Tag Archives: Anthropology

My main objections to a recent out of Africa date.

Also known as the ‘I’m not typing this out in the comments anymore‘ entry. I keep seeing the 40k for the out of Africa date in print, and it’s starting to get on my nerves just a bit. Some of sites these don’t have bones, but modern human associated industries. This is not including any sites in or South of the Sahara.

I’ll start with the oldest first.

Skhul, Israel.

Dates ranging from 130,000 -100,000 BP on assorted remains.  The crania shown is Skhul V, roughly dated to 105,000 BP. Many archaic traits, but anatomically modern humans. The in theory is that the 130,000  year old colonisation of Asia failed due to climate conditions, although it didn’t seem to bother the Neanderthals in the area. There’s a gap in the record from 92,000 BP to about 45,000 BP, which only has Neanderthal remains (so far).

Qafzeh, Israel


Modern human remains about 92,000 BP. The best known is of a 12 year old boy.

Jebel Irhoud, Morocco.

Frontal view of cast of adult male Homo sapiens from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco.

Estimated dates range from 160,000 to 90,000 BP. More modern humans with archaic traits-so archaic they were mistaken for Neanderthals for years.

Frontal view of cast of adult male Homo sapiens from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. Link.


Taforalt, Morocco.

Aterian shell beads  found dated from 110,000 BP to 82,000 BP. The Aterian was continuous in North Africa until the Dabban and IberoMaurassian industries 40,000 and 20,000 BP.

Henan province, China.


Modern human teeth dated to around 94,000 BP, and the Xuchang/ Liujiang skull dated to at least 68,000 BP and possibly as old as 159,000 BP.



 Nauwalabila I, Australia.

 Oldest thermoluminescence date of 60,300+6,700 years on stone tools .

Malakunanja II, Australia.

Thermoluminescence dates of prior to 50,000 BP. There’s also a claimed but very poorly provenenced date of 116k in a site in Kimberly.

Topper site, S. Carolina, USA.

Site dated  ~50,000 BP with C14.

Pedra Furada, Brazil.

Oldest date for site occupation 60,000 BP ,according to the archaeologist.

Kota Tampan, Malaysia.

Pebble tools associated with modern humans dating back to 75,000 BP. The pebble tools were found in a later burial with a modern human (Perak man).

Niah Cave, Borneo.

Skull dated to 40,000 to 42,000 BP.

Üçağızlı Cave, Turkey

EUP site about 43,000 BP.

Ksar ‘Akil, Lebanon.

EUP site dated to 45,000 BP

 And Dr Stephen Oppenheimer has worked out it woukd take about 20,000 years for modern humans to work their way into Australia from Africa. so add that on to any Australian and American sites for a minimum OOA date.

There are probably a few I’ve missed. Some of the Indian sites under the Toba ash are claimed as modern human sites, but there’s a lack of bones so I won’t include those, although I suspect they are right. Some are on this pdf, with more detail from this paper, Modern Human Origins and the Evolution of Behavior in the Later Pleistocene Record of South Asia. From this a few snippets..

A number of mtDNA lineages (specifically U2i, M2,and R5) share coalescence dates of 50,000–70,000 yearsago (Kivisild et al. 2000, Metspalu et al. 2004) and may represent an India-specific subcladerelated to the initial dispersal of modern humans into the peninsula.

A Middle Paleolithic scraper-based industry from Patpara in the Middle Son Valley is dated to~103,000 years ago (Blumenschine, Brandt, and Clark 1983, Williams and Clarke1995), while dates of 75,000 and160,000 years ago areassociated with artifacts recovered from Samnapur (Nar-mada Valley) and Balotra (Luni River valley) (Mishra etal. 1999, Misra et al. 1990). The dating of miolites in the Hiran Valley places assemblages classed as Middle Paleolithic at 69,000–56,000 years ago (Baskaran et al.1986). The earliest assemblage classified as Upper Paleolithic is currently Site 55, Pakistan, where the loess overlying the occupational horizon has been dated to ca 45,000 years before present(Dennell et al. 1992).

One of my main objections to a more recent OOA date is that it doesn’t make sense with the dates of the backmigration mt DNA into Africa and the mt DNA in early Europeans. In a nutshell, there was a back migration of mt U and M1 from Asia, which appears to have been accompanied by Y chromosome R1, somewhere from 40,000 to 35,000 BP- supported by stone tool cultures and later dates of mt DNA in the same area matching the cultural epxansions. The problem with a more recent OOA date is that you have to skip impossibly quickly from L3 to U if the exit date is around the 40,000 mark. The same is true for the migrations into Europe where much later haplotypes are found relatively quickly in time and it just wouldn’t allow enough time to get from L3 to pre HV. There’s also not enough time for Y chromosome R1 to appear with the more recent OOA dates. The estimated dates on the mt DNA make a lot more sense when compared to an OOA date of 100k, and the Y chromosome date estimates are starting to get old enough to be an acceptable match. Which is why I’m taking the side that supports humans being on the other side of Asia when the Toba eruption occurred.

I’m in good company at least. Cavalli Sforza’s estimated date for the separation of African and non African populations was 146,000 BP.

The first estimate gave a separation time of the first migrants out of Africa of 146,000 years ago

I’ve seen at one other paper where the date was 120,ooo. My guess would be that modern humans were inhabiting North Africa and particularly the Nile delta (which as far as I know never dried out) for a while before a move into Asia was made. The structure of this Aterian population was wiped out by the later backmigrations from West Asia, and no North African mt DNA dates back prior to this era.

And now I have an evil headache. I’ll have a better look at the Petraglia pdf later…

The Secret Museum of Mankind

The Secret Museum of Mankind

A site I only found this evening. Has a brilliant collection of images from the world over.

I think this Congo woman’s scarring is just beautiful, all the images are just timeless. I really reccomend a visit to the site.


America thumbnails

Africa thumbnails

Asia thumbnails

Europe thumbnails

Oceania thumbnails

Neanderthal brain size at birth provides insights into the evolution of human life history

Neanderthal brain size at birth provides insights into the evolution of human life history.

Ponce de León MS, Golovanova L, Doronichev V, Romanova G, Akazawa
T, Kondo O, Ishida H, Zollikofer CP.

Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich,

From birth to adulthood, the human brain expands by a factor of 3.3, compared with 2.5 in chimpanzees [DeSilva J and LesnikJ (2006) Chimpanzee neonatal brain size: Implications for brain growth in Homo erectus. J Hum Evol51: 207-212]. How the required extra amount of human brain growth is achieved and what its implications are for human life history and cognitive development are still a matter of debate. Likewise, because comparative fossil evidence is scarce, when and how the modern human pattern of brain growth arose during evolution is largely unknown. Virtual reconstructions of a Neanderthal neonate from Mezmaiskaya Cave (Russia) and of two Neanderthal infant skeletons from DederiyehCave (Syria) now provide new comparative insights: Neanderthal brain size at birth was similar to that in recent Homo sapiens and most likely subject to similar obstetric constraints. Neanderthal brain growth rates during early infancy were higher, however. This pattern of growth resulted in larger adult brain sizes but not in earlier completion of brain growth. Because large brains growing at high rates require large, late-maturing, mothers [Leigh SR and Blomquist GE (2007) in Campbell CJ et al. Primates in perspective; pp 396-407], it is likely that Neanderthal life history was similarly slow, or even slower-paced, than in recent H. sapiens.

I keep getting conflicting information on Neanderthal growth rates. One tooth study suggested it was the same as modern humans, another that it was faster. Now this suggests it was slower. I suspect it wasn’t a lot different.

Another Ancient Egyptian cranial study.

Population continuity or population change: Formation of the ancient Egyptian state

Sonia R. Zakrzewski*

 The origins of the ancient Egyptian state and its formation have received much attention through analysis of mortuary contexts, skeletal material, and trade. Genetic diversity was analyzed by studying craniometric variation within a series of six time-successive Egyptian populations in order to investigate the evidence for migration over the period of the development of social hierarchy and the Egyptian state. Craniometric variation, based upon 16 measurements, was assessed through principal components analysis, discriminant function analysis, and Mahalanobis D2 matrix computation. Spatial and temporal relationships were assessed by Mantel and Partial Mantel tests. The results indicate overall population continuity over the Predynastic and early Dynastic, and high levels of genetic heterogeneity, thereby suggesting that state formation occurred as a mainly indigenous process. ????? Nevertheless, significant differences were found in morphology between both geographically-pooled and cemetery-specific temporal groups, indicating that some migration occurred along the Egyptian Nile Valley overt he periods studied.

