Physical Anthropology: they already knew

gcochran9 says:
June 20, 2016 at 11:06 am (Edit)
All of Southeast Asia was occupied, relatively recently, (~6000 years ago) by populations that were genetically close to the Andamanese and to the funny admixture fraction in Brazilian Amerindians. Closer than anyone else, anyhow.

Frank says:
June 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm (Edit)
I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t yet read that ancient DNA paper on Southeast Asia.

Here it is. “We find that early genomes from Hoabinhian hunter-gatherer contexts in Laos and Malaysia have genetic affinities with the Onge hunter-gatherers from the Andaman Islands, while Southeast Asian Neolithic farmers have a distinct East Asian genomic ancestry related to present-day Austroasiatic-speaking populations. We also identify two further migratory events, consistent with the expansion of speakers of Austronesian languages into Island Southeast Asia ca. 4 kya, and the expansion by East Asians into northern Vietnam ca. 2 kya.”

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50 Responses to Physical Anthropology: they already knew

  1. dearieme says:

    Is this likely to elicit the sort of bonkers nationalist response that saying comparable things about India provokes?

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’m not sure that many people in Southeast Asia have even heard about this, so perhaps they don’t have any loony ideas ready. Perhaps I should invent some for them? Malaysians might realize that the Negritos were there first, I suppose.

      Some of my readers that are apparently involved in modern anthropology didn’t seem to know about it – a lot of physical anthropology lore seems to be fading. The average graduate student in anthropology no longer knows about racial differences in cranial capacity, or that there are significant differences in the facial muscle structure of Europeans and east Asians.

      • The Z Blog says:

        Somewhat unrelated, but I seem to recall that Indian nationalism is tangled up in a big fight over the biological origins of the caste system.

      • Karl Zimmerman says:

        I very clearly remember this possibility being covered in either Discovery or Scientific American back when I was in high school in the mid to late 1990s.

      • jb says:

        I remember reading about the facial muscle thing way, way, way back (like high school!), and I thought it was very interesting. But after that it never seemed to come up at all, so I assumed it was one of those memorable but wrong claims that libraries are so full of (especially since, as I remember, it was also asserted that blacks have a simpler facial muscle structure than either Europeans or East Asians).

        Is any of this actually well established, and would you know a good link that goes into it in detail? It strikes me as kind of a big deal if true — but also definitely not the sort of thing I would want to bring into conversation if I wasn’t absolutely sure about it.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I’ve seen an anthropologist talking about how you had to warn students doing dissection about this or they’d be confused & surprised, and there are old references. I think it’s true. But since it shouldn’t be true, it must not be true.

          Let me look around. Feel free to do the same yourself.

          • P says:

            What do you think would be driving the differences in facial muscle structure?

            Regarding the possibility of simpler structure in Africans, presumably the effect of that would be perceptible on some level? I’m thinking of the way Conrad wrote about the natives faces as mask-like – maybe he wasn’t just being a nast orientalist and dramatizing their alterity but waa also experiencing an uncanny sense of subtly simpler and thus “stagier” emotional displays.

      • DD'eDeN says:

        GC: ” Malaysians might realize that the Negritos were there first, I suppose.”
        Hardly a revelation to any Malaysian, beyond political BS rhetoric. I don’t see the point of your post, all old news, no? 6ka only Negrito/Papuan/Andamanese people in SEA, waves of northern agricultural immigrants moved in.
        More interesting questions IMO: 1. Were H florensis “hobbits” a Wallacean lineage of Denisovans? 2. Homo habilis (econiche: rainforest) preceded H erectus/ergaster (econiche: woodland); were Hf & Denisovans remnants of Hh? 3. Anyone come up with a better explanation for the Surui SEA genes than mine? (coastal canoeing around the then-placid, warmer & smaller Pacific Ocean.)

      • syonredux says:

        There area lot of scaredy-cats out there. From an article in the ATLANTIC:

        “Ancient DNA Is Rewriting Human (and Neanderthal) History
        The genomes of the long dead are turning up all sorts of unexpected and controversial findings.

        Zhang: You actually had German collaborators drop out of a study because of these exact concerns, right? One of them wrote, “We must(!) avoid … being compared with the so-called ‘siedlungsarchäologie Method’ from Gustaf Kossinna!”

        Reich: Yeah, that’s right. I think one of the things the ancient DNA is showing is actually the Corded Ware culture does correspond coherently to a group of people. [Editor’s note: The Corded Ware made pottery with cord-like ornamentation and according to ancient DNA studies, they descended from steppe ancestry.] I think that was a very sensitive issue to some of our coauthors, and one of the coauthors resigned because he felt we were returning to that idea of migration in archaeology that pots are the same as people. There have been a fair number of other coauthors from different parts of continental Europe who shared this anxiety.”

  2. Philip Neal says:

    Is the bit about “some suggestive but non-significant affinity to Surui relative to Mixe” new evidence for Brazilian Negritos?

