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Leherensuge was replaced in October 2010 by two new blogs: For what they were... we are and For what we are... they will be. Check them out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Venezuela arrests Basque internationalist

In a still obscure incident, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) has arrested German-Basque internationalist activist Walter Wendelin at his arrival to Caracas.

Walter Wendelin, who has German nationality but is member of Basque internationalist movement Askapena (Freedom), arrived to Venezuela from Mexico, where he had taken part in the congress of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). According to Solidaridad Pueblo Vasco (Solidarity Basque People) his journey to Venezuela was meant to explain the new proposals of the Basque Nationalist Left.

Walter Wendelin

According to the Venezuelan Association of Friends of the Basque Country, Wendelin has not been allowed access to an attorney and has been filtered that "he will be returned to Spain", what they protest that make no sense because he has never been charged with any offense in the European kingdom.

A demonstration has been called for tomorrow at the consulate of Venezuela in Bilbao.

Sources: Askapena, Gara, La Haine, Hala Bedi Irratia (live).

This arbitrary arrest may be related to the pressure put by the Spanish regime upon Venezuela, with judges and media attacking the American republic on false grounds of collaboration with ETA and FARC.

PSUV leader resigns

In a mostly unrelated episode, Venezuela Analysis reports that the former vice-president of the ruling Socialist Unified Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Alberto Muller Rojas, has resigned from politics. His advanced age and delicate health partly explain the resignation but Muller also mentioned that in the last three months the revolutionary process in Venezuela has been wretched, "everything that is going on isn't healthy for the revolutionary process". He said that the PSUV is infiltrated by the bourgeoisie and that the government is turning away from internationalism and heading towards "petty bourgeois nationalism".

Alberto Muller said some time ago to Hugo Chávez that he sits on a scorpions' nest.

Four Peace Nobels press for peace negotiations in the Basque conflict

The Mandela Foundation and four Peace Nobel price winners from South Africa and Ireland are pushing for peace negotiations in the conflict that confronts Basque militants and the Spanish state.

The group, coordinated by Brian Currin, includes Desmond Tutu, Frederick de Clerk, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Betty Williams and Jonathan Powell, among others, including the Mandela Foundation. Currin presented yesterday at the European Parliament a proposal signed by 21 personalities, asking ETA to declare a cease-fire and the Spanish government to respond in accordance.

The declaration is available as video HERE (in English with Spanish subtitles) and as PDF text HERE.

Currin's presentation was backed by Flemish MEP Frieda Brepoels, who underlined that the Basque Nationalist Left has recently advocated in exclusive for non-violent peaceful means to achieve their goals. This was in turn emphasized by the South African facilitator, who declared that a document like Zutik Euskal Herria (Stand Basque Nation), recently backed by 270 grassroots assemblies of the Nationalist Left, is a clear message that they want a process that is irreversible.

Speaking as personal opinion, Currin answered journalists' questions, saying that Spain should guarantee that the Nationalist Left could run to elections and develop its activities normally and should also repatriate the Basque political prisoners. This would help a lot, he said.

Brepoels emphasized that the large group of personalities backing this document is a really impressive group and a demonstration that there is a lot of people who believes that this opportunity should not be missed.

Source: Gara.

My two cents: the Spanish conservatives prefer the war to continue.

This is of course an important advance and something that would not have surely happened unless there is already some sort of preliminary negotiations going on. The fact that, barring the inccident at Paris, ETA has not carried any attacks since summer 2009 and that the Basque Nationalist Left has carried on a participative process to approve a declaration seeking political means, declaration that was backed by ETA in a recent communication, indicate that there is clear political will in this camp.

What is less clear is what happens in the other camp: among the Spanish nationalist ranks, which has not made any conciliatory movement of any sort, rather the opposite.

And what is even more worrisome is that the Spanish conservatives (recycled fascists) are accusing the social-democrats of "connivence" with ETA in what is an obvious electoralist maneuver of the kind they style all the time. Even if the ruling PSOE would want (which is not clear at all) to get into some sort of negotiations, a petty division of this kind in the Spanish nationalist camp would probably ruin any chance of these advancing at all.

So if I'd have to bet, I'd bet for another failure, sincerely. However it's always worth a try.

See also: label: Basque politics.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Navarrese demand linguistic equality

Thousands of southern Navarrese demonstrated yesterday in Pamplona in demand of equal rights in access to education and services in the Basque language.

'Freedom to choose the Basque language'

A key issue is availability of public education in Basque language but they also demand the right to access TV in Basque and the legal possibility of expressing themselves in Basque language in everyday situations.

The artificial division of Navarre in three linguistic zones (Basque, mixed and non-Basque), which is designed to discriminate against Basque speakers has been often described as Napartheid and has been criticized by EU institutions (to no avail).

Source: Gara.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Statistical insignificance

I just stumbled on a pretty nice article highly critical of statistical tools in science or more exactly of how these are misused.

Tom Siegfried, Odds are it's wrong (at Science News).

Some quotes:

... there’s no logical basis for using a P value from a single study to draw any conclusion. If the chance of a fluke is less than 5 percent, two possible conclusions remain: There is a real effect, or the result is an improbable fluke.

... a study with a very large sample can detect “statistical significance” for a small effect that is meaningless in practical terms.

To infer the odds that a barking dog is hungry, for instance, it is not enough to know how often the dog barks when well-fed. You also need to know how often it eats — in order to calculate the prior probability of being hungry.

A good weekend read for the statistically fed up (P<0.0001).

Macro-haplogroup N in East Asia, Chen 2009

A reader has been so kind to send me a copy of this Chinese paper, which I have hanged at ZohoViewer:

Chen Zhiyong, Migration and Diversification of Mitochondrial Haplogroup N in EastAsians. Communication on Contemporary Anthropology 2009.