The origins of the Egyptian state have long been debated, with, as a result of the prevailing diffusionist paradigms of the time (Armelagos and Mills, 1993), much early attention focusing on the ethnic affiliation or biological similarities of the early Dynastic (EDyn) groups. Purported changes in the archaeological sequence associated with the formation of the state were attributed to the population replacement as a result of the arrival of a \Dynastic Race” of invaders (Petrie, 1920, 1939; Winkler, 1938, 1939; Emery, 1961). More recently, Egyptologists have proposed a model for indigenous state formation, whereby three protostates developed and merged through military or other expansion (Trigger, 1983; Hassan, 1988; Bard,
1989, 1994; Kemp, 1989), while others have taken a more Afrocentrist approach (Diop, 1974; Bernal, 1987, 1991).

The invasion model for state formation usually involved the migration of a foreign population along the Wadi Hammamat from Asia (Winkler, 1938, 1939; Derry, 1956; Kantor, 1965), or along a northern Egyptian delta route (Bard, 1994). Evidence to support this hypothesis consists of pottery from regions such as Palestine (Kantor, 1965), and Near Eastern turquoise and shells (Arkell, 1975) found within Predynastic Egyptian sites. Furthermore, Uruk cultural markers are found at sites in the delta (Bard, 1994). The process of State formation, therefore, has considered to have been affected, or even caused by new populations entering the Nile Valley (as proposed by Petrie and Winkler). This new group was considered to be either a small immigration (following Kantor, 1965) or a large-scale population replacement (following Petrie,
1920, 1939).

The later model of indigenous development is based upon both agriculture and warfare, with the Upper Egyptian nomes or districts conquering the Northern nomes in Lower Egypt. This model of state formation avoids population migrations along the Nile Valley, and is reliant only on in situ development by the indigenous population. The current article assesses the biological affinities of a large sample of EDyn Egyptian crania and compares these with local preceding samples to establish whether any diachronic or synchronic morphological variation is found.

A summary of the results of major previous studies is presented here; for further details see Keita (1995, 2004). The earliest morphological studies of Egyptian crania were chiefly concerned with the shape of certain anatomical complexes. These complexes, defined by extreme variants as geographic groups, were considered to be “racial types” (Warren, 1897; Fawcett and Lee, 1902; Giuffrida- Ruggeri, 1915; Pearson and Davin, 1924; Stoessiger, 1927; Woo, 1930; Morant, 1925, 1935, 1937; Jackson and Cave, 1937; Risdon, 1939; Derry, 1956; Nutter, 1958). For example, Randall-MacIver (1901), and Thomson and Randall-
MacIver (1905), employing morphological observations, concluded that southern Predynastic Egyptians were a hybrid population, consisting of “Negroid” and non-“Negroid” (Semitic) elements. The pattern of variation in facial and nasal indices was similar for both sexes through all periods from the Predynastic to the Roman period. This, they argued, meant that the distribution could not be considered simply a result of normal variation of a single type; rather they suggested the juxtaposition of two groups based upon the correlation between facial and nasal indices as the sole criterion for distinguishing these two racial groups. The first group were short or broad-faced and platyrhine, while the second group was long or narrow-faced and leptorhine. Morant (1925, 1935) argued that the Lower Egyptian type remained relatively unchanged from EDyn times to the Ptolemaic period, but that during this time the Upper Egyptian type changed, and as the vast majority of southern Dynastic crania fell between the two extremes of the “types”, some form of transition must have occurred. Morant considered both types to represent very closely related populations; the differences between them could be due to evolution through selection or differing environments, or through the slow mingling of two different races. Risdon (1939) argued that the population of Upper Egypt underwent gradual change from the Badarian through to the 18th Dynasty, and that by the New Kingdom, one group had almost entirely replaced the other in Upper Egypt. Elliot- Smith (1915–1916) defined as a \Brown Race” the autochthonous population of the Nile Valley, although Giuffrida- Ruggeri (1922) considered this confusing as it blurred Caucasian and African \types”. Elliot-Smith considered the Brown Race to have been modified by \Negroes” in the south and by Near Eastern populations in the north.

By contrast, Giuffrida-Ruggeri (1922) concluded that the Lower Egyptians were a Mediterranean white population while the Upper Egyptians were Ethiopians. (not far off, as DNA have concluded that Ethiopians are a mix of Caucasoid and native East African, similar to Badarians).

Falkenburger (1947), Strouhal (1971), and Angel (1972) all considered the southern Egyptian populations to be “Negroid” or hybrid in character, while the northern populations were more European-like. Wiercinski (1965) defined the basic or indigenous Egyptian type as being Badarian-like, but then said that this group was of Near Eastern origin. Other authors considered the Badarian to be a “Negroid” group (Morant, 1935, 1937; Nutter, 1958; Strouhal, 1971; Angel, 1972). Coon (1939) considered a Delta Predynastic sample to be less \Negroid” in character than southern populations.

Although there was some criticism of the racial typology underlying these studies (Myers, 1905, 1908; Batrawi, 1945, 1946), most morphometric studies continued to employ the concept of two populations in Egypt, such as the Upper and Lower Egyptian types of Morant (1925) and Risdon (1939). Most authors suggested that the Upper Egyptian type (i.e. southern) had more “Negroid” traits that were gradually lost through time (Morant, 1925, 1935; Risdon, 1939; Batrawi, 1946). These studies also found that the southern populations tended to cluster with more southerly groups, e.g. Crichton (1966) found Naqada crania to be more “Negroid” than a later period sample from Gizeh, while Bra¨uer (1976) found that Nubian and early Egyptian series tended to cluster with more southern African groups. Recent craniometric studies continue to note morphological differences between northern and southern Egyptian samples. Hillson (1978) referred to this as two distinct trends within his data set:
1. a northern and lower Egyptian tendency
2. a southern Egyptian and southern African trend.

In his work, the Upper Egyptians overlapped with southern African populations. Billy (1977) noted, from Penrose’s C analyses, that the homogeneity of her Lower Egypt series contrasted with greater dispersion in Upper Egypt with a constant morphological type being conserved through Dynastic times in the north. Keita (1990, 1992), through the use of discriminant function analysis (DFA), noted the overlap of southern Egyptians and some southern African series.

The earliest sample, the Badarian, frequently appears to be relatively distinct. This could be due to their very gracile nature (Gaballah et al., 1972), with very little development of the muscular relief; hence they have often been considered to have a generally \feminine” character (Strouhal, 1971). In early studies the Badarian sample were usually also described as having rather small absolute dimensions, especially in terms of breadth, horizontal circumference, and cranial capacity (Stoessiger, 1927; Morant, 1935). Stoessinger (1927) described the group as being distinct from Later Predynastic (LPD) populations  through being more dolichocephalic and prognathic, somewhat narrower in the parietal region, and having
shorter faces (and a lower nasal index). In contrast, Strouhal (1971) considered them to have high nasal indices.

He also summarized them as being dolichocranial, orthocranial, mesenic to leptic, and chamaerrhine, i.e. having narrow, average height skulls with average to narrow upper faces, and a rather broad nose with marked prognathism. It is interesting to note that these biometrical studies led the investigators to consider the Badarian to be homogeneous, while the excavators (Brunton and Caton-Thompson) considered them to be heterogeneous (Strouhal, 1971). When Mahalanobis D2 was used, the Naqadan and Badarian Predynastic samples exhibited more similarity to Nubian, Tigrean, and some more southern series than to some mid- to late Dynastic series from northern Egypt (Mukherjee et al., 1955). The Badarian have been found to be very similar to a Kerma sample (Kushite Sudanese), using both the Penrose statistic (Nutter, 1958) and DFA of males alone (Keita, 1990). Furthermore, Keita considered that Badarian males had a southern modal phenotype, and that together with a Naqada sample, they formed a southern Egyptian cluster as tropical variants together with a sample from  Kerma.