    • gcochran9 says:

      More evidence along the same lines, but weak I think, because these ancient Southeast Asian genomes are low coverage. The area does not have the best climate for good DNA preservation.

  3. owentt says:

    The prehistoric Andamanese Southeast Asians couldn’t control their borders and suffered the genocide that resulted.

    The North Sentinelese, on the other hand, had the right idea. They remain sovereign on their own land.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I think I’m on the verge of insisting that every time some reader feels compelled to make a far-fetched analogy that tries to connect whatever I’m talking about to a current political question, they must instead tie it to the struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines.

      • dearieme says:

        I enjoyed History at school, and Geography too. But I admit that my interest waned when we met Guelphs and Ghibellines on the one hand, and Ocean Oozes on the other.

      • make_ravenna_great_again says:

        The prehistoric Andamanese bowed to outsiders from the north, much like the slavish bootlickers of a German emperor.

        The North Sentinelese, on the other hand, maintained their purity as the servants of Mother Church yet do.

      • Bla says:

        Hahahhahaha. Give them a bonus point if they know which leading family among Genoese Guelphs is currently a reigning dinasty. And another if they know where.

    • MawBTS says:

      In 2004 a giant tsunami swept across North Sentinel. Thirty meters high. It would have smashed their fishing boats to matchwood, destroyed all the low-lying scrub, and contaminated their drinking water. In the days afterwards, the Indian government airdropped supplies to them. Maybe that’s the only reason they’re still alive.

      If the Sentinelese are supposed to be an inspiring “don’t tread on me” story of grabbing life by the balls, then count me out.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Well, you know, maybe they have satellite receivers under the palm fronds and spend their spare cpu cycles mining bitcoin. They could be the real secret masters, with all of us dancing to their every whim.

        Nasty bastards but you have to admit they have a sense of humor.

        • BB753 says:

          Maybe they have developed a secret high-tech Wakanda of sorts, cloaked from outsiders. And the whole spear-chucking in the buff to outsiders is just make-believe.

      • JerryC says:

        Well, it’s a tough call. You either let in the outsiders and get wiped out by disease, or drive them away with spears and get wiped out by a tsunami.

        • djw says:

          Since they are still there, it seems they played their hand well.

          • MawBTS says:

            But remember: they only remain free at our sufferance. A platoon of marines could capture North Sentinel Island in an afternoon, and suffer no casualties.

            Obviously that’ll never happen: hippies would get mad, and the island has nothing of value. But that’s just sheer luck: the Sentinelese aren’t John Galt, and they aren’t masters of their destiny. They’re the human equivalent of bugs under a rock.

            Now…they could make a better defense if they signed over their sovereignty to Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, in exchange for some modern weapons. It sounds like a cliche from a martial arts film. If you want win…first must lose!

      • ghazisiz says:

        Thirty meters? Maybe in a fjord where the wave height increases as the fjord narrows, but not on a circular island. Perhaps you meant thirty feet? But even that would have been exceptional.

  4. Relatedness says:

    Judging by the f3 statistics in the supplement, the Onge seem equally related to Group 1 (Hoabinhian hunter-gatherers) and to the other groups. Amount of f3 shared drift is non-significantly different (sometimes slightly higher with the groups of ancients who are firmly East Asian).
    It looks more like the Onge are similar to the Hoabinhians, relative to how similar they are to East Asians.

    But they’re not really close to the Hoabinhians in absolute terms; no closer than to East Asians. D stats of the form (Outgroup,Onge,East Asian, Group1) would make this fairly clear.

    Similarly, Onge are closer to the Hoabinhians relative to how close they are to Tianyuan (see how samples La368 and Ma911 behave in the d-stats)…

    But this doesn’t make Onge closer to the Hoabinhians than East Asians, as in the models East Asians are about 75:25 from a Tianyuan man clade:Onge+Hoabinhian clade.

    (The admixture models also show drift lengths shared between Hoabinhians and Onge to the exclusion of the Onge-like portion of East Asian are almost zero in length. That is Hoabhinians and Onge were not co-evolving together to any real degree, but effectively trifurcated with the Onge like ancestry in East Asians).

  5. dave chamberlin says:

    So much for the “long term continuity model.” Yet another population replacement, geez, you get the idea that back in the good old days people were prone to violence.

    6000 years ago, wow, that’s recent. Southeast Asia is too damn wet and hot for bone preservation so I guess we will never know how many replacements went on before that. The place wasn’t empty before the Onge like hunter gatherers were there, that is for sure. We know next to nothing about the Denisovans. If the few teeth that were found in that Siberian cave are any indication of their size they were HUGE.

    • DD'eDeN says:

      DC: “6000 years ago, wow, that’s recent… We know next to nothing about the Denisovans. If the few teeth that were found in that Siberian cave are any indication of their size they were HUGE.”
      They did not move in 6ka, their ancestors were already there long before, but after 6ka agro. immigrants from the north arrived in waves. Huge teeth don’t imply huge bodies, Nutcracker Man/Zinj/Paranthropus had huge teeth but was small-bodied.

