I call particular attention to a key post at Gene Expression that sheds light on Paleo-Asians from a 2014 paper and a collection of recent posts on the pre-history of the Balkans that have the potential to reshape the narratives of key moments in prehistory.
Gene Expression has several important recent posts related to the Paleo-Asian story, and Eurogenes has one as well.
Razib discusses the non-relatedness of people with a pygmy phenotype and other issues that come up in the PBS series "First Peoples" now available in part for streaming. This has great relevance to the issues related to Paleo-Asians.
His post on South Asian population structure and here with an expansion to East Asians, and to Southeast Asians and the South Chinese adds only a little that is mostly background. His posts about the pre-European colonial cultural formation of South Asia, however, is golden. Discussion of cultural and genetic Japanese ethnogenesis with few major new insights but a nice recap here.
Razib's Paleo-Asian paper post is here.
But, the really seminal paper that he discusses and I need to discuss more, looks at the pattern of Negrito and Austro-Asiatic dispersal in Southeast Asia (the mostly stops at the Wallace line) and argues for an Ancestral Southeast Asian component, perhaps a paraphyllic group to the Phillipino Negrito that really isn't Austro-Melanesian. This is a big deal in interpreting Denisovan ancestry and in making sense of the early layers of Asian migration. Before this, there really wasn't much solid data on Paleo-Asian ancestry in Asia on the west side of the Wallace line, and wasn't the level of detail on the various split branches of first wave Asian migration.
Denisovan ancestry is a smoking gun to show that the Australian-Papuan wave of migration into Southeast Asia, which has it, while it is absent from populations attributable to later waves, was the first modern human wave there. But, just when the key later waves were will take more work to parse. The termination of Negrito ancestry in Indonesia (which is a small part there and mostly proportionate to Austro-Asiatic ancestry which terminates more or less in the same place) points to a pre-LGM wave of that population's arrival in island Southeast Asia. It is hard to know in Andaman Onge ancestry, which is close to a pure type for Ancestral South Indian, is connected to Negrito or to Australian-Papuan ancestry, although it is clearly distinct from Austro-Asiatic which is found in the Nicobarese. There are also interesting questions about the pathway of mtDNA N - was it a Northern route, or a Southern one, and when?
Eugogenes adds to the discussion with a post on a cranial analysis study from a large Holocene skull data set, and also notes a paper on South Asian/Central Asian genetics. A good counterpoint to the cranial study which ignores genetic evidence and archaeology to reach conclusions that its data are inherently ill equipped to provide (because they are mostly Holocene, which is too late in the game to answer the questions it sees to answer), is a recent review paper evaluating the evidence on different possible theories of modern human expansion beyond Africa that looks at a larger body of evidence and keep an open mind on a variety of scenarios that aren't inconsistent with that data. This question is ripe for reconsideration now, because archaeological evidence makes clear that modern humans had left Africa by 100,000 years ago, yet the defining Y-DNA, mtDNA and to the extent possible, autosomal estimates of the age of the non-African population's most recent common ancestor is more like 60,000-80,000 years ago or less. This makes consideration of less parsimonious and complex models necessary to fit the data.
I also want to explore at more depth the legendary history of pygmy-like people in many cultures which I noted in my Paleo-Asians II blog post. My attitude towards legendary history is that while it shouldn't be taken as true at face value that it shouldn't be ignored either because it often contains seeds of truth. I'll repost quotes here from the source, before I lose them, so it is easier to think about the ideas without clicking back and forth (useless comments omitted):
The Polynesians – especially the Hawaiians have Myths and Legends about the Menehune (also referred to as Manahune) who are short dark skinned people (Negrito – Negrito like people).
Even the ‘aboriginal’ Taiwanese (especially the Saisyiat and the Paiwan tribes) have myths and legends about short dark skinned people (Negrito) living side by side untill recent history. The aboriginal Saisyiat called them ‘Ta’ay’ and they hold ceremonies to commemorate the Ta’ay (short black people) in a festival called ‘Pasta’ay’.