Although the Badarian material is considered by biometricians to be homogeneous, this homogeneity may break down by the LPD period, and has certainly broken down by the EDyn period, e.g. the cranial material from the Royal Tombs sample at Abydos has a markedly heterogeneous appearance (Keita, 1992). Billy (1975) found little similarity between Predynastic samples, and even found that 1st Dynasty material from Abydos and El Amrah failed to cluster, and that the Royal Tombs material was morphologically distinct from all other EDyn period samples (Batrawi, 1946; Billy, 1975, 1977). Ro¨sing (1990) also analyzed a large series of Upper Egyptian crania, and found greater morphological separation between Predynastic and historic Egyptian than between Predynastic Egyptian and Nubian groups.

In summary, most early craniometric studies concluded that there were two population groups inhabiting Egypt throughout the Predynastic period, and that the northern group (the Lower Egyptian type) replaced the more \Negroid” southern type during the Dynastic period. Most modern Egyptologists adopt a different view, who (even when arguing for a conquest of the country as the prime mover in the formation of the State (argue that the southern populations conquered the northern groups. More recent studies continue to show a geographic variation in morphology within Egyptian samples . This variation may be due to migrations of people or to other local factors.

The current article aims to ascertain whether any trend-like or distinct change is seen in craniometric measurements over the period of state formation, as the former would suggest indigenous state development, whereas the latter would suggest a greater role for migration in the process. The current study concentrates upon the Predynastic and EDyn periods, but also includes assessment of the Badarian and Middle Kingdom (MK) populations for comparison purposes.

Skeletal sampling was mainly restricted to sites from Middle and Upper Egypt so that all individuals would have experienced reasonably similar geographical and climatic conditions. Due to the lack of Old Kingdom skeletal remains from Upper Egypt and one series from Lower Egypt were also analyzed (Gizeh). Site  locations are shown in Figure 1.

The selection of skeletal material was mainly pragmatic. For most periods, all available material was assessed, although complete skeletons were preferred over crania alone, and complete crania were selected in preference to fragmentary material. Care was taken to maximize samples from all available time periods. The sampling was also limited by the selection of the material that had been removed from Egypt and thus available for study in museum and university collections. Many collections derive from early excavations, with only individuals of interest being shipped back to the European collector funding the excavation, and hence the material studied may not be completely representative of the cemetery population. Four collections were studied; the Duckworth Collection of the Department of Biological Anthropology in Cambridge, the Egyptian collection of the Natural History Museum in London, the Marro Collection of the Department of Anthropology and Biology in Turin, and the Reisner Collection of the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

A series of six time-period groups were studied, dating from the Badarian (c. 4000 BC) to the MK (c. 1900 BC). The periods studied were the Badarian, the Early Predynastic (EPD), the LPD, the EDyn, the OK, and MK. Samples (Table 2) were studied only if they could be reliably dated to one of the six periods. The dates in Table 2 are midpoint time period dates and generate a temporal distance matrix. For further details regarding the cemeteries, see Zakrzewski (2003). Analysis was limited to adult individuals, with maturity being determined on the basis of sphenooccipital fusion, full epiphyseal fusion, and complete eruption of the third molars.

Following Howells (1973, 1989), all individuals were assigned a sex, rather than being classified as ‘sex unknown’. The sex of each individual was primarily determined from analysis of the pelvic region, by assessing the size of the pubic angle, the size of the greater sciatic notch, the curvature of the sacrum, noting the presence or absence of ventral arc and subpubic concavity, the relative lengths of the inferior ramus of the pubis, and the distance from the pubic tubercle to the acetabulum. Postcranial sex was compared with the cranially determined sex. Cranial sex was assessed from the degree of supraorbital and glabellar projection, the squareness of the anterior portion of the mandible, the flaring of the gonial region, the robustness and level of muscle development in the nuchal region, and other features, such as the general size of the cranium with respect to others in the sample.

The size of the mastoids was considered, but all the Egyptian cranial material studied has relatively inflated mastoids as compared to other populations. For individuals for whom cranial material alone was available, comparisons were made with individuals of known sex to increase the reliability of the sexing method.
The techniques described by Howells (1973, 1989) and Lahr (1996) were employed in this study. A spreading caliper was used to take the measurements where both landmarks for a single measurement such as maximum cranial breadth (XCB) had to be instrumentally determined. A digital sliding caliper, with direct data entry to a portable computer, was used to measure directly from one landmark to another, e.g. upper facial height (NPH).

SPSS 12.0 and PASSAGE 1.0 were used for statistical analysis. All variables were tested for normality using P– P and Q–Q plots, with a normal distribution being observed in all the variables selected for analysis. All data was then Z-scored within sexes (in order to adjust for sex-related size differences). Due to the rather small sample sizes of some time periods under consideration and the relatively fragmentary nature of the crania during these periods, analyses were performed on the pooled Z-scores. Given the fragmentary nature of the remains, to maximize the sample size (as crania lacking one measurement are removed from analyses), analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine which variables exhibited significant differences between at least two of the time periods. Cut off-points from the ANOVA for variables for inclusion into further analyses were set at P < 0.001 and N  300 (thereby reducing the cranial sample size of the current study to 247). Details of measurements selected are provided in Table 3.

Principal components analysis (PCA) and DFA were undertaken. PCA is a form of factor analysis that aims to identify the underlying factors (variables) explaining the pattern within the set of observed variables, and is employed to ascertain which combination of variables best explain the variance seen within the ellipsoid of data points in multidimensional space. The importance of PCA in this study is to ascertain the  morphological mapping of individuals, as overlap between temporal sample groups would therefore show morphological similarity. By contrast, the concept of DFA is to assign group membership from a number of predictors; thus in this study it has been used to assess whether craniometric variables can be used to predict the time period group membership of the cranial sample. The main aim is, therefore, to find the dimension or dimensions by which the groups differ and then derive classification functions from this to predict group membership. Successful development of these functions indicates that a degree of morphological differentiation exists between the samples.

The second part of the analysis was undertaken both on the time-period groups (where cemetery samples within each time period are pooled), and, where possible, on cemetery groups labeled by time period (such as the OK assemblage from Regagnah and the OK  ssemblage from Gizeh). Mahalanobis D2 distances were calculated between the time-period groups and between the cemetery-sample groups. The Mahalanobis D2 value between samples is used as a proxy for the genetic or biological distance between those samples. Due to their proximity (less than 10 km apart), material from Abydos and El-Amrah were pooled to form one \cemetery” sample. In addition, due to low cemetery sample sizes, the LPD material from Abydos, El-Amrah and the OK material from Meidum were not analyzed as separate cemeteries. The pattern of temporal separation and geographic distance or isolation may affect the pattern of between-sample D2 distances. If an isolation by distance model applies to the Egyptian samples studied, the expectation is that genetic or phenetic distance (in this case D2 values) and spatial distance should be positively correlated, whereas genetic distance and temporal distance should be negatively correlated, as described and observed by Konigsberg (1990). Due to the internal structure of the biological distance, temporal distance and spatial distance matrices (because they are distance matrices, their elements are nonindependent), regression testing of one on another requires modification to simple linear regression, such as through the use of Mantel and Partial Mantel Tests. The latter test permits testing of two matrices, while controlling for the third. The potential correlations tested were the relationship between biological distance and time period (for the pooled time period samples), and between biological distance and both temporal distance and geographic distance for the cemetery samples. The Partial Mantel Test tests for correlations between biological distance (D2) and temporal distance while controlling for geographic distance between the cemetery samples.

Test was used to test for correlations between biological distance and geographical distance while controlling for temporal distance (between the same cemetery samples). These analyses were undertaken using PASSAGE 1.0. This software program was developed by Dr M Rosenberg and is kindly made available by him (http://www. passagesoftware.net/) (Rosenberg, 2001).

PCA derived four components, cumulatively explaining 64.6% of the variance seen within the craniometric measurements (Table 4 for component loadings). Although no clear separation between the samples was seen (Fig. 2, plotting out the first two components), the EDyn and OK samples were generally longer vaulted with broader midfaces than the earlier samples (indicated by their position relatively high on PC1). The Badarian generally exhibit the greatest facial prognathism of the samples studied (demonstrated by their relatively high position on PC2).

