The Old Race

That puzzling variant of PLK4, that increases the miscarriage rate,  is very widespread, moderately common in almost all population – but it’s rare in Bushmen (frequency of 1 in 38 among the  Ju’/hoansi) and Pygmies,  enough to you suspect that it wasn’t there at all before the Bantu recently admixed with both groups.

The Bushmen (and probably African Pygmies as well)  apparently split off earlier than any other human population, something like 200,000 years ago. Some Bushmen among the Ju’/hoansi, show low or even zero admixture with other groups.  How they managed to have so little gene flow with other Africans for such a long time is a mystery to me, but that’s what the stats say.  There is more genetic distance between the Bushmen and Bantu than there is between Bantu and Koreans.

This long separation doesn’t necessarily mean that Bushmen ave the most divergent phenotypes (although thinking about it, they probably are, what with steatopygia , the tablier egyptienne, etc)  – strength and direction of selection are important, not just time.  But all else equal, more time allows greater changes.

This doesn’t mean that the Bushmen are what early homo sap was like – they’ve been evolving too – but we ought to be able to learn quite a bit about changes over the past couple of hundred thousand years by investigating  genetic differences between the Bushmen and everybody else.  For example, 200 k years ago, our ancestors didn’t have what it takes to out-compete Neanderthals and other archaics on their home grounds, judging by the fact that they didn’t manage it back then.  By 40k years ago we could and did – but that isn’t necessarily the case for Bushmen, a separate branch. Although, since Bushmen and Pygmies seem to have picked up a few percent of their genome from some very divergent group of archaic humans, perhaps they too developed the ability to kick archaic ass. But we don’t know if they did it in the same way, and it probably happened in fairly familiar African environments, instead of ice age Eurasia.

By the way, I have a very funny story about Bushman genetics, but there are not enough electrons in this margin.


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95 Responses to The Old Race

  1. dearieme says:

    I suppose it’s not too surprising, at least in hindsight, that they didn’t interbreed with the Bantu, the latter being johnny-come-latelies. It’s more surprising that they didn’t interbreed with the Hottentots.

    Were there non-Bushmen around in any numbers at The Cape before the Hottentots pitched up? Or was it just a Bushmen’s Garden of Eden?

    • gcochran9 says:

      They did interbreed with the Bantu: but to varying extents in different Bushman groups and different Bantu groups. Among the Ju’/hoansi, who live in the Kalahari, Bantu admixture is very low.

  2. reiner Tor says:

    I have a very funny story about Bushman genetics, but there are not enough electrons in this margin

    I guess some three and a half centuries later commentators of this site will find out what it was.

    But it would be better if you wrote it here in the comments’ section before you die.

    • athEIst says:

      I think what “it was” was that he made a mistake, realized it but didn’t erase his remark. Given the proof when found was not elegant requiring 1000s of hours of computer time and was very long; that was some margin.

      • gcochran9 says:

        You’re thinking of the four-color problem, not Fermat’s last theorem.

        • athEIst says:

          Don’t think so
          Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem
          The proof itself is over 150 pages long and consumed seven years of Wiles’ research time

          • Jim says:

            Neither the Wiles-Taylor proof of the Modularity Theorem for semistable rational elliptic curves nor the complete proof later achieved by Breuil-Conrad-Diamond-Taylor made any use of computer calculations.

            Serre and Ribet had earlier proven that the Modularity Conjecture would imply Fermat’s Last Theorem based on an idea of Frey. To get Fermat the semistable case suffices.

      • Jim says:

        I don’t believe that Fermat ever publically stated his “theorem”. Not in the letter to Digby nor in the letter to Carcavi. So he probably did realize that his “proof” wasn’t right. Almost all of his publically stated results concerned quadratic forms and a handful of results on cubic and quartic forms. So his “last theorem” would have been unique among his results in involving forms of arbitrarily high degree. So his never mentioning it probably means he realized that his “proof” was mistaken.

        His statement about the margin being too small to contain the proof is repeated in other notes in his copy of Diophantus. In fact the only one for which he writes out the proof is for the theorem that no square is the sum of two fourth powers. This is also almost the only theorem for which he explained the proof in his letters. I guess he thought it was so easy it was safe to reveal his method.

