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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stonehenge burials II: contextualizing the end of elite burials.

Yesterday I posted briefly on the recent news on the many Stonehenge burials. But I believe I have something more to say than just "oooh!" and read this and that. In fact I have already done that in other spaces but I missed doing the same on Leherensuge. After all,
Leherensuge is, according to Xaho, the first Dragon or first and late Serpent, and there is probably no place in Europe where the dragon is as mythically relevant as in SW Britain.

Going to the grain, the most intriguing fact I found in this (re-)discovery of the Stonehenge elite burials is that the most recent burial is from some date between 2570 and 2340 BCE (c. 2450 to say a most likely date). Why is this date relevant? Because it is intriguinly coincident of some major events in the rest of Europe that may have influenced it. Let's review them briefly:

- Since c. 2800 offshots of Michelsberg and since c. 2600 the Seine-Oise-Marne culture expanded into mid-western France and Brittany, putting an end to the monumental and elite-burial Megalithism of that area. This Breton/French elitist Megalithism would seem to have some parallels with the British one, specially monumentality and elite burial, as well as the use of dolerite (bluestone) as ritual or prestige item.

One of the impressive Carnac monuments

- Since c. 2600 BCE the bowmen people of Artenac culture (Megalithic, born in Dordogne and possible ancestor of historical Aquitanians and modern Basques) began fighting these expanding Danubians and by c. 2400 BCE they had conquered all Atlantic France and Belgium. Artenacian type of Megalithism is a much more common one where monuments are generally small and aboundant (no apparent elitist but generalized clannic burial probably).

- Since c. 2600 too two Megalithic civilizations, builder of rather large fortified towns, appeared in southern Iberia: Zambujal/Vila Nova in west-central Portugal and Los Millares in SE Spain.

Some of the complex and still ill excavated fortifications of Zambujal, north of Lisbon

- Also c. 2400 BCE the Corded Ware culture consolidated Indo-European control of Central Europe and incorporated Scandinavia too, putting an end to Scandinavian Megalithism.

- Since c. 2300 the Bell Beaker phenomenon expanded rapidly in both Indo-European Central Europe and pre-Indoeuropean and Megalithic Western Europe, as well as some other related areas (Italy, Denmark, North Africa). While probably original from Bohemia, c. 2100 it would become centered in Zambujal. It is in any case a minority phenomenon that does not generally change the local cultures where it is found (though there maybe an exception or two). The most common explanation is that of a sect or guild of bowmen-traders, who were wealthy and possibly influential but who conquered nobody, much less changed their traditions.

Nice bell-shaped beaker

Anyhow, while not excluding totally that the Bell Beaker phenomenon can not totally be discarded as somehow related, the odds and the dates rather suggest the immediately previous period of rapid changes. In particular I think that the fall of elitist Megalithism in Brittany/West France influenced the end of elite burials in Stonehenge. The dates speak on their own.

Later, since the end of Chalcolithic (early 2nd milennium BCE), Megalithism would gradually recede, and France was one of the first places where it happened.

Magdalenians did eat sea mammals.

M.P. Richards et al, Isotope evidence for the intensive use of marine foods by Late Upper Palaeolithic humans. Journal of Human Evolution, 2005 (pay per view).


We report here on direct evidence for the intensive consumption of marine foods by anatomically modern humans at approximately 12,000 years ago. We undertook isotopic analysis of bone collagen from three humans, dating to the late Palaeolithic, from the site of Kendrick's Cave in North Wales, UK. The isotopic measurements of their bone collagen indicated that ca. 30% of their dietary protein was from marine sources, which we interpret as likely being high trophic level marine organisms such as marine mammals. This indicates that towards the end of the Pleistocene modern humans were pursuing a hunting strategy that incorporated both marine and terrestrial mammals. This is the first occurrence of the intensive use of marine resources, specifically marine mammals, that becomes even more pronounced in the subsequent Mesolithic period.

Not exactly breaking news but unknown for me to date. It relates and seems to confirm what I already commented in Magdalenian and Inuit harpoons a month ago: they were used for seal hunting or whaling, just as Inuits did until very recently.

From terrorist to victim of terrorism. Fascist militant patronizing.

This is a very incredible case (
source, in Spanish) . We had grown used to see former fascists recycled into paladins of "democracy", to see fascist monuments and street names still standing after three decades in many Spanish towns... but this is a really new twist.

Eloy Ruiz Cortadi, natural from Sestao, Biscay, former municipal policeman of neighbouring Portugalete in the last years of the fascist regime and well known militant of the fascist death squad Guerrilleros de Cristo Rey (Guerrillas of Christ King) very active in some parts of the Basque Country in the 1970s (later replaced by the Batallón Vasco-Español and later by the GAL and other acronyms, always barely hiding police-led death squads) has become president of the Galician Association of Victims of Terrorism... and has been invited by our welcoming (more like boot-licking actually) authorities to talk in our only autonomous (and not sovereign) Parliament, not witout causing some protests. His speech has basically justified tortures and the attitude of the Spanish government in this issue, reprobing the Basque Parliament because of denouncing them.

