (Latin speaking) and not the Eastern one (Greek speaking) the only languages survived to the Latinization were Albanian and Basque, because those people lived in mountaneous regions. And also the Oetzi’s G-L91 survived above all in Corsica and Sardinia, i.e. in the most western limits of continental Italy.
    The same happened with the fall of the Roman Empire for Ladins in Switzerland and Vlachs in the Balkans. Also Celt languages survived in the most western limits of continental Europe.

  2. “What local circumstances give the best chance for a substantial dollop of the formerly-common genotypes persisting for a long time – ideally, to the present day. Where do we find the blood of the Old Ones?”
    Your answer is geographic barriers, and that seems right. Marginal areas retained marginalized peoples, the rest went under. The only other options I can think of are small populations which weren’t worth killing because they offered some advantage, perhaps rare skills (technical, financial or magical) that seemed worth keeping, just in case. Outcasts of advantage to the invaders. They would be in commercial centers, and would be over-represented in minority professionals and leadership castes.

  3. georgesdelatour says:

    Bryan Sykes says the Anglo Saxon contribution to English DNA was only 20% even in southern England. More generally he says the genetic makeup of (white) Britain is overwhelmingly what it has been since the Neolithic era. Do you think he’s wrong?

    • jamesd127 says:

      When a scientist says something that is politically correct, he is apt to be speaking doubletalk. tells us that those parts of England that one would expect to be 100% Germanic from the historical reports of genocide and ethnic cleansing are as close to 100% Germanic as makes little difference.

      • georgesdelatour says:

        Thanks for that. The evidence you cite seems very robust.

        I’m shocked. Not so much that an Anglo Saxon population replacement could have happened. Things like that have happened before and will happen again. But two famous writer scholars – Bryan Sykes and Stephen Oppenheimer – wrote bestselling books refuting the Saxon replacement theory, supposedly on the basis of genetic evidence, even though this evidence confirming it must have been known to them.

        And I gave them both my money.

      • teageegeepea says:

        Peter Heather’s “Empires & Barbarians” tried to split the difference, saying it was an elite transfer, but a very large elite (too many to maintain the latifundia system). It came out after that paper, but I can’t recall if it cited that (or any other genetic studies).

    • Justin says:

      I’m also curious here. If you look at the “Genes Mirror Geography within Europe” map, the bulk of the “Great Britain” sample is skewed toward the North Sea, average of both PC scores bumping up against Netherlands. It looks consistent with a strongly North Sea Germanic England and a mostly British Wales tossed in the same sample. Also, if this paper is reporting things right [], the English are more Saxon than British, but then I don’t know what I’m talking about.

      • RS says:

        I think for clarity, the word you want in some places is Brythonic rather than British. Referring of course to the Celts present before the great Germanic incursions.

        (Though I have heard a claim that there was a smaller Germanic presence on the island dating back earlier.)

      • Justin says:

        Yes you are right. I mean the folks the Anglo-Saxon’s called the Welas: Brythonics/Romano British.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      His assumption seems to be that the Saxons/Danes/Normans were completely distinct from the “Atlantic” population whereas if they were a 50/50 mix of Germanic/Atlantic (as you might expect from peoples on the border lands between the two groups) then his 20% Germanic DNA implies they were 40% of the total – which strikes me as what you might expect from reading Bede’s account of what happened – swift replacement in the east followed by slow, mostly elite-only replacement as you go west.

  4. dearieme says:

    What about the Cruithne, the Britons who inhabited Ireland before the Gaels turned up? Were they expelled, enslaved, exterminated, or assimilated? I don’t suppose anyone knows.

  5. Jim says:

    Albanians are suppossed to be the descendents of the Illyrians who were once widespread throughout the Balkans. Albania is pretty mountainous and not very desirable so I guess the Illyrians were able to hang on there. Afghanistan might be a good place to find surviving remnants of older groups.

  6. JayMan says:

    The Basques come to mind.

  7. aisaac says:

    This reminds me of a quote from Hitler’s table talk —
    I changed my ideas on how to interpret our mythology the
    day I went for a walk in the forests where tradition invites us
    to lay the scene for it. In these forests one meets only idiots,
    whilst all around, on the plain of the Rhine, one meets the
    finest specimens of humanity. I reahsed that the Germanic
    conquerors had driven the aboriginals into the mountainy bush
    in order to settle in their place on the fertile lands.


    If less desirable regions are populated by people who couldn’t make it in more desirable regions, he could be right.

