Monthly Archives: March 2008

A mixer post.

I just gave up on a ‘discussion’ on youtube over the race of the ancient Egyptians. He’s posted a few dozen rambling ranty ‘replies’. As is the way with fanatics, if you actually come up with a piece of hard evidence that shows they are wrong, the just blast past the issue and don’ t mention it. Ramses II was a white dude with red hair. The guy insisted that Africans have red hair (they don’t) and blonds (only from Caucasian mixing). He was also a ‘one drop’-er. One of those angry young black men. A major part of his evidence was ranting on about how racist Europeans ‘whitened’ the Egyptians. I think he’d find that was the American film studios that did that. Europe is less hung up than them. He’s still posting replies now, at least three since I said I wasn’t going to be involved in his rant. People.

The picture is one of the Fayum portraits, about 1900 years old. He looks middle Eastern to me. Oh, this guy insisted that all the ancient Egyptians had been chased into sub Saharan Africa by the Arabs, in spite of no evidence, and plenty to the contrary. He also said that the very pale bust of Nefertiti was actually a black woman. Hmm, a black woman with white skin?

I’m only interested in this from an anthropology point of view. To me one of the big puzzles to solve is the spread of humans out of Africa around the globe, and some racial characteristics are pointers as to what the original tribes would have looked like.

In spite of there being no traceable Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosomes in the human population, I still think there was some interbreeding. Mostly due to the variety of Caucasian hair and eye colouring, and lately a few geneticists have said that quit a lot of ancient genes splashed into the pool at once, for which there in no explanation. Except hmm, maybe a little Neanderthal ancestry.

How the hell did Rhesus negative blood types evolve?

So, how do people explain the Rhesus negative blood type?

It’s a real evolutionary disadvantage, it causes miscarriages and infant deaths . Some notable biologists, including Haldane, have pointed out that it should have been selected out by now. In fact, it should have been selected out in the first few generations, to reside at the background level it has in Africa and the far East. But western Europeans carry it at a very high rate, Basques at about 40%.

There’s only two ways this could work. That the Rhesus positive blood type is a relatively recent mutation, probably from the horn of Africa, that has swept across a pre existing, global population of humans and replacing them. Or that there was a massive input of Rhesus negative blood types relatively recently, and mainly occurring in central Europe, and we are actively in the process of selecting it out.

The second idea supports my Neanderthal theory. It also fits with the increasing occurrence of occipital buns as you go back into the iron and bronze age. If you could work out some kind of convergence date for the two… has any body tried DNA testing iron age humans to see if they have a higher incidence of RH-? It would give a good way to work out how fast it is decreasing, and from that, when the trait entered our gene pool. It might be a good idea to do DNA analyses for all kinds of traits, to see if they are more common or less, and if they can work out a point/time of entry into the modern Sapiens gene pool.

The Rh+ ‘killing’ off the Rh- might explain the limitation in the human gene pool to some extent, and why some minority mitochondrial DNA lines might have died out. This could seriously put the ‘out of Africa’ migration back in time, not that the 60kya number could be right anyway. Introducing Rh+ would make a population have breeding difficulties until it became dominant. Maybe it’s the reason the number of Neanderthals slowly reduced.

Logically, Rh- would have to been the standard blood type of homo erectus and earliest humans, with Rh+ slowly asserting dominance as Rh- women failed to reproduce as well as their Rh+ sisters.

I think malaria may have been another significant factor in human evolution. There is blood factor called the ‘Duffy antigen’. If you are Duffy negative, you have a slight resistance to Malaria, and you are African. Since all Europeans are Duffy positive, this gene must have spread after malaria evolved, and after the migration out of Africa . Other genes that cause resistance to malaria, like sickle cell and Thalassaemia, are generally fairly localised, but Duffy negative blood is common to nearly all Africans. The first appearance of Malaria must have been after farming developed, and it probably erased nearly all the first farming civilisations, and killed off whole populations across the tropical zone. Only hunter gatherers with very low population densities could have survived this, like the Khoisan and the Pygmies. Anyone in a more densely populated area would have become infected, and very few children would have survived.