  3. Julian says:

    Just saw this on the neanderthals:

    “According to the New Paltz Neanderthal Project’s findings, people with high levels of Neanderthal shared personality traits:

    They were introverted.
    They were more neurotic than an average person.
    They liked reading non-fiction more than fiction.
    They were more promiscuous.
    They had a poor relationship with their biological fathers.
    They felt that others did not support them socially or emotionally.
    They had bipolar tendencies and were more likely to be on the autism spectrum.
    The picture that this paints of Neanderthals — and why they suddenly died out around 40,000 years ago — seems clear. They weren’t as adept at forming large social groups as humans.

    Where they both appear in the fossil record, Neanderthals and modern man differ in crowd sizes. Neanderthals are usually found in groups of seven or ten — “probably their groups were mostly kin groups.” Humans lived in tribes of up to 100 people, the professor explained.

    As a more social animal, humans likely outcompeted Neanderthals by banding together to form civilizations, nationalities and religions — non-family ties that bound us together, he said.

    With approximately 200 participants, the New Paltz Neanderthal Project still has more data to collect — and existing numbers to crunch — to gain a more authoritative picture.”

    • Matt says:

      Not sure what to think about these kind of studies – seems kind of confirmation bias-y as the whole autism-Neanderthal thing came up before we had genetics for Neanderthal with no real evidence, so I’m skeptical.

      Still –

      “Whole genome sequence, MRI brain images and cognitive measures from 383 participants in the Genetics of Brain Structure (GOBS) study were used to identify Neandertal-specific rare sequence variants associated with volumetric variation in regions of the brain associated with language, vision, social intelligence, and motor skills. 56,294 variants monomorphic in the three Vindja Neandertal samples and polymorphic in the GOBS sample were included in variance components-based association analysis implemented in SOLAR. Broadly, language- and motor-skills related regions of the brain show enlargement associated with the human alleles while vision-related regions show expansion related to Neandertal variants. Results for social intelligence are mixed.

      Recent studies have also found East Asians tend to have a slight increase in Neanderthal related ancestry, also balanced by a slight increase in Denisovan related ancestry, relative to West Eurasians.

      • nods
        People who are really into talking about their Neanderthal ancestry tend to be kinda aspie weirdos (from personal observation, anyway.) That doesn’t mean having Neanderthal ancestry causes people to be aspie.

      • n/a says:

        You’re correct to be skeptical. It’s not plausible that they’re picking up anything real.

        Intra-population variation in neanderthal admixture fraction is much smaller than implied by 23andMe’s estimates; differences in “neanderthal percentage” between two people of European ancestry as reported by 23andMe are mostly if not entirely noise in 23andMe’s estimates.

        And even if 23andMe’s estimates were accurate, the sample size of this survey would still probably need to be at least a couple orders of magnitude larger to pick up any real effect.

      • jamzw says:

        Confirmation bias in spades. When our species displaced Neanderthal the meek inherited the earth.. Cunning, treachery, and tools overcome strength and courage. Scissors paper rock.

  4. “There is more genetic distance between the Bushmen and Bantu than there is between Bantu and Koreans.”

    I’d like to see autosomal DNA proving Bantu are closer to Eurasians than to Bushman. mtDNA and Y DNA can’t measure real genetic distance, if that’s what people base this statement on.

    It would make sense though. Within Africa there should be very unrelated people, who are still separated or mixed to create populations. While in Eurasia everyone is from the same stock.

    200,000 years sounds too long. Is there really anything to prove this? Eurasians had barely diversifyed by 45,000 years ago. We know this because of ancient DNA.

    In reality Bushman are not any more ancient than anyone. They’re just alone. Everyone else is just as basal just their basal branches are more populous around the world than the single Bushman one. I don’t want any raciest crap from people treating Bushman with special respect. I’ve already seen stuff like that.

    “This doesn’t mean that the Bushmen are what early homo sap was like – they’ve been evolving too – but we ought to be able to learn quite a bit about changes over the past couple of hundred thousand years by investigating genetic differences between the Bushmen and everybody else.”

    I agree if Bushmen are as pure and divergent as people say. Whatever evolution happened in everyone else didn’t happen in them.

    Look at a Bushman, and these Papuans. The Papuans are Eurasian, and specifically closest to East Asians. Very unrelated by they share some of the same features. I imagine some of earliest humans had the same nappy hair as those two do, which is strange considering most animals and Eurasians have straight hair/fur.