The paper is in Chinese (and can't find any English version) but has loads of nice and informative graphs and maps with legend in both languages about macro-haplogroup N and some of its derivatives, specially A and N9 (incl. Y).

As the saying goes: an image is worth more than a thousand words... specially if these are in a language you can't understand. Still, if any of you can read some Chinese and give some feedback, I'm of course interested.

Most importantly the paper seems to confirm a SE Asian origin for macro-haplogroup N. Specifically it suggests a SE Asia as probable origin:

Fig.2 A simplified Median-joining Network of haplogroup N based on mitochondrial HVS-1 Keys for the colors: Red for the Tonkin Bay area, Green for South China, Orange for North China, and Blue for Southeast Asia.

Fig. 4 The frequency distributions of unclassified N [top] and N*(16223) [bottom]

Another relevant finding is that haplogroup A seems to be also original (like nearly everything) from South China/SE Asia:

Fig.10 Diffusion of the mitochondrial proto-A haplogroup. Blue clines stand for the total frequency, and red clines stand for the mutation rate within the population.

Notice that "proto-A" seems to mean A* rather than some pre-A standing between the N and A nodes. That's what I gather from the phylogenetic context in other figures but if anyone can clarify further, I'll be thankful.

Finally as the genetics of SE Asia and in particular Island SE Asia have been recently matter of lengthy discussions in this blog, I think that this map on ISEA N9 (N9a and Y2) may be interesting:

Fig.28 Distributions of the mitochondrial haplogroups Y2 and N9a in Southeast Asia. Blue stands for Y2, and red for N9a6.

But anyhow, take a look at the paper even if you can't speak Chinese because there are a lot of maps and phylogenetic graphs, all of them of interest.

One thing they have in common though: the spread of all lineages seems to begin in South China/SE Asia.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Molecular clock and the Denisova hominin

Yesterday I echoed the sequencing of ancient mtDNA from a finger tip at Denisova cave in Altai, dated to c. 40,000 years ago, when the area was also populated by H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis.

I thought that would be about enough but as I read more and more discussions there seems to be some major confusion sparked by the use of molecular clock estimates, which the paper estimates in only 300-700 Ka for Neanderthal most recent common ancestor, hence producing a 1300-900 Ka estimate for the MRCA of us and the Denisova hominin, aka "X Woman". This, some say, calls for a major revision of the history of hominin migrations out of Africa because we know of no such migration.


The problem is caused by the use of a quick-ticking version of the molecular clock, because there's absolutely no archaeological reason to claim that Neanderthal and Sapiens MRCA is dated to only 700 Ka much less 300.

In fact the last migration out of Africa before H. sapiens we know of from the archaeological record is the Acheulean migration which is dated to c. 900,000 years ago. In my not so humble opinion, this is the real chronology of the divergence of Neanderthal and H. sapiens, a divergence that began most likely at the stage of H. ergaster.

Hence the Neanderthal-Sapiens MRCA must be an H. ergaster woman and should be dated to c. 900,000 or 1 million years ago.

That fixes all. Because, when we use this realistic reference, the MRCA of Denisova and the other hominins (Neanderthals and us) would have an age of 1.8 or 2 million years ago, which is precisely the time of the earliest H. erectus migration out of Africa.

So the Denisova hominin is, with all likelihood, an H. erectus or a descendant from this lineage (maybe by admixture with Neanderthals?) and everything fits nicely.

Everything but the short count molecular clock, which is obviously the one in need of a good fix, because it's demonstrating once and again that it only causes confusion and it always fails to fit well with the archaeological record.

Further anti-democratic reforms in Spain's law

The institutional two parties of Spain have agreed further reforms to the already outrageous Law of Political Parties that will make even more difficult that people with dissident opinions can run for political office in the European kingdom.

Particularly the new reforms would allow to:

1. Declare a party or list illegal already in the electoral campaign even if it fulfilled all the draconian ideological requirements to run.

2. Suspend elected representatives.

Source: Gara.

Spanish weakness and fear

The Basque Nationalist Left, which has recently insisted that they want to work democratically (originally , in the 1970s and 80s, they did not run but for local offices, considering all the rest of institutions illegitimate) has declared that it's nothing but weakness and fear to democratic confrontation what motivates these repressive laws.

Source: Gara.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Honduras: the Colombian way.

Five unionized teachers have been murdered in the last months in Honduras in what seems to be the Colombianization of the fascist regime in Honduras, sanctioned by the USA.

The last victim of the death squads has been José Manuel Flores Arguijo, who was shot on the back before his pupils while he taught at the High School San José del Pedregal, in Tegucigalpa.

(FNRP)He, like the rest of victims, was active member of the civic National People's Resistance Front and the teachers' union COPEMH.

A demonstration has been called in Tegucigalpa today to protest against the accoplice passivity of the undemocratic government.

Source: La Haine.

New paper on the Iruña-Veleia findings

Dr. Koenraad Van den Driessche has published a new report that addresses the authenticity of the
Iruña-Veleia findings from the viewpoint of the physical evidence. So far there had been only one such report (by Madariaga), which only studied a few samples and was rather inconclusive (the shards had been buried or artificially make to look old).

Luckily, once doubt was cast on the initial findings, the LURMEN team decided not clean any shard that had the slightest chance of having a text on it in the 2007 excavation campaign, allowing the evidence to remain intact, even if it hindered the research process.

Van den Driessche, a geologist, addresses both categories and denounces that this important part of the evidence was totally ignored by the committee set up by the provincial government (which, as I said before, let the archaeologists without the right of defense).

One of the many extraordinary findings

Conclusions (my translation):

1. The conclusion of the committee resulted from a scientific procedure that was intervened by the administration with irregularities.

2. The composition of the committee cannot be said to be independent: of the nine academic members, all are from the same university and seven from the same faculty. Some members have interests in the same "archaeology market" as the excavators of LURMEN.