Seperated at birth?

Separated at birth?

For anyone who doubts Europeans are related to Persians

The Luijang skull.

So, We left Africa 60,00 years ago?

liujiang skull

If southern China’s Liujiang skull is really more than 100,000 years old, this modern Homo sapiens fossil will shake up theories of human evolution.In 1958, farm workers digging in a cave in southern China’s Liujiang County discovered several human bones including a skull. Relying on its resemblance to securely dated human fossils in Japan, scientists assigned this Homo sapiens skull an age of 20,000 to 30,000 years. The Liujiang finds may be much older than that, according to a report in the December Journal of Human Evolution.

The fossils probably came from sediment dating to 111,000 to 139,000 years ago, says a team led by geologist Guanjun Shea of Nanjing (China) Normal University. He and his co-workers add that it’s still possible that the Liujiang discoveries came either from a cave deposit dating from around 68,000 years ago or from one dating to more than 153,000 years ago.

If any of these estimates pan out, “the Liujiang [specimen] is revealed as one of the earliest modern humans in East Asia,” the team concludes. The presence of modern humans in this part of the world 100,000 years ago or more would roughly coincide with their earliest fossil dates in Africa and the Middle East.
Evidence of such ancient roots for Homo sapiens in China creates problems for the influential Out-of-Africa theory of human evolution, Shen’s group says. That theory holds that modern humanity originated in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and then spread elsewhere, replacing other Homo species. If the Liujiang dates were confirmed, Out-of-Africa adherents would need to find older African Homo sapiens fossils to show extremely quick migration from Africa to eastern Asia.

The new dates suggest that more-primitive-looking Chinese Homo fossils that date to 150,000 to 100,000 years ago represent a lineage that coexisted with modem humans, Shen proposes.

Scientific accounts from 1959 and 1965 of the Liujiang discoveries guided the determination of the fossils’ likely burial site. Shen’s team mapped various soil deposits in the cave and calculated the age of crystallised limestone samples by using the rate of uranium decay.

Uranium analyses at other sites support an ancient origin of modern humans in southern China, Shen says. Homo sapiens teeth found at two other caves in this region come from sediment that his group dates to at least 94,000 years ago.

Anthropologists with divergent views about human evolution say that the new age estimate for the Liujiang skull remains preliminary. It’s still uncertain how the skull got in the cave and where it was originally buried, remarks Christopher B. Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. Stringer, an Out-of-Africa proponent, says that Shen’s team members need to date either the skull itself or the calcite clinging to its surface to make their case.

Milford H. Wolpoff of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor agrees. “I’d love for the Liujiang skull to be as old as Shen proposes, but we’ll never know for sure without directly dating the specimen,” Wolpoff holds. In his view, modern humanity evolved simultaneously in Africa, Asia, and Europe over the past 2 million years.

Shen says that he hopes to work out an agreement with Chinese officials in charge of the Liujiang skull to date the specimen directly.


The 70,000 year ago ‘Out of Africa’ date, and why it’s not possible.

Is the reason the recently out of Africa theory is so popular, is that it’s compatible with the Bible?

If you think about it. As long as you don’t think that the times in Genesis are literal, as the word ‘yom’ can be read as ‘age’ not just ‘day’ in Hebrew. It has an Adam, and an Eve, moving out of an area that is commonly regarded as being Eden (Yemen/North East Africa). The latest possible date for the exodus (60K) is the one you usually see in the media, although it’s fast becoming obvious that this is laughably wrong, due to the find in Morocco and Luijang. I think the American press are pandering to the Christian masses.

