Primitive tribesmen complain about technologically superior invaders

There is a new article in the New York Times Magazine (Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps?) , in which some  pinhead repeats  complaints about David Reich crushing his enemies [archaeologists] , driving them before him, and hearing the lamentations of their women.  He doesn’t give them much respect.

They don’t deserve respect. Sure, he has a far more powerful method.  Sequencing DNA gives you billions of bits, orders of magnitude more than staring at potsherds. But it is fair to look at how archaeologists did with the tools they had:  terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.  They really, really wanted to  create detailed stories of local social change, stories that didn’t sound like something by Robert E, Howard, full of thud and blunder. Not stories about barbarian conquest, population replacement, and mating with nonhuman races.

But that’s what happened.

The origin of the Polynesian population out in the Pacific is a classic example.  Even before ancient DNA was sequenced, we knew that ~94% of Tongan mtDNA was from Taiwan, ~75% of their autosomal DNA was also from Taiwan, while their Y-chromosomes were 65% Melanesian. “Until recently, the dominant model was the slow-boat hypothesis, in which the Taiwanese-derived Lapita culture mixed with Melanesians in New Guinea and the Solomons before sailing out into the deep Pacific. The funny numbers for mtDNA and Y-chromosome were explain by some hand-waving matrifocal cultural bullshit. ”

Ridiculous.  Taiwanese were the original settlers, while Melanesians invaded later, conquered, and killed off most of the local men. Confirmed by ancient DNA.

Aryan Invasion theory: An Aryan invasion (!) , offensive to local feelings in India,  sounds almost like colonialism, blah blah blah.  But correct.

Archaeologists had unreasonable priors, about everything in sight. Given a chance, they assumed that the Maya were a nation of peaceful astronomers [ Just another snake cult !] . Indo-European languages spread because they were so cool, rather than by conquest  [even David Anthony fell for this!].  One group couldn’t be biologically superior to another. { Why not?  Do the Galactic Overlords forbid that?}

And so on, and so on.  They had one job…

Does this mean that David Reich is without sin? No. He occasionally genuflects to the PC powers that be, sometimes smearing the innocent in the process.  Is his success going to his head – might he tend to underrate peer review when he has Nick Patterson on his side?  Maybe. Should he think very carefully about sample conservation, perhaps saving some for improved future methods? Sure.

But he’s contributing to knowledge, while the archaeologists were sliding backwards, less correct in 2018 than in 1930.

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78 Responses to Primitive tribesmen complain about technologically superior invaders

  1. What competitive advantages Melanesians had over Taiwanese-derived pop?
    Or the latter had evolved cuckoldism like our culture does now?

    • Christopher B says:

      Bigger d!cks. Seriously.

      A successful invasion = more aggressive, better organization, martial arts and tactics.

      • anon says:

        Puhlease. The Papuans somehow gained seafaring capability which they previously didn’t have. After that, they send out war parties (over the centuries) from the mothership (PNG).

        Don’t need superior anything– they have numbers and individual islands are small and isolated. Easy pickings.

        1st conquest: island becomes 50/50. Then another Papuan group repeats the conquest (some time later) to the half-breeds and it’s 75/25. Repeat over and over.

        It’s like reverse boiling off.

    • Smithie says:

      There’s probably a certain value in surprise.

      Still, I suppose there were a lot more males in Tonga than arrived there. But maybe, they were navigating back? Or maybe they just took one island as a foothold?

    • anon says:

      You would think the mixture would go the other way – austronesian men mating with melanesian women since the austronesians had a superior material culture (I guess this proves they didnt?). If I didnt know anything about dna and looking at polynesians, they look like a mixed austronesian-melanesian, maybe 75%-%25. (fijians look closer to 50/50).

  2. You need to stop watching Arnold Schwarzenegger marathons and then going to bed after feasting on cheese

  3. Anonymous says:

    Were ancient Taiwanese as puny and fugly as modern chinese people? If so, Melanesian really did them a favor, when you think about it.

  4. Bruce says:

    Too bad Robert E. Howard’s ideas about the Picts didn’t turn out to be true – Bran Mac Morn was really cool!

