Current Pre-History and Ancient History Conjectures

This page is a summary of my more notable conjectures and hypotheses regarding unresolved issues related to pre-history and ancient history.

West Eurasia

* The Anatolian languages arrived in Anatolia from the European steppe around the 2000 BCE time that marked the expansion of Indo-European elsewhere. This hypothesis is contrary to the conventional linguistic wisdom that these were among the first Indo-European languages to split from early proto-Indo-European and arrived in Anatolia closer to 4000 BCE.

The Anatolian languages are distinctive, relative to other Indo-European languages, not because it has greater time depth as many linguists presume, but because the substrate Hattic language family languages where the Anatolian languages emerged was very different from the family of languages derived from the first Anatolian farmers of Europe (the LBK and Cardial Pottery waves of the first farmers of Europe both spoke languages belonging to this language family, although probably different languages)  and because the relatively advanced state of the civilization the proto-Anatolian people from the steppe allowed it to have a greater substrate influence.

The progenitors of the first farmers of Europe were predominantly Anatolian first farmers in ancestry who absorbed some neighboring early farmer and European hunter-gatherer admixture and technologies during the course of their expansion. 

These Neolithic Anatolians were conquered in the Eneolithic (i.e. Copper Age) or early Bronze Age by the Hattic people whose origins were in the highlands that extend from the Caucasus mountains to the Zargos mountains and who have substantial Iranian Neolithic ancestry (which in turn was derived, mostly in situ from people with Caucasian hunter-gatherer ancestry). Hattic more or less completely replaced the language of the first farmers of Europe in Anatolia, as these metal age people were vastly technologically superior to the Neolithic people that they conquered.

Hattic, Minoan, most of the Caucasian languages, Elamite, Kassite and Sumerian were part of a macro-language family (which may also have included, but didn't necessarily include, the Harappan language). For convenience, I sometimes call this macro-language family "greater Sumerian". Most languages in the Greater Sumerian language family are ergative and they are phonetically quite different from Indo-European, Uralic and Afro-Asiatic languages.

In the Indo-European languages of Europe, substrate influences are often missed, because all of them share a common Anatolian farmer language family substrate. Also, substrate influences are also modest in these languages because the Bronze Age Indo-Europeans were so dominant relative to the Neolithic people derived from the first farmers of Europe who were in a state of civilizational collapse due to the 4.2 kilo-year climate event which created conditions to which Indo-Europeans who had horses, bronze and other technologies, and different governance norms, were better adapted.

* Cremation is a decent litmus test for Indo-European linguistic affiliation and a transition from inhumation to cremation is good hint that language and religion shift are in progress.

* The Dravidian languages arose from the expansion of a South Indian Neolithic population ca. 2500 BCE, in a region previously dominated by terrestrial hunter-gathers whose best modern proxy are the uncontacted peoples of the Andaman Islands.

The Dravidian languages are unrelated to the Harappan language, the Munda languages, the Sino-Tibetan languages, or the Indo-European languages. They are also probably not related to the Greater Sumerian languages like Elamite, although that is less certain.

Key crops in the South Indian Neolithic were domesticated in the African Sahel which has a similar climate. There was probably significant linguistic and cultural influence from the same place that the crops were domesticated. In particularly, there are similarities that should not be dismissed between Niger-Congo languages that are greatly simplified due to language learner effects at the fringe of their range (like Swahili), and Dravidian. Any demic impact on South Asia was probably male dominated and highly diluted over multiple generations of marriage with local women, leaving Y-DNA T as the most likely trace. This could be associated with a maritime trading bridge population between South India and the African Sahel possibly in the vicinities of Egypt, the Persian Gulf, Yemen or Somalia that have significant amounts of Y-DNA T today and make sense as a possible bridge population. This appears to radiate from a point midway north to south along the eastern coast of the Deccan Peninsula which is close to the linguistic urheimat of the Dravidian languages.

* The Dravidian languages seem much less diverse than a South Indian Neolithic time depth would naively imply. What probably happened is that the Indo-Aryans (i.e. Sanskrit derived language speakers) spread their language and Hinduism to almost all of India, except one small relict region, rendering all dialects of Dravidian languages but one extinct or moribund. The range of the modern Dravidian languages reflects the subsequent reconquest of most but not all of the former range of the Dravidian languages which once extended into Southern Pakistan. The Dravidian language of the reconquest population is the most recent common ancestor of all extant or attested Dravidian languages today, which is why it has less time depth. This analysis is supported by the linkage disequilibrium based admixture dates in different populations in India. 

The Brahui, however, are not within the historic range of the Dravidian languages and arose from an elite dominance based language shift of local Iranian farmers.

* The Hindu religion, like all pagan religions derived from Indo-European culture, shares common Indo-European roots with polytheistic cultures of Europe (e.g. Norse, Greek and Roman gods) that are mostly Indo-European in origin. But, it is more distinct, because at the time of Indo-European conquest, the remnants of the Harappan society were more advance and hence had more cultural impact (retaining more of its own contributions) than other societies into whose range Indo-Europeans moved.

* The Yamanya people of the steppe are Y-DNA R1b dominated are probably the ancestors of the Bell Beaker people.

* The Corded Ware people of the steppe somewhat to the North, are Y-DNA R1a dominated.