The information that wildly differing X chromosomes are to be found in Asians and Europeans, but not in Africans is being quietly ignored. Why? Genetically, this is big news.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN–About 1200 researchers gathered near the shores of Lake Michigan here from 5 to 9 April to discuss early Englishmen, the birth of modern humans, and Stone Age weapons.

In the past 15 years, a flood of genetic data has helped propel the Out of Africa theory into the leading explanation of modern human origins. DNA from mitochondria (mt DNA), the Y chromosome, and ancient humans each suggest that the ancestors of all living people arose in Africa some time after 200,000 years ago, swept out of their homeland, and replaced archaic humans around the globe without mixing with them. But at a genetics symposium, two independent groups presented data from the X chromosome hinting that modern humans interbred with other human species: The teams found possible traces of archaic hominids in our genes. “Just as the Y and mt DNA data seemed to have settled it, the new data revive the question [of interbreeding],” says Stanford University’s Joanna Mountain, co-organiser of the symposium. “The controversy is not settled.”

Geneticists Makoto Shimada and Jody Hey of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, presented an intriguing haplotype–a set of genetic mutations inherited together–that appears to have ancient roots in Asia rather than Africa. Shimada sequenced a 10.1-kilobase non coding region in 659 individuals from around the world. Overall, the genetic variations were most frequent in Africa, just as expected if our ancestors were a subset of ancient Africans who migrated out of that continent. But one rare variant, appropriately named haplotype X, appeared in nine individuals from Europe to Oceania but was entirely absent in Africa. Shimada estimated that the haplotype arose 1 million years ago, long before the modern human exodus from Africa. “Haplotype X is difficult to explain by the recent African origins model,” says Shimada. “It’s very old, it’s rare, and it is widespread outside of Africa.”

In independent work, geneticist Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona in Tucson offered a similar example. Hammer and postdoc Dan Garrigan identified a 2-million-year-old haplotype in the RRM2P4 region of the X chromosome that is common in East Asia but vanishingly rare in Africa. Their work, published 2 months ago in Molecular Biology and Evolution, raises the possibility that the haplotype arose in very ancient Asian populations, presumably of Homo erectus, an ancient human once found across Asia. “This is what you’d expect if you had introgression” between modern humans and H. erectus, Hammer said.

I had to look for this research. I’m not saying it’s been suppressed, I’m just saying that no-one is making it easy to find. I think that a lot of people have built reputations on the ‘recent African origin’ theory, and it would be embarrassing to wave this kind of discovery around, especially if it’s unpalatable to religious people.

People at Pinnacle Point.

Again, ancient humans were more widespread.


October 17, 2007

ASU team detects earliest modern humans

Evidence of early humans living on the coast in South Africa 164,000 years ago, far earlier than previously documented, is being reported in the Oct. 18 issue of the journal Nature.

The international team of researchers reporting the findings include Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist with the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University and three graduate students in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

“Our findings show that at 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa humans expanded their diet to include shellfish and other marine resources, perhaps as a response to harsh environmental conditions,” notes Marean, a professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “This is the earliest dated observation of this behavior.”

Further, the researchers report that co-occurring with this diet expansion is a very early use of pigment, likely for symbolic behavior, as well as the use of bladelet stone tool technology, previously dating to 70,000 years ago.

These new findings not only move back the timeline for the evolution of modern humans, they show that lifestyles focused on coastal habitats and resources may have been crucial to the evolution and survival of these early humans.

Searching for beginnings

After decades of debate, paleoanthropologists now agree the genetic and fossil evidence suggests that the modern human species – Homo sapiens – evolved in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

Yet, archaeological sites during that time period are rare in Africa. And, given the enormous expanse of the continent, where in Africa did this crucial step to modern humans occur?

“Archaeologists have had a hard time finding material residues of these earliest modern humans,” Marean says. “The world was in a glacial stage 125,000 to 195,000 years ago, and much of Africa was dry to mostly desert; in many areas food would have been difficult to acquire. The paleoenvironmental data indicate there are only five or six places in all of Africa where humans could have survived these harsh conditions.”