    I assume physical anthropologists were at least slightly better than archeologists.

    • Russell Stewart says:

      His Picts bear a striking resemblance to Europeans pre Aryan Invasion. And some resemblance to the remnant population in Northern Britain that goes by that name.

  5. GAGCAT says:

    Awesome headline.

    Here’s to hoping turnover in the academy is people not pots.

  6. The Z Blog says:

    We are living in a theocracy. It is a weird, secular theocracy, for sure, but the theocratic model best explains the current age. A pithy way to put it is, in Iran they toss homosexuals off roofs. In American they toss the career of homerphobes into the abyss. Different victims. Different methods. Same reason.

    The important point is the people bellowing about the immorality of ancient DNA research are not concerned about factual accuracy or the advancement of science. They only care about the morality of it. More specifically, does this new information conform or contradict the prevailing morality. Therefore, the appealing to accuracy is not effective. You may as well be speaking in tongues.

    • syonredux says:

      .” A pithy way to put it is, in Iran they toss homosexuals off roofs.”

      They’re also big on the “turn ’em into trannies” option.

      Curious how our SJWs agree with the Ayatollahs on the subject of transgenderism…..

      • ghazisiz says:

        Ayotallahs agreeable to trannies? Never heard anything about this. Do you have a link?

        • syonredux says:

          “Ayotallahs agreeable to trannies? Never heard anything about this. Do you have a link?”

          It’s pretty well know. For example, here’s the WIKIPEDIA article “Transgender rights in Iran”:

          ” As of 2008, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except Thailand. The government provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance, and a sex change is recognised on the birth certificate.[1] As of 2017, the government provided transgender persons financial assistance in the form of grants of up to 25 million tomans ($1,730 USD).”

          “One early campaigner for transgender rights was Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who had been assigned male at birth but identified as female. Before the revolution, she had longed to become physically female but could not afford surgery and wanted religious authorization. In 1975, she began to write letters to Khomeini, who was to become the leader of the revolution and was in exile. After the revolution, she was fired, forcedly injected with male hormones, and institutionalized. She was later released with help from her connections and continued to lobby many other leaders. Later she went to see Khomeini, who had returned to Iran. During this visit, she was subjected to beatings from his guards. Khomeini, however, did give her a letter to authorize her sex reassignment operation, which she later did in 1997.[5] Due to this fatwa, issued in 1987, transgender women in Iran have been able to live as women until they can afford surgery, have surgical reassignment, have their birth certificates and all official documents issued to them in their new gender, and get married to men”

          “Khomeini’s original fatwa has since been reconfirmed by the current leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics.”

    • Allyn71 says:

      We are not living in a theocracy. Very weird to make that sort of comment.

      Anyhoo, ancient DNA research was primitive. Archaeologists back in the day had rudimentary tools and crude methods. Today, their discoveries have been properly put in the dustbin. Naturally, the Alt Right will come out in full throat to dispute those facts with alternative facts.

    • Magus says:

      Exactly right. And historically dominant religions tend to (not always but usually) only get overthrown with late bloodshed and social transformation.

      We need a Sulla or Octavian, someone to literally put M1 Abrams on Harvard Square and strong enough of the “right thinking people” up else it’ll be us getting strung up.

      Holiness spirals can get real nutty real fast, and we will all be worshipping mangos soon enough.

  7. Game Over says:

    “Taiwanese were the original settlers, while Melanesians invaded later, conquered, and killed off most of the local men. Confirmed by ancient DNA.”

    Should’ve just come here first and saved 30 minutes of my life.

  8. Say what you will about the source, everyone should read The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarchoprimitivism, by Ted Kaczynski.

  9. J says:

    Does the Tonga DNA prove that the Melanesians (aka Mudheads) are better fighters than Taiwanese natives? If so, they could have faced North and occupy Taiwan and the adjacent mainland. China could have now a most intimidating trade-negotiating hakka team.

    • Smithie says:

      I thought the natives of Taiwan were headhunters. Sounded fierce.

