Pygmy Split

There are a couple of recent papers on introgression from some quite divergent archaic population into Pygmies ( this also looks to be the case with Bushmen). Among other things, one of those papers discussed the time of the split between African farmers (Bantu) and Pygmies, as determined from whole-genome analysis and the mutation rate. They preferred to use the once-fashionable rate of 2.5 x 10-8 per-site per-generation (based on nothing), instead of the new pedigree-based estimate of about 1.2 x 10-8 (based on sequencing parents and child: new stuff in the kid is mutation). The old fast rate indicates that the split between Neanderthals and modern humans is much more recent than the age of early Neanderthal-looking skeletons, while the new slow rate fits the fossil record – so what’s to like about the fast rate? Thing is, using the slow rate, the split time between Pygmies and Bantu is ~300k years ago – long before any archaeological sign of behavioral modernity (however you define it) and well before the first known fossils of AMH (although that shouldn’t bother anyone, considering the raggedness of the fossil record).

Logically, this means that Pygmies aren’t really modern humans. Or, perhaps, they’re the most divergent of all modern humans. If you want to say that the root stock had capability X in 100,000 BC, and so everyone today must also have capability X (which does not logically follow in any event, but we’re talking anthropologists, so don’t expect much) then Pygmies might not have it. Or if they do, it’s a product of convergent evolution. But of course in the real world the Pygmies have the capabilities that they have: you can’t logic any of them away or conjure new ones into existence.

The bigger picture is that this sure looks like a typical case of backwards reasoning: A implies B, which implies C, and so on, but Z is awful and so A can’t really be true. I don’ think this works, if by “working’, we mean getting the at the truth.

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54 Responses to Pygmy Split

  1. JT says:

    Iwo Eluru seems to be a Holocene Homo heidelbergensis similar to Elandsfontein/Saldanha. Given the problems extracting aDNA from early Holocene Africans this is probably closest to identifying the source of archaic admixture. Its unlikely there were any other non-AMH in the Holocene tropical forests.

    Unlike the Denisovan sample from nondiagnostic material that is unassignable to a race or species.

  2. ursiform says:

    Now, Greg, certainly if you raise Pygmies in a rich environment for enough generations to eliminate the epigenetic effects of poverty they’ll all be going to Harvard.

    Do it in New Guinea and they’ll be too smart for Harvard …

  3. TWS says:

    How closely related are the Asian pygmies to the African pygmies? Do they have the same long ago split? What does this mean for anthropology? Do we just ignore it?

    • gcochran9 says:

      An Andaman Islander is genetically closer to you than to an African Pygmy. Convergent evolution.

      • JT says:

        And don’t forget that in maters like limb proportions, Asian pygmies differ from one another as much as from African pygmies, proving the point. Human Biology Volume 85 Issue 1 covers this and more, its about revising old theories about pygmy populations.

        Interesting for some people (probably) is that humans aren’t the only dwarved mammals in these habitats in these habitats, there are for example pygmy elephants.

      • TWS says:

        Thanks. Interesting I wonder how long it takes to ‘dwarf’ a human population. We have such long generations. I wonder how many times it’s happend? I would think an interesting field of study would be to narrow down what might have caused it in both populations.

        • Sandgroper says:

          There were ‘dwarf’ people living in the Queensland rainforest in Australia – there’s photographic documentation, and they were definitely real. They qualified by size to be called pygmies.

          I don’t know how long it took to ‘dwarf’ them, but it’s a matter of record how long it took to ‘undwarf’ them – moving out of the rainforest and living among normal sized people, and they vanished in a generation or two. They’re gone, or I think more likely, some of them are still there, in admixed form, but now they are the same size as everyone else.

          That happens with pygmies living next to Bantu – if the two mix by interbreeding, the pygmies disappear. It’s the “Prizzi’s Honour” question – should I eat her or should I marry her? Either way, they vanish.

          So why would they live in the rainforest in the first place if it was dwarfing them, which implies their longevity was also adversely affected? The only thing I can think of is safety from attack by other humans. The rainforest is not a good place to live or hunt; it is lacking the prey animal diversity of more open country, and suitable plant foods also. Once Australia was depopulated by disease and crawling with white people, it became safe for them to come out, so they came out and…disappeared.

          Negritoes living in the jungles of the Philippines and Malaysia – some are still there. They marginally qualify for ‘pygmy’ status. They were probably the first to reach those areas, and might have become dwarfed by being marginalised to the wet jungle areas after the arrival of other waves of arrivals. It might not necessarily be the case that they were small when they first arrived.

          • dearieme says:

            “Once Australia was … crawling with white people, it became safe for them to come out”: oh dear, a non-PC thought. Here of all places.