Taiwan is said to be the homeland of ‘Austronesians’ who are the ancestors of Polynesians. Some Negrito’s (or perhaps mixed Negrito’s and aboriginal Taiwanese) have sailed the Kuroshio current and reached the Aleutian Islands from where they spread to the west-coast of mainland North America.
July 29, 2015 at 5:00 am
Perhaps you’re right about paddling; but we don’t know who (and how) migrated to Mainland North America (MNA) first.
The Saisiyat (Taiwanese aborigines) say the Ta’ai (short dark skinned people / Negrito) were living in the same land – territory.
If the Ta’ai (unmixed DNA) migrated to MNA first between 25.000 – 10.000 years ago; than yes they would have paddled their canoes (if they had such skills).
If the Ta’ai (Either unmixed or admixed DNA) migrated to MNA later after 10.000 (between 6.000 – 4000 years ago = the Austronesian expension into the Pacific) years ago; there’s a chance they sailed along with Austronesians (Taiwanese aborigines) who would have superior canoes and canoe skills.
The Ainu aborigines on the islands of Hokkaido (Northern Japan) also have Myths / Legends (traditions) of an ancient race of short (little) people.
They call them ‘Koropokkuru’ also spelled as: Kor-pok-un-kur, Koro-pok-guru and Koro Pokunguru.
They are also sometimes referred to as Tsuchigumo.
Taking into account that the DNA research on the origins and migration to mainland America also states that some Amerindians are linked to Mamanwa (Philippines Negrito); you can see an upward migration from south to north; in other words; atleast from the Philippines to Taiwan towards Japan (Hokkaido island).
This would in my opinion make the Kuroshio current migration-route more plausible atleast for the Negrito DNA link.
The Polynesians (Hawaiians – Tahitians) have myths and legends about short dark skinned people they call Menehune (also Manahune).
The aboriginal Taiwanese (especially the Saisiyat also spelled Saisiat and Paiwan tribes) have myths and legends about short dark skinned people they call Ta’ay also spelled Ta’ai.
The Saisiyat tribe have ceremonies commemorating the short dark skinned people (Ta’ai) in a festival they call Pasta’ai.
The aboriginal Taiwanese are referred to as Austronesians and are beliefed to be the ancestors of the Polynesians.
The Ta’ai (unmixed or mixed with Austronesians) could have sailed along the Kuroshio current made a landfall on the Aleutian islands before sailing to the west coast of mainland North America.
July 28, 2015 at 3:44 am
In this article posted on July 22, 2015 – at dna-explained.com; it states that Aleutian islanders, Surui (Brazil) and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans.
The Athabascan natives live directly east of the Aleutian islands / region. Their neighbouring natives (nations) Cree, Ojibwa / Chippewa, Algonquian (Anishinaabe) have myths and legends of little (short) people.
Little (short) people – Nation Myths – Legends
Menegishi – Cree
Memegwesi – Anishinaabe
Pa’iins – Anishinaabe
Menehune – Hawai’i
Manahune – Tahiti
Ta’ai – Taiwan (Saisiyat / Saisiat tribe)
Were those Little (Short) People actually Negrito (Negrito like people)?
Maybe it’s too far fetched; yet one could see the resemblance in names these nations (natives / tribes) give these mythical / legendary little people.
July 28, 2015 at 2:52 pm
The natives around here call them “stick Indians”. They can’t talk just in whistles but can mimic speech to lure unsuspecting children. They can’t hunt properly preferring to scavange along the tide line, pick berries, or will take food offered if you whistle they assume you are offering. They are small of stature and called stick indians because they can’t make proper stone tools.
July 29, 2015 at 6:22 am
I have found this ‘unconfirmed’ story on the so called “Stick Indians” at Wikipedia.