Ruiz Cortadi was the son of a powerful local mafioso who was a close friend of the King's father and had such influence that it was rumored that he named the provincial governors.

His own record is not better, as municpal policeman he was responsible of many tortures and in his free time he went to beat demonstrators with chains and batons and threatened them with guns or attacked them with pepper sprays. In 1972 he was responsible of the attempted kidnap of a local "red" priest and important lesions as they failed to achieve their goal. In that time municipal policemen even entered armed to film a sermon in the local church and they forced mass assistants (then traditionally youngsters) to sing the facist hymn before allowing them to enter the church.

Eventually ETA attented against him and he fled to his other fatherland: Galicia, where he's been also very vocal against all form of national or linguistic advance, even opposing daycare centers for children.

Now he returns with all oficial blessings to preach respect for torturers under the cover of "victim of terrorism". This is the kind of pants-lowering that our each day less and less democratic authorities practice all the time.

We don't want these kind of criminals around here and we are very sorry for those who have to bear them elsehwere.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Stonehenge burials

National Geographic News published that Prof. Pearson, involved in the recent digs of the Megalithic monument, suspects that it was primarily a place of dynastic (or otherwise elite) burials. This in contrast to other researchers' opinions that have suggested it was a "Neolithic Lourdes" and the more classical astronomical understanding of the landmark.

It is a very interesting and intriguing issue and while I don't feel right now like to write too much about it, I have made some contextual meditations on the issue in Stone Pages' Archaeo Forums, if you are interested.

Another interesting article is found at the University of Bristol site. Thanks to PeteG for it and also for the announcement that further excavations are expected soon in the NW part of the monument.

New ETA communication

Basque newspaper
Gara has published today the latest communication of ETA. In the page-and-half document (here in PDF, Basque language only; here for an HTML journalistic version in Spanish, with links to reactions) they claim four attacks between May 1st and May 19th, denounce several socio-political issues (laboral accidents, high speed train), denounce the "shamelessness" and/or "complicity" of most political parties, reiterate that they will face the "opression" and insist in their demands for a solution to the conflict, namely:

- Self-determination and territoriality [i.e. reunion of the western Basque Automous Community with Navarre] for the Southern Basque Country. Institutional recognition of the Northern Basque Country too.
- Democratic framework [i.e. non interference of Spain in Basque decissions] and restoration of all civil rights
- Negotiation between all political forces

They claim that, with solidarity and persistent activism, the trend to Basque statehood is there and that "we will achieve it".

The reactions have been mostly negative as usual:

- Spanish government: no comment, the government will continue working with all good-spirited citizens to definitively supress terrorist violence.
- Socialist Party (Spanish guvernamental force, important in the Basque Country): ETA mantains its will to commit more crimes and murders.
- United Left (minor post-communist Spanish-wide bloc): ETA must assume it's not a Basque political agent.
- Aralar (small breakaway faction from the Nationalist Left bloc, with some importance only in Navarre): ETA is totally detached from modern Basque society.
- People's Party (Spanish conservative opposition force): ETA feels confortable with the current political situation of the Basque Country [probable reference to the diffuse Ibarretxe's project that has been going on without practical consequences for about eight years now]
- El Mundo (Spanish conservative newspaper): ETA qualifies Ibarretxe's project of "fraud dressed as autonomical reform".
- Público (Spanish newspaper - no idea of its ideology): ETA says that only the creation of a Basque state will solve the conflict.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The structural crisis of the USA

Michael Hudson (economist, formerly working for Chase Manhattan Bank, Arthur Andersen and
Hudson Institute) writes in Rebelión about the structural problems of US economy and how the imperialist policies are self-defeating.

Rebelión: Para salvar la economía hay que sacrificar el Imperio. (To save the economy, the Empire must be sacrificed).

The article is too long to translate here but I will try to summarize its main points:

Circa 1776, Adam Smith reached to the conclussion that no goverment had ever paid off its foreign debt. Nor any private sector has either reduced, since immemorial times, its debt level (except via bankrupticy, moratory or denounce). These are the options that we have now open. But are not acceptable for public debate.

He argues that central banks around the world have been playing a more and more interventionist policy, not in any socialist sense, but via rescues, in a way that diverts the burden of bank indebtment to the consumers and industrial sector. Protecting finances and property only at the cusp of the economic pyramid.

He also argues that keeping the dollar strong is important for this scheme, as it makes foreing governments and companies to pay for the US expenditure in the dead-end militar sector. But, as it became obvious, when Chinese or Qatari investors have tried to buy US companies, the Empire is not willing to allow them into their economy. The result is a loss of interest for a dollar that does not allow to buy the real stuff. The dollar plummets and the ability of the USA to pay for its widespread military network around the World (the Empire) is much harder to mantain.

As the dollar goes down, imports to which US citizens and economy are quite addict (not in vain this country has the largest consumption per capita of the world, they call it GNP - I think) become just too expensive. So the USA asks other countries to save the dollar but these get nothing in exchange and fear the US unbalanced superpower so they look elsewhere.