Despite their small sample size, and general lack in facial prognathism, the MK appear very morphologically heterogeneous (as indicated by their location in all quadrants of the plot). All individuals located at the extremes of the axes derive from the OK, suggesting morphological heterogeneity in this period. Despite the overall morphological similarity (as determined from the overlapping nature) of these Egyptian samples (Fig. 2), morphological differences do exist between the time periods. DFA derived five functions, which together correctly classified 44.5% of the crania into their temporal group (Table 5). Importantly, although only 45% of crania were correctly classified by DFA, where misclassification occurred, the crania were generally misclassified into temporally adjacent samples (e.g. the Badarian misclassified as EPD). This implies some degree of morphological continuity across successive time periods. Most correct classifications were of the EDyn and most misclassifications were of the MK sample, suggesting some morphological homogeneity within the first sample and more heterogeneity in the later sample.

Mahalanobis D2 distances were calculated between all the time periods (Table 6) and used as a proxy for genetic or biological distance between time periods. Most of the D2 values were significant (that is, significantly greater than 0), with all those relating to the Badarian, EPD, and EDyn time periods demonstrating significance at P < 0.001. There is no significant genetic (phenetic) distance between the pooled OK and MK samples. No significant correlation was found between temporal distance and the D2 values (biological–temporal correlation ¼ 0.0715, n.s.). Mahalanobis D2 distances were also calculated between the cemetery groups by time period (Table 7). Again, most of the D2 values were significant, with all those relating to the Badarian, from El-Badari, and the EDyn, from Abydos El-Amrah, demonstrating significance at P < 0.001. The partial correlation between biological distance and geographic distance between the cemeteries, controlling for time difference, is 0.3674 (n.s.). Controlling for geographic distance, the correlation between biological distance and time is 0.1692 (n.s.). A positive spatial–biological distance correlation would be expected under an isolation by distance model. Genetic distances between samples, as estimated here through D2 distances, show no relationship with spatial distances between samples. A negative temporal correlation with genetic distance would also be expected under an isolation by distance model. Although this has been found within these samples, the correlation is very small and not statistically significant.

Fig. 2. Plot of the first two components derived, explaining
36.1% and 12.9% of the variance seen within the crania.

The development of the Egyptian state and the associated formation of hierarchical social organization occurred very rapidly within Egypt over the LPD and EDyn (Bard, 1989). If this process occurred as an entirely indigenous development with total population continuity, then little increase in morphological heterogeneity would be expected. In accordance with previous studies (Keita, 1990; Prowse and Lovell, 1996), the current study has shown the ancient Egyptians to exhibit both genetic heterogeneity and morphological similarity. The former is demonstrated by the significant D2 values between the time period samples and the misclassification of the crania to groups by the DFA, while the latter is demonstrated by the overlapping nature of the data points in Figure 2.

Despite significant pairwise D2 values between the time periods groups, no significant relationship was seen between these D2 values and time for the pooled cemetery samples (Table 6). Furthermore, no significant relationship was found between the D2 values and either temporal or geographic distance (when controlling for the other matrix) for the individual cemetery samples (Table 7). These results suggest that distinct morphological differences occur between the various samples, but that these differences are not patterned in either space or time.

This implies that an isolation by distance model may not be appropriate for these groups (although isolation by distance on a smaller distance scale would be undetectable in this data). This result is in contrast with earlier craniometric studies that found some evidence for distinct northern and southern morphological patterns (Hillson, 1978; Keita, 1990, 1992). This lack of biological patterning by geographic distance between the cemetery sites may result from the large scale of geographic distance between the cemeteries in this study (Table 1). Isolation by distance may therefore operate at shorter distances than the geographic distances between these cemeteries and hence would be undetectable in the current data set.

The Badarian population
The Badarian crania have been characterized by their small and gracile nature (Stoessiger, 1927; Morant, 1935; Strouhal, 1971; Gaballah et al., 1972), and their relatively high degree of facial prognathism (Stoessiger, 1927). The current study supports this description (being placed low on PC1 in Fig. 2, as a result of their short cranial vaults and narrow faces). Furthermore, their phenotypic homogeneity (Fig. 2, Table 5) has been demonstrated. As a result of their facial prognathism, the Badarian sample has been described as forming a morphological cluster with Nubian, Tigrean, and other southern (or \Negroid”) groups (Morant, 1935, 1937; Mukherjee et al., 1955; Nutter, 1958, Strouhal, 1971; Angel, 1972; Keita, 1990). Cranial nonmetric trait studies have found this group to be similar to other Egyptians, including much later material (Berry and Berry, 1967, 1972), but also to be significantly different from LPD material (Berry et al., 1967). Similarly, the study of dental nonmetric traits has suggested that the Badarian population is at the centroid of Egyptian dental samples (Irish, 2006), thereby suggesting similarity and hence continuity across Egyptian time periods.

From the central location of the Badarian samples in Figure 2, the current study finds the Badarian to be relatively morphologically close to the centroid of all the Egyptian samples. The Badarian have been shown to exhibit greatest morphological similarity with the temporally successive EPD (Table 5). Finally, the biological distinctiveness of the Badarian from other Egyptian samples has also been demonstrated (Tables 6 and 7).

Formation of the Egyptian state
Contra early Egyptologists (Petrie, 1920, 1939; Emery, 1961; Kantor, 1965), archaeological continuity is currently postulated between the Predynastic periods and the EDyn (Hassan, 1988; Kemp, 1989; Bard, 1989, 1994; Midant- Reynes, 2000a). Although the EDyn samples (both EDyn and OK) show morphological similarities with the preceding populations (Fig. 2), each sample does exhibit certain distinct characteristics. Lying high on PC1 in Figure 2, the EDyn sample and OK samples have relatively longer and broader cranial vaults. Furthermore the EDyn sample is characterized by their relatively broad faces, thereby allowing successful group delineation by DFA (Table 5). In concordance with Keita (1990), the EDyn crania studied also demonstrated morphological heterogeneity, with the small number of crania that are misclassified, being misclassified by DFA into all potential time periods. Significant genetic pairwise differences are found not only between the EDyn and all other pooled cemetery time periods (Table 6), but also between the EDyn sample and all single cemetery samples (Table 7). These results suggest that the EDyn do form a distinct morphological pattern. Their overlap with other Egyptian samples (in PC space, Fig. 2) suggests that although their morphology is distinctive, the pattern does overlap with the other time periods. These results therefore do not support the Petrie concept of a \Dynastic race” (Petrie, 1939; Derry, 1956). Instead, the results suggest that the Egyptian state was not the product of mass movement of populations into the Egyptian Nile region, but rather that it was the result of primarily indigenous development combined with prolonged small-scale migration, potentially from trade, military, or other contacts.

The Middle Kingdom
The MK sample was studied as a potential out-group for comparison with the Predynastic and EDyn periods.  With the increased size of the Egyptian population by this period (Butzer, 1976; Brewer and Teeter, 1999), greater morphological heterogeneity was predicted to be found.
Figure 2 indicates that, despite the small sample size, craniometric heterogeneity is found as the MK individuals are placed in all quadrants of the plot. Furthermore, discriminant functions were not successful at morphologically proscribing this sample (Table 5). In concordance with this, the MK sample exhibited fewest significant pairwise biological distances with other samples (Tables 6 and 7). The sample studied originates from Gebelein in Upper Egypt. Interestingly, the only other sample deriving from Gebelein, an EPD sample, was found to be significantly biologically distant to the MK sample (Table 7).

This result suggests that there is no simple biological population continuity at Gebelein. Stele indicate that Nubian mercenaries lived, married, died, and were buried at this site over the MK period (Fischer, 1961). Previous research has suggested that this sample may include some of these Nubians (Zakrzewski, 2003). If Nubians had been integrated into the Egyptian population in the MK but not in preceding periods, then one would expect to see higher phenotypic variance in the MK than in the EDyn and OK.