3. The conclusions of the committee are based only on unilateral considerations on the cultural value of the graffiti. We cannot evaluate these conclusions but we find an aversion to the research of the material evidence. What is confirmed by the declarations of a member of the committee: "more laboratory research is the wrong way to go"*.
The arguments of the committee are almost exclusively arguments of authority, no falsifiable methodologies are provided. They did not apply statistical methods, something elementary in modern human sciences.

4. The only study of the physical evidence is the limited contribution of Mr. Madariaga, who researched only one kind of material and only in nine of the pieces. His only relevant conclusion is that the pieces were buried. We can say that the physical evidence of the exceptional findings have not been researched.

5. We notice in the methodology of the committee a total lack of research of the pieces as part of a set which may have an internal organization (coherence) or not. The existence of this internal coherence is in itself an important evidence for the falsehood - authenticity. The committee rather considers the set as a random one.

6. We have demonstrated the presence of different relevant physical evidence trough photographs that can give information on the time passed since the inscription. The main ones are:
  • Various kinds of adherences which are proof of a state of burial with a meaninful duration since the inscription.
  • Inscriptions on bone.
  • Inscriptions on bricks - before cooking or not?
7. From the preliminary study on the inscriptions on bone it is deduced that they were realized on fresh bone, that is: in a short time frame after the death of the animal.

8. One of the key probes to research the falsehood - authenticity is the chemical and sedimentological correspondence between pieces of the same stratigraphic unit.

9. The meaning in terms of time of the adherences mentioned in point 6 must be researched.
*This sentence was made by Prof. Joseba Lakarra, the linguist who triggered by means of academic rumorology all the institutional persecution, apparently for fear that his theories on Basque language could be deemed false on light of the new evidence.

The paper (PDF in Spanish) can be downloaded HERE (click on "descargar"). Additional photographic data is provided HERE.

Upper Paleolithic 'Greeks' built walls against cold

Some 23,000 years ago Europe was plunging into the
Last Glacial Maximum and, of course, it was cold, very cold. Even in sunny Greece, it seems.

So the inhabitants of a Thessalian cave, near the town of Kalambaka, invented masonry and built the first wall ever, not to protect them from any fleshed threat but from a much more insidious enemy: cold.

From Yahoo News, via Archaeology in Europe.

X Woman

Not any fictional character but the quite unoriginal name given to the former bearer of a finger found in Denisova Cave (Altai, Russia) whose mtDNA has been analyzed now by Krause et al. (Paabo's team).

The result known so far (via Mundo Neandertal and El Neandertal Tonto, Qué Timo!) is that she is almost twice more distant from us than H. neanderthalensis. The most logical conclusion is that, in spite of using Mousterian industry and being neighbor of both Neanderthals and H. sapiens, she belonged probably to a deeper branch of H. erectus.

However everybody seems to be asking for caution... and yet comparing with H. floresiensis.

J. Krause et al., The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia. Nature, 2010. Pay per view.

For the archaeological context, it's interesting to read: A.P. Derevianko and S.V. Markin, The Middle and Upper Paleolithic of the Altai. 1997 (PDF).

Other news articles and blog reviews:
- Science News
- Dienekes'

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

US agent behind the Mumbai attacks

Michael Chossudovsky already
said it more than a year ago: the Mumbai attacks were planned and executed by the USA intelligence services.

Now, with the arrest and trial of David Coleman Headley at Chicago, it seems that he was right. However as soon as light seemed to be thrown on the massacre, the evidence is being hidden under a mountain of secrecy.

That's what M.K. Bhadrakumar exposes at Asia Times Online: that Headley's plea bargain will allow the actual big terrorists behind him to escape unharmed, while he gets a low sentence and the real plot behind him, that surely involves the CIA, will be classified top secret. He won't be even extradited to India but judged in Chicago under a plea bargain that includes not naming the four liasons he had in Pakistan.

This, I understand, underlines the delicate geopolitical situation of India, trapped in the "great game" of two major enemies (the USA is no real ally nor is China of course) both allied with its main direct rival: Pakistan, in order to fulfill the divide et impera leit motiv of the imperialist policies in South, Central and West Asia.

Postcards from the Basque Coutry (Aralar)

Not all
postcards have to be about urban settings and political unrest. This one is most postcard-like than others, in fact.

What you see is not just a mountain but actually a former coral reef. No wonder that the ancients venerated the mountains as emblems of Divinity, so integrated they are with everything natural, like cloud formation and rain.

But also beyond what they could understand back then: like geology and paleo-ecology.

This is what María Isabel Millán has discovered in this iconic Basque mountain: that the coral reef on top of it shows sings of sudden collapse at the OAE1a event because of acidification caused by excess of CO2. Just as is happening today.

More at Science Daily.

New non-destructive C-14 dating method

Martin Rowe explained to the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society the new technique which does not require the destruction of anything. Instead the object to be analyzed is placed in a plasma chamber that "slowly and gently" oxidizes the carbon, producing carbon dioxide that can then be analyzed normally.

Source: Science Daily.

Are Colombian death squads spreading to Venezuela?

We all know by now (I presume) that Colombia is a narcostate controlled by the USA and the mafias, which are the same as the fascist organizations with a liberal pretext, so-called political parties, and the death squads, and that they kill almost everybody who dares to speak out or create grassroots organizations.

But what is new (at least for me) is that such mafioso fascist death squads operate also in Venezuela. Sadly it seems to be the case with several members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its Spanish acronym) being murdered in the last weeks in the state of Táchira, ruled by a right wing governor.

The first time I read about such murders, I did not pay too much attention (after all, so many sad and brutal things happen in this poor little planet we live in) but as I read of further murders (it's already three politicians I know that have been killed in that state) I began to wonder. So I went to Wikipedia to find out about the geographical location of Táchira, because I had the heartbeat that it was at the border of Colombia. Bingo!