Foreign countries have come to see the USA from the same perspective that the Bush administration looked at other countries: any economic potential has by definition a military character. (...) any alliviation of the obligations that the US economy has with foreign governments would not but allow that the USA keep or even increase their global military presence, building even more bases overseas and imposing an even a greater drainage for the dollar in the balance of payements. "Sustaining the dollar" has become a synonim of subsidizing the addiction of the US government to the imperial hegmonic diplomacy.

Watch your words?

Two people have been arrested in Spain (one Basque another Andalusian) accused of the "crimes" of apology of terrorism and offense to the Spanish flag in the Internet (
source). I really have no information on the kind of texts that have sparked these arrests but certainly it seems quite clear that freedom of speech is not among the rights one enjoys in the Spanish "democracy".

The question is: in front of such police repression, one should self-censor actively (out of survival instinct) or speak clearly and assume the consequences? Dificult decision certainly.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Four Stone Hearth

Honestly, I don't even really know well what it is. But it seems some anthropolgy bloggers enjoy quoting each other (and whoever may fall) regularly in some sort of e-festival. This time the host, Tim Jones at Remote Central, has chosen two related posts of this blog among others. Guess I feel honored that my rantings have found a place between material from people I know (or in most cases I presume, as it's the first time I find most of those blogs and bloggers) are respected anthropologists and archaeologists.

Nice. What else can I say?

Anyhow I don't think this blog is an anthropology blog. It is a personal blog on very varied issues, not personal like in intimate but personal like in personal insterests, among which it is certainly anthropology, but not only.

The current issue of Four Stone Hearth includes stories such Inca neurosurgery, Basque archaeologists working for the POLISARIO Front (not my post, I swear!), drugs and control, more drugs and more state control, Neural Buddhism (whatever that means), how each new astronomer brings Ratzinger more and more close to heressy (but well, the Pope is infallible, isn't he?), a most interesting meditation on the downward trend of Wikipedia (something so big cannot work well, I knew it), how Taiwan pretends to compete with my hometown for being the navel of the World (c'mon, didn't you know that I live here?!) and, of course, several posts on how good or bad is that Harrison Ford has become chief archaeologist honoris causa. This is not a complete list, of course, just my capricious selections.

For further and hopefully better info on what the hell is Four Stone Hearth, check its home site.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Greek Y-DNA review at Dienekes

Dienekes: Exploring Y chromosome frequencies in Greece.

This is my cartographic visualization of his data:

And my opinion is that:
  • J21a is basically Cretan. Also at Larissa that seems to have the same clade distribution than overall Crete (and reminds me of Homeric mentions of Pelasgians in both lands)
  • E3b is dominant in mainland Greece (exception made of Agrinion, in the west, and already mentioned Larsissa), with some less important decrease in Macedonia.
  • R1a is most important in the central North (west Macedonia and Kardhitsa) and also in two spots of Crete that were demographically disturbed by the Venetians historically.
  • R1b and I seem to show no or very little structure.

Dienekes mentions a J2a1 vs J2(xJ2a1) negative correlation that may be real but in any case seems pretty secondary overall.

Anyhow, read the original post. I just wanted to post the map.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Antimilitarist Israeli animated documentary hits Cannes

Waltz with Bashir is a documentary film on the memories of a soldier (Ari Folman, the director) who took part in the Sabra and Chatila masscre of Palestinian refugees. The massacre was technically perpetrated by fascist Christian Lebanese militias allied with Israel but the Israeli army, under the command of Ariel Sharon, was surrounding the camps making sure nobody could escape.

Folman says:
You are 18 years old, they send you there, you go there on a plane. You land at the international airport in Beirut and you see people get killed for nothing.

When you look at it now, the rage and the anger is even stronger than it used to be before I made the film.

Maybe that's because I established family in the last five years and I have suddenly three kids. I look at them and they're boys and think: 'I will never let them do the same things I did.'

This film is one of the things in order to persuade them not to take part in any violence whatsoever.
Looks promising.

More at BBC: Animation tipped for Cannes glory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Supersaharan Africa

I am tired of reading Subsaharan Africa. It is racist.

Sub (Wikitionary):


From the Latin sub, meaning under



1. under, beneath (examples: subterranean, submarine)
2. subsidiary, secondary (example: subplot)
3. almost, nearly (example: subhuman)


Derived terms

* Sub-Saharan
* subtropical


* super-


Under the Sahara: water, oil, gas, rocks? But not Black Africa.

Subsidiary or secondary Sahara? Almost, nearly Saharan? Make no sense... unless you are using it like subhuman.

It is all based on a caprice, the Eurocentric convention that places the north on top in most maps. But defining a huge region of the world based on that is stupid and never has happened before. A much more correct term (always from the Eurocentric position) would be Ultrasaharan (beyond the Sahara), Transaharan (beyond or across the Sahara, like in transaharan caravan or transatlantic cruise but also like Transalpine Gaul) or (less Eurocentrically) Sudsaharan (with d): south of the Sahara. Tropical Africa is also somewhat valid but excludes parts of Southern Africa.