Native American beliefs in “Little People”
Stories and religious beliefs about “Little People” are common to many if not most Native American tribes in the West. Some tribes (such as the Umatilla of Oregon) referred to them as the “Stick Indians,” while the Nez Perce called them Itśte-ya-ha.
In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition stayed for a time with a band of Wičhíyena Sioux on the Vermillion River in modern-day South Dakota. On August 25, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and 10 other men traveled about 9 miles (14 km) north of the river’s junction with the Missouri River to see the “mountain of the Little People”. Lewis wrote in his journal that the Little People were “deavals” (devils) with very large heads, about 18 inches (46 cm) high, and very alert to any intrusions into their territory.
The Sioux said that the devils carried sharp arrows which could strike at a very long distance, and that they killed anyone who approached their mound. The Little People so terrified the local population, Lewis reported, that the Maha (Omaha), Ottoes (Otoe), and Sioux would not go near the place.
The Lakota people who came to live near the “Spirit Mound” after the Wičhíyena Sioux have a story no more than 250 years old which describes how a band of 350 warriors came near the mound late at night and were nearly wiped out by the ferocious Little People (the survivors were crippled for life).
If this story is found to be true; it implies that the “Stick Indians” were very well capable of making proper tools.
The story in question reminds me of the Sentinel islanders in the Andaman islands.
Sentinel island is situated directly west of Great Andaman island and north west of Little Andaman island (Little Andaman is where the Onge Negrito live).
The Sentinelese islanders have always fended off outsiders by shooting arrows (and throwing spears).
There even was a case in 2006; where Sentinelese islanders killed two fishermen.
July 29, 2015 at 10:01 am
That’s a thousand miles to the east. Around here they are not quite so fierce more like leprechauns than ‘devils’. They mostly throw rocks if they are angry and then from behind. The people I have talked to who have encountered them (yes it still happens) report being struck with something like a small pebble or such usually in the ankle region or back of the lower leg.
July 29, 2015 at 10:05 am
I suspect it is stories about an earlier population that were mostly coastal gatherers that lived in small bands.
July 30, 2015 at 3:31 am
You are right about the Little People (LP) the Wičhíyena Sioux are referring to is 1000 miles to the east.
That doesn’t mean the LP (Stick Indians) on the westcoast aren’t related to the LP inland to the east.
If the natives can migrate 1000 miles inland; why can’t a Negrito-like people do the same?
Than there’s the difference between the westcoast LP and the inland LP.
Just like modern humans there are some who are peaceful and there are some who are warlike.
The westcoast (western) LP can be considered peaceful and the inland (eastern) LP can be considred warlike.
Another example is from the Andaman islands. There are 4 Negrito tribes living on the Andaman islands:
1. Great Andamanese
The first three Negrito tribes are peaceful and live side by side with the newcomers which are the Indians (mainland south asians). The latter fourth Negrito tribe ‘Sentinelese’ is warlike.
July 30, 2015 at 5:40 am
I’m not sure that describing the Sentinelese as “warlike” is very accurate. I don’t believe that they raid any of the other people in the Andaman Islands and I don’t think much is known about whether there is a lot of internal conflict on the island.
They kill outsiders who venture too close but this is a very wise precaution on their part considering how vulnerable they probably are to contact with outsiders and all their diseases.
July 30, 2015 at 10:45 am
Very true. If there was a Melanesian/ Australoid population there is no reason at all to assume they were all alike anymore than all the tribes were alike when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
The Aurignacian culture of the Cro-Magnons, the first modern humans in Europe was to a great extent a false start, in Razib's view. I think he overstates that case relative to post-LGM (Last Glacial Maximum ca. 20 kya) modern humans, although there have clearly been multiple large contributions to European population genetics since then - in the Mesolithic (the biggest waves being after the LGM and before the Neolithic, in the Neolthic, in the Copper Age/Early Bronze Age). Also here. A There is ancient DNA from a Cro-Magnon whose ancestors admixed with Neanderthals just 200 years before he died providing excellent date calibration of this event.