          • syonredux says:

            “Once Australia was depopulated by disease and crawling with white people, ”
            Some estimates on the total number of Aboriginal deaths:

            Australia (1788-1921) 240,000 Aboriginal deaths
            Mark Cocker, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold (1998)
            Australian mainland
            Ongoing frontier war: 2,000-2,500 whites and 20,000 Aborignies KIA (“best guess”, probably higher)
            General population decline: from 1M (1788) to 50,000 (ca. 1890) to 30,000 (1920s)
            Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (1993)
            Decline of the Aborigines
            From 300,000 (in 1788) to 60,000 (in 1921)

            Clodfelter: 2,500 Eur. and 20,000 Aborigines k. in wars, 1840-1901
            Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (2001): 20,000 Aborigines intentionally killed by whites.

          • JT says:

            Pygmies in the Atherton Tablelands were likely bred out of existence quickly, tbh. I’m not denying there was an environmental component at work, but they didn’t just grow taller, they got admixed.

          • Sandgroper says:

            Yes, admixed. Isn’t that what I said?

  4. Frank says:

    “Logically, this means that Pygmies aren’t really modern humans.”

    Isn’t this just a case of semantics? Pygmies are obviously modern. In fact, many of them are actually alive today. And they are certainly human. I haven’t seen any data about hybrid incompatibility.

    Maybe they think a bit different, and maybe they are short, and maybe they would rather live in the forest than a city.

    But, they are as much a modern human as anyone alive. They make music and draw pictures and tell stories and hunt dangerous animals using amazing tricks and clever weapons. They speak and remember events and names and faces in specific detail for a lifetime.

    Probably Neanderthals and Denisovans were right up there as well.

    So the real question is what exactly is the criteria for being behaviorally modern. Where is the line? What is the defining thing?

    • JT says:

      A weird observation by Roger Blench is the eerie lack of substrate in pygmy languages; it is normal for HGs to undogo language shift when they become economically dependent upon food producing neighbours, but there is in every other case evidence for a language substrate.

      Now if you want Pygmy facts that are even creepier, to Western sensibilities: tall blacks used to harvest pygmies for resources, constituting a degree of selective pressure, in addition to sending them out into the forest to bring back resources. When I read that I was reminded of that classic modern sci-fi, The Sparrow. Pygmies are the anthropological equivalent of something between singing dogs and mithun.

      When you think about Pygmy weirdness its easy to think about those hypothetical hominins inferred by Hammer. Even a limited degree of domestication changes an animal or plant from its wild ancestors.

    • et.cetera says:

      “I haven’t seen any data about hybrid incompatibility.”

      That’s good, because there’s a lot of worse out there. And, anyway, it’s all a matter of semantics. Surely we can find the proper language to mend reality.

    • Oliver Cromwell says:

      Passing the port to the left.

    • TWS says:

      We’re never going to have a conversation about what it means to be a modern human. Never if we are talking about living populations. We won’t even set the perimeters.

  5. Fd says:

    There was an introgression in central and west africa, with heidelbergensis. So how much introgression would it take so that pygmies could be decendants of Beh. Mod. Hum.s but still genetically distant enough from Bantus?

  6. Jm8 says:

    Is 3000,000 years ago the divergence date of the most divergent part of Pygmy ancestry, or a measure of their overall divergence from farmers? And what is the name of the paper?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Overall, but significant archaic introgression may have increased divergence.
      Whole-genome sequence analyses of Western Central African Pygmy hunter-gatherers reveal a complex demographic history and identify candidate genes under positive natural selection. In Genome Research.

      • TWS says:

        Did I read that right? Pygmies split from the rest of us 300K years ago? I presume they have since merged back with us isn’t 300K longer than Neandertal?

  7. hbd chick says:

    “long before any archaeological sign of behavioral modernity”

    if early AMH (or whoever) were living in forests, there won’t be much, if any, achaeological signs left behind. absence of evidence and all that.

    • JT says:

      Early AMH would not be in the forest; Holocene H. heidelbergensis is consistent with monopolising the tropical forest subregion, and the rest of the Afrotropics was presumably AMH with possible exceptions where high endemism is predicted, for example, in the Kalahari.

  8. Patrick Boyle says:

    By a strange coincidence I was just reading the chapter on Pygmies in Lynn’s latest book ‘Race Difference in Intelligence’. It’s a short chapter – there hasn’t been much work on testing pygmies.

    Pygmies have an IQ of about 57. Whereas the Bantu have an IQ of about 71. This is a large enough difference to make pygmies the ‘hereditary servants’ of the Bantu. That seems to be a euphemism for slave.

    Pygmies seem to be normal in size and have a normal growth rate until adolescence. Then they miss out on the teen age growth spurt. This is a fact worthy of social suppression. Teen age boys who see their female class mates grow taller than themselves around the age of fourteen, have enough anxiety. We can’t have them worried about becoming pygmies too.

    Another fact about race that we must hide for the good of the people.