I normally use Sudsaharan Africa, that is easily understood, or simply Black Africa, that is much more historical and has not the dismissive connotation of sub.

But while the world becomes aware, I may well use the term Supersaharan Africa, just to make a point.


From the Latin super



1. above, over, or upon
2. superior in size, quality, number, degree, status, title, or position
3. inclusive



* sub-

After all placing the North on top of the maps is nothing but a cartographic convention:

Supersaharan Africa
Peters (equal area) projection

What about you?

If not you, who? If not now, when?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Israeli historian on the Naqba, 60 years after.

At Al Jazeera:
Israel 'committing memorycide'.

Ilan Pappe reflects that in 1948 there was a massive ethnic cleansing with massacres everywhere where there was any resistence. Furthermore, he dennounces that there was a massive memory erasing by recycling the old villages into leisure parks. He also mentions that Paestinians have failed to denounce effectively this genocide, at least until recently.

The historian concludes that there is no reason why both communities could not eventually learn to live together in one state. But for that he argues it is necessary to change some attitudes both in the Israeli and the Palestinian camps, the right of return should be acknowledged as well as the right to remain for Israeli Jews.

More interesting articles on the Naqba 60 years after: Al Jazeera - Focus: 60 years of division.

The Apartheid wall of shame

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Journalists in Baghdad were military target in 2003

A few days ago the Spanish Supreme Court acquitted (did you ever expect otherwise?) the US soldiers involved in the attack against the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad where international press was gathered at the time of US invasion, killing two cameramen: Reuters' Taras Prostyuk and Telecinco' José Couso.

The US soldiers were judged in absence, of course, because, while Washington is very keen of having foreign nationals extradited to the USA, it never extradites its own citizens abroad.

A former US spy, Sgt. Adrienne Kinne, has now revealed to Democracy Now! that the US Army had the hotel among its military targets, in spite of knowing well it was occupied by journalists:

... one thing that gave me grave concern was that as we identified phone numbers, we started to find more and more and more numbers that belonged not to any organizations affiliated with terrorism or with military—with militaries of Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but with humanitarian aid organizations, non-governmental organizations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organizations. And it also included journalists.

...we were listening to journalists who were staying in the Palestine Hotel. And I remember that, specifically because during the buildup to Shock and Awe, which people in my unit were really disturbingly excited about, we were given a list of potential targets in Baghdad, and the Palestine Hotel was listed as a potential target.

...I thought there was something that was going terribly wrong.

The whole interview is available in video and audio format at th link above.

Friday, May 16, 2008

He doesn't look like Caesar to me

There's been some noise around a bust head found in the Rhône river by archaeologists that has been atributed to Julius Caesar, the famous Roman general and populist dictator.

Some references: BBC, Telegraph.

The atribution to Caesar seems to be a "belief" of the French Ministry of Culture and it is not clear why they reached to that conclussion. There's no inscription on the bust that could identify the person portrayed.

Since the very first moment he struck as a different person, really. Just compare with other known images of the Roman leader:

You can surely find other images by searching online. But even if these are all somewhat different (and some may come from a later period) they show Caesar, unlike the French head, as having a rather high rooted, somewhat narrow and prominent nose, with both nostrils at the same height. The eyes are also more separated and possibly bigger than in the Rhône bust. And notice also the difference at the cheeks, much more marked (fleshier) in the best known images of Caesar.

The Rhône person doesn't look like Caesar to me at all. Who he was? No idea, really.


Update (May 21):

From post and comments at another blog, I found that this is the only known lifetime bust of Julius Caesar:

No resemblance with the Rhône man, right?

And that among the objects found there was a large statue of Neptune dated in the 3rd century CE. If all the objects fell/were thrown to the river at the same time (what seems likely), then the earliest possible date is that one. Most likely it happened in the time of the Bagaudae or the Germanic invasions (4th and 5th centuries) and that person could be anyone with enough money to pay for a bust (a governor, mayor or landowner surely).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Antarctica heating up faster than predicted.

The rise of winter temperatures in the frozen continent has been of 2ºC in the last 30 years alone. This challenges somewhat estabilished models of climate prediction, not for the better but for the worse. Antarctica holds enough ice as to rise sea levels 57 meters (even if this is not a likely scenario in the short run).

Source: BBC.

Genes 1, Enviroment 1,,, the game continues.

Ok, sure there have been much more points for each side in the recent scientific history but anyhow... this is just about what I read today in Science Daily.

Genes' score was made by gene GLUT2, whose variation seems to explain like for sugar among humans. Enviroment's score was made by rhesus macaques, among whom subordinate stressed individuals happen to be a lot more likely to have an obesity and diabetes-prone diet, out of frustration.

As said, the game continues and it looks like it's going to be a very hard competition that may well end up in (uh-oh!) tie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Amazon minister resigns. Ecology low in Lula's agenda.

Marina Silva, for the last 6 years Minister of Enviroment in the Brazilian Government, a staunchly defender of the integrity of the rainforest (about whom I wrote a month ago), has resigned.

