Saturday, December 15, 2018

Alternative Facts Strike The Scientific Establishment

Davidski at Eurogenes is more than a little appalled, and rightly so, that the seemingly reputable Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte linguistics research center in Germany, is still circulating in a flashy animated presentation, the claim that the Indo-European languages made their way to South Asia, Western Europe and Eastern Europe as separate spokes from a common Armenian hub, around 8000 years ago. 

This claim, as Davidski correctly points out with solid, published research support, is contrary to overwhelming evidence from modern and ancient DNA and historical accounts to place that this DNA evidence in a linguistic context.

At this point, it should be really hard for any legitimate peer reviewed publication to take a paper proposing that hypothesis since it really doesn't hold water. There are certainly some respects in which the orthodox paradigm in the field of Indo-European linguistic origins could be wrong. I even support some of those hypotheses myself. But, this is not one of them.

Honestly, it is a little hard to figure out why an institution like that could support a position that rings of a Trump-like belief in "alternative facts". But, inertia is a powerful thing and old scholars can be very slow to acknowledge that their old hypotheses have been obviously disproven.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ancient Iron Age DNA From Normandy Shows Continuity With The Bronze Age

The uniparental genetics of 39 people buried in a Celtic Iron Age cemetery in Normandy in what is now France, shows substantial continuity with the Bronze Age populations in the region. But, it is slightly shuffled by the exchange of people and genes up and down the Atlantic Coast of Europe from Spain to Great Britain.

This is in accord with numerous other genetic studies which collectively tend to show that in most of Europe, something approximating the modern population genetic mix was established in the Bronze Age.

How Did Our Species Emerge Within Africa?

This quite non-technical paper argues that a model that sees human origins as older than conventionally assumed, and as the product of population structure, and hybridization between structured branches within our species and with archaic hominins who were contemporaneous with them, in a process that may have extended from all of Africa to West Asia, explores lots of ideas and raises many questions, but reaches few conclusions. It is a good introduction to some of the leading questions in the field of pre-Out of Africa human origins.
We challenge the view that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved within a single population and/or region of Africa. The chronology and physical diversity of Pleistocene human fossils suggest that morphologically varied populations pertaining to the H. sapiens clade lived throughout Africa. Similarly, the African archaeological record demonstrates the polycentric origin and persistence of regionally distinct Pleistocene material culture in a variety of paleoecological settings. Genetic studies also indicate that present-day population structure within Africa extends to deep times, paralleling a paleoenvironmental record of shifting and fractured habitable zones. We argue that these fields support an emerging view of a highly structured African prehistory that should be considered in human evolutionary inferences, prompting new interpretations, questions, and interdisciplinary research directions.
Eleanor M.L. Scerri, et al., "Did Our Species Evolve in Subdivided Populations across Africa, and Why Does It Matter?" 33(8) Trends Ecol Evol. 582 (August 2018) (open access).