      • Capra Internetensis says:

        They sure were, and so were many other Austronesian groups. Austronesian Y DNA is diluted in most parts of Indonesia and Madagascar as well as Oceania. Could be they just repeatedly got conquered without language replacement, but it’s widely suspected that matrilocal residence has something to do with it.

        • Toddy Cat says:

          The Germans 1914-1945 were pretty fierce too. They still lost.

          • magusjanus says:

            to be fair, it took almost everyone teaming up against them… and it was kinda close.

            • John Massey says:

              Once the US industrial complex geared up for war production and supplying the Russians, it was never going to be close.

              • magusjanus says:

                if SU had collapsed in ’41, that’d make it interesting to say the least. Germany switches to aircraft and Uboat production focus and most troops from East back. D-day in that scenario with germany solely focused on the West? Yikes.

                Lots of ways it could go from there, from long Cold War with Nazi dominated Europe (Fatherland) to radioactive Berlin. Who knows. (to clarify, by ‘close’ I didn’t mean some insane Man in High Castle scenario which is preposterous, but rather Germany winning in Europe i.e. beating commies and becoming regional hegemon, and potential global hegemon rival to anglo-US power).

              • John Massey says:

                That’s a very big ‘if’ but an interesting one. It’s what Hitler was counting on, of course, but the Soviet Union in 1941 was very different from Russia in 1917. If the Germans had succeeded in capturing the Soviet oil fields, which is what they were going for, instead of getting hung up in Stalingrad, it could probably have prolonged things quite a bit. But the Germans didn’t really think things through – they didn’t have the resources to prosecute a long war after the industrial might of the USA came into play – the Americans were turning out new aircraft and ships at an astonishing rate, and they determined that they had the resources to fight two wars at once, with the Army fighting in Europe supplied by factories in the east of the country, and the Navy and Marines fighting the Japanese in the Pacific supplied by factories in the west of the country. The Germans occupying and holding the whole of the Soviet Union would have given access to resources, but would have required a very large commitment of troops. But there are inevitably lots of ‘what ifs’, and we can’t know.

                One thing I picked up on was that the Germans were using horses to transport ammunition and equipment, while the British and American forces were fully mechanised. I don’t recall exactly the number of horses used during the war, but it was huge, in the millions. Horses!

                German tanks were over-engineered, too heavy for a lot of the bridges, used too much fuel and were too difficult to repair when they broke down. The T34 was so simple to assemble that the Russians had children assembling them. Greg has written stuff about the T34 – it was a good tank, and all the more because the Soviets could turn them out in large numbers.

                One almost comical thing I picked up was that the British aircraft factories were working 24 hours/day 7 days/week, while the German aircraft factories were working 9 to 5, five days/week. So much for the much vaunted German work ethic. Göring couldn’t figure out how the Brits were able to replace combat losses of aircraft so quickly, plus they could get replacement trained pilots from the Commonwealth countries plus free Poles and free French. The Germans couldn’t train replacement pilots fast enough. The Allies put the best pilots into fighters; Hitler ordered that the best pilots should be put into bombers.

                The Brits knew how to use radar – they had a network of radar stations all along the coast that gave them early warning of German air attacks. Those stations were clearly visible in aerial photographs, but it never occurred to the Germans to destroy some of them. The Germans had radar, but didn’t figure out how to use it the way the Brits did.

                Initially, the Germans were attacking British airfields and factories. But then Churchill ordered a long range bombing raid on Berlin. From a strategic perspective at that time, it was pointless and achieved nothing, but it was huge in terms of symbolism. Hitler had promised the German people that the Homeland could never be attacked, and Churchill made a liar of him in front of the German people. It so enraged Hitler that he ordered the Luftwaffe to stop targeting airfields and factories, and start bombing British cities, which was tough on the Brit civilians but a huge error on Hitler’s part. Also, the Brits were disguising airfields by painting lines on them, so that from the air they looked like fields separated by hedges, and a lot of the airfields escaped German air attacks that way.