Source: BBC: Brazil's Amazon Minister resigns.

Reasons? Many but basically that the ecological prorities of Lula's government are heading towards none at all. Two huge hydroelectric dams, a nuclear plant, authorization for genetically modified crops and the centralization of Amazonian matters in a different ministry basically meant she was being sidelined by the right-wing cattle-rancher and blindly developist anti-ecological forces.

It's, as I see it, sad news for the planet and sad news for Brazil as well. Once again it becomes evident that right-wing policies can be carried on by nominally leftist authorities. They had a name for that: violin governments, because they are held with the left hand but played with the right one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is wrong?

I woke up earlier thinking about what is essentially wrong in our society:

- Lack of nature in life: we need nature to feel all right but our cities are dark, crowded and full of concrete and cars.

- Lack of meaning at work: money means nothing, social usefulness (and personal interest) is all. Of course you need to survive but survival alone is a poor motivation, in the long run is demotivating for many in fact.

What really pays is the joy of being alive... but in our conditions it is hard to experience that. Then they hide it under medical terms: depression, neurosis, consumerism, bipolar disorder, whatever... but basically it's lack of life as something enjoyable.

There's a lot of meaningless things to buy... but it's virtually impossible to get the two essential things: being part of nature and getting meaning (social and personal) from your work. Without those two essential things human life is hardly bearable.

No matter how many gadgets we have, without the basics, we are always in the mere "survival in hell" mode.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Finally a memorial for the victims of Fascism

Yesterday the Park of Memory, a memorial monument and park in homage of the 3240 people murdered in Navarre in the aftermath of the fascist uprising of 1936, was inaugurated at Sartaguda with massive assistance in spite of the rain.

The dark note was put by the absence of the right wing party UPN-PP, that holds the regional government. They call themselves now "democrats" but we know well they are the sons and heirs of those murderous fascists of 1936 and they show it every single day with attitudes like this.

Source: Gara (in Spanish).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Revision of Aterian, U6 and North African prehistory in general

Yesterday I let myself be carried away by the apparent antiquity of Aterian in North Africa. I was already persuaded that Aterian and the arrival of mitochondrial DNA U6 to North Africa was the same thing. True that I had arrived to such conclussions when I thought Aterian had much more recent dates... enfin.

Something I should have re-read before posting that is: N. Maca-Meyer's paper on the philogeny and possible spread scenarios of U6 in North Africa. True that they conclude that the arrival of U6 to North Africa originated in West Asia... but they also notice that the nucleotide diversity of the haplogroup is higher in Iberia than in Africa. The problem? That U6 is seldom seen elsewhere in Europe, so she thinks that the clade arrived to Spain via North Africa and not vice versa. Maca-Meyer thinks that U6 arrived from West Asia via East Africa, based only in the greatest diversity of one subclade U6a in East Africa.

The estimated age of U6 is of c. 66,000 BP (+/- 25,000 years), what certainly could make it coincident with the arrival of Aterian via East Africa (The Horn). Aterian seems indeed most closely related to African Middle Stone Age, like Indian Middle Paleolithic, with dates c. 60-73,000 BP but some reaching as early as 90,000 BP. So yes, in principle, Aterian and U6 correlate well.

Another possibility could be that U6 arrived to North Africa from Iberia with the Oranian (Iberomaurusian) culture, that is believed to be an offshot of Mediterranean Iberian Gravettian or later Gravettizing cultures. Nevertheless Oranian correlates more clearly with haplogroups H and V. If that was the case, it would not be the only case of a U clade that is as old as Aurignacian but is found only rarely in Europe, due to drift. The case of U8a can serve maybe as counter-example. If U6 was accidentally concentrated in Mediterranean Iberia due to founder effect, it could well have expanded to North Africa from there along H, V and possibly other smaller clades without ever migrating to continental Europe, at least in significative ammounts.

This can only be understood if one knows reasonably well the peculiarities of Mediterranean Iberian UP, always reciever and almost never exporter of culture (with the possible exception of some facies of Solutrean, restricted anyhow to the Iberian peninsula). In Aurignacian, Gravettian, Magdalenian and the epi-Paleolithic, Mediterranean Iberia is always at the recieving end, at least in what regards to Europe.

So personally I would not exclude the model of a European (Med. Iberian) origin of U6. If we are not going to push back the ages of the OOA event too much, then it looks the more plausible explanation. Occam's razor seems to favor it, really.

Still the late Paleolithic of North Africa is intriguing. The older ages of Aterian have been reviewed to as early as c. 90,000 BP (Cremaschi et al, 1998) and the end of this culture is uncertain, with dates wildly varying between 65,000 BP (Cremaschi, who contests older C14 dates) to 25,000 or even 15,000 BP (Thillet).

Then you have the Oranian (Iberomaurusian) with an older datation of c. 22,000 BP (source: J. Escola Pujol, on Uadi Kenta - in Catalan), making it coincident with the complex Gravettian-Solutrean transition in Mediterranean Iberia (that culminates with a Gravettizing Solutrean that could well be called a Solutreanized epi-Gravettian as well). The most recent dates could be of c. 7000 BP.