  8. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    So what superior behavioral traits do the invaders from the South bring?

    • Hans Olo says:

      Lower cognitive capacity, meaning their country has remained less developed and less educated, meaning both a higher birth rate and a lousy economy, driving them north?

      Under modern circumstances, having an IQ above 85 has little evolutionary advantage.

  9. Glossy says:

    Lithuania has always been one of Europe’s biggest backwaters. Its modern language is closer to proto-Indo-European than Latin was. It officially accepted Christianity in the late 14th century, about a thousand years after Mediterranean Europe.

    The Pripet marshes are the barrier that used to shield Lithuania from European trends. These swamps are actually located in Belarus, which happens to be the most socially conservative, least gay-friendly, most hated by the Economist country in Europe. Civilisation is rotting from the head right now, and Belarus is not situated anywhere near that organ.

    The Caucasus is another hard-to-reach region where old ways, languages and surely genes survive, but it’s more Middle Eastern than European.

  10. Patrick Boyle says:

    Speaking of Celts.I see that there is a political kerfuffle around the name of the ‘Washington Redskins’. Somebody is offended. I’m taking this as an opportunity as an Irishmen to be offended by the name the “Boston Celtics”. I don’t want them to change their name. I’m not interested in an apology. Only large cash reparations can heal my wounded ethnic soul.

    A local opera company (Martinez, CA) put on a Carmen not in the original French but in Spanish because the action takes place in Spain. I pointed out to the artistic director that in the story the characters would have spoken Catalan, Romani and Basque. Only Zuniga, Morales and Escamillo would have spoken Spanish. None of them would have spoken French of course. But real ethnic authenticity would demand at least four languages on stage.

  11. Toddy Cat says:

    I knew reading all those Conan books when I was a kid would eventually pay off.

  12. dave chamberlin says:

    I’ll bet every language going back in time to when agriculture first started spreading had a slur that translated to hillbillies.

  13. feministx says:

    “Usually, though, the replacement is not complete.”

    I was taught in school that genocides like the Holocaust and the Armernian genocide were a facet of modern times and depending on idustrialized technology. Otherwise, it would be too difficult to take out a whole population so quickly.

    Pre-modern “genocides” are generally thought of as situations that involve killing all the men and keeping the women as concubines. Hence, the lineage is not wiped out. This is what most historical references seem to describe in conquest. If they ever killed everyone, they tended not to admit to it.

    Maybe school was not right about total genocides being a modern innovation. Perhaps the ratio of total genocide vs mere androcide is actually comparable to past eras. Right now, there are the Sudans and Bosnias that operate on androcide, but the 20th century contained many examples of attempted or successful genocide.

    I think that most groups would not have been large or complex enough in organization to settle for colonization where existing peoples assimilated to rule before the last 2000 years. They probably generally relied on total genocide and not androcide if the data is that most ancient populations were replaced by incoming ones. However, that notion does seem pretty counterintuitive.

    • jamesd127 says:

      The groups doing the genocide generally have high social cohesion. The groups being genocided have low social cohesion. High social cohesion rests on patriarchy, where families are linked by exchanging daughters and rigidly guarding the chastity of those wives and daughters. Paternity is known with certainty, and is tremendously important. People proudly report the doings of their fathers, their grandfathers, their great grandfathers, and so forth. Since one has eight great great grandfathers, there is a high probability that one of them did something heroic and worthy of song and story. Their graves are tended, and quite possibly worshiped.

      Slave girls from the conquered population are a potential threat to that social cohesion. This can be prevented by not guarding their chastity – anyone can have sex with them. If you lock up your concubines, your father in law will disapprove and accuse you of neglecting his daughter. You are supposed to protect your wife, not your slave girls. Slave girl children are automatically assumed to be illegitimate and inherit slave status, hence in situations near malthusian equilibrium, have low or zero survival prospects. Typically, their infants are killed so that the mothers can provide wet nursing services to freeborn women.

    • jamesd127 says:

      In a society with high social cohesion, to a good approximation illegitimate = slave, slave mother = illegitimate, and slaves are largely non reproducing.

    • Matt says:

      I was taught in school that genocides like the Holocaust and the Armernian genocide were a facet of modern times and depending on idustrialized technology. Otherwise, it would be too difficult to take out a whole population so quickly.