This cannot be ascertained from the current analysis, but must remain a topic for future research. Social context of the samples This study concentrated upon the period of state formation. The region at the center of this process was the Abydos region (Wilkinson, 1999) and the samples selected derive mainly from this area. Due to its geographic location, Abydos was able to control trade and raw material resources over the LPD and EDyn periods (Bard, 1994).

Like Abydos, during the OK, Gizeh was also in an area of greater control of trade, and therefore formed a potential magnet area for rural to urban migration. The OK material from Gizeh may therefore have greater internal social differentiation than the OK material from the more rural sites of Regagnah and Meidum. Unfortunately the OK sample from Meidum was poorly preserved and so most was unsuitable for the current analysis. The OK cemetery samples were found to be biologically distant from each other (Table 7). This may represent social differences between the samples. This hypothesis has been used to account for differences between other Egyptian samples, such as the apparent distinctiveness of samples from Predynastic Naqada (Johnson and Lovell, 1994; Prowse and Lovell, 1996), and from MK Lisht (Irish, 2006).

Social diversity and hierarchy, demonstrated from funerary contexts, increases through the Predynastic periods (Bard, 1989). During the EPD, an increase in social diversity is suggested from the graves and funerary offerings (Midant-Reynes, 2000b). Social hierarchy, as characterized by a dramatic increase in the number of funerary offerings, developed during the LPD (Castillos, 1983; Midant-Reynes, 2000a). It is thus possible that in the straight time period analysis, despite pooling samples from several sites, the low levels of morphological diversity noted in the EPD and LPD samples may result from sampling selection of individuals from limited segments of society. By contrast, postcranial analysis of these same samples demonstrated the greatest sexual dimorphism and thus greatest potential social ranking difference over the EPD and LPD (Zakrzewski, 2003).

The cranial material studied originated from a variety of funerary contexts (for detailed descriptions of the cemeteries, see Zakrzewski, 2003; Keita and Boyce, 2006). Pooling material in this manner reduces the likelihood of bias due to selection of only individuals from certain social groups. The only temporal samples to derive from only one cemetery are the Badarian and the MK. Periods of key interest to the current study, i.e. those over the period of state formation (EPD, LPD, EDyn, and OK), derived from more than one cemetery and hence may include individuals from across social ranks. The current study has shown this approach to be problematic as significant biological distance was found between cemeteries from the same time period (Table 7). Greater distance was found between the OK material from Regagnah and Gizeh than between the EPD material from Abydos El- Amrah and Gebelein. This may reflect differences in internal social organization and social ranking (as discussed above), the greater geographic distance between the later period sites, or it may reflect changes in the Egyptian population within the Dynastic period resulting from migration.

The analyses of the crania studied suggest that genetic continuity occurs over the Egyptian Predynastic and EDyn periods. The study also indicates that a relatively high level of genetic differentiation was sustained over this time period. This evidence suggests that the process of state formation itself may have been mainly an indigenous process, but that it may have occurred in association with in-migration to the Abydos region of the Nile Valley. This potential in-migration may have occurred particularly during the EDyn and OK. A possible explanation is that the Egyptian state formed through increasing control of trade and raw materials, or due to military actions,
potentially associated with the use of the Nile Valley as a corridor for prolonged small scale movements through the desert environment.

Using Mahalanobis D2 values as a proxy for genetic or phenetic distance, significant genetic distances were found between time period groups and between cemetery groups. No conclusive linear relationship was found from any of the regressions of genetic distance on temporal distance (for the pooled time period groups), genetic distance on temporal distance (controlling for spatial distance), or genetic distance on spatial distance (controlling for time) for the cemetery groups. These results indicate that the biological patterning of the Egyptian population varied across time, but that no simple and consistent temporal or spatial trends could be discerned.

The Badarian is shown to be a genetically homogeneous sample, characterized by short cranial vaults and significant subnasal prognathism. The homogeneity of the Badarian mirrors previous cranial (Stoessiger, 1927; Morant, 1935; Strouhal, 1971; Gaballah et al., 1972) and postcranial studies (Zakrzewski, 2003). Due to their placement in all sectors of Figure 2, later groups are shown as being more phenotypically heterogeneous. Furthermore, as a result of its long broad vaults and broad faces, the EDyn sample appears morphologically distinct relative to the other temporal groups.

Due to the relatively small sample sizes arising from the fragmentary nature of some of the crania and the lack of skeletal material that cross-cuts all social ranks within each time period, these results must remain provisional and indicative. Further research on recently excavated material, especially from the Delta area, is therefore required in order to further address the issues raised.

There you go. Summary in short; A lot of population movement into Egypt as the Egyptian state was being formed. She doesn’t mention hair or teeth in this. The teeth always show the dynastic Egyptians to be essentially Eurasian, while the hair shows Badarians to be slightly more Eurasian than African (like modern Nubians). She also relies heavily on some Keita studies, who’s methodology I know to be somewhat flawed.

I should like to point out a few relevant facts about the Neolithic revolution arriving in Southern Egypt at this time. About the time that Egypt was formed was about the time frame of the arrival of the Neolithic farmers expanding from Turkey out via the Levant. These people arived in Northern Egypt about 8,000 years ago (Cairo site), reaching the Badarian culture slightly later. The Dynastic era started about 5,000 years ago, the first step pyramid about 4,600 years ago (Djoser).

Aas far as I can tell, Egyptian culture seemed to be a fusion of Saharan cultures and that of the Neolithic farmers that moved in with them.

I also want to say…  a heterogenous population is all indigenous?  Surely that should be ‘a homogenous population’. A heterogenous population implies lots of differently featured people. People from the same population tend to end up pretty samey after breeding with only each other for many millenia.

Berbers more closely related to Europeans

Abstract  Alu elements are the largest family of short tandem interspersed elements (SINEs) in human who have arisen to a copy number with an excess of 500 000 copies per haploid human genome and mobilize through an RNAse polymerase III derived transcript in a process termed retroposition. Several features make Alu insertions a powerful tool used in population genetic studies: the polymorphic nature of many Alu insertions, the stability of an Alu insertion event and, furthermore, the ancestral state of an Alu insertion is known to be the absence (complete and exact) of the Alu element at a particular locus and the presence of an Alu insertion at the site that forward mutational change. Here we report on the distribution of six polymorphic Alu insertions in a general Moroccan population and in the Arab and Berber populations from Morocco and their relationships with other populations previously studied. Our results show that there is a small difference between Arabs and Berbers and that the Arab population was closer to African populations than Berber population which is closest to Europeans.

Three studies of Nubian teeth.

Population continuity vs. discontinuity revisited: Dental affinities among late Paleolithic through Christian-era Nubians
Dr. Joel D. Irish *
The present study revisits a subject that has been a source of long-standing bioarchaeological contention, namely, estimation of Nubian population origins and affinities. Using the Arizona State University dental anthropology system, frequencies of 36 crown, root, and intraoral osseous discrete traits in 12 late Pleistocene through early historic Nubian samples were recorded and analyzed. Specifically, intersample phenetic affinities, and an indication of which traits are most important in driving this variation, were determined through the application of correspondence analysis and the mean measure of divergence distance statistic. The results support previous work by the author and others indicating that population discontinuity, in the form of replacement or significant gene flow into an existing gene pool, occurred sometime after the Pleistocene. This analysis now suggests that the break occurred before the Final Neolithic. Samples from the latter through Christian periods exhibit relative homogeneity, which implies overall post-Pleistocene diachronic and regional population continuity. Yet there are several perceptible trends among these latter samples that: 1) are consistent with documented Nubian population history, 2) enable the testing of several existing peopling hypotheses, and 3) allow the formulation of new hypotheses, including a suggestion of two post-Pleistocene subgroups predicated on an age-based sample dichotomy. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

The ancient inhabitants of Jebel Moya redux: measures of population affinity based on dental morphology
Dr. Joel D. Irish.