And then you have the more famous Capsian cuture that is clearly epi-Paleolithic, coexisting with Oranian c.10,000-6000 BP, that is of quite clear East African origin (Sudan, The Horn) and that is with all likehood related to the spread of Y-DNA E3b and Afroasiatic languages (Berber).

European lawyers demand the supression of the Spanish Neoinquistion

The European Democratic Association, a continental confederation of lawyers' unions, has demanded the supression of the Spanish special tribunal known officially as Audiencia Nacional because the processes it is handling lack of any juridical guarantees and the application of exceptional law.

- EDL statement concerning the trial (case 33.01) against Basque activists (19th of April 2008) - in English, PDF format
- Gara: Abogados europeos exigen la derogación de la Audiencia Nacional (in Spanish)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Aterian and the coastal migration model

It seems that Aterian, the North African paleolithic culture (attributable to Homo sapiens), occupies the whole range of dates between c. 85,000 BP to the Epipaleolithic, when new waves (Iberomaurusian, Capsian) may have arrived from Spain and Sudan.

Recently these findings have been confirmed by archaeological research at Taforalt, Morocco, that have yielded some of the oldest known ornaments, competing for that title with Skuhl cave (Palestine) and Oued Djebanna (Algeria).

Aterian tools

Fine so far. But there is a problem: the deepest genetic layer in North Africa seems to be mtDNA haplogroup U6, that is related with other U clades of West, Central and South Eurasia. This clade is believed to have arrived to North Africa with the earliest human colonists, much like its "sisters" U5 and U8a seem to have arrived to Europe too. But, while European early sapiens colonization may date to 48-40,000 BP, not being in contradiction with the mainstream model of colonization of Eurasia from a single out of Africa migration c. 75-60,000 BP, the Aterian very old C14 dates do.

And there is nothing between Aterian and the Epipaleolithic that can explain that.

So I am starting to question the coastal migration model too, or at least the dates attributed to it.

No hardcore conclussions yet but what if... the OOA event happened much earlier, maybe c. 120,000 BP, and had a westward branch via the Levant that ended up in North Africa? There are certainly H. sapiens remains in the Levant that are date c. 100,000 BP (though they are believed to have been replaced by Neanderthals, that are dated to c. 60,000 BP).

In South Asia (key area for Eurasian prehistory) archaeology can hardly differentiate between pre-sapiens and sapiens technologies. The divide between Middle and Upper UP is placed, somewhat arbitrarily, at c. 30,000 BP (much later than in Central and West Eurasia) and human or hominin remains are very scarce anyhow. But, like in West Asia, disconinued blade tools (preluding UP somewhat) are occasionally found with much older dates. In West Asia this was (more or less consistently) attributed to Neanderthals but it is very unlikely that the findings of India can be attributed to them too.

Check for instance Petraglia et al., 2007: Middle Paleolithic Assemblages from the Indian Subcontinent Before and After the Toba Super-Eruption:

We provide here firm chronological evidence that hominins were present in the Jurreru River valley, south India, immediately before and after the YTT eruption. Analyses of the archaeological industries recovered from the site indicate a strong element of technological continuity between the pre- and post-Toba assemblages. Together with the presence of faceted unidirectional and bidirectional bladelike core technology, these pre- and post-Toba industries suggest closer affinities to African Middle Stone Age traditions (such as Howieson's Poort) than to contemporaneous Eurasian Middle Paleolithic ones that are typically based on discoidal and Levallois techniques (Fig. 3). The coincidence of (i) evidence of hominins flexible enough to exhibit continuity through a major eruptive event, (ii) technology more similar to the Middle Stone Age than the Middle Paleolithic, and (iii) overlap of the Jwalapuram artifact ages with the earlier end of the most commonly cited genetic coalescence dates (21–23) may suggest the presence of modern humans in India at the time of the YTT event. This interpretation would be consistent with a southern route of dispersal of modern humans from the Horn of Africa (24); the latter, however, will remain speculative until other Middle Paleolithic sites in the Indian subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula (25) are excavated and dated.

Jwalapuram tools

And also:
- Modern Human Origins and the Evolution of Behavior in the Later Pleistocene Record of South Asia, by Hanna V.A. James and Michael D. Petraglia, 2005 (no link found).
- J.B. Harrod, Synopsis of the Paleolithic of India (PDF).

From this last paper (a list of Indian Paleolithic sites with brief descriptions), I specially noticed two sites from before the Toba event that show blade creation. One (Hokra 1-a and Gurha, Thar Desert, Rajasthan) is not dated but the other (Patpara, Middle Son Valley) has a C14 date of at least 100,000 BP. Blade based tools are also found after the Toba event in several sites that may be dated since c. 45,000 BP.

But even if the earlier blade industries are not really consolidated UP (like happens with Levantine Jabroudian, where stone blades were made long before UP apparently by Neanderthals without continuity), presence of anatomically modern humans does not need to be related to them anyhow (in fact that is the case in may other parts of the World). And the technoligical continuity in India an the very early dates of Sapiens-made Aterian in North Africa, strongly suggest an out-of-Africa event much earlier than Toba eruption. Maybe c. 100,000 BP. There was a warm peak (a more favorable climate probably) c. 105,000 BP that could account for such migration maybe.