So what do we have: two PSUV politicians killed in the same state bordering Colombia in the last week (Rosalba Molina and Jorge Enrique Medina) and yet another one (Junior Alexander Hermoso) on May 9th 2009. We have a right wing governor (César Pérez Vivas), a long border with hostile Colombia, an terrorist narcostate controlled by fascist mafias at the service of US imperialism.

Some months ago a "liberal" Venezuelan (former?) reader asked me somewhat sarcastically how would the attack against Venezuela happen. I did not have an answer then but now I have the strong feeling that this is how: infiltrating death squads from Colombia, with the support of a right wing governor, in order to de-stabilize the country in the eve of new elections.

Source for some of the data: Rebelión.

Monday, March 22, 2010

East Asian autosomal DNA (working note)

This is a highly simplified (approximate, tentative, very rough) geographical interpretation of
the HUGO consortium autosomal DNA clustering (paywall but someone hang it HERE - look at the details and not just this poor map, a mere working note, before assuming too many things, please), which produces five major components for East Asians and Melanesians at K=14. The rest are minority components (represented as circles) or South/West Asian ones (not shown here).

Continuous lines show the approximate areas with 50% or more of that component, dotted lines the areas (also approximate) with 20% or more.

Only three of the main components appear as majoritary in some populations: the yellow component, which reaches its highest frequency among Ryukyuans, the light green component which can be described as "Austronesian" but that is also important among Tai-Kadai and Southern Han and the dark green component, which is highest among Boungaville Melanesians and then in Eastern Lesser Sunda (Alor) and could be described as "Melanesian".

The red component is highest among Austroasiatic speakers, as well as Malaysian Malays, including Sea Dayaks (but not Proto-Malays nor Orang Asli), Javanese and Sundanese. The blue component is widespread among continental East Asian peoples (and Hymalayas) but shows no area nor ethnicity where is most concetrated.

Minor components (big dots) correspond to the Hmong-Mien (cyan, which share the blue and light green components too), the Mlabri (light purple, a tiny Austroasiatic hunter-gatherer group), Orang-Asli Negritos (dark red), Proto-Malay (purple-blue), Land Dayaks (grey here but white in the paper) and Filipino Negritos (dark purple).

Related posts:
- East Asians originated in SE Asia
- Indonesian Y-DNA is mostly Paleolithic
- Genetics of the Mlabri, Austroasiatic hunter-gatherers in Thailand

See also the supplementary materials: even more details!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New ETA communication

Basque guerrilla ETA has issued yet another communication. The full text in Basque, along with a synthesis in Spanish, can be read
at Gara.

Votes or bombs?

After denouncing the persistent and growing political repression by Spain, they argue that while the Basque Nationalist Left has clearly replied to the riddle "votes or bombs" by choosing votes and that it is now the Spanish state the one who must allow the people to speak democratically.

In this sense they declare that ETA is ready to do whatever is necessary for a democratic solution to be reached. However they ratify themselves into the defense of the rights of the Basque Country. "Until Freedom is achieved we won't give up!", they conclude.


ETA has not attacked in the last many many months (since August 2009), excepting the "accidental" (not planned) shooting last week at Paris, that got one gendarme killed. And it seems unlikely that this is because they can't. It's obviously some sort of informal, undeclared, unilateral truce. However arrests and dirty war by the states have not stopped, signal that Spain and France are not interested in talking.

Meanwhile, much as happened some ten years ago, diverse Basque independentist parties and organizations have been gathering forces. Many are opposed to violence and hence this informal truce may be rather directed to them than to the Spanish and French galleries.

However it is not totally impossible that there are some secret negotiations of some sort, however they must be, if any, very preliminary.

What fuels the conflict? Differences between the Spanish nationalist and Basque nationalist positions:

  1. Subject of sovereignity: is it "the Spanish people" or "the Basque people"? The latter, with barely 6% of the population has no chance whatsoever of imposing its will in the larger state, clearly dominated by the Castilian or Spanish ethnicity.
  2. Borders: is Navarre part of the Basque Country? The people of Navarre have not yet been asked on the matter, however the Spanish nationalist parties usually win the elections there.
  3. Language: the Spanish constitution imposes the Spanish (Castilian) language as obligatory to be known by every citizen, instead other languages like Basque are not and can only be used in official venues where it is regulated that way by lesser laws. For example, judges in the Basque Country do not need to speak Basque, while janitors usually must. In Navarre, the strange dissection of the territory, ensures that only in those areas where Basque is already dominant, the old language enjoys some minimal protection.
  4. Culture and education: which version of history should be taught to children one that emphasizes Spanish history or one that emphasizes Basque (and therefore Navarrese) history? Should the term Euskal Herria (Basque Country in the wide sense, a traditional term) be used or scrapped. Should the Basque banner be allowed or forbidden in Navarre? Which map should be used in weather forecasts? Have Western Basques the right to use the Navarrese symbols (after all they were once part of Navarre and only removed against their will)?
  5. Legislation and self-government: which should be the limits, if any, to Basque self-rule? Should judges be appointed by Spain or by Basque institutions? Should Spanish police and military be allowed to operate within the Basque borders without authorization of the Basque governments? Should Spanish laws apply at all in Basque territory? To which extent?
  6. Fascist inheritance: Spain has failed so far to review and amend the dark decades of fascist dictatorship, from which the current monarchy arose, granting the King and the Army the constitutional right to intervene in politics. Of the two major Spanish parties one, the Christian-Democrats, is not really different from the former Fascist party. The many crimes of the dictatorship have so far remained not just unpunished but also almost not investigated.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Postcards from the Basque Country

Some masked people threw down a trash container in a "day of struggle" at Vitoria-Gasteiz (they did not even set fire to it... what kind of "struggle" is that!) Police arrived at the scene and had all students at the nearby school retained for 40 minutes of school time, while they proceeded to identify them.