In seeking the “perfect site” to explore, Marean analysed ocean currents, climate data, geological formations and other data to pin down a location where he felt sure to find one of these progenitor populations: the Cape of South Africa at Pinnacle Point.

“It was important that we knew exactly where to look and what we were looking for,” says Marean. This type of research is expensive and funding is competitive. Marean and the team of scientists who set out to Pinnacle Point to search for this elusive population, did so with the help of a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Human Origins: Moving in New Directions (HOMINID) program.

Their findings are reported in the Nature paper “Early human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene.” In addition to Marean, authors on the paper include three graduate students in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change: Erin Thompson, Hope Williams and Jocelyn Bernatchez. Other authors are Miryam Bar-Matthews of the Geological Survey of Israel, Erich Fisher of the University of Florida, Paul Goldberg of Boston University, Andy I.R. Herries of the University of New South Wales (Australia), Zenobia Jacobs of the University of Wollongong (Australia), Antonieta Jerardino of the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Panagiotis Karkanas of Greece’s Ministry of Culture, Tom Minichillo of the University of Washington, Ian Watts from London and excavation co-director Peter J. Nilssen of the Iziko South African Museum.

The Middle Stone Age, dated between 35,000 and 300,000 years ago, is the technological stage when anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa, along with modern cognitive behavior, says Marean. When, however, within that stage modern human behavior arose is currently debated, he adds.

“This time is beyond the range of radiocarbon dating, yet the dates on the finds published here are more secure than is typical due to the use of two advanced and independent techniques,” Marean says.

Uranium series dates were attained by Bar-Matthews on speleothem (the material of stalagmites), and optically stimulated luminescence dates were developed by Jacobs. According to Marean, the latter technique dates the last time that individual grains of sand were exposed to light, and thousands of grains were measured.

Migrating along the coast

“Generally speaking, coastal areas were of no use to early humans – unless they knew how to use the sea as a food source” says Marean. “For millions of years, our earliest hunter-gatherer relatives only ate terrestrial plants and animals. Shellfish was one of the last additions to the human diet before domesticated plants and animals were introduced.”

Before, the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources and coastal habitats was dated about 125,000 years ago. “Our research shows that humans started doing this at least 40,000 years earlier. This could have very well been a response to the extreme environmental conditions they were experiencing,” he says.

“We also found what archaeologists call bladelets – little blades less than 10 millimetres in width, about the size of your little finger,” Marean says. “These could be attached to the end of a stick to form a point for a spear, or lined up like barbs on a dart – which shows they were already using complex compound tools. And, we found evidence that they were using pigments, especially red ochre, in ways that we believe were symbolic,” he describes.

Archaeologists view symbolic behavior as one of the clues that modern language may have been present. The earliest bladelet technology was previously dated to 70,000 years ago, near the end of the Middle Stone Age, and the modified pigments are the earliest securely dated and published evidence for pigment use.

“Coastlines generally make great migration routes,” Marean says. “Knowing how to exploit the sea for food meant these early humans could now use coastlines as productive home ranges and move long distances.”

Results reporting early use of coastlines are especially significant to scientists interested in the migration of humans out of Africa. Physical evidence that this coastal population was practising modern human behavior is particularly important to geneticists and physical anthropologists seeking to identify the progenitor population for modern humans.

“This evidence shows that Africa, and particularly southern Africa, was precocious in the development of modern human biology and behavior. We believe that on the far southern shore of Africa there was a small population of modern humans who struggled through this glacial period using shellfish and advanced technologies, and symbolism was important to their social relations. It is possible that this population could be the progenitor population for all modern humans,” Marean says.

ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research partners with archaeologists to create 3-D video

Along with the paper, also posted on Nature’s Web site is a video “The Cave 13B 3-D Experience.” A first for archaeology, the three-dimensional video representation of the stone age site and its remains, was produced with technical assistance from ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Erich Fisher of the University of Florida led the development group. The video is a fully georeferenced representation of the paleoscape and cave at Pinnacle Point. It allows the scientists to add field data and have it appear in the exact position it was found.

“The video is a recording of mouse movements within the computer model. Essentially, the computer model allows the user to fly into the landscape and enter the caves, walk around and add data. Our plan is to eventually make it available to the public over the World Wide Web with avatars who conduct tours of the cave. School children could hear about the story in the news and then log on and fly into the cave to see the result,” says Marean.

Due to global sea levels rising, it’s pretty obvious that many crucial coastal sites are going to be deep underwater, and either destroyed or inaccessible. These people were modern humans, with symbolic thought and sophisticated tools. And they were widespread by 164,000 years ago. To think they weren’t all over the Eurasian land mass by then is just ridiculous, as Red Sea wasn’t much more than a big, very salty puddle at times,  manageable by swimming or the simplest of rafts.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking 100k is a much more likely date for an expansion. And probably earlier. It does call into question the validity of dates gained through mitochondrial DNA.

The myth that we are 99.9% the same.

Finding said to show “race isn’t real” scrapped.

Sept. 3, 2007
Special to World Science .

 A re­nowned sci­ent­ist has backed off a find­ing that he, joined by oth­ers, long touted as ev­i­dence for what they called a prov­en fact: that ra­cial dif­fer­ences among peo­ple are im­ag­i­nary.That idea—en­trenched to­day in ac­a­dem­ia, and of­ten used to cast­i­gate schol­ars who study race—has drawn much of its sci­en­tif­ic back­ing from a find­ing that all peo­ple are 99.9 per­cent ge­net­ic­ally alike.

But ge­net­icist Craig Ven­ter, head of a re­search team that re­ported that fig­ure in 2001, backed off it in an an­nounce­ment this week. He said hu­man varia­t­ion now turns out to be over sev­en times great­er than was thought, though he’s not chang­ing his po­si­tion on race.

Some oth­er sci­ent­ists have dis­put­ed the ear­li­er fi­gure for years as un­der­est­i­mat­ing hu­man va­ri­ation. Ven­ter, in­stead, has cit­ed the num­ber as key ev­i­dence that race is im­ag­i­nary. He once de­clared that “no se­ri­ous schol­ar” doubts that, though again, some re­cent stud­ies have con­tra­dicted it.

Ge­net­i­cist Ar­mand Ma­rie Leroi of Im­pe­ri­al Col­lege Lon­don wrote re­cently that a rec­og­ni­tion of race could in the fu­ture help so­ci­e­ty pro­tect en­dan­gered rac­es. The more com­mon past prac­tice was for so­cie­ties to op­press other races, which is large­ly what led some to try to ban­ish any rec­og­ni­tion of race al­to­geth­er.

Thus, views like Leroi’s have been largely marginal­ized. The race-is­n’t-real doc­trine pre­vails, typ­ic­ally por­trayed by back­ers as set­tled fact that only racists or their dupes could ques­tion. It “can be some­thing close to pro­fes­sion­al sui­cide” for re­search­ers to even sug­gest race ex­ists, psy­chi­a­trist Sa­lly Sa­tel wrote in the Dec. 2001-Jan. 2002 is­sue of the mag­a­zine Pol­i­cy Re­view.

Ven­ter did­n’t orig­i­nate the no­tion that race is­n’t real. But his sup­port of it has car­ried great weight be­cause he is some­thing of a star, thanks to his key role in the high-profile Hu­man Ge­nome Proj­ect, com­plet­ed in 2003.