* I think it is likely that the Yamanya people and the Corded Ware people spoke different languages. At one point I suspected that while the Corded Ware people were Indo-European linguistically, that the Yamanya people and the Bell Beaker people spoke a non-Indo-European language in the same language family as Basque, with these people not speaking Indo-European languages until Celtic languages expanded sometime after Bronze Age collapse ca. 1200 BCE.

I now think that while this possibility is not ruled out by the available evidence to nearly the certainty that is often claimed, that the Yamanya and Bell Beaker people did speak Indo-European languages, although not the same exact language as the Corded Ware derived people.

It is highly unlikely that Basque is a language of Iberian hunter-gatherers. It is more likely to be either a first farmer language in the Anatolian Neolithic language family, or an Eneolithic culture language, possibly in the same family as Hattic and Minoan. I lean towards the latter possibility.

* The legendary history account of Atlantis via Plato probably has some basis in reality, although not all that fantastic. The two most likely real life sources for this piece of legendary history are Santorini (Thera) in the Aegean sea, or Tartessos, on the Atlantic coast of Iberia (probably more likely). The language of the latter (now extinct) is probably in the same language family as Basque

* There is a good likelihood that Basque is part of the Greater Sumerian language family that I have proposed.


* The ethnogenesis of the Berber people of North Africa probably coincides with the domestication of the camel.

* Y-DNA R1b-V88 derives from a male dominated group of cow herding migrants near Moldova who traveled down the Nile, took wives in what is now Sudan or Ethiopia who spoke Cushitic languages, and then migrated with their wives to the source of the White Nile River crossing into the Lake Chad basin and forming the core of the Chadic language and people at a very specific time in the late 6th millenium BCE.

* There were at least one or two archaic hominin species that admixed with modern humans in sub-Saharan Africa that are not Neanderthals or Denisovans on at least two different occasions, but we know them only as ghost populations from genetics at this point. 

East Eurasia

* Japanese and Korean are probably sister languages of a common language family.

The Americas

* The modern Eskimo-Inuit languages are probably part of the same language family as the Uralic languages.

* The Na-Dene language are probably part of the same language family as Yenesian.

* The languages of most Northern Native Americans (a term of art) are probably related to the Chukotko-Kamchatkan-Nikh language family, which derives from a founding population that would have arrived in North America from Northeast Asia a few thousand years after the founding population of Southern Native Americans with which there was subsequently significant admixture. The effective population size of both of these founding populations was probably quite small (in the low hundreds each). The time depth of the languages of Southern Native Americans is too great to reconstruct and could be either Paleolithic East Asian or Paleolithic Siberian of some kind.

* The Paleo-Asian DNA present at small percentages in a few tribes in the headlands of the Amazon and absent everywhere else is probably the legacy of one or two nuclear families in the founding population of Southern Native Americans, who, possibly through their descendants, travelled with the vanguard of modern human expansion into the Americas by a Pacific coast route until they travelled to the source of a river draining to the Mediterranean, over the continental divide with the Amazon, and ended their travels.

Archaic Admixture and Species

* There are measurable small percentages of Neanderthal DNA in non-African modern humans. But there is no Neanderthal Y-DNA or mtDNA in modern humans. Why?

First generation Neanderthal hybrids where the children of modern human mothers who lived in modern human tribes and Neanderthal men who lived in Neanderthal tribes but may have had short lived relationships with (or raped) modern human women. Haldane's law meant that all of the fertile offspring of these unions were girls raised in modern human tribes, so no Neanderthal Y-DNA was passed on. These hybrid girls had modern human mtDNA from their mothers. There were also unions on a similar basis between modern human men and Neanderthal women who lived in Neanderthal tribes that also produced only hybrid girls with Neanderthal mtDNA. But their descendants, with much diluted modern human ancestry, went extinct with the other Neanderthals in their tribes.

The narrative also supports the classification of Neanderthals as a separate species of hominins rather than as a subspecies of Homo sapiens.

Some Cro-Magnon modern humans in Europe may have had more Neanderthal ancestry than people alive today, but those people died off in the Last Glacial Maximum (ca. 20,000) or were diluted into unrecognizable elevated proportions by post-LGM migrants to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean who were not extra enriched for Neanderthal DNA.

* The timing of modern human arrival in Australia and Papua New Guinea was dictated by the Toba eruption. Before this time, jungles and a local archaic hominin population made the way beyond Indian unpassable. But the eruption destroyed the jungle in that region of Southeast Asia and decimated the archaic hominins by destroying their habitat, clearing the way for this modern human migration which somewhere en route included interactions with Denisovans giving rise to hybrid individuals. But this interaction led to the near extinction of Denisovans in most of Southeast Asia so Denisovan ancestry in later waves of modern humans was much more slight.

* The "hobbits" of Flores belong to the archaic species Homo habilis which is more primitive than Homo erectus rather than dwarf versions of them. Either modern humans or archaic humans with weak navigational skills caused their extinction to the west of the Wallace line and prevented later waves of modern humans from diluting Denisovan ancestry in Papuans and aboriginal Australians.


Guy said...

Hi Andrew,

Reading this for the 2nd time and the last sentence seems to lack coherence. "Either modern humans or archaic humans with weak navigational skills..."


andrew said...

What I'm saying is that either modern humans or archaic hominins wiped out other archaic hominins west of the Wallace line. But, because they sucked at boating, they didn't wipe out archaic hominins to the east of the Wallace line.