Moroccan navy kills migrants trying to reach Spain

I watched it yesterday on TV news and read today at Al Jazeera again. It happened on April 28: the immigrants were trying to reach southern Spain on an inflatable motor boat and were intercepted by a Moroccan militray ship that sent a group on another boat. One of the soldiers punched a hole with his knife, saying: try to reach Spain now.

According to the survivors account they managed to continue barely but the Moroccans insisted and attacked the boat again with the knife. They begged for their lives but the soldiers ignored their plea. A handful of them managed to reach the Algerian coast but most drowned.

It reminds me of the Berlin Wall, really. It seems that EU has bought the Moroccan authorities throughtly and now they serve their masters with extreme criminal efficiency.

Britain set to fill its jails with marihuana smokers

The reclassification of cannabis as "B-type drug" in the insular kingdom means that posession can mean up to five years in prision. Meanwhile in neighboring Netherlands or Spain posession, and even growing for personal use, is at least formally legal (though, quite contradictorily, trade is not or, in the case of the Netherlands, limited to taverns with a special license).

I wonder if they have even thought in what that means for the penal administration as potentially maybe a fourth of the island's youngsters are elegible for such harsh penalties at some moment.

This reclassification is made on exclussively political grounds, as the scientific advisory council advised against it a few days ago.

More information on hemp at Erowid

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

EAE-ANV tavern closed by the Inquisition

I had to mention this even if it's maybe a minor issue among the immense supression of rights that the Basque Country is suffering. After all, I, like so many people, have drank at that tavern (and in fact it was there when I first realized that the historical party was still alive).

Yesterday the bar was invaded by hooded plain-clothes policemen, who took all they could find (some propaganda, red and yellow paint, but not the green or blue, the flag... little more) and officially clausurated it with red tape. Another "democratic" agression we have to put up with, it seems.

The local authorities (elected in undemocratic polls) avoided the issue. Causing protests.

You will not shut us up. Independence!, reads the banner.

Source: Gara (in Spanish).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Al Jazeera journalist liberated from Guantanamo

Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Hajj, also known as Prisioner 345, has been detained in the US concentration camp for more than five years. He was liberated after 465 days in hunger strike (since January 2007, he was force-fed)..

He was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 when working, fully documented, for the Qatari public network Al Jazeera. He was accused of arbitary and unproven "terrorist activities", obvious made-up accusations like working for a beverage company that allegedly financed militants in Bosnia and Chechnya. In all lights it was a punishment attempt against Al Jazeera for breaking US media censorship and talking of the other side of the "war on terror". He has rejected all charges and never brought before any court.

His brother could not recognized him at first because he looked "like a man in his 80s" (he is 39 in fact).

He was hospitalized as soon as he arrived to Khartoum. But from hospital he has conceded some interviews:

I'm very happy to be in Sudan, but I'm very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad and they get worse by the day.

Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

And they will not give them the rights that they give to animals.

He was liberated along with other detainess, in what seems an attempt of the Bush administration to get rid of as many prisioners as possible before the end of the current presidential term. His lawyer, David Remes, denounced that there was an element of racism in the way al-Hajj had been treated. The Europeans would never receive this treatment, he said.

For further information:
- Al Jazeera: Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors.
- Wikipedia: Sami al-Hajj.
- Prisioner 345: Campaign to free Sami al-Hajj, held in Guantanamo.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Jon Hawks on the supposed ancestral bottlenecks

Some days ago, I commented on a couple of news articles that fed on a paper of D.M. Behar on the ancestral mtDNA lineages, that suggested a marked bottleneck or divergence in Middle Paleolithic Africa.

Now Jon Hawks extensively discusses on his blog about this, as apparently it Behar's conclussions are largely based on his own research. He is in total disagreement, to put it briefly. But in any case it's worth a good read, as it's almost like an informal research (public notes, thinking loud...). And he is promising more interesting stuff on the same issue.

If democracy falls short, the Inquisition shall not.

(On May 1)

Six days ago a long planned motion of no-confidence failed in Arrasate (Gipuzkoa, Basque Country), because the local councilors of United Left decided to ignore the directives from Madrid and support the left-wing nationalist mayor, Ino Galparsoro. Yesterday Chief Inquistor Baltasar Garzón (most controversial judge of the special political tribunal called Audiencia Nacional) has decided to solve the problem and arrest her.

Mayor Galparsoro (with red jacket), her attorney, Iñigo Iruin (with suit), and some supporters heading towards the Inquisitorial Court.

Charges? Whatever their limited imagination can come up with, you know. Specifically: "collaboraton with terrorist organization" (apparently any consequent Basque nationalist can be accused of that just because of his/her ideology) and "breach of the suspension of activities of EAE-ANV" (the party she belongs to, one of the oldest Basque nationalist organizations). The procedures were initiated just hours after the motion failed (a coincidence, of course) and was supported by the government-appointed Attorney General and by two extreme right organizations (Association of Victims of Terrorism and Dignity and Justice).