In a tele­con­fer­ence on Mon­day, Ven­ter and col­leagues an­nounced their re­vised as­sess­ment of hu­man di­vers­ity, based on a study of Ven­ter’s own DNA. It was the first “diploid” ge­nome pub­lished to date, said Ven­ter and mem­bers of his re­search team at the J. Craig Ven­ter In­sti­tute in Rock­ville, Md. This means it was the first list­ing of the se­quence of let­ters of ge­net­ic code from both of a per­son’s chro­mo­some sets, the genes in­her­it­ed from the moth­er and the fa­ther.

The find­ings re­veal “hu­man-to-hu­man varia­t­ion is more than sev­en-fold great­er than ear­li­er es­ti­mates, prov­ing that we are in fact very un­ique in­di­vid­u­als at the ge­net­ic lev­el,” Ven­ter said. The 99.9 fi­gure might need to be lowered to about 99, he added. The find­ings are to ap­pear in the Oc­to­ber is­sue of the on­line re­search jour­nal PLoS Bi­ol­o­gy. Ven­ter added that the cost of se­quenc­ing an in­di­vid­ual per­son’s ge­nome is rap­idly drop­ping, and that a dec­ade from now, “thou­sands or tens of thou­sands” will have their DNA code writ­ten out.

He said the new find­ings were a pleas­ant sur­prise, as they show we’re not all “clones” as the pre­vious re­sults sug­gested.

The orig­i­nal es­ti­mate show­ing near-zero vari­abil­ity in the ge­nome, a prod­uct of the Hu­man Ge­nome Proj­ect, was a re­sult of the dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy used for that work, said a col­league of Ven­ter’s, Ste­phen Scherer of the Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren in To­ron­to.

The tech­nique orig­i­nally used, Scherer said, could read the se­quence of let­ters of a ge­net­ic code. But it could­n’t de­tect repe­ti­tions of some parts of the code, which al­so oc­cur. Dif­fer­ences in the num­ber of these repe­ti­tions, called copy num­ber vari­ants, have since turned out to ac­count for much of the varia­t­ion in a species’ DNA. Anoth­er type of varia­t­ion re­cently found to be im­por­tant is called insertion-deletion vari­ants, snip­pets of code that are ei­ther ex­tra or mis­sing in some ge­nomes com­pared to oth­ers.

Some re­search­ers said that now that Ven­ter has dropped the 99.9 per­cent claim, he should al­so ad­mit race might exist. De­nial of that “ob­vi­ous” fact is “an ex­treme man­i­festa­t­ion of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness,” wrote Rich­ard Lynn, a psy­chol­o­gist who has pro­posed links be­tween race and in­tel­li­gence, in an email. Lynn, of the Un­ivers­ity of Ul­ster in Ire­land, added that he thinks Ven­ter has un­fairly ma­ligned sci­ent­ists who be­lieve race ex­ists.

Ven­ter stuck to his guns. Race-isn’t-real pro­po­nents have other arg­u­ments be­side the 99.9 per­cent­age, though these are de­bated also. Ven­ter re­marked that even though vari­abil­ity is much great­er than once thought, hu­man popula­t­ions and traits blend to­geth­er every­where. That means each per­son could ar­bi­trarily di­vide hu­man­ity in­to a dif­fer­ent group of rac­es, if he so chose. Thus “race is a so­cial con­cept, not a sci­en­tif­ic one,” Ven­ter said, re­peat­ing a com­mon dic­tum.

Neil Risch of the University of California at San Francisco—who has led re­search chal­leng­ing that view—said he doesn’t feel ma­ligned by Venter’s state­ments on race and re­search­ers of it. But the data behind those claims really gave little new in­sight into po­pu­la­tion dif­fer­ences, and “I have always felt it is best to avoid en­tang­ling ge­ne­tics with po­li­tics,” Risch wrote in an e­mail.

I’m being lazy, and can’t be bothered to type in great long blog entries at the moment. I thought this was worth the space, as I keep seeing that same nonsensical ‘99.9% the same’ statistic knocking about. It’s ludicrous, because they still aren’t sure how many genes make up a human, so where they got that number from I don’t know.