English origins discussed here and here. There were no huge surprises. English is very homogeneous, although recent prehistory can be reconstructed to some extent and some historical debates about population replacement when the Anglo-Saxons and others arrived can be put on firmer foundations.
Analysis of Indo-European origins and a tentative realization that "whites" as we know them didn't exist until recently (i.e. 5kya). There is more discussion of the European phenotype and parallel "white-like" phenotypes that aren't genetically that similar like the Kalash (also this Kalash post), and the modern East Asian phenotype, with the conjecture that they could be adaptions to a common disease threat as a possible explanation (I suggest TB in the comments). Eurogenes recaps the case against the Anatolian hypothesis, provides some conference abstracts on Indo-European origins (see also here), an important paper on Armenia origins, a post on Tarim Basin genetics, some unimpressive papers on Northeast European origins also here.* Aside from the recent origins of "white", there are no real paradigm shifting developments here for me.
* (This second paper, by a group of Chinese authors, gets some deserved criticism by the Eurogenes blog proprietor for an inaccurate statement that the Finns and Russians get their ancestral East Eurasian ancestry from the Mongolians, even though neither reality, nor the body text of the paper in any way support this conclusion. It isn't uncommon for these kinds of papers to dig right into the statistical analysis of the DNA dataset in a purely mathematical way without very deep analysis of the known historical context, anthropological descriptions of the groups sampled, or implications of the patterns that they saw in light of a serious examination of the prior literature or prevailing theories in the field about what we should expect. At first glance, it had looked like a simple English as a second language issue, but, upon reading the body text, it became clear that this particular study's discussion of the historical context was particularly shallow, inept and scattershot and that it was barely connected at all to the statistical discussion. This might be O.K. for an occasional amateur work in progress blog post interspersed with deeper posts, but it is really unimpressive for a published academic journal article. My kids could do better with a couple of hours in front of Wikipedia, and I would have given an undergraduate writing this paper a C- for this part of the assignment if I were a professor. Unfortunately, Chinese papers in this field in my experience seem to be particularly prone to being quant heavy and context and analysis poor. People who publish in the area of human archaeogenetics and population genetics really need to acknowledge that this is an interdisciplinary field that they need to master is all respects and need to have more self-respect when it comes to publishing their work. This discipline is ultimately about using numbers to understand people alive today and human history, not playing with databases for the sheer mathematical exercise of doing so.)
The first Anatolian ancient autosomal DNA from ca. 4700 BCE (pre-Early Bronze Age, post-Neolithic) and some less ancient Anatolian mtDNA. A comment to a post at Eurogenes provides more of a teaser to a major forthcoming Anatolian ancient DNA release:
Genome-wide data on 34 ancient Anatolians identifies the founding population of the European Neolithic. I. Lazaridis, D. Fernandes, N. Rohland, S. Mallick, K. Stewardson, S. Alpaslan, N. Patterson, R. Pinhasi*, D. Reich*.The reference to "EEF" is to the population described in a previous paper for which Reich was an author as "Early European Farmer" and was Sardinian-like automsomal genetic component found, for example, in first wave Neolithic LBK farmers, particularly those closest to Anatolia. While this is plausible and not really surprising, if true, it would resolve an important historical question. EEF is basically itself a blend of a European Hunter-Gatherer component, and a "Basal European Farmer" component that is more Near Eastern Fertile Crescent-like.
So the rumours that they all look like EEF (like the Barcin sample) seem to be correct, but I guess it's restricted to early Neolithic samples (or up to Middle Neolithic).