    Physical appearance is just one part of the story. There has probably been alot of evolution going on in everyone which we can’t see.

  5. Bruce says:

    Can some Bushmen, particularly those with low or zero admixture, be taught subjects like Calculus, physics, Classical languages, etc.? Has anyone tried?

    • I bet they could. Classical languages? Greek’s language evolved randomly. It wasn’t any more advanced than anyone elses. Bushman speak a language, so of course they can learn Greek.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Not so. Bushmen can probably learn any living language, if exposed to it. But you aren’t normally exposed to a classical language the way you’re exposed to a living language. For example in normal classical language education you need to attend Old Greek classes, you need to learn the respective alphabet, you need to read a lot, you are given homework (which, again, requires reading and writing skills), etc.

        I guess we could devise a new way of teaching classical languages, e.g. creating an environment full of Old Greek speaking professors, who would refuse to speak any living language, where the only way to communicate for a solitary Bushman would be to speak Old Greek. Then, of course, he’d learn it. But I guess the question was, was it possible to teach them using conventional methods of classical language education? And the answer could very well be no.

        • CBurd says:

          Another point is that learning classical languages in practice means studying sophisticated literature from a lost and in many ways remote culture. That takes more brain power than bargaining at the market or telling a joke at the tavern.

    • Patrick Boyle says:

      As I remember from the semester I taught Calculus as a TA, Differential calculus is pretty easy. It’s only Integral calculus that is challenging.

      Most normal American adults have forever lost their algebra by a few years after high school and can do no math more involved than long division. I would be surprised if Bushmen could do much more than subtraction.

      We know that Rhesus Moneys can be trained to do addition. And chimps have good essential cardinality. Several birds also have this ability. But I’m guessing that subtraction is too abstract for any lower animal to do.

  6. bob sykes says:

    If Richard Lynn (“Race Differences in Intelligence,” pp. 74-77) is to be believed, Bushmen have an average IQ in the 50’s or so with a range of about 35 to 75. Pygmies are probably lower. So the answer is likely, “No, they can’t learn this stuff.”

    • Jim says:

      They speak languages just like other humans so why couldn’t they learn to speak classical languages if they were sufficently motivated?

      • e says:

        You mean if they gave it 10,000 hours of practice?

        • JayMan says:


          That’s it exactly!

          • pyrrhus says:

            Maybe 20,000 hours would do it???

          • Jim says:

            If you put a Bushman and an Iowa farmer down in a village in Greece to live where they would have to gain some faciility in (modern) Greek would the Iowa farmer learn it faster than the Bushman? I’m not sure. Learning language is a pretty basic human trait and the basic linguistic capabilities of Bushmen do not seem greatly different from other humans.

      • reiner Tor says:

        How could you motivate them to sit through a Latin class studying Latin declension?

        See my above comment. I think the question was whether Bushmen could be taught classical languages using conventional methods of teaching those languages. And I’m not convinced they could.

        • Jim says:

          As far as spoken language the basic linguistic capabilities of Bushmen don’t seem significantly different from other populations.

          It would probably be difficult to motivate them to learn how to speak school Latin since such a skill would be useless to them.

          • reiner Tor says:

            Well, it’s been quite useless for British elites in the 19th century either, except as a status symbol. (They signaled they could afford to spend years learning this useless stuff.)

            You need intelligence to figure out that something that seems to be useless here and now might still be valuable in the long run. You also need low time preference, which is inversely correlated with g.

            Of course you couldn’t motivate Bushmen to do that. But don’t Bushmen value many things our civilization can offer them? As far as I know some of them do settle in civilization. (Especially once they’re pushed out of their natural habitats.) They just perform poorly in it. Lack of motivation just seems to be another way of saying they have high time preferences and low intelligence to understand the usefulness of learning seemingly useless things.

            Really, how much money could a Bushman make if he toured the international media with his knowledge of Latin? Could he get a tenure at Harvard maybe, or something similar?

          • Jim says:

            I’m not disputing that the average cognitive level of Bushmen is well below average for the human species but I suspect that their ability to speak language is probably about the same as other populations. Speaking language is a pretty universal and basic human ability and is not tied to a high IQ.