                There’s lots of stuff like that. I’m not contesting your assertion that German troops were fearsome; they certainly were, and they went on fighting long after it became clear that the war was effectively lost. A lot of people have wondered about that. Eavesdropping secretly on German POWs talking to each other revealed that they were ideologically committed, right down to the lowest ranks, which proves that the usual commentary, that they were just following orders, was a lie – they were all committed Nazis. A German guy has written a very interesting book about that. Plus German officers were brutal, often shooting their own soldiers, not for deserting, but just for not performing well enough.

                There’s a very good American military historian called Victor Davis Hanson who gives lectures on all of this stuff, rattling off all of the numbers, which are on Youtube. He’s definitely worth listening to.

  10. savantissimo says:

    Archaeologists get far too much respect for their very sloppy documentation methods. I was present at the opening of an intact Minoan tomb chamber. The licensed diggers simply dug under the eye of the archaeologist. Nothing was done differently from simply digging a ditch. The diggers removed the rock sealing the tomb vault, and without even a photo of the arrangement of skeletons and intact pottery inside, one of the diggers took one of the vases out of the tomb and passed it up to the archaeologist. (Shakin’ my head.)

    With the portable analytic, sensor and data processing capability available today, if there were any interest in doing so archaeologists could get chemical composition, luminescence dating, pollen analysis and more at a sub-millimeter resolution over many cubic meters of site, revealing structures that long since rotted away but which today’s archaeological methods treat as just dirt. They would have to write some grant proposals, but apparently they don’t even try, even though tech is sexy and gets grants in every other field. but other fields Archaeologists scarcely use even the tools they have had for many decades. Nor do they publish most of the data or catalogues of artifacts they do collect, nor make them easily available to their colleagues, let alone anyone else. It’s almost as if they don’t want too much data that might interfere with the settled narratives of their field.

    • Jacob says:

      Huh, any way you could name and shame the archaeologist? Or at least report him to the relevant Greek authorities? He (or she) has the potential to cause serious damage, I think you should put social niceties behind you for the sake of those samples.

    • Labayu says:

      You’re over-generalizing quite a bit, from apparently minimal experience, and the claim that excavation reports are not published is simply not true. It may take a decade or two before a final report is published, but I’ve never had any trouble getting my hands on preliminary reports for any excavation.

      The problem in modern archaeology isn’t in data collection and documentation. That has improved considerably and usually exists in a separate section of any particular report from the analysis. Though there are still some slack asses and hacks, as there are in any field. The actual problem that is being picked up on here, is caused by the trend toward adopting analytical frameworks from sociocultural anthropology.

      In the US, archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology, so archaeologists along with physical (now biocultural) anthropologists have to survive in departments dominated by numerous ideologically motivated sociocultural anthropologists.

  11. William H. Stoddard says:

    I’m reminded of the book I used to own on experimental methods in archaeology. One of the studies it described was an assessment of the usefulness of bronze for shield facings. The researchers tested shields and found that they didn’t give significant protection, so they concluded that bronze wasn’t actually useful for this purpose. But since they didn’t have access to bronze for some reason, they substituted copper, which is mostly the same material as bronze. . . .

  12. Jacob says:

    Do you know how to break or render obsolete antifunctional systems? Entire industries and fields which profit off of getting people further from where they ought to be, or which have the opposite purpose they are supposed to have?

    As I understand it, these departments still exist because people still pay tens of thousands of dollars for a social science degree.

  13. JP Irwin says:

    I for one was always puzzled as to how Reich and the other big researchers were able to get away with this research. It’s clearly de jure illegal, if not de facto (yet). It took a little while for the media and the university administrators to figure out what “population” was synonymous with but they’re catching on and soon the fun will be over. I wouldn’t totally discount the possibility Reich is made to wear a dunce cap while penning a self criticism as latter-day Red Guards shriek in the background.

  14. little spoon says:

    Can someone please explain in plain language what the difference between Jena and Reich’s perpspective on the lapita is?