It would have been plausible to think that the Anatolian Neolithic individuals would have been Basal European, since Anatolia is one of the places where the Neolithic crop package actually came into being in the first place, and that the European hunter-gatherer component was something assimilated into the migrating population of first wave farmers on the frontier once they left their Urheimat, perhaps by assimilating local hunter-gatherer wives, perhaps to cement peace deals with local tribes, much as early fur traders at Bent's Fort in Southern Colorado did before Colorado became a state in the early 1800s. But, if early Neolithic farmers in Anatolia are genetically more or less indistinguishable from first wave Neolithic farmers everywhere else in Europe who are quite similar to modern Sardinians (whose island isolation meant almost nobody lived there when they arrived and spared them the post-Neolithic demic impacts of later waves of migration to Europe), then the implication is that the ethnogenesis of the EEF population that integrated European hunter-gatherers and Fertile Crescent Basal European farmer populations (probably multiple such populations that exchanged brides from all over the Fertile Crescent given the mix of mtDNA haplogroups in the mix) happened in situ at the places where the first farmers of the Fertile Crescent Neolithic first domesticated their crops, and then had much less subsequent admixture with the European hunter-gatherers that they encountered in their migration than it would have been necessary to infer otherwise, given the similarity of a good chunk of their ancestry to the hunter-gatherers around them (who would have been more different in appearance and genotype as the Native Americans were from the first Europeans they encountered in the Americas despite having some overlapping ancestry).
It also suggests that this round of ancient DNA isn't going to shed much light on which localities contributed what to the final EEF melting pot that brought farming and herding to Europe for the first time. I am inclined to speculate that there were previously distinct population genetic populations in Mesopotamia, the adjacent West Asian highlands, South Central Anatolia, the Levant, and the Southeastern Balkans that all contributed to this final mix, based upon what we know about the places of origin of crops that were included in the original Fertile Crescent Neolithic package that was assembled by the time that the LBK culture and Cardial Pottery cultures migrated to Europe, and based upon the uniparental and autosomal components that are present in the final EEF mix. But, it looks like we're going to need ancient DNA going back before the first farmers of Anatolia to Mesolithic peoples and proto-farmers in the Fertile Crescent and the Balkans to unravel that question.
It also sounds as if the EEF first farmers of Anatolia didn't have the distinctive West Asian/Caucasian/Ancestral Northern European component that is found later in Anatolians particular in the East of Asia Minor. This in turn, tends to imply that this component arrived after the LBK and Cardial Pottery EEF peoples migrated away, which would most likely suggest that it was brought by the Hattic and Hurrian peoples of Anatolia from the Caucasus, present day Armenia, and highlands of West Asia, probably around the time of the Eneolithic era (i.e. Copper Age), that preceded the Early Bronze Age rise to prominence of the linguistically Indo-European Hittites. The Hattic and Hurrian and other Anatolian cultures that were present before the Indo-European speakers of Anatolian languages arrived probably spoke a language in the same language family of the Northwest Caucasian languages such as Circassian (something we can discern from attested examples of their languages in mostly liturgical sources from the Hittite and Akkadian Empires). FWIW, I suspect that Minoan is probably also part of the same language family as Hattic and Hurrian (i.e. Northwest Caucasian), based upon proximity and the way that the Minoan language sounds based on Egyptian phonetic transcriptions of some Minoan spells/prayers, and based upon what the Hattic language sounds like.
But, this ancient DNA, if as expected, makes it less likely that the probably common language family of the LBK and Cardial Pottery first farmers of Europe belonged to the Northwest Caucasian languages (and it has already been established elsewhere that they were very likely not Indo-European linguistically either). Given their contacts with the Mesopotamian and Levatine peoples, it could easily have been, for example, related to Sumerian, to early Semitic languages, or could have been something else entirely indigenous perhaps to the parts of Anatolia in the Fertile Crescent and as different from the Sumerian and Semitic languages as those languages are from each other. If none of the various cultures whose fusion of farming package components was clearly socio-economically superior to the other, there is no good reason that the Anatolians whose farmers are the ones who ultimately brought farming to Europe, would have felt the need to adopt the languages of their trade partners and rivals in the Fertile Crescent who probably didn't rule them.