            In 19th century Britain learning classical languages was a signalling mechanism so that gave it some value. Today nobody gives a shit if you know your Latin declensiosn and conjugations cold.

          • dearieme says:

            “In 19th century Britain learning classical languages …”: if only it had been confined to the 19th century. Ita vero.

          • reiner Tor says:

            Jim, I’m not sure whether we’re in disagreement here, so let me restate my position.

            Learning a classical language requires enormously more cognitive abilities than learning a living language. The reason is that there are no movies, TV shows, etc. in classical languages, and neither is there any community speaking it. The (few) people who can speak Latin know only one way of teaching it, namely, through rote learning of vocabulary, conjugation and declension, etc., and (once you’ve learned the basics) through reading classical literature and philosophy. This is a highly unnatural way of acquiring a language skill, and so even if not as demanding of one’s mental abilities as learning quantum mechanics, it might not be easy enough to fall within Bushmen’s range of abilities either.

            Therefore, I think that, in a realistic sense, the only way to make your average Bushman learn Latin would be to parachute him to Ancient Rome. Since this is impossible, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that Bushmen cannot learn Latin.

            Is there anything in the above statements that you disagree with? If so, why?

          • Jim says:

            Learning school Latin in 19th century Britain was probably a better signal of diligence
            and conformity than of high IQ. Of course diligence and conformity were traits that many employers valued.

          • reiner Tor says:

            Jim, correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand, your position is that basically Bushmen’s problem in picking up Latin would not be a lack of intelligence, but a lack of diligence and conformity.

            I have to admit your hypothesis is possible, so we cannot decide which of us is correct.

            I’d merely observe that diligence is usually correlated with intelligence, even if the correlation might not be perfect or even very strong, diligent people are usually intelligent and vice versa, even if there are often highly diligent people with just slightly above average intelligence and highly intelligent people with just slightly above average diligence. In my experience the so-called lazy but intelligent people are usually in fact more hardworking than the lazy and stupid ones, but with the latter failure is usually ascribed to stupidity, because people usually consider that these couldn’t have gotten results even if they had tried to. But unintelligent people often don’t even try.

            However, because of the 200,000 year evolutionary divergence, it might be a different story with the Bushmen. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it certainly has a non-negligible probability.

        • Matt says:

          I think there may be a good signal there that teaching people artificially standardised languages that the teacher doesn’t really intuitively understand, via methods that are not very natural to learning languages, using conversations about things they don’t care about (Sextus est puer molestus etc), may impose a good sized cognitive burden on the learner.

          There may be other inane pedagogical methods the Bushmen would have trouble pushing through with sheer brainpower and “self control” (euphemistically speaking).

        • athEIst says:

          hic haec hoc.
          ille illa illud.
          And then the conjugations.

      • Flinders Petrie says:

        I’m sure they could learn to communicate in any Indo-European language if they were transplanted to that place and time. But would any have the oratorical ability and vocabulary to debate Socrates?

        (Well, there ARE the Towson U. national debate victors, but I digress):

        Anyway, the approximate lexicons of Khoesan languages ranges from 1,400 to 24,500. But you can’t compare those to the words in an English dictionary (over a million), because the Khoesan languages were spoken and thus represent mostly vocabulary. And nobody knows all words in the Oxford English dictionary.

        It is worth noting that the largest dictionary for a Khoesan language consists of 24,500 words and comes from the Hottentot (Khoekhoe) language – and that it was the result of twenty years of collaboration by a linguist and a mother-tongue speaker. So we can be fairly certain that this is the upper end for vocabulary of Khoesan speakers.

        Thus, the top percentile of Khoesan speakers, with their 24,500 word vocabulary, would fall below the 30th percentile of native English speakers, if these statistics are to be believed:

        • Jim says:

          In most languages it doesn’t take a huge vocabulary to carry out ordinary day-to-day conversations. I’m talking about ordinary linguistic communication not discussing Proust.

          • Ian says:

            Jim: as I see it, the challenge is not learning a first language. We all are capable of that. The real question is how they’d manage learning a second language. I don’t know the answer, of course.

          • Jim says:

            Do any of the Bushmen people learn to communicate in other languages of neighboring people? Although learning a second language may not be as easy as learning one’s native language I doubt that it requires a high IQ.