    • Sandgroper says:

      Huh? I was always smaller than the girls in my class, right from Primary One.The tallest girl in the class was a good foot or more taller than me. Things stayed that way until I reached 15, when I became tall enough to be permitted to wear long trousers to school. By 16 I was taller than all of the girls, in almost all cases by 6″ or more.

      I met that tall ‘girl’ again at my primary school reunion seven years ago – I had to bend down to talk to her. She can’t have grown a millimetre past the age of 12.

  9. st says:

    “Should I eat her or should I marry her?”. Interesting. So this is how the most archaic mitochondrial haplogroups, L0 and the like, could have arrived in contemporary sub saharan Africa – via introgression and they do not even have to belong to the original mitochondrial set (if there was such) unique to HS. They could have introgressed recently from species HS split from millions of years ago. Or so it seems.

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  11. IC says:

    Idea of old fashion tree like evolution with many dead ends is in trouble.

    The real process is far more complicated than that. In a way like how Einstein theory replacing Newton one.

    • IC says:

      Now the human evolution hypothesis of many coexisting branches with constant merging and rebranching are believed by many scientists. This hypothesis has better chance to explain new data.

  12. garr says:

    They have chins and high foreheads without prominent brow-ridges. In fact, they look like little Africans!

  13. Andrew Neather says:

    ‘Pygmy Split’.

    Hope you don’t mean it too literally. There were verifiable reports of cannibalism practised on Pygmies during the Congo war of the 1990s.

    • Ilya says:

      I forgot about the Pygmy-meal situation in the DRC . You have to keep in mind that the blog’s main author has a cutting sense of humor. Hence, I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that he fully intended it to be taken that way, too.

      Although cannibalism victims are not all Pygmys, if it keeps on going that way, there may not be anymore left after a few more generations.

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  15. DDeden says:

    TWS: “How closely related are the Asian pygmies to the African pygmies?”

    “An Andaman Islander is genetically closer to you than to an African Pygmy.” Cochrane

    ” What does this mean for anthropology? ”

    “Convergent evolution” Cochrane

    Nope. Continuity. No “jungle dwarfing” or “island dwarfing” in omnivores, just in dedicated carnivores or dedicated herbivores. Pygmies retain ancestral Hs body size, paleo-architecture (women weave wicker dome huts shingled with ngongo leaves), language etc.

    • gcochran9 says:

      So all the signs of strong selection ( in Pygmies) on variants that help you get small ( insulin growth factor, etc) is just God’s practical joke on us.

      You are a silly.

      • Anonymous says:

        So why go small? Is it the direct result of too little food in the environment? Is it a side effect of something else? Why do humans get smaller? If it only happens in the tropics why? Why not North America’s coastal rainforests or the Amazon?

        What’s the benefit of being so small and with such a low IQ that you are at the mercy of any normal sized human group that comes along? Does that mean that it only happens in isolation without any contact with other populations?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Evolution is perfectly capable of making changes whose advantages I don’t completely understand, not least because I’ve never spent much time puttering around a green hell.

          On the other hand, although I don’t claim to be sure why evolution shrunk Pygmies and Negritos, I don’t see anything particularly weird about it: it’s not as if they prefer men to women. Colin Turnbull was much more anomalous than the Pygmies he ‘studied’.

          • TWS says:

            Please post more on this kind of HBD stuff. You’re right they’re not as bizarre as gay men, they reproduce successfully and pass on their genes.

            I’ve always been fascinated by the idea there was a ‘pygmy’ population in North America. I’ve heard stories since I was a kid of ‘Stick Indians’ (mythical folks not the Stick Indians of California) and they sure sound like they were pygmy people.

          • Sandgroper says:

            Jungle Maya are much smaller than other Maya. The dreaded Yanomami are small people, despite not being exclusively hunter gatherers. We have the historical example of the Atherton Tableland pygmies. How many parallel real life examples do you want before you are willing to recognise a trend?

            As with the Yanomami and other jungle dwelling types, they have a tendency to shun outsiders. Nicobarese are an extreme example of this.

      • DDeden says:

        Can you expressly and specifically disprove this statement?

        DDeden: “No “jungle dwarfing” or “island dwarfing” in omnivores, just in dedicated carnivores or dedicated herbivores.”

        If you can and do, then I’ll retract what I said, with sincere apologies.

        I am entirely convinced (based on ecology, linguistics, architecture, culture) that Pygmies have not appreciably reduced their body size, rather, the rest of the human race has increased in body size, largely due to changing from mother-woven-wicker large-leaf-shingled dome huts to conical-type or rectilinear dwellings in mostly-open-sky conditions.

  16. Oliver Cromwell says:

    With all the recent drive to import diversity to the West, are there any coherent pygmy populations living in the West?

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  18. efalken says:

    Humans have about 100 novel genes compared to Chimps, and many proteins differ in small but significant ways. Shouldn’t we expect to see some different genes or proteins in Pygmies if they branched off that long ago?

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