While some teachers protested in vain that the activists were none of their students, the directors of the center hid in their offices and let the police do.

And then they are surprised that police and hierarchies are so much hated by the Basque youth. An eye-opening experience for many of these young people I presume.

Source: La Haine.

Genetics of the Mlabri, Austroasiatic hunter-gatherers in Thailand

Shuhua Xu et al., Genetic evidence supports linguistic affinity of Mlabri -- a hunter-gatherer group in Thailand. BMC Genetics, 2010. Open access.
Abstract (provisional)


The Mlabri are a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers inhabiting the rural highlands of Thailand. Little is known about the origins of the Mlabri and linguistic evidence suggests that the present-day Mlabri language most likely arose from Tin, a Khmuic language in Austro-Asiatic language family. This study aims to examine whether the genetic affinity of the Mlabri is consistent with this linguistic relationship, and to further explore the origins of this enigmatic population.


We conducted a genome-wide analysis of genetic variation using more than fifty thousand single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) typed in thirteen population samples from Thailand, including the Mlabri, Htin and neighboring populations of the Northern Highlands, speaking Austro-Asiatic, Tai-Kadai and Hmong-Mien languages. The Mlabri population showed higher LD and lower haplotype diversity when compared with its neighboring populations. Both model-free and Bayesian model-based clustering analyses indicated a close genetic relationship between the Mlabri and the Htin, a group speaking a Tin language.


Our results strongly suggested that the Mlabri share more recent common ancestry with the Htin. We thus provided, to our knowledge, the first genetic evidence that supports the linguistic affinity of Mlabri, and this association between linguistic and genetic classifications could reflect the same past population processes.

While finding out about the Mlabri, an ethnicity I had never before heard of, and confirming that hunter-gatherers of Austroasiatic language do not just exist nowadays in Malaysia, is interesting in itself, what most has provoked my attention is the genetic comparison between various South East Asian ethnicities and the HapMap North Chinese and Japanese samples.

It seems that the paper has come right in time to illustrate the ongoing debate elsewhere on this blog, on whether there is any specific marker to Northern Han (or even Han in general) and other major East Asian populations such as Koreans and Japanese.

What I am realizing is that there is nothing really specific and that these northern populations almost invariably cluster with some of their southern neighbors, which are much more diverse. This really surprises me a bit because I would have expected that the Neolithic of the Yellow River, surely at the origin of the Chinese ethnicity (Han, Hui) would have been created by a somewhat distinct group that we should be able to identify by some genetic marker or set of markers, even if they spread southwards as the Chinese empire did.

Not at all. It seems that such specificity is almost invisible and that the Han (as well as genetically similar Korean and Japanese peoples) are very much unspecific in terms of genetic markers that could be easy to spot. They rather seem like melting pots of lineages which are traced to likely origins in the South of East Asia.

And, as I say this study comes very handy to illustrate this pattern within autosomal DNA as well, with Chinese and Japanese clustering with Hmong-Mien specially and then with Tai-Kadai peoples.

The neighbor-joining (NJ) tree:

The Htin and Mlabri are of course Austroasiatic, even if color-coded differently. JPT stands from Japanese from Tokyo and CHB as Chinese from Beijing (they are standard HapMap samples). The Karen are Tibeto-Burman speakers.

The maximum likelihood (ML) tree:

Careful here because the color-coding is not linguistic. As said before the Karen are Tibeto-Burman speakers and not Austroasiatic as would seem from their clustering and red color. CEU are Caucasoids of European ancestry from Utah and YRI are Yoruba from Nigeria (again standard HapMap samples for comparison). Cursive text is mine.

In this ML tree is maybe where the clustering is more apparent: the whole East Asia is first divided between the Mon and all the rest. They are neighbors of the Karen and linguistically most related to other Austroasiatics but they clearly cluster apart from all.

Then they branch into other Austroasiatics plus Karen (TB) and Tai-Kadai, Hmong-Mien and northern ethnicities. And this last group branches out into Tai (a branch of Tai-Kadai) and an amalgam of other Tai-Kadai (Yao), Hmong-Mien (Hmong) and the northern ethnicities. And only at this stage a North-South divide becomes apparent.

Friday, March 19, 2010

SourceForge boycotts Cuba!

I am outraged to find out that the supposedly main Open Source repository dares to discriminate countries such as Cuba or Syria in following the abusive unilateral sanctions of the Helms-Burton law.

From the terms and conditions page:

Users residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, may not post Content to, or access Content available through,

From the cryptographic software hosting page:

At time of this writing, cryptographic software may not legally, knowingly be exported to Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.

The logical thing to do is to migrate that service to some other country where that stupid law does not apply. But seemingly that is not something that has gone through the brains of the promoters of SF.

Notice that such discrimination has nothing to do with any human rights sensitivity, as countries with much worse human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Morocco or Colombia are not listed at all.

I came to know because the Brazilian public telecom company, SERPRO, has removed itself from this repository precisely because of the boycott to Cuba. Personally I will make my best from now on not collaborate with SF, not even downloading anything from its imperialist computers, until such arbitrary restrictions are removed.

'Non-coding' DNA actually codes indivdual differences

New research has found that most of the individual differences, some even related to genetic illnesses such as lupus or schizophrenia, do not depends on the 0.25% variation in coding DNA (genes) but on the quite larger (1-4%) diversity in non-coding regions of the genome (sometimes called "junk DNA"), which nevertheless directly influence how key proteins, known as
transcription factors, bind to the actual genes.

In the words of co-researcher Michael Snyder:

... the bulk of the differences among individuals are not found in the genes themselves, but in regions we know relatively little about. Now we see that these differences profoundly impact protein binding and gene expression.

More details at Science Daily.

Relevant research papers:
- Maya Kasowski et al., Variation in Transcription Factor Binding Among Humans. Science, 2010. Pay per view.
- Wei Zheng et al., Genetic analysis of variation in transcription factor binding in yeast. Nature, 2010. Pay per view.