This paper re-examines some of the methods and craniometric findings in the classic volume The Ancient Inhabitants of Jebel Moya (Sudan) (1955) by Mukherjee, Rao & Trevor, in light of recent archaeological data and relative to a new dental morphological study. Archaeological evidence characterises these inhabitants as having been heavily influenced by outside sources; yet they managed to establish and maintain their own distinctive culture as seen in the site features and surviving artefact collections. The dental study, modelled after the original craniometric-based investigation and using the same or similar comparative samples, detected complementary indications of outside biological influence. In the study, up to 36 dental traits were recorded in a total of 19 African samples. The most influential traits in driving inter-sample variation were then identified, and phenetic affinities were calculated using the Mahalanobis D2 statistic for non-metric traits. If phenetic similarity provides an estimate of genetic relatedness, these affinities, like the original craniometric findings, suggest that the Jebel Moyans exhibited a mosaic of features that are reminiscent of, yet distinct from, both sub-Saharan and North African peoples. Together, these different lines of evidence correspond to portray the Jebel Moya populace as a uniform, although distinct, biocultural amalgam. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

The first item does seem to suggest that there was a population influx into the Nubian area.  My guess this would probably be the expansion of the Neolithic farmers from the middle East.

Dental reduction in post-pleistocene Nubia
James M. Calcagno

Tooth size changes among Nubian archaeological populations dating from the Mesolithic through the Christian era, a period of approximately 12,000 years, are analyzed. Standard length and breadth dimensions of all permanent teeth from several cultural horizons are combined to form three large samples: Mesolithic, 10000-7000 B.C.; Agriculturalist, 3300-1100 B.C. (A-group, C-group, Pharaonic); and Intensive Agriculturalist, A.D. 0-1400 (Meroitic, X-Group, Christian). Such information not only fills a void in the knowledge of Nubian skeletal biology, but also provides a much needed African reference point for the comparison of tooth size data among anatomically modern Homo sapiens from various regions of the world.
Changes in mean tooth size and associated t-tests reveal strong and significant reduction in dental size between the Mesolithic and Agriculturalist samples, followed by a continued although diminished trend of reduction for only the molar teeth between the two Agriculturalist groups. These patterns are best observed by examining tooth breadths, which are considered as the most reliable indicator of tooth size. Previously published odontometrics of the Nubian Mesolithic are briefly compared to the findings of this diachronic analysis of Nubian dental change. Revised: 30 January 1986

The Minoans, DNA and all.

Starting with the breaking DNA news, and this rather sinks the ‘Black Athena’ theory from Bernal…

DNA sheds light on Minoans

Crete’s fabled Minoan civilization was built by people from Anatolia, according to a new study by Greek and foreign scientists that disputes an earlier theory that said the Minoans’ forefathers had come from Africa.

The new study – a collaboration by experts in Greece, the USA, Canada, Russia and Turkey – drew its conclusions from the DNA analysis of 193 men from Crete and another 171 from former neolithic colonies in central and northern Greece.

The results show that the country’s neolithic population came to Greece by sea from Anatolia – modern-day Iran, Iraq and Syria – and not from Africa as maintained by US scholar Martin Bernal.

The DNA analysis indicates that the arrival of neolithic man in Greece from Anatolia coincided with the social and cultural upsurge that led to the birth of the Minoan civilization, Constantinos Triantafyllidis of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University told Kathimerini.

“Until now we only had the archaeological evidence – now we have genetic data too and we can date the DNA,” he said.

Archeological dates for the colonisation of Crete are about 7,000 BC.

In more detail

The most frequent haplogroups among the current population on Crete were: R1b3-M269 (17%), G2-P15 (11%), J2a1-DYS413 (9.0%), and J2a1h-M319 (9.0%). They identified J2a parent haplogroup J2a-M410 (Crete: 25.9%) with the first ancient residents of Crete during the Neolithic (8500 BCE – 4300 BCE) suggesting Crete was founded by a Neolithic population expansion from ancient Turkey/Anatolia. Specifically, the researchers connected the source population of ancient Crete to well known Neolithic sites of ancient Anatolia: Asıklı Höyük, Çatalhöyük, Hacılar, Mersin/Yumuktepe, and Tarsus. Haplogroup J2b-M12 (Crete: 3.1%; Greece: 5.9%) was associated with Neolithic Greece. Haplogroups J2a1h-M319 (8.8%) and J2a1b1-M92 (2.6%) were associated with the Minoan culture linked to a late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age migration to Crete ca. 3100 BCE from North-Western/Western Anatolia and Syro-Palestine (ancient Canaan, Levant, and pre-Akkadian Anatolia); Aegean prehistorians link the date 3100 BCE to the origins of the Minoan culture on Crete. Haplogroup E3b1a2-V13 (Crete: 6.7%; Greece: 28%) was suggested to reflect a migration to Crete from the mainland Greece Mycenaean population during the late Bronze Age (1600 BCE – 1100 BCE). Haplogroup J1 was also reported to be found in both Crete and Greece (Crete: 8.3%; Greece: 5.2%), as well as haplogroups E3b3, I1, I2, I2a, I21b, K2, L, and R1a1. No ancient DNA was included in this study of YDNA from the Mediterranean region.

So far the only information I can find on Cretan mitochondrial DNA places them overwhelmingly with the European and Near Eastern populations.


The first settlers introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals (wheat and barley) and legumes. The first settlers seem to be aceramic, the first ceramics appeared about a thousand years later. Quite possibly the technology was imported, as it appears in a fairly sophisticated form.

The plain chalice is an example of Pyrgos ware, one of the earliest forms of Cretan pottery. Minoan sites are commonly dated by the style of their pottery.

Minoan ceramics became increasingly ornate. After the Thera explosion and tsunami, marine creatures were frequently used to decorate the pottery.



The Minoans traded extensively with just about everyone in the Mediterranean, and Minoan pottery is often found in Egypt, Cyprus, the Cylades, and Mycenae. 

The Minoan palaces

The palace of Knossos, exterior.

And interior, other images here.

The inside of the palaces also had a flushing toilet and a primitive sort of shower. They were very advanced for the time. The same kind of indoor plumbing was found in Santorini, a Minoan colony

The first Palace was built around 2000 BC and destroyed 300 years later.

On the same site a new Palace was built, more elaborate than the previous, only to be severely damaged from an earthquake one hundred years latter.

During this period we see the development of a series of satellite buildings like the “Little Palace”, the “Royal Villa” and the “South House”. Knossos has now developed into a large city whose population – judged by the adjacent cemeteries – must have not been less than 100 000 inhabitants.

The Minoan civilisation was dealt a serious blow by the explosion of Santorini in 1645 BC. A major Tsunami about 15m high destroyed their fleet and coastal towns, and left them starving and vulnerable to invasion.

The Minoan society itself seemed to matriarchal and not particularly interested in warfare, although they did possess swords and other weapons. Mostly, the worship was of goddesses, carried out by priestesses. There was also the famous bull leaping ritual, depicted in it’s art repeatedly.

The Minoans developed their own writing system, known as linear A (as yet only partially deciphered) and Linear B. The Phaistos disc below is of an unknown script similar to Anatolian Heiroglyphs and Linear A, as yet undeciphered.


Red hair, skin pigmentation and the MC1R variants.

Just a collection of ginger-related articles .

Melanocortin 1 Receptor Variants in an Irish Population

Received 11 November 1997; Revised 25 February 1998; Accepted 13 March 1998.

The identification of an association between variants in the human melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene and red hair and fair skin, as well as the relation between variants of this gene and coat color in animals, suggests that the MC1R is an integral control point in the normal pigmentation phenotype. In order to further define the contribution of MC1R variants to pigmentation in a normal population, we have looked for alterations in this gene in series of individuals from a general Irish population, in whom there is a preponderance of individuals with fair skin type. Seventy-five per cent contained a variant in the MC1R gene, with 30% containing two variants. The Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp, and Asp294His variants were significantly associated with red hair (p = 0.0015, p < 0.001, and p < 0.005, respectively). Importantly, no individuals harboring two of these three variants did not have red hair, although some red-haired individuals only showed one alteration. The same three variants were also over-represented in individuals with light skin type as assessed using a modified Fitzpatrick scale. Despite these associations many subjects with dark hair/darker skin type harbored MC1R variants, but there was no evidence of any particular association of variants with the darker phenotype. The Asp294His variant was similarly associated with red hair in a Dutch population, but was infrequent in red-headed subjects from Sweden. The Asp294His variant was also significantly associated with nonmelanoma skin cancer in a U.K. population. The results show that the Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp, and Asp294His variants are of key significance in determining the pigmentary phenotype and response to ultraviolet radiation, and suggest that in many cases the red-haired component and in some cases fair skin type are inherited as a Mendelian recessive.