      • dearieme says:

        “Huge teeth don’t imply huge bodies”: Mr Trump believes in an analogous argument.

      • Smithie says:

        Big teeth could be a sign Denisovans couldn’t control fire. I don’t know how well established the chronology of the tools that were found in the cave is, but it is an interesting question whether fire or the needle came first.

        • dave chamberlin says:

          I am 99% certain Denisovans controlled fire. Even the tiny grapefruit brained Homo Naledi controlled fire. They lived in very far north locations and were smart enough for modern humans to breed with. I can’t imagine a large brained hominid hanging out near Siberia and living there without fire or requiring massive teeth for their primarily carnivorous diet.

          • Smithie says:

            My guess would be Denisovans did indeed have fire, but that just makes it pretty darned hard to explain the teeth. They probably weren’t biting each other enough for it to matter. Some Neanderthals probably had the exact same diet, including the same big game.

            Maybe, they smiled at each other a lot? I’m joking, of course, but I’m stumped.

  6. dave chamberlin says:

    When one population developed superior war making technology they expanded their territory at the expense of others. Pre history could have been full of these near population replacements. When anatomically modern man and neanderthals mated 50,000 plus years ago they were extremely primitive in their tool making capabilities. They must have been top dog at the time because a small population bottleneck of ATM/Neanderthal hybrids started this motion and it continued up to very recently. That might be unsettling to some folks but who cares. Other factors such as disease resistance and ice ages complicate this scenario but this is how evolution works in the cold cruel world.

  7. Smithie says:

    Seems to me like any migration of agricultural peoples starting in the South and moving southward would probably be a lot easier than a northward expansion, leaving less time to mix.

  8. pyromancer76 says:

    In addition to the intelligent and imaginative Westhunter, I also follow:
    The discussion there appears to have lots of heat, maybe also light, on similar issues, from what is claimed to be latest research. Might be of some value, or not.

  9. Maldo says:

    Oh boy, I can’t wait until they start getting serious about testing Old Kingdom Egyptians or Vedic Indians. Especially the former since European mixure has been found in a Late Old Kingdom to Early Middle Kingdom sample.

  10. catte says:

    Anyone read the new intelligence combined GWAS study? Plenty of interesting stuff in here:

    Besides finding 538 genes implicated in intelligence variation, they managed to predict up to 6.84% of the variation on a validation sample:

    Using our meta-analytic dataset on intelligence we carried out polygenic prediction into UK Biobank subsamples following their removal from the meta-analysis. Between 3.64 and 6.84% of phenotypic intelligence (as measured by the VNR Test in UK Biobank) could be predicted (Supplementary Table 10); the upper limit is an improvement of ~43% on the largest reported estimate to date, of 4.8% [16]. The polygenic risk scores that predicted the greatest amount of variance were those composed of the P < 0.05, and P < 0.1 cut off in the VNR MRI group. However, a highly similar r2 was also evident at higher P-value thresholds indicating that, despite our increase in power, many of the genetic variants associated with intelligence can still be found across the full distribution of P-values.

    Also good stuff re: genetic load:

    We find a novel genetic correlation between intelligence and parental longevity; this is found using the intelligence [16] GWAS (r g  = 0.33, SE = 0.08) and our meta-analytic sample (r g  = 0.37, SE = 0.07). This indicates that the polygenic load for greater intelligence is associated with greater longevity, using parental longevity as a proxy phenotype.

    I’m only a layman so much of the study is above my head but it’s pretty cool.

  11. dave chamberlin says:

    I expect Cochran will comment on this paper soon because it is important science news regarding Denisovans.

    Two pulses of archaic Denisovan admixture into modern populations.

  12. reiner Tor says:



    I would like to read your take on a few current political (but in part also technical) questions.

    1) North Korea (what can be known about their capabilities, potential US counter-abilities, what would be the best course of action for the US in your opinion)

    2) the Skripal poisoning (does the fact that it was “Novichok” prove that it was the Russians and no one else, if yes, why did they do that, if not, why did the IK government accuse them so quickly)

    3) what do you think (if you have any knowledge of the question) would happen in case of clashes between the Russian and US militaries in Syria; why do so many people in the US political elite (and media etc.) oblivious to the fact that there is a risk of nuclear war? Why have actually influential people been pushing for a US military intervention in Syria, while there are Russian troops there? And to top it off, in support of Al Qaeda spinoffs.

    4) is it possible to build an effective working missile defense system? If so, could it be scaled easily? (I.e. would most of the costs be development costs, with economies of scale in production, or would a defense for a thousand missiles cost a thousand times more than a defense against just one.) Are Russian and Chinese fears justified to any extent?

    I would be willing to donate $50 for each, and I hope others will also be interested in at least one of them, so that at least one could get enough amount to motivate Greg. I have already sent the first $50 in the hopes that you will write about at least one of them. Since all your writing is interesting and I probably didn’t donate enough anyway, you can keep it if you didn’t feel like writing about any of them.

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