New wiki on Iruña-Veleia

Under the motto
scientia vincere tenebras (defeating darkness through science), and promoted by a rather large group of scientists, Veleia-Online has arrived to the Internet. In their own words:


SOS-Veleia has been created to serve as an online resource tool for those interested in exploring questions related to the discovery of the so-called ‘exceptional inscriptions’ of Iruña-Veleia (Northern Spain), excavated in 2005 and 2006 by the Lurmen group. Our inquiry is grounded on the premise that the falsity of the artefacts has not been sufficiently demonstrated and that there are reasons to believe that they are authentic. Our goal is to foster honest and transparent reflection concerning the authenticity of the artefacts discovered to date by applying sound scientific methods to their study. With this objective in mind SOS-Veleia seeks to:

  • Make available the reports that have been prepared to date by all parties involved.
  • Display all photographs currently available of the pieces.
  • Situate the pieces along with their respective transcriptions and interpretations within the archaeological context in which they were found.
  • Encourage debate so that experts as well as other concerned individuals can express their opinions and provide input.
  • Compile and make available reports and other information that this subject has elicited in the past and continues to produce.
  • Demonstrate why it is important that new physical tests be carried out on the artefacts.
  • Establish why it is essential that the contrastive controlled excavations recommended by Professor Perring be conducted. Dr. Perring is an internationally recognized expert in the field of Roman archaeology and a member of the Scientific Advisory Commission and therefore , hence an expert appointed by the Deputy Lorena López de la Calle. In his report to the Scientific Advisory Commission, dated 21 september 2007, Dr. Perring made this recommendation: that well recognized archaeologists, not connected to any of the parties involved, carry out new excavations at the site. Specifically, Perring stated the following in section 3.7.2. of his report (2008, link to full text of Perring’s report: Anexo IV): “An additional test, and perhaps the most important, is to see if the results obtained can be duplicated by an independent team of researchers. Much as is the case with any scientific experiment, the replication of the experiment provides the ultimate proof. A new archaeological team, involving none of the archaeologists or institutions involved in the recent work, should be invited to see if their excavations at Veleia will also produce ‘exceptional graffiti’.”
The site is promoted by:

  • Estitxu Breñas Glz de Zarate; B.A. in Geography and History. Editor. (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Pello Eizagirre; Specialist in Palaeo-Christianity (Zarautz, Gipuzkoa)
  • Juan Martin Elexpuru; Ph.D. in Basque Philology. (Bergara, Gipuzkoa)
  • Enrique Fernandez de Pinedo; B.A. in Basque Philology. (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Idoia Filloy Nieva, Master in Archaeological Patrimony. B.A. in History (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Roslyn M. Frank; Ph.D. Linguist and Bascologist, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa (US)
  • Eliseo Gil Zubillaga, Master in Archaeological Patrimony, B.A. in History (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Xabi Otsoa de Alda; B.A. in Geography and History. (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Koenraad Van den Driessche; Ph.D. in Geochemistry (Beasain, Gipuzkoa)

I have already discussed to some extent the Veleia affair
in this blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another tentative mtDNA chronology

[Updated Aug 6 2010: there was a key error in the steps between L3'4'6 and L4 and L3. In other words: I totally forgot about the L4'3 node and the three CR mutations defining it, pushing L(xL4'3) ahead in time some est. 9000 years. Corrected the main est. chronology now but left the text untouched otherwise]

Take what follows with the proverbial pinch of salt please. It's nothing but a working note.


The first West Eurasian lineages that show up in the downstream CR mutation count are R0 and M1, at 30 CR mutations counting from "Eve" (7 downstream of L3).

The first European-specific lineages are H and V at 33 CR mutations (10 from L3).

These facts may serve to generate a tentative chronology using the simplest molecular clock methodology: 1 CR mutation = 1 time unit.

A further control may be the place of K1 at 48 CRM (21 from L3), the most recent important clade showing signs of expansion in Europe/WEA, which should not be more recent than Neolithic.

The safest date for the colonization of Europe, which surely included an starlike expansion like the one we see at H, is that of Aurignacian expansion c. 40 Ka ago. A reasonable (but speculative) date for the arrival of H. sapiens to West Asia is c. 50 Ka ago.

This makes CRM=10/3=3.33 Ka.

To make calculations simpler I will round down this rate to CRM=3 Ka and take age(H,V)=40 Ka. as main reference.

Control: K1: 40-(3x11)=7 Ka ago. Fits perfectly: 7 Ka ago is roughly when Neolithic arrived to Central Europe, where K has been detected aboundantly in aDNA from the period and may be coincident with the expansion of K1.