  7. Greying Wanderer says:

    Seems to me if HGs are adapted to particular flora and fauna then if the climate changes and the regions supporting that selection of flora and fauna shrinks then the HGs adapted to them would shrink also for example if a population of HGs was adapted to the flora and fauna of boreal forests then as those forests retreated to higher latitudes and altitudes those HGs would retreat with them: either up into the mountains or to the north.

    In the same way warmer climate flora and fauna would expand with the changing climate and the HGs adapted to that flora and fauna would expand with it.

    If so one of the things that might follow is the ones who followed the shrinking boreal forest up into the mountains would end up being left behind like little islands as the warm-adapted people spread along the valleys.

    Another thing that might follow is if one group of HGs was adapted to colder, more calorie poor biomes then they’d likely have smaller band sizes.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Although if they had smaller bands that might imply less complex social arrangements e.g. one dominant male versus multiple males and alliance building?

  8. Here is a fascinating lecture by John Hawks on human evolution and the impact of malaria on humans.

    If readers are interested in learning more about what recent science has discovered regarding human evolution I doubt that you could do better than head on over to youtube and listen to the 27 lectures that John Hawks has posted there. I won’t go on as to why I found this lecture so interesting, it would be changing the topic of this blog thread.

    I will give just a quick shout out for John Hawks. He is at the cutting edge of science in the confluence of three fields, paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution. He is a professor at University of Wisconsin and is thoughtful enough to work hard at educating the interested public via the John Hawks Weblog and has posted 27 first class lectures on youtube. He has written several important papers with Greg Cochran. Why only 386 people have viewed the lecture I linked to on Malaria is a rather sad statement on humanity in general. John Hawks will never ever have as many viewers as the next drunkard who lights his balls on fire.

  9. Bruce says:

    I guess I just meant “hard stuff” when I listed the three subjects.

    If Europeans had brought Bushmen rather than Bantus to the New World, I wonder if there would still be widespread belief in racial equality, race doesn’t exist denial, etc.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      “I wonder if there would still be widespread belief in racial equality, race doesn’t exist denial, etc.”

      Of course. There would just be slightly more evidence for the Left to deny, and they could do that, no problem. As we saw with the Maoists in China, denying reality is like murder; each time you do it, it gets a little easier.

      • Bruce says:

        There are American blacks who are bright. If there’s no such thing as a bright Bushmen (I don’t know if there is or not) they would have zero examples of a bright person representing Bushmen.
        I think racial equality is believable to the average leftist because they see bright blacks.

        • Toddy Cat says:

          I remember Harry Harpending commenting on a bright Bushman who helped him fix his jeep, so yes, there are certainly some. The average Bushman IQ isn’t far from the estimated IQ of Equatorial Guinea (59), and there are absolutely some smart people from there (emphasis on “from”). So yes, leftists would meet any objections with stories (probably true) about the brilliant Bushman teacher they had in college, ignoring the other 99.9% whom they would never meet…

    • Jim says:

      All humans except for the most profoundly retarded learn spoken language. While the languages of the Bushmen are phonologically unusual in their high use of velar suction sounds – “clicks” – other than that they don’t seem uniquely special

      But calculus and theoretical physics are not natural things for humans to learn. I don’t know if anyone has successfully taught such subjects to Bushmen. I sorta doubt it but maybe it has been done.

  10. Beyond Anon says:

    Now that I have read the only reference work available* on the Pak, it is obvious that the Bushmen are closest to the Pak.

    By Niven.

    • athEIst says:

      Really a pity that thallous oxide is VERY poisonous.
      (Wikipedia) Thallium(I) oxide, like all thallium compounds, is highly toxic.

  11. “For example, 200 k years ago, our ancestors didn’t have what it takes to out-compete Neanderthals and other archaics on their home grounds, judging by the fact that they didn’t manage it back then.”

    How do you know this? Did humans commit genocide against Neanderthals? Do we know why they went extinct? 200,000YBP humans and Neanderthals didn’t have contact.

    • Pincher Martin says:


      You need to read more before you comment.

      Most any recent book on Neanderthals will mention that they and Homo sapiens first had contact much earlier than anticipated in the Middle East, and that Homo sapiens, not Neanderthals, retreated after that initial competition.