Effect of Val92Met and Arg163Gln variants of the MC1R gene on freckles and solar lentigines in Japanese.

Short Communication

Pigment Cell Research. 20(2):140-143, April 2007.
Motokawa, Tomonori 1,*; Kato, Tomomi 1; Hashimoto, Yuki 2; Katagiri, Takayuki 1

Summary: Melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) is a highly polymorphic gene. The variety of the variants is dependent on the ethnic background of the individual. In Caucasians, specific variants, such as Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp, and Asp294His, are strongly associated with red hair, skin cancer and pigmented lesions. In Asians, there is no report so far indicating an association such as that observed in Caucasians. Here, we performed an association study on melanogenic phenotypes in 245 Japanese individuals. We focused on freckles and solar lentigines as melanogenic phenotypes. The 92Met allele and the 163Arg allele were positively associated with freckles and severe solar lentigines; the 163Gln allele showed a negative association. Those subjects who were homozygous for both the 92Met and 163Arg alleles had a highly elevated risk of developing freckles (OR: 7.92; 95% CI: 1.52-39.6) and severe solar lentigines (OR: 4.08; 95% CI: 1.34-13.1). Our study is the first report to show a clear association of MC1R variants on melanogenic phenotypes in Asians and also indicates the importance of Arg163Gln. In vitro studies by other groups demonstrated that Val92Met impaired MC1R function but Arg163Gln did not. Based on these in vitro studies, we believe that the result we observed for Val92Met could be attributed to impaired MC1R function, while, for Arg163Gln, other factors, e.g. effect of other loci, need to be considered.

Copyright (C) 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


The melanocortin-1-receptor gene is the major freckle gene

Maarten Bastiaens, Jeanette ter Huurne, Nelleke Gruis, Wilma Bergman, Rudi Westendorp1, Bert-Jan Vermeer and Jan-Nico Bouwes Bavinck+

Department of Dermatology and 1Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands

Received April 17, 2001; Revised and Accepted June 12, 2001.

Ephelides and solar lentigines are different types of pigmented skin lesions. Ephelides appear early in childhood and are associated with fair skin type and red hair. Solar lentigines appear with increasing age and are a sign of photodamage. Both lesions are strong risk indicators for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanocortin-1-receptor (MC1R) gene variants are also associated with fair skin, red hair and melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between MC1R gene variants, ephelides and solar lentigines. In a large case-control study, patients with melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer and subjects without a history of skin cancer were studied. In all participants, the presence of ephelides in childhood and solar lentigines by physical examination was assessed according to strict definitions. The entire coding sequence of the MC1R gene was analyzed by single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis followed by sequence analyses. Carriers of one or two MC1R gene variants had a 3- and 11-fold increased risk of developing ephelides, respectively (both P < 0.0001), whereas the risk of developing severe solar lentigines was increased 1.5- and 2-fold (P = 0.035 and P < 0.0001), respectively. These associations were independent of skin type and hair color, and were comparable in patients with and without a history of skin cancer. The population attributable risk for ephelides to MC1R gene variants was 60%, i.e. 60% of the ephelides in the population was caused by MC1R gene variants. A dosage effect was found between the degree of ephelides and the number of MC1R gene variants. As nearly all individuals with ephelides were carriers of at least one MC1R gene variant, our data suggest that MC1R gene variants are necessary to develop ephelides. The results of the study also suggest that MC1R gene variants play a role, although less important, in the development of solar lentigines.


Human melanocortin 1 receptor variants, receptor function and melanocyte response to UV radiation

M. Cathy Scott1, Kazumasa Wakamatsu2, Shosuke Ito2, Ana Luisa Kadekaro1, Nobuhiko Kobayashi3, Joanna Groden4, Renny Kavanagh1, Takako Takakuwa5, Victoria Virador6, Vincent J. Hearing6 and Zalfa A. Abdel-Malek1,*

Accepted 6 March 2002

Cutaneous pigmentation is determined by the amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin synthesized by epidermal melanocytes and is known to protect against sun-induced DNA damage. The synthesis of eumelanin is stimulated by the binding of -melanotropin (-melanocyte-stimulating hormone) to the functional melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) expressed on melanocytes. The human MC1R gene is highly polymorphic and certain allelic variants of the gene are associated with red hair phenotype, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The importance of the MC1R gene in determining skin cancer risk led us to examine the impact of specific polymorphisms in this gene on the responses of human melanocytes to -melanotropin and UV radiation. We compared the ability of human melanocyte cultures, each derived from a single donor, to respond to -melanotropin with dose-dependent stimulation of cAMP formation, tyrosinase activity and proliferation. In each of those cultures the MC1R gene was sequenced, and the eumelanin and pheomelanin contents were determined. Human melanocytes homozygous for Arg160Trp, heterozygous for Arg160Trp and Asp294His, or for Arg151Cys and Asp294His substitutions, but not melanocytes homozygous for Val92Met substitution, in the MC1R demonstrated a significantly reduced response to -melanotropin. Additionally, melanocytes with a non-functional MC1R demonstrated a pronounced increase in their sensitivity to the cytotoxic effect of UV radiation compared with melanocytes expressing functional MC1R. We conclude that loss-of-function mutations in the MC1R gene sensitize human melanocytes to the DNA damaging effects of UV radiation, which may increase skin cancer risk.


Evidence for Variable Selective Pressures at MC1R
References AbstractIt is widely assumed that genes that influence variation in skin and hair pigmentation are under selection. To date, the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is the only gene identified that explains substantial phenotypic variance in human pigmentation. Here we investigate MC1R polymorphism in several populations, for evidence of selection. We conclude that MC1R is under strong functional constraint in Africa, where any diversion from eumelanin production (black pigmentation) appears to be evolutionarily deleterious. Although many of the MC1R amino acid variants observed in non-African populations do affect MC1R function and contribute to high levels of MC1R diversity in Europeans, we found no evidence, in either the magnitude or the patterns of diversity, for its enhancement by selection; rather, our analyses show that levels of MC1R polymorphism simply reflect neutral expectations under relaxation of strong functional constraint outside Africa.

High polymorphism at the MC1R gene makes a major contribution to phenotypic diversity in Eurasian populations

Melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R), the receptor for alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, is polymorphic and plays an important role in producing two types of melanin, pheomelanin (red) and eumelanin (black), which are present in human skin and hair. In this study we examined the distribution of MC1R gene polymorphisms in several Eurasian populations. A total of 2591 subjects from 49 populations were included in the present investigation. The subjects were not selected for skin and hair colour and were collected randomly. 5 variants of the MC1R gene (Val60Leu, Val92Met, Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp and Arg163Gln) were tested using ARMS-PCR. Arg151Cys and Arg160Trp alleles, which are common in individuals with red hair and fair skin, were found at highest frequencies in British (AF=0.128 and 0.069, respectively) and Orkadian populations (AF=0.106 and 0.099, respectively), with a decreasing gradient in the populations of European Russia to Central Asia. Previously reported to be common in European populations with light fair skin and light brown hair, allele Val60Leu was identified with high frequency in some populations of the Middle East, Europe and Caucasus. Central Asian populations showed middle range frequencies. The Val92Met variant was found to have an allele frequency from 0.194 to 0.01 in the middle meridian of Eurasia, with a maximum in Central and South East Asian populations. Our data suggest an increasing gradient of Arg163Gln frequency from Europe (0.039) to South East Asia (0.66). As anticipated, our data showed low frequencies of all investigated variants in the populations of South India with dark skin and dark hair. These results indicate that polymorphisms of the MC1R contribute to determining skin and hair colour is one of the significant factor in the phenotypic diversity found in different Eurasian populations and are consistent with the widely held assumption that genes influencing phenotypic variation in human skin and hair pigmentation are probably subject to selection associated with latitude and sunlight.

‘Hobbit’ sized skulls found on Palau.

There’s been a recent discovery of some human skull, of a similar size to, but apparently not related to the Flores ‘Hobbits’.