      Populations can be relatively small. how many of the Roman-British survived or stayed in Roman Britain, after the dynamics of migration to more prosperous and stable parts of the empire (France) and general reduction in living standards and availability of sustenance have been at work?

      And these conflicts can persist for a long time. Even a generation is a long time by the standards of how long the Holocaust took.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “I was taught in school that genocides like the Holocaust and the Armernian genocide were a facet of modern times and depending on idustrialized technology.”

      I think it would depend on population size and food. It would have been (and i think was) very hard to do in a very densely populated place like Egypt but much easier somewhere more sparsely populated.

      Also food – if a population is driven off their food supply you don’t need to kill them.

      Lastly the invaders may not do all of any actual killing. If the original population is driven into the mountains or some other terriotory which can’t support those numbers then the refugees and mountaineers will fight to the death also.

    • Patrick Boyle says:

      I think what you were taught in school has some truth in it but not much. The Nazi-Jewish genocide was more efficient that previous genocides certainly, just as we slaughter chickens in factory farms today more efficiently than our grandparents did. Chickens really do run around the farmyard when you chop their heads off. Then you have to run after them.

      But various enemies have been genociding Jews for a long time. After the Egyptians cast out the Hyksos they seemed to try to rid Egypt of all Semitic speakers. Egypt is a strip of fertile land in a sea of desert. All you have to do is run a tribe into the wasteland and they are gone. The Jews, I’ve long thought, were one Semitic tribe that failed to die out completely – and of course they were literate. Much later they recast their attempted extermination as having been their choice.

      In the Second Jewish War – the one Josephus didn’t chronicle – the Romans tried to completely obliterate the Jews. And they did so. Jews had formerly been a significant percentage of the population in the Mediterranean basin but their numbers fell and have never really recovered. The Romans seemed to be following the genocidal policies that Scipio Amelianus adopted after the Third Punic War.

      Probably the worst population crisis for the Jews was in the fourteenth century when Eastern European governments had to preserve at least some Jews in the face of the populace’s spontaneous attempts at genocide.

      The Nazi genocide was probably the largest in terms of numbers but not in terms of proportions.

      There are also plenty of other cases of genocide among other groups. In the Thirty Years War Magdeburg was captured and every man, woman, child and dog within the walls was killed. This was all done with hand weapons like the recent Rwanda genocide. You don’t need death camps, gas or nuclear weapons you just need a way to keep the victims from escaping. People die easily. The Nazis just industrialized what had heretofore been a cottage craft.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Yes, the Mongols did a pretty good job of wiping out whole cities with what we would today consider low-tech means. At least partial genocide is disturbingly common in human history. The Nazis were just unusually efficient, and also kept very good records.

      • Egyptians are now the only people completely arabized (linguistically). There are still refugia of Amharic, South Arabian and of course Berber, but Coptic is dead. After millenia of preserving the language in face of conquerors the Egyptians could not withstand the Arabs.

        There are no mountains or borderlands in Egypt which could have served as refugia for Coptic speakers. So,their advantage (“Egypt is a strip of fertile land in a sea of desert. All you have to do is run a tribe into the wasteland and they are gone.”) was eventually their undoing.

      • fnn says:

        That just proves how crazy and irrational the Nazis were. The Soviets had already proved (did it really need proving?) that it was easy to kill many millions through starvation and shooting during the Holodomor and The Great Purge. They must have known that introducing grotesque new technologies would insure that they would be infamous Hollywood villains for a thousand years.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Or look at the Mfecane. Might have killed as many as 2 million people using the most primitive means.

    • I would think complete genocides (as in total annihilation of a population group) are relatively rare. First, logistically, it is a tremendous undertaking in any era, modern, medieval or ancient. Second, pockets of survivors accumulate, inevitably because some members of the invading group take pity or take a fancy to the random indigenous maiden.
      Rome completely destroyed Carthage yet we know through first-hand accounts there were some survivors that were enslaved and eventually were absorbed into the greater population group. Genghis Khan did wipe out entire villages in fairly substantial regions, but again we know that some of his generals/lieutenants kept some of the women as concubines, which would infer some absorption of the conquered DNA. And even if Hitler had won and largely succeeded with the Holocaust, substantial components of resistance ensured a significant portion of European Jews would have survived anyway.

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    “Where do we find the blood of the Old Ones?”

    I think the mountains of north wales might throw up some surprises.

  15. Paul Conroy says:

    I’d say the blood of the Oldest Ones in Europe is to be found among the North Finns in the region of Kuusamo – based on the latest DNA evidence, as calculated by Vadim Verenich, see here:

    Turn on your Google Russian Translator,to read in English!