As the reasoning above illustrates, pinning down this data point sometime soon and probably later this year, even if it may seem ho-hum on the surface, will turn out to be a pretty key lynch pin in understanding the overall, quite complex picture of early Neolithic and metal age prehistory and historical linguistics of Europe and the Near East with any kind of real confidence.
Maju has a post on an old monolith found underwater in Sicily. Abstract here. The 9350 BP Meoslithic date is remarkable for such an epic structure. There is also a major megalithic architectural work in Anatolia near the place where wheat was domesticated but built before that happened, and while Stone Henge in England was built after the Neolithic revolution arrived there, it was in regular use and improved upon during the near total reversion to hunting and gathering in England that happened when the first wave of farming there collapsed before a new wave of farming, roughly coinciding with the Bell Beaker people's arrival in England, restored farming and herding as the predominant means of subsistence again in England. So, certainly, hunters and gatherers are capable of erecting grand stone structures, but it is also the case that pre-Neolithic structures of these kinds were rare (and it could be that proto-farming of non-domesticated crops which was present in some places by then, or sedentary food production from fishing, or both, was necessary to make these monuments economically possible). There is also a new study on modern Y-DNA from Sicily.
The real seminal developments, however, involve a much clearer picture of what was going on in the Balkans during key phases of pre-history which have the potential to be paradigm shifting. The Balkans have largely been a blind spot in my knowledge of pre-history but may have played a role in bringing Bell Beaker culture to Western Europe, in providing a seed of Aegean and Anatolian Indo-Europeans, and may have also received Corded Ware impacts as it was on a borderline between the key regional areas of the Bronze Age. Some ancient Greek DNA results can help here as well. Corded Ware had a major impact in the Balkans. Corded Ware genetics are explored here. There are also reports that the Dolmenic megalithic culture was big in Montengro in the late Bell Beaker era (2400 BCE). Old European Culture has more details, and develops a fragile but credible line of evidence culturally connecting Irish prehistory to the Balkans. Both points are further explored here. There is a post tracing Racka sheep to Serbia. Understand the Balkan's prehistory and you are much further along in putting together a coherent narrative for Europe as a whole.
One other point that has been knocking around in my head is the Robin Hood myth. Canonically, it is an Iron Age English or later story. But the prominence of bowmen who are outsiders from and don't accept the legitimacy of the new ruler, is highly suggestive of Bell Beaker to Celtic transition in England. Could Robin Hood be a retread of an older myth from this era? Similar points can be made about the King Arthur myth. Was this story set in the time of pagan to Christian transition in Iron Age England a reappropriation of earlier material originally developed in connection with a prior transition such as the Bell Beaker to Celtic transition in England? Or was it purely a product of the Middle Ages as it purports to be a face value? Less ambitiously, could these myths reflect lingering Bell Beaker cultural influences from pre-Celtic times that the pagan Celtic peoples and the Romans may have not felt any great compulsion to purge from the local culture in favor of their own particular Indo-European cultural traditions (particularly when the Bell Beaker cultural influences were not necessary cast in a fully positive or respectable light - Merlin, identified with the pre-Christian old cultural regime of Celtic pagan England, is often portrayed as a somewhat sinister figure and Robin Hood for all his noble deeds was an out of power outlaw exiled to the forest).
The New World
Razib has a nice riff on Albion's Seed and its premise of long term region cultural continuity.
Gambler's House continues to try to understand Chaco culture and its larger context.
There was also a news report today on a possible archaeological trace of some of the refugees from the failed colony of Roanoke (a subject of one of my earliest posts at Wash Park Prophet), in a sound about 50 miles to the west of the island.
I'm not sure if I mentioned a new Y-DNA E paper with good analysis at Ethio Helix. There is a new Western Pygmy genetics paper. There is more data on Ugandan mtDNA, Sudanese mtDNA, and Ethiopian uniparental data.
THIS POST WAS SUBSTANTIALLY UPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS ON AUGUST 13, 2015.