  • 148 Ka - Root ('Eve')
  • ...
  • 133 Ka - L1''6
  • ...
  • 121 Ka - L0, L1, L2"6 --- Beginning of Abbassia Pluvial
  • ...
  • 115 Ka - L0a'b'f'k
  • ...
  • 109 Ka - L5
  • ...
  • 100 Ka - L2'3'4'6, L0a'b'f
  • ...
  • 91 Ka - L0a'b, L0d, L1c --- End of Abbassia Pluvial
  • 88 Ka - L0f
  • 85 Ka - L3'4'6, L0d1'2
  • ...
  • 79 Ka - L2, L0a
  • 76 Ka - L2a'd, L3'4
  • 73 Ka - L4
  • 70 Ka - L3 --- Out of Africa migration?
  • 67 Ka - L4b, L3a, L3b'f, L3c'd'j, L3e'i'k'x
  • 64 Ka - L3i, L3h
  • 61 Ka - M, L1b, L3e ---- Beginning of Eurasian Expansion
  • 58 Ka - L2b'c, L3f, M1'51, M3a, M3c, M4"64, M5, M9, M12'G, M13'46'61, M25, M29'Q, M32'56, M33, M34'57, M35, M40'62, M44, M49 ---- Arrival to East Asia and Melanesia
  • 55 Ka - L1b1a, L2a, N, M30, M37, M7, M9a'b'c'd, M14, M17, M56, M36, M42, M52'58, M60, D --- Arrival to Australia
  • 52 Ka - R, L0d3, L3d, M3b, M4a, M4b1, M4b2, M45, M13, M21, M27, M39, M71, N1'5, N9, S --- Final pan-Eurasian wave
  • 49 Ka - R0, L4a, L3k, L3x, M2, M38, M43, M6, M8, G, M31, M54, O (N12), R2'JT, R6, R11'B7, B4'5, R30, R31, P ---- Colonization of West Asia
  • 46 Ka - D4, L3e1, M1, M4c, M5a, E, Q, M32a'b, M53, N1, HV, R9, R12'21,
  • 43 Ka - M63, M11, M29, M41, M73, D1, N2, N9a, N22, HV0a, JT, R5, R9b, U
  • 40 Ka - H and V, L0k, L2a1, L3b, M1a, M64, M8a, Z, M12, Y, A, X, R0a, F, U6, U2'3'4'7'8'9 ---- Colonization of Europe, North Africa and NE Asia
  • 37 Ka - M10, N5, N9b, X2, H1, H2, H3, H6a, H6b, H7, H9, H10, H13, H14, H15, H16, H17, R8, U6b, U4'9, U8
  • 34 Ka - C, D4a1, A2, R0a2, H2a, H8, H11, H12, H18, H19, J, U3, U5, U6a --- Beginning of coldest conditions
  • 31 Ka - L6, L3c, L3j, H4, J1, U5a, U6d ---- Gravettian
  • 28 Ka - L2d, M7a1a, M23, R2, J1c, J2, R7, R11, U1, U5b
  • 25 Ka - L2e, N1a, I, U6c, U2b, U5b3, U9
  • 22 Ka - W, J2b, U4 --- Solutrean
  • 19 Ka - K, D4h3a
  • 16 Ka - M51, T, K2 --- Magdalenian, end of coldest period
  • 13 Ka - T1
  • 10 Ka - T2, K2a --- End of Ice Age, earliest Neolithic, Epipaleolithic
  • 7 Ka - K1 --- European Neolithic
  • 4 Ka - K1a1, T2b

Note: bold type is arbitrary for perceived "most important haplogroups", however font size reflects the presence of star-like nodes: large size for 5-12 branches, largest size for >15 branches. Clades are listed in logical phylogenetic order with a few exceptions when a single node seems to define a whole phase, in which case they have been listed first. All suggested dates are in thousand years (Ka) ago.


Of course there's no way I know of properly estimating the effective mutation rate at each space-time, which should be affected by issues as population size and, with low population levels specially, purely random accidents (drift). Still, I would prefer a logarithmic approach, with longer times/mutation towards the past and smaller ones towards the present.

That would probably be better because it would allow to push the L2 and L3'4'6 expansion towards a more realistic date at the beginning of the Abbassia Pluvial, when we see clear signs of expansion in North Africa and Palestine and also would push the root of the tree (the earliest genetic signal of expansion of H. sapiens) closer to the oldest known fossils c. 160 Ka.

Another issue is the known length of downstream branches, even in some well studied lineages, which appear almost "frozen" since their expansion. This seems to happen in particular to large star-like lineages like M and H (not sure why) but, in any case, the high variability in the length of the lineages towards the present is an anomaly that I would rather not have to face.

In this regard, notice the star-like expansions within the K and T haplogroups by the end of the (always tentative) chronology, wouldn't they be better some 3,000 years earlier? That way T2 and K2a could take part in the Magdalenian expansion, while K1a1 and T2b would belong to the Neolithic expansion. But maybe they fit well with Epipaleolithic and what I imagine as some phase of the Indoeuropean expansion... somehow.

A corrected 2.7 Ka/CRM ratio would fix that.

But it would also push the oldest dates forward quite a bit (for instance the root would be at just 129 Ka), so I feel I need a more refined approach: which should probably be a logarithmic or quasi-logarithmic equation that could account for estimated population sizes. However my maths skills are terribly rusty...

See also PhyloTree for a whole comprehensive mtDNA phylogeny.

Massive objects can behave in quantum ways

quantum resonator that is large enough to be seen with the naked eye and that has about one trillion atoms (way above the previous record of just some 60 atoms) has been created by researchers of the University of California.

To make it behave in quantum ways, they first had to cool the object to a thousandth of degree above absolute zero, which is the temperature of its ground state, then they introduced a single quantum of energy (a phonon) and were able to measure the quantum state, meaning that the resonator was in two alternative states at the same time, as all quantum objects, such as electrons, are normally, but unlike any other massive objects known to date (as these are too much affected by the environment, losing their spooky quantum properties)

This achievement has groundbreaking implications for both theoritecal physics and practical applications such as the much fabled quantum computing.

More details at BBC.

A. D. O'Connell et al. Quantum ground state and single-phonon control of a mechanical resonator. Nature, 2010. Pay per view.

First "normal" extrasolar planet found

We were getting bored of hot super-jupiters and massive super-earths, right? Well, finally a normal planet has been found by ESA's
CoRoT satellite telescope in a star of the constellation Serpens Cauda (snake's tail).

The new exoplanet is a regular gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn and is in a temperate zone, reasonably distant from its parent star, which is similar to our Sun (a very normal star, by the way).

Source: Science Daily.

Update: The same story at BBC reports that the planet has an orbit "like Mercury", which is clearly too close to the parent star to be considered a "temperate zone". They still dare to speculate (just that) about the possibility that the planet might have water clouds.