      • little spoon says:

        I know this is very lazy of me. But I read the article and it was very long winded and I don’t feel like reading it again. What it seemed was that the following occurred:

        Archeologists originally said more advanced seafarers created the lapita culture rather than pure ancestors of the present inhabitants.
        Archeologists changed their mind and said asiatic seafarers first bred with malenesians and then sailed on to establish the lapita culture. No population replacement occurred.
        Reich’s research affirms that lapita culture was exclusively the creation of ancient Taiwanese. A large degree of population replacement occurred.
        Jenas research estimates that the population replacement of original lapita settlers took around 500 years. I didn’t catch there being a stated disagreement between Jena and Reich.
        Reich amends his original research to state that original lapita settlers had non zero ancient malenesian admixture. What does this mean? Like the time Liz warren had non zero Native American admixture? This part confused me.

        So my understanding now is that original lapita settlers were almost 100% ancient Taiwanese with marginal ancient malenesian admixture. Is my understanding correct?

        Was the point of the article that Reich’s update and jena’s refinement mirror the progression of archeology from old belief in more advanced seafarers being replaced by primitives to later belief that present day malenesians ancestors created the Lapita? Hence they fell into the old trap? I don’t really understand how the title of the article related to the scientific content of the article. I’m not being snarky. I really had trouble understanding whatever that article was trying to tell me.

        • savantissimo says:

          You put it much more clearly than the article. The author’s approach to the whole article seems to me to have been just simply quivering and flouncing at the implicit badthink.

        • Daniel says:

          I too found the article difficult to digest. Hmmmmm, and why do you think that it is so?

        • saintonge235 says:

                  What the author of the article was trying to tell you was the social-scientific equivalent of “Orange Man bad.” He really doesn’t like what Reich’s conclusions, so he’s doing what he can to shoot them down, regardless of their accuracy.

      • John Massey says:

        The crux is this: the modern Vanuatu populations are >90% Papuan ancestry, but speak a plethora of Austronesian derived languages. Difficult to figure out how that could happen.

        Reich’s position was that the islands of Vanuatu were first settled by people of the Lapita culture who were mostly Austronesian with little or no Papuan admixture, because they had largely bypassed Papua-New Guinea on the way to settling the islands of Vanuatu. Then, a few hundred years after the first settlement, the population was quickly replaced by Papuans.

        Jena’s position is not too different in totality, except he says that population replacement was a more gradual process that took place over a period of about 500 years.

        The time scales of both are not too different. The outcomes in terms of ancestry are not too different. But to me, Jena’s theory explains how Austronesian languages could have been retained through this replacement process, while David’s Reich’s doesn’t.

        Plus, I suspect the Papuans were able to follow the Lapita people to Vanuatu because they picked up outrigger canoe technology from them which enabled open ocean sailing, but that’s just my own bit of crackpot theorising, for which I have zero qualification or solid evidence – what do I know? It doesn’t take much to add an outrigger or two to a dugout canoe once you get the idea from seeing someone else with it, but it makes a world of difference to its stability in ocean swells.

        I don’t see why this makes Reich some kind of ‘evil scientist’ though. The really weird things about that NYT piece though:

        No mention of Eske Willerslev by name and only one oblique reference to his lab, although he is one of the two oligarchs of palaeogenomics alongside Reich, for good reasons – they are both highly competent geneticists who have established the best labs. Maybe he didn’t fit the ‘evil scientist’ model in the narrative? If so, why? Well, Willerslev started out as an anthropologist and is notable for travelling to remote locations and talking the ‘right’ way to indigenous people to get them onside with his research, while Reich doesn’t – he leaves that stuff to his anthropology and archaeology collaborators. Outcome in terms of ‘product’ is no different in reality, though – spirits don’t make drawings on rock walls. Willerslev’s Aboriginal collaborators reported themselves to be happy with his broad finding that they had been genetically isolated in Australia for 37,000 years, and made no mention of the Dreamtime origin myths and giant rainbow serpents.
        NYT ponders why Nature published papers on palaeogenomics, but not on skull measurements – seriously?

        • Capra Internetensis says:

          The skull measurement paper was published in PNAS, so yeah.

          Re: language, one linguist suggested that the Papuan migrants picked up Austronesian from Lapita neighbours in the Bismarcks before they took over Vanuatu. That works in case of a pulse replacement – more likely you’d shift to the language of prestigious neighbours than to that of people you totally swamped and crushed.