      Read this, for example.

      The “game,” Bar-Yosef said, consisted of several changes in field position—long periods of time during which the two groups alternated ownership of present-day Israel and the Middle East.

      He and his colleague John Shea of the State University of New York at Stony Brook investigated how humans managed to out-compete the Neandertals that already lived in the area.

      Their analysis focused on two archaeological sites in Israel, called Skhul (pronounced “school”) and Kafzeh. Archaeological evidence excavated at the sites years ago indicated that people had lived in the caves, at least occasionally, for more than 130,000 years.

      Most remarkable about the finds was the discovery that the caves had changed hands between Neandertals and modern humans no fewer than three times.

      In the upper layers of the dirt floors in both caves, archaeologists found bones of humans. Lower down, in layers that were deposited between 47,000 to 65,000 years ago, human bones were absent, but researchers excavated Neandertal remains. That discovery corresponds to a period of Neandertal occupation of the site that lasted nearly 20,000 years.

      To the researchers’ surprise, however, they uncovered more human remains beneath those of the Neandertals in both caves. These ancient bones dated to an era that stretched from 80,000 to 130,000 years ago. From the deepest layers of dirt beneath the cave floors, which accumulated more than 130,000 years ago, they again found Neandertal bones.

      The finding indicated that Skhul and Kafzeh—and, presumably, much or all of the surrounding region—passed from human hands back into Neandertal control between 65,000 and 80,000 years ago.

      Humans were apparently unsuccessful in their first bid to take over the region.

      Don’t worry. The story has a happy ending.

  12. Count Doofus says:

    Cochran, have you any guess about PLK4 variant function among non-Bushmen?
    It’s expressed in immunitary system, blood cells and testicles. I say it increase male fertility to detriment of female fertility, probably causing an immunitary reaction in the womb.

    • Count Doofus says:

      Alternatively it cause failure in synthesis of erythrocities in fetus. This would lead to miscarriage. I wonder if expression in lymphoblast lead to an improvement in immunitary function.

      • Count Doofus says:

        The expression in the uterus corpus may be related to miscarriage. I have no idea what effect it may have on Sup. Cervical Ganglion. Is the mutation a lost of function or a gain of function, like SLC24A5 or like ergothioneine transporter?

        • Count Doofus says:

          This is the distribution of PLK4 gene in the world. The non functioning variant is in blue. Areas with high expression of the misfunctioning gene are Africa, nort-east Asia and central North America and Trinidad ad Tobago. The areas of well functioning genes are North Europe, Tibet and Andean Chain.
          The main variables seems to be the life at high altitudes and the consumption of graminacee. The first variable doesn’t explain Ethiopian/Keniote gene diffusion. I wonder if there’s a correlation with average age of maternity or matriarchal system.

  13. Acres of Statuary says:

    Haha. Searching for ‘tablier egyptienne’ (do not under any circumstances look at the pictures) will lead you to the Wikipedia page for Sarah Baartman. Besides several sections of interesting history there are sections on ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘colonialism’, ‘feminist reception’ and ‘media representation and feminist criticism’.

    We are in the age of peak academia. Somebody needs to get tenure declared unconstitutional in the context of public institutions before this crap expands to fill the universe.

    • ivvenalis says:

      I did the same thing and got the same results. I will say, I actually ran across that Sarah Bartman article years ago and it was totally incoherent at the time. There were no pictures, and only indirect references to the fact that people would pay to look at her but no explanation of why. I guess that the editors couldn’t put all that stuff in until they were able to gin up a wall of text about how terrible it all was.

  14. j says:

    The Old Race has lots of new mutations and they seem to have undergone much evolution lately. They are not older than we are and not closer to our common ancestors. BTW, what is the selective advantage of their elongated labia?

    • reiner Tor says:

      j, I would have fully agreed with you maybe five years ago, but I think after reading The 10,000 Year Explosion we ought to know better.

      They didn’t change their environments so much from the ancestral environment as other populations did (although, that assertion might be somewhat questionable vis-à-vis the Bantus), and – most importantly – they didn’t change their lifestyles so much. So, they have no agriculture, no horticulture, not even gardening on the side. They aren’t sedentary either.

      Another point is that they didn’t have a population explosion, so no accelerated rate of mutations, meaning no Fisherian acceleration of their evolution.