    The structure of the components in the samples of ancient DNA from cave La_Brana
    [1,] “HEAR” “0”
    [2,] “75.5% + 24.5% North_Finn Spanish_Basque” “17.0606”
    [3,] “24.2% + 75.8% French_Basque North_Finn” “17.3356”
    [4,] “77.1% North_Finn + 22.9% Sardinian “” 19.5163 ”
    [5,] “24.1% + 75.9% Iberian North_Finn” “21.1495”
    [6,] “76.2% + 23.8% Spanish North_Finn” “21.3459”
    [7,] “78.5% North_Finn + 21.5% S1 “” 22.1884 ”
    [8,] “76.7% + 23.3% North_Finn Portuguese” “22.5586”
    [9,] “76.3% + 23.7% North_Finn Puerto-Rican” “22.7617”
    [10,] “22.1% Corsican + 77.9% North_Finn “” 23.2394 ”

    N. Finns from Kuusamo. They leave most true heirs of the Paleolithic population of Europe

    [,1] [,2]
    [1,] “North_Finn” “0″
    [2,] “39.8% BRA + 60.2% Finland” “22.1224″
    [3,] “49.2% BRA + 50.8% South_Finn” “24.2635″
    [4,] “54.8% BRA + 45.2% Finn” “25.2111″
    [5,] “64.1% BRA + 35.9% Inkeri” “25.9453″

    Where BRA=La Brana Cave

    My own results – I’m Irish from Ireland, but there is no Irish reference population:

    [1,] “3.3% North_Finn + 96.7% Welsh” “2.2006”
    [2,] “4.8% South_Finn + 95.2% Welsh” “2.2198”
    [3,] “5.2% Inkeri + 94.8% Welsh” “2.243”
    [4,] “4.5% Finland + 95.5% Welsh” “2.2477”
    [5,] “5% Finn + 95% Welsh” “2.2527”
    [6,] “3.9% Saami + 96.1% Welsh” “2.2736”
    [7,] “94.4% N._European + 5.6% Stalskoe” “2.3226”
    [8,] “92.9% North-West-European + 7.1% Vepsa” “2.3769”
    [9,] “8.4% North-Russian + 91.6% North-West-European” “2.395”
    [10,] “5.2% Karelian + 94.8% Welsh” “2.4334”

  16. Paul Conroy says:

    What’s maybe more surprising is Gotland – for Americans, this is an island off the Swedish coast, in the Baltic Sea, it’s not Scotland 😉

    Ancient DNA of post-Mesolithic population of Sweden (Gotland)

    [1,] “Swedish-Mesolithic” “0”
    [2,] “8.9% + 91.1% AriblacksmithIbd Latvian” “13.1043”
    [3] “9% Ariblacksmith + 91% Latvian” “13.1644”
    [4] “9.3 Aricultivator% + 90.7% Latvian “” 13.9085 ”
    [5,] “9.3% + 90.7% AricultivatorIbd Latvian” “13.9138”
    [6,] “7.4% + 92.6% AriblacksmithIbd Lithuanian” “15.5735”
    [7,] “7.4% Ariblacksmith + 92.6% Lithuanian “” 15.6297 ”
    [8,] “92.7% + 7.3% Latvian Wolayta” “15.8622”
    [9,] “4.8% + 95.2% Kalash Latvian” “16.2399”
    [10,] “7.4% Aricultivator + 92.6 % Lithuanian “” 16.2569 ”

    “Ari Blacksmith”, “Ari Cultivator” and “Wolayta” are all ethnic groups from SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA!!!

    • Those pesky dwarves get everywhere.

    • rsq says:

      I’ve always wondered about the ancestry of the Swedes in my family.

      Despite having blue eyes, they get very dark by the end of the summer, certainly as dark as some of the lighter-skinned Ethiopians.

      It’s quite the contrast to the rest of my family who is either pasty white or sunburned.

  17. Neil Craig says:

    If such extensive genocides over decades or less by modern humans are common the extermination of most Neanderthal, but not all, genes over 10s of thousands of years suggests there is little if anything to choose in genetic fitness between them and us.

    Also suggests the Basque & even Romansch regions might also be good places to look for Neanderthal remains. I suppose a deep frozen body in the middle of a Swiss glacier for 30.000 yrs would be to much to hope for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s