          If instead it was gradual flow of migration that added up then modern America might be a relevant model. People speaking a variety of languages come to Vanuatu in small batches and start speaking the dominant lingua franca. Even after the original speakers are biologically a minority their language is never replaced. The Melanesians came not long after the Austronesians, maybe immediately after, so there’d still be plenty of locations to settle without having to conquer a dense population already in place. They come in faster than the natural increase of the first Lapita settlers, and the latter are eventually absorbed.

  15. Daniel says:

    Naive question: Might Slavs have a genetic profile that is closest to that of the Aryan/Proto-Indo-Europeans invaders? Might the Slave languages be closest to the Proto-Indo-European language of any extant languages?

    • sprfls says:

      Lithuanian is the closest extant language to Proto-Indo-European (so Baltic, not Slavic).

      As for extinct ones, the Anatolian languages (Hittite, Luwian, etc.) branch off earliest from PIE, and that’s precisely what’s currently confounding the whole PIE urheimat question…

      • Anonymous says:

        All presently spoken Indo-European languages are so different from any reconstruction of PIE that to speak of any of them as being “close” to PIE is silly. Also the reconstruction of PIE is reconstructing an average over time and space.

  16. Childe, in the 1920s, got the Indo-European story basically correct, partly because he took the linguistic evidence seriously, as did David Anthony more recently.

    Childe and his generation didn’t get everything right. There was a popular theory back in the day that the megalith-builders of Western Europe were inspired by the civilizations of Egypt and/or the Near East. You get a romantic ideas of sailors from the east faring past Gibraltar to spread a new cult. But the C-14 revolution showed the dates don’t fit; the megaliths were an indigenous development. This encouraged archeologists to dismiss any and all theories of migration. In this context, Renfrew’s theory that Indo-European spread along with populations of First Farmers (in line with Cavalli-Sfroza’s work) was a step in the direction of migrationism. A baby step when a giant step was needed.

    • Labayu says:

      The oldest known circular megalith construction is off the coast of northern Israel at Atlit-Yam. It dates to about 8900 BP. Even older large apparently ceremonial circular stone structures, which are believed to be a precursor architectural form, are found along the border of modern Turkey and Syria. Rather than indigenous, I would say they spread along with the Neolithic farmers into Europe, and south all the way to Yemen for that matter.

  17. Mrs Stitch says:


    Yeah, Reich and husband genuflecting: the price of publication?

  18. sprfls says:

    Does this mean that David Reich is without sin? No. He occasionally genuflects to the PC powers that be, sometimes smearing the innocent in the process.

    As Jamaicans say, “de knife dat stick de sheep, a go stick de goat”

  19. Balaji says:

    David Reich published “Who We Are and How We Got Here” with the Aryan Invasion Theory before any peer-reviewed publication of supporting evidence. Then a few months later his group put a preprint, “Narasimhan et al.” in bioRxiv. Almost a year later, it has still not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Reason enough to be dubious.

  20. Pingback: Peter Turchin A Critique of Ancient DNA research in New York Times - Peter Turchin

  21. EliteCommInc. says:

    you are making an unsupported conclusion.

    power superiority does not translate into biological or intellectual superiority. Furthermore, the assumption is that power or some active trait is responsible, when we know that when populations unrelated come into contact, something as unintended as disease can wipe out existing/invading or visitors.

    Neither intelligence not biological superiority can prevent the “common cold” from wreaking havoc and mayhem.

    • John Massey says:

      Disease on any substantial scale does not appear to have been a factor in this case.

      • EliteCommInc. says:

        I am unclear what this is based on . . .

        But power dynamics need not be related to intelligence at all. Very smart people succumb to the brutish everyday.

        • saintonge235 says:

                  “Very smart,” in this context, is not smart in any realistic sense of the word.  The “very smart” people that allowed Hitler was allowed to re-arm Germany is an example: in the real world, the “very smart” people were very stupid, and/or suicidal, and/or insane.

  22. ccscientist says:

    Archaeologists have IMO a bad habit of making stuff up about culture from a hand full of artifacts. Some standing stones: ah, a goddess cult. When they have been able to identify all the foods a people ate based on chemistry on pottery and seeds in ruins, that is more believable.

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