      So just as our common ancestor with chimps probably was much more similar to chimps than it was to us, similarly the common ancestor of Eurasians, Bantus and Bushmen was probably more similar to Bushmen than to the other three, because probably the other three changed more due to the above mentioned factors.

      • j says:

        You presume that African evolutionary environment was stable and static, and Bushmen didnt need to adopt and evolve. We dont know if they underwent population explosion(s)but we know about a recent drastic implosion. They cannot be living fossils as you imagine.

      • reiner Tor says:

        J, I presume none of those things. I merely presume that African evolutionary environment didn’t change as much (or South African environment is not as different from East African environment) than the change from an East African tropical environment to a European temperate (or cold) environment represented.

        Yes, Bushmen probably had to evolve, but not nearly as much as those humans who moved to Europe. Not to mention agriculture and/or pastoralism and state formation.

        The population implosion seems like a one-time selective effect to me at most. Mostly, it was a geographical selection (those Bushman tribes that were closest to the Bantus got exterminated, and then came the next tribes, until the Bantus reached the Orange river). Compare that to a drastic change in environment combined with Fisherian acceleration.

        No, Bushmen are not living fossils (neither are chimps), but are probably much closer to our common ancestors than are Eurasians and probably even Bantus.

    • MawBTS says:

      BTW, what is the selective advantage of their elongated labia?

      It forms a kind of funnel that guides urine away from the legs. Spider monkeys also have elongated labia, and it serves the same purpose.

    • MawBTS says:

      Interestingly, Nᴉxau was half-blooded too. They tried to find a full-blooded Bushman for that movie, but apparently the San were pretty shy around us cropfags.

  15. pyrrhus says:

    Does the story involve Harpending?

  16. MawBTS says:

    This long separation doesn’t necessarily mean that Bushmen ave the most divergent phenotypes (although thinking about it, they probably are, what with steatopygia

    Look at the Paleolithic “Venus” figurines – some of them depict women with hugely exaggerated buttocks.

    Is it possible that steatopygia was once a more common trait outside of Africa?

  17. Matt says:

    Re: divergent phenotypes – the old Kenneth Beals brain size study found they were the most encephalised humans for brain/body mass.

    Not much body mass though (other humans were the most “encephalised” relative to stature), and brain mass tends to increase below allometry (within population larger body mass = relatively lower brain mass).

    Both of those are pretty visually immediately evident – the closest to them there in that study were the Andamanese Islanders (another gracile warm climate group).

    High enceph, particularly relative to the size of the head overall, seems like an archetypally modern human trait, which is one reason they could be viewed as an archetype of the modern human type (if far from its least demographically successful group!).

  18. Bruce says:

    I guess what I really meant to ask above was are all of them dull or are there examples of bright ones? I would think Harpending would know.

  19. Rick says:

    I gotta say, I’ve been reading the comments on this blog for years, and they are generally quite intelligently written and thought through. However, the comments on this page are some of the worst I’ve seen.

    I am referring specifically to the speculation that Bushmen have low intelligence. There is no statistically relevant data to support this notion. For the most part, the remaining populations of these peoples seem to not give a crap about the rest of society. Nearly all full-blooded Bushmen or African pygmies grow up with little or no schooling or exposure to concepts that are used on tests to measure intelligence.

    If the “intelligence test” used was something more practical to them, such as survival for a year in the desert or tropical rainforest, then every person commenting on this blog would fail miserably.

    • gcochran9 says:

      And you would do poorly if forced to live the life of a penguin, which proves that penguins are smarter than you.

      • Rick says:

        If intelligence was defined as living like a penguin, then yes. But that is clearly not what I was saying. These people have largely avoided mixing with other populations for around 200,000 years. If they have been selected for anything, it is for not trusting outsiders. It would be very hard to separate strong personality traits, that may be unlike anything seen in Eurasians, from poor performance on IQ tests. The people here speculating that they couldn’t learn Latin sound like the unintelligent ones. Based on what evidence? Practically zero.