To build up some pretense of accusation with whatever they can find on the march, the inquistor has ordered the search of the Town Hall and police creatives are working extra hours writing ex-professo reports. Garzón has also suggested that this kind of arbitrary processes can be extended to the 432 councilors that EAE obtained in the last municipal elections, when it was absurdly allowed to run in some towns and not others (specially not in the main cities). Now the Inquisition seems determined to review its own past actuations in this aspect and declare all EAE elects illegal anyhow.

An so on, and so on. Every single day more of the same old Spanish democratic, tolerant and dialogant temper. That's how democratic Spain is: if they get the votes, we just jail them and problem solved.

Or maybe not. Rather not at all.

Source: Gara: "Garzón sigue la estela de PSOE-PNV y encarcela a la alcaldesa de Arrasate".

Update (May 3):

Thousands demonstrate in Arrasate to demand their mayor's freedom:

Stop the state of emergency! Self-determination for the Basque Nation read the banners

Friday, May 2, 2008

Human-made carbon emissions 100 times what Earth can manage

It may sound ultra-hippy but it's hardcore science: for at least 610,000 years Earth has managed to keep a very tight balance of atmospheric carbon, with a variance of just 1-2%. Now we are challenging that finely tuned balance with releases that ammount to 100 times what Earth has ever been confronted with, so it is virtually impossible that our mother planet will be able to correct our wrongdoings.

This finding, already suspected, was made by K. Cladeira of Carnegie Institution for Science and R. Zeebe of the University of Havaii.

When carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, the chemical reactions that break down silicate minerals in soils are accelerated. Among the products of these reactions are calcium ions, which dissolve in water and are washed to the ocean by rivers. Marine organisms such as mollusks combine the calcium ions with dissolved carbon dioxide to make their shells (calcium carbonate), which removes both calcium and carbon dioxide from the ocean, restoring the balance.

The researchers found that over hundreds of thousands of years the equilibrium between carbon dioxide input and removal was never more than one to two percent out of balance, a strong indication of a natural feedback system. This natural feedback acts as a thermostat which is critical for the long-term stability of climate. During Earth's history it has probably helped to prevent runaway greenhouse and icehouse conditions over time scales of millions to billions of years — a prerequisite for sustaining liquid water on Earth's surface.
The Carnegie Institution's press release concludes with a most alarming remark by Caldeira:

We are emitting CO2 far too fast to expect mother nature to mop up our mess anytime soon. Continued burning of coal, oil and gas will result in long-term changes to our climate and to ocean chemistry, lasting many thousands of years.
As a chain smoker, I know well that slow stupid suicidal is a very human possibility. No kidding.

P. boisei choose to ignore evolution.

A study by the University of Arkansas has found that our robust extinct relative Paranthropus boisei (also known as the nutcracker man) ate mostly fruit even it was very well adapted to much harder foods like roots and nuts. This introduces an interesting evolutionary paradox: they evolved to ate hard stuff but then they found they could also exploit resources they were not specialized for and choose them preferentially.

It seems that after all, our cousin was more intrinsecally adaptative than simply made-by-evolution. Just like us.

Source: Science Daily: New findings challenge conventional ideas on evolution of human diet and natural selection.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1st

Another year, one year closer...

Lesbians, lesbians, the Greek island and Sappho.

Ridiculously enough the Lesbian authorities, those of the Greek island of Lesbos, near the Turkish coast, have begun a crusade against lesbians in Greece and around the World. They want to banish the use of the term lesbian, to refer to female homosexuals.

But the fact is that the term is much older than modern homosexual liberation movement: it dates from antiquity, because of the quite apparent bisexual tendencies of the island most famous poet ever: Sappho. Ironically, Sappho herself also suffered from that Lesbian (that not lesbian) intolerance in her life, as she was exiled to Syracuse c. 600 BCE.

Sappho as imagined by Charles Mengin

Her romantic poetry (preserved only fragmentarily) makes allusions to male and female lovers and crunches indistinctly. For that reason, since classical times, the terms sapphic and lesbian became synonim with female homosexuality, meaning that is still in use in many languages.

Well, considering all the trouble Greeks are making on terminology (see the absurd dispute on the name of Macedonia), any day the very use of the nouns pitagorean, Alexandria, aphrodisiac, olympic and even strategy will be challenged on grounds that they are "historical Greek terms that nobody else has the right to use". Are you unlucky enough as to have a Greek name like Alexander or Hercules? Maybe you will be prompted to change it. Do you follow some approximation of an ancient Greek philosophy like Epicureism, Stoicism or Platonism? Maybe you have to redefine your ideology in non-Greek terms. What about telephone and all other common neologisms construed on Greek words? Maybe an acronym for long-distance-talk-device, like LDTD, will have to be used instead...

Pathetic. Instead of being proud of their most famous citizen, Lesbians, or at least some of them, are making a fool of themselves.