The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, June 03, 2017

European genomic history: remarks from 2014

As mentioned yesterday (on an older post), I've been going through Karin Bojs' My European Family. Written (or compiled) in 2015, translated only this year.

Bojs is a Swedish science journalist. Her book is a State Of The Question, loosely compiled from interviews with deep-prehistory archaeologists. As a Swedish female she is most interested in her own mitochondrial group U5b1, a descendant of Bryan Sykes' "Ursula". Although I note that Bojs disapproves Sykes' 2005-era work: for instance although she will mention the "Katrine" K haplogroup (my maternal grandfather's), she deals with that in p. 146 without noticing it belongs under U8, mentioned much earlier. (My maternal-maternal heritage is too... exotic, for a book like this.)

First thing I notice: now that we have more granularity on European settlement, it is hard to sort out what happened to whom and where in which period.

So far I gather (as it were) that Cro Magnon Man is particularly hard to define, for several reasons. I'll start with the funny one. The "cave of Monsieur Magnon", as it translates from dialectical French, had actually been "discovered" in historical times, before Magnon found it. It turned out that its best-preserved skeleton, Cro-Magnon 1, was a peasant who had crawled into that cave to die during the 1300s. Recently some German guy got suspicious at the man's diet, which was porridge (who the fuck was gathering barley and millet in 35kya?), and then carbon-dated the bones. I guess "body of dead peasant found from Barbara Tuchman World" didn't make for an exciting story. So the museum holding that skeleton had to hustle the poor villein's bones out of there...

As for the other stiffs in that cave, they are still dated to 35kya, but Europe supported modern humans before that. So 35kya should be marked as "Aurignacian". Or as "Gravettian" - there's some recent research on that last. As of 2014, the archaeologists still hadn't figured out which. And I'll admit I have trouble keeping track myself.

Humans had picked up some tricks to survive up there. These are often shared across continents, especially between Eurasia and the Americas. It is difficult to see whether they were independently discovered after various migrations, or if they were discovered in Eurasia and then passed on. Bojs votes for a southern Eurasian invention of crude clothing, music, and art. She leans toward that for dog domestication as well. But she considers needle-and-thread, and the rest of the Solutrean / Clovis package, as discovered long after the Modern Human Diaspora, and in different continents independently. And she doesn't know about pottery.

Some of this stuff also got picked up by the Neanderthals, learning from us, before they died out. But our cousins never got the hang of art or music. And they were long gone by 20kya.

Oh, and throughout the Ice Age when we are talking "European", we are talking about Neanderthals II, a people now extinct as such. Old Europa exists today only as a minority fraction of our phenotype. They did have the famous "FOXP2" genes for language, but whatever languages their tribes spoke, they have left no known modern relatives, and few loanwords (mainly in Germanic I think). The Great White Race, as those 1930s textbooks call our people today, is an amalgam, a much later one; like the Armenians, or the Semites. The people living in Europe at this time were most like the Native Americans living along the Pacific Coast. They looked like Conan of Cimmeria: dark skin, blue eyes, black hair (not sure if straight or curly).

UPDATE 1/30/2018: FOXP2 might not matter. Language precedes the modern humanity. It is best understood as an invention.

posted by Zimri on 09:59 | link | 0 comments

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