        • Bruce says:

          Don’t know about others but I was asking, not asserting since I have no idea how smart bushmen are. I think it’s an interesting question. Not so we can prove how inferior bushmen are or aren’t. I think it would be interesting to see how the left would react if, say, it were proven that all bushmen were utterly uneducatable in higher mathematics, science, whatever. They might not be, of course. Just a fun thought experiment since it will never be done.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Oh for God’s sake. There are lots of intelligence test that don’t make use of concepts used in schools that have been applied to Bushmen. Bushmen on average have low IQ’s, that’s just a fact. That doesn’t make them inferior, or bad people, any more than having high IQ’s makes Jews morally superior. I doubt if the average Bushman gives a damn what his IQ is, so there’s no sense in taking offense on their behalf.

      • Rick says:

        Come on. If you want to look at most Sub-Saharan Africans, then sure, there are good statistics and lots of controls. This isn’t true of the Bushmen and Pygmies. The studies have laughably low numbers of people tested. No statistical significance. And, the confounding variables are numerous and enormous. I might as well determine average weight and income by looking the first four people who walk into a McDonalds.

  20. j says:

    Rick demands massive testing and statistical analysis to accept that Bushmen are less intelligent than, say, the English. Presuming it is not a pose, he could compare the literary production of Bushmen with other peoples, which is an excellent proxy for IQ.

    • Rick says:

      Not if they don’t want to be literate for cultural, usefulness, or a different biological reason. Then it is just a good proxy for not fitting into modern society. Maybe the big advance that allowed modern humans to overtake archaic peoples in Eurasia was a willingness to engage socially with others and rely upon others in larger groups of people.

      I’m definitely not saying that they are super intelligent, how would I know. I’m just saying that there are many alternative explanations that people gloss over to make generalizing trends to fit their preconceptions.

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  22. XRay says:

    From all this, I can only discern that IQ is, or should be from the comments, measured from environment and ability to mimic, nothing innate at all. Regardless of such constructed constructs as are common, such as Latin… are you kidding me. Live a day with a Bushmen, then tell me how smart you are and how much it matters to your survival.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Suppose that the Bushmen were innately better at the tasks implicit in the way of life: they found it easier to learn those tasks, and after learning their average performance was better. In fact, assume that the best Bushmen were better at those tasks than the best of any other human populations.
      Sheesh, while we’re at it, assume that the average Bushman is better at those traditional tasks than any non-Bushman.

      That doesn’t do them much good, nowadays, unless it translates to doing well in school. And it doesn’t.

      You probably haven’t noticed, but we don’t live in a hunter-gatherer world anymore.

    • harpend says:

      I have spent many days with Bushmen. I have two candidates that come to mind for the kind of group-specific abilities that you postulate: mind that these are just impressions with no data on the matter.

      One is the ability to track animals. Following the track of a group of large animals we noticed several times that we could see no visible tracks. “Where are the tracks?” we asked. The answer would be something like “On the other side of the ridge”. They knew where the animals were going, and would pick up the actual tracks later.

      Once several young men and I tracked a cape buffalo straight through a sandy patch where a herd of cattle had milled about to get water at a well. The buffalo tracks were absolutely identical, to my eye, to cattle prints. I was completely stopped but I followed the guys through about fifty meters of trample and out the other side. They had followed the track right through.

      My wife once remarked, to a group of women on a gathering trip, that it was interesting that there were no snakes anywhere on the trip. One woman looked at her strangely, said “Are you kidding? Look there, and there, and there”, pointing to snakes. There were snakes all around, unseen by us after a year in the region.

      A second puzzling ability was the was the ease with which people could follow a single conversation in the middle or several simultaneous conversations around a fire. I was fairly fluent in the language but I could never cope with that, focussing on a single one of two to four, all at the same level. We always thought that we were simply missing some unique ability that everyone else had.

      With respect to language, we knew Bushmen who were apparently quite fluent in local languages like Setswana, Otjiherero, Afrikaans, and English. English was not common, but numerous young people by the 1980s had learned English in school. They had no apparent deficit in English compared to their classmates.

  23. Rick says:

    But it does mean that the word intelligence, as used in IQ, really means the ability to use your intelligence in a modern societal setting. This is very different than intrinsic intelligence. If, in the near future, people are required to use electroencephalography for many intellectual tasks in better paying jobs, and on IQ tests, a new definition of intelligence will emerge. It is just semantics. IQ doesn’t measure what most define as the meaning of the word intelligent. They should call it something else to prevent unintelligent arguments.

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