Four Stone Hearth at Ad Hominin

The fortnightly anthropology carnival is back, gathering some of the best anthropology blogging of the last weeks
at Ad Hominin. Take a look.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More doubts and dark spots in the Anza case

The more than murky
case of Jon Anza, ETA militant who disappeared 11 months ago and was found dead at the morgue of Hospital Purpan at the very city he went missing, Tolouse, but after almost a year of fruitless queries and demands is only gaining complexity as days pass.

Yesterday the French Republic practiced the autopsy on the corpse without allowing any physician of the trust of the family to be present. People demonstrated demanding transparency and sensibility towards the family in a case that has already become one of the darkest episodes of the French Justice system since the time of the Dreyfuss affair and were attacked by hordes of gendarmes.

After the mock autopsy, the state attorney in charge, A. Kanayakis, announced the results (confirmation of the previous version: Anza died of complications after a heart attack) and also her resignation from the case, which now passes to an instruction judge.

The Hospital Purpan had by then reported to the press that they had issued three formal notices to the police and missing people office while Anza was still alive, getting no answer.

Meanwhile Spanish newspaper El Mundo, akin to the right but which also played a central role in the uncovering of the GAL network more than a decade ago, reported that two Spanish policemen fled by those dates from a Tolouse hotel, where they had registered by their real names, forgetting two pistols under the matresses.

This newspaper also reported earlier that Anza was custodian of 300,000 euros, while he carried only 500 when he was found.

The Neanderthal-Sapiens transition at Cova Gran (Catalonia)

Found at Pileta de Prehistoria.

J.M. Moreno et al., The Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Cova Gran (Catalunya, Spain) and the extinction of Neanderthals in the Iberian Peninsula. Science Direct, 2010. Pay per view.

A good article can be found at El País in both Spanish and English.

Most relevant seems to be that the transition between the occupations by the two species is separated by a thick sterile layer, meaning that there was no sudden replacement but maybe just the colonization of an empty land.

Cova Gran is located at the Catalan Pyrenees in the province of Lleida.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Psychopaths are compulsive reward seekers

New research finds that what really characterizes psychopaths is not lack of fear or empathy but their extreme quest for rewards, no matter what because they get much higher levels of dopamine for rewards such as drugs or money.

J.W. Buckholtz et al., Mesolimbic dopamine reward system hypersensitivity in individuals with psychopathic traits. Neuroscience 2010. Open access.

Nicely synthesized at Science Daily.

This is important in itself for psychology, psychiatry and neurology. But what I read really makes me think that we live in a psychopathic society, where such psychopathic greed has replaced the basic human values of cooperation and social justice.

If you think about it, the psychopath is the ideal capitalist individual: without emotional or social attachments (which they are unable to feel) and only focused on profit (monetary rewards) and consumerism (product rewards).

The fact that the psychopathic tendencies also exist, maybe to lesser degree, among normal, well adjusted, people, albeit irregularly and not so exaggerated, should make us all think what we really want: a human society or a psychopathic society based on the greed of liberal economics.

Most Northern Basque voters in favor of self-rule and against the high speed train

The referendum organized by Batera with the help of most municipalities in the Northern Basque Country on whether the region must be a distinct territorial collectivity 78% of votes in favor and 19% against and 3% issued blank votes.

However, being an unofficial poll, the participation was relatively low, fluctuating between 10 and 48% of citizens, depending on the canton. The results by canton are:

  • Baiona: 81.7% in favor, 15.7% against (participation: 10%)
  • Garazi: 75.6% in favor, 19.5% against (participation: 28.4%)
  • Iholdi: 85.1% in favor, 10% against (participation: 47.9%)
  • Hazparne: 89% in favor, 10% against (participation: 16.6%)
  • Beskoitze: 79% in favor, 17.7% against (participation: 29.6%)
Source: Kazeta.

The eight communes affected by the high speed train will have this ballot, disdained by Paris, next Sunday because yesterday they voted on this environmental issue, with all villages voting massively against (between 86 and 96%).

Democracy in the Basque Country: people votes, the government ignores.

Source: Kazeta.

In the (almost meaningless but official) regional elections for the artificial Aquitaine region, the participation was of 48% (low but above the French average), with the Socialist (PSF), Gaullist (UMP) and Christian-Democrats (Forces Aquitaine) being first, second and third force. The Basque nationalist list Euskadi Europan, with 6.7% of votes, was fifth, after Europe Ecologie (also participated by Basque nationalists) which got 11.85% of the vote. Overall the vote to Basque nationalist lists keeps growing, reaching now almost 18%. The communes affected by the high speed train punished severely the large officialist lists.

Source: Kazeta.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The strange case of the Glozel findings.

I just now have got to know about this confuse issue of never proven alleged archaeological forgery at
Glozel, at the outskirts from Vichy, central France.

It looks quite intriguing.

And the death last month of the main actor, Emile Fradin, at the venerable age of 102 years, seems to have triggered renewed interest for the issue.

Emile Fradin

Via Archaeology in Europe, I found this article at The Age. The case for a barely literate peasant under 20 years of age to have forged all those artifacts looks extremely unbelievable, more so when he never made real money of them, rejecting all offers of purchase of his findings.

The findings, if real, would seem some sort of secret collection: they were organized in shelves and they include items from three different types and periods (per the analysis of F. Henri in 1972): engraved bones from 17-15,000 BP (early Magdalenian), pottery is from 5,000 years ago (Chalcolithic) and the written clay tablets are from some 2500 years ago (barely pre-Celtic).

The engraved bones certainly look Magdalenian-like.

The inscriptions remind, with some differences, the Iberian script. At least they are within the context of early Mediterranean scripts.

However why all these materials had been gathered together into a single mysterious collection appears to have no explanation than the site being the hoard of some early archaeologist of Antiquity or the Middle Ages (the Templars have been speculated about, as usual, but the lack of Christian iconography makes this unlikely in my opinion).

- Tejiendo el mundo[es] (from where I borrowed the images)
- Musée de Glozet [fr]