It’s an interesting find, that’s well covered on anthropology.net, so I’m not going to do it myself, except in brief. Try National Geographic  for the whole article on the 3 to 4 ft tribe.

The more interesting thing about it is the accusations of mishandling and cultural insensitivity, as apparently not every living Palauan was personally consulted over the dig. It seems that the team did consult the local govt and get the relevant permits, and even had locals on the team. the remains are now in the Palauan museum. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s a storm in tea cup, brewed for the sole purpose of selling a few magazines.

The argument involving some people from National Geographic was the most interesting thing about all of this. The blog’s well worth a visit to the read the just comments. It tells you a lot about how journalists can distort facts to make a story sound dramatic.

I’m all for not digging up peoples grannies, and if it looked like these were related to modern Palauans I’d say the local chiefs were justified in griping. But considering the size of the remains, I think it’s pretty unlikely they were their ancestors…

Spirit Cave Man.


Spirit Cave man skull and reconstruction. 

By Frank X. Mullen
GRIMES POINT – Death came for the Spirit Cave Man 10,630 years ago amid waves of pain. His body rested in a shallow grave in a cave near Fallon, but not for eternity. Two Nevada archeologists found his partially-mummified body in 1940, but his antiquity was not known until tests were done in 1994.

Spirit Cave Man’s remains are now the focus of worldwide excitement and a national controversy. The man does not resemble American Indians, anthropologists say, and he may represent a population already established in North America when ancestors of the Indians arrived.

Some anthropologists want to study him further. Nevada Indian leaders want his remains reburied without further testing.

Both sides have presented evidence in the tug-of-war for the ancient remains. The Bureau of Land Management, steward of the federal land near Grimes Point where the remains were found, may make the decision on the future of the remains this summer.

Once Spirit Cave Man’s age was known, scientists studied the remains with X-rays and computer scans, built models of his head, analyzed his dried excrement, and studied the pollen and other materials found with the burial.

In a way, the researchers have partially recreated a Nevada lost to time. “This was a period when people all over the planet were adapting to the end of the Ice Age,” said Amy Dansie, an anthropologist who did some of the first work on the Spirit Cave remains.

“The mega-fauna (mammoths and other giant animals) died out 1,000 years before this culture existed,” Dansie said in a lecture at the museum last year.

“All over the world people were at the same stage of technology and civilization. Everyone was trying to adapt to a much different world.”

From what scientists have learned so far, the first Nevadans adapted to change as well as any people, at any time, anywhere on Earth.

The Spirit Cave Man opens a doorway into a time and a people formerly lost to history. That doorway will be closed forever if ancient remains like those found at Spirit Cave are reburied without study, some anthropologists argue.

Here’s a look through that doorway in time, based on museum reports, lectures and interviews with scientists who have studied the Spirit Cave Man mummy:

The cave man’s world

He was about 45 years old and was probably an elder of his people. His name never will be known, but what scientists have learned about him indicates a hard life and a painful death among people who cared for him.

Spirit Cave man and his clan lived in a marsh at the edges of a receding lake – later to be known as Lake Lahonthan. The lake once stretched across what was to become northwest Nevada. Cattails and bulrushes reached overhead. The water was alive with fish and insects.

The people made use of all the things in their world. They caught fish in nets, harvested edible plants and used stone points to hunt animals. Like most ancient people, they probably believed spirits were all around them, but their beliefs have been lost to time.

They lived in a snapshot of time before written history. The great lake left after the last Ice Age was shrinking. The Great Basin was turning into a desert. Sagebrush mingled with Indian hemp near the people’s camp. The clan lived near a marsh that was moving steadily northward as water evaporated and the climate became warmer and dryer.

This the last era when most of the people of the world were on an equal footing. It was a time before widespread farming and cities and writing. The first step-pyramids of Egypt were 6,000 years in the future. The massive stone monuments of Europe would not be raised for another 4,000 years.

These first Nevadans were Stone Age people, but their weaving was as functional and beautiful as any ever made. They knew each plant and animal in a way modern people can never experience. Yet, for some, it was not a peaceful life.

Spirit Cave Man had a skull fracture from a blow to the head. The break stretched from the left front of his skull to behind his left ear. Two fractures spread out from a circular indentation in his skull, as though he had been hit with a blunt object, like a club or a rounded stone. The head fractures, more than a year old, had partially healed, but he had other medical problems.

His right hand had been broken in two places but had healed. His spine was malformed since birth, leading to conditions and injuries that probably gave him considerable lower back pain. He suffered from frequent dental abscesses, which left jagged edges on his jawbones.

Shortly before he died, three teeth were badly infected. The abscesses drained through an open sore in his cheek. The infection surged through his bloodstream. Fever raged through him. He was dying.

His people cared for him. Shortly before his death they fed him small chub and sucker fish, probably boiled and mashed. It was his last meal. The day he ate it, Spirit Cave Man’s life ended.

His clan members carried his body up an incline from their camp in the marsh. They went to a hillside where shallow caves – most no more than rock shelters – dotted the face of the hillsides. The hollows were dug by the wave action of the giant lake thousands of years before. Then, as now, the roofs and sides of the caves were coated in white tufa, calcium carbonate from the lake’s water.

The people dug a shallow grave and placed their clan member within it. He was lain on his right side with his hand resting beneath his chin. The people wrapped the dead man’s body in a rabbit fur blanket and covered his head with a diamond-plaited mat. It was not a special new mat for a funeral. It showed signs of wear where people – perhaps the dead man himself – had sat and reclined upon it. It, like the other artifacts buried with the man, was a thing of daily use.

The dead man’s moccasins, with tough leather soles and marmot hide tops, remained on his feet. One moccasin had been patched, heel and toe, with antelope hide after long use. Tule reeds inside the moccasins served as socks.

The people covered him with sand and rocks and left him for the ages in a cave where other human remains also would be found. It is not known if the people believed his spirit would go on to an afterlife, but they could not have imagined the kind of resurrection in store for him more than ten millennia after his death. The Discovery

Spirit Cave Man’s clan enjoyed their moist, green world for a brief snapshot in time. The marsh shrank year by year and desert took its place. Many generations later, the Great Basin would become even more inhospitable. About 7,000 to 4,500 years ago a great drought held the basin in its parched grasp.

Yet, people still lived in what was to be called Nevada. By the time the first non-Indian invaders crossed the Great Basin in the early 1800s, the people who wandered the desert and lived around the lakes, marshes and the rivers were well established.

The Numu, as the Paiute people called themselves, lived in the western, southern and central parts of Nevada. The Wa-she-shu, or Washoe people lived in the Sierra Nevada and the valleys to the east of the mountains. The Newe, or Western Shoshone people, lived in what would become western Nevada.

Throughout the basin were the remnants of cultures long vanished. In the caves and other hidden places were artifacts of the ancient ones. The modern Indians said these things were the traces of their ancestors. Scientists began to gather evidence of these Nevadans of so long ago.

Could these Ainu-like remains be from the people that the Paiute people called the Si Te Cah?

According to Paiute oral history, the Si-Te-Cah are a legendary race whose mummified remains were discovered (under 4 feet of guano) by guano farmers in what is now known as “Lovelock Cave” in Lovelock, Nevada. Although the cave had been mined since 1911, it was not until 1924 when miners notified authorities. An archeological excavation ensued producing 10,000 artifacts. “Si-Te-Cah” literally means “tule-eaters” in the language of the Paiute Indians. Tule is a fibruous water plant. In order to escape harassment from the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cahs lived on rafts made of tule on the lake.

According to the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cah were a hostile and warlike race who practiced cannibalism. The Si-Te-Cah and the Paiutes were at war, and after a long struggle a coalition of tribes trapped the remaining Si-Te-Cah in Lovelock Cave. When they refused to come out, the Indians piled brush before the cave mouth and set it aflame. The Si-Te-Cah were annihilated. She does not say that there were giants and there are no legends that there were giants. Stories on the web that the Paiutes built a pyramid are possibily confusion caused by the existence of the Pyramid Lake Paiutes and the Stone Mother Legend

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, related many stories about the Si-Te-Cah in her book Life Among the Paiutes. “My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called a mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family.