New blogs

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.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cosmopolitan languages are simpler

New research seems to prove that those languages that have a history of adult learning, i.e. languages with largest expansive histories and, normall, large modern populations of speakers, tend to have a much more simpler grammar than those languages restricted to small communities, which are comparatively much more complex (and therefore harder to learn).

Gary Lupyan and Rick Dale, Language Structure Is Partly Determined by Social Structure. PLoS ONE 2010. Open access.

The authors compared more than 2000 languages from all world regions to reach these conclusions. They argue that a simpler grammar makes easier for adults to learn these languages and hence expansive languages tend to lose complexity (a good example could be the transformation of Latin into Vulgar Latin, replacing declensions by propositions, and then into modern Romances, more akin to each other than to classical Latin). Inversely, they suggest (for further testing) that the complex grammar of small languages might be related to how children learn languages:

What appears to be functionless overspecification may provide infants with multiple cues allowing language acquisition to proceed with less reliance on extralinguistic context.

Video-epitaph: Howard Zinn

US antimilitarist intellectual and activist
Howard Zinn died yesterday at the venerable age of 87. He helped to coin the, quite descriptive phrase "American Empire" and fought through his life against war and imperialism.

His main book is A People's of the United States, where the idealization of US history typically found in official history books is deconstructed and explained as it really is: the history of a growing and usually merciless empire of global dimensions.

The video above (found at Gara) synthesizes his life and thoughts through the illustrations of Mike Konopacki and the voice of actor Vigo Mortenssen.

Update: Howard Zinn's perception of the Holocaust and how it has been manipulated by the Zionists can be read here (including an anonymous reply by some Zionist).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why to boycott Israel

... and their accomplices.

Well, the answer is obvious: for the same reason that you would boycott Nazi Germany. You would, wouldn't you?

Found at
Not much, but all mine.

In a separate but related note, Chett mentions at Justice that 54 members of the US Congress have stepped forward to demand from the US Government an end to the blockade to Gaza.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Report on intolerance in Europe

I could only find the press release of this paper (should be somewhere in this site but I can't find it) but it's informative enough anyhow:

Andreas Zick et al. European Conditions. Findings of a study on Group-focused Enmity in Europe. Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, 2009. (PDF).

The report includes data for 8 EU states (the four largest ones plus Poland, Netherlands, Portugal and Hungary).

  • 50.4% think that "there are too many immigrants" in their countries. Oddly enough Portugal and Hungary are among the ones showing highest apportions of this xenophobic marker, only after Britain and Italy.
  • 33.5% think that "because of the number of immigrants, I sometimes feel like a stranger". Again Hungary is strangely high considering that immigrants are few there.
  • 48% think that "when jobs are scarce, [locals] should have more rights to a job than an immigrant". Again Eastern European countries are oddly high in this value.
  • 30.7% think that "immigrants enrich our culture". In this case East Europeans are the ones who seem to welcome more the cultural input by immigrants, what somehow seems to contradict other variables.
Anti-Jewish sentiment:
  • 24.6 % believe that "Jews have too much influence" in their country. Again East Europe is particularly high in this feeling (in spite of very few Jews living there).
  • 41.2% believe that "Jews try to take advantage of having been victims in the Nazi era".
  • 31% believe that "Jews in general do not care about anything but their own kind".
  • 38.1% disagree with the idea that "Jews enrich our culture"
Anti-Muslim sentiment:
  • 44.2% believe that "there are too many Muslims" in their country. Again Hungary is oddly high, while Portugal is low for this marker.
  • 55.4% think that "Muslims are too demanding".
  • 54.4% think that "Islam is a religion of intolerance".
Even if these figures seem high, there has been a clear drop in Islamophobia and an increase in Judeophobia in the last year, as Gilad Atzmon reports, probably triggered by the increased awareness of the macabre injustice that Israel is committed to.

  • 13.1% think that "preferably Blacks and Whites should not get married"
  • 31.3% believe that "there is a natural hierarchy between Black and White people". Italy seems the country pushing down this racist belief, otherwise quite marked.
  • 17.6% consider that "when jobs are scarce, men should have more rights to a job than a woman"
  • 60.2% think that "women should take their roles as wives and mothers more seriously". This sentence is so ambiguous that can only indicate a relative trend in sexism, which is clearly stronger in the poorer countries of East and South Europe for both questions.
  • 42.6% disagree with the statement "there is nothing immoral about homosexuality".
  • 52.9% disagree with the statement "it is agood thing to allow marriage between two men or two women".
The Netherlands is by far the most tolerant country in this aspect, while Poland is at the opposite extreme, followed by Hungary.

Overall there is a noticeable pattern of greater intolerance, sexism and xenophobia in Eastern European countries for nearly all values.

Spanish Inquisition decrees again that "all is ETA", hindering political ways

Audiencia Nacional judge Baltasar Garzón has decided to go ahead with the trial of eight leaders of the Basque Nationalist Left on grounds that they constitute the "Bateragune or Commission of Coordination or Direction" of the bloc, which, according to him and in spite of lacking any evidence, is an "organ of coordination, directed and controlled by ETA".

The judicial writ does not present any evidence even of the existence of such committee nor how would the armed group exert control over it, and in fact includes evidences of some of these politicians contradicting ETA in an effective manner. One of these Kafkian "evidences" is the document found in the office of Rafa Díez that states that "we have to overcome the phase of political-military confrontation that keeps us blocked and increases the erosion of the Basque National Liberation Movement".

Notably the super-judge now expands the notion of what can be criminalized to all the so-called Suzerainist Pole (i.e. all Basque nationalist forces), although by the moment he prefers to argue that the rest of parties and organizations that could be included under this tag were "deceived" and not structurally "part of ETA". This idea had never before been suggested anyhow and may mark an increase in repression (or at least the threat of it) against other independentist forces.

In fact, there are already rumors and movements against Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity), which has been said by some Spanish nationalist politicians, that could loan its brand to the Nationalist Left, something that has been denied by the party.

Source: Gara.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

East Asian alcohol intolerance gene mapped

Yi Peng et al. The ADH1B Arg47His polymorphism in East Asian populations and expansion of rice domestication in history. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2010. Open access.

The authors have mapped the allele for alcohol intolerance within the gene among Chinese populations, both Han and non-Han (cf. table 1 for frequencies). There are sharp differences among ethnicities with Tibeto-Burman and Austroasiatic nations showing low levels of the allele.

The highest densities of the allele are in the province of Zhejiang, just south of Shanghai, where nearly everybody is alcohol intolerant. The authors have estimated possible ages for the origin and spread of this allele and conclude that it originated and spread with rice agriculture. However I am not fully convinced, as happens with all molecular clock estimates. Whatever the case it does seem reasonable to accept that the seemingly oldest variants of the allele are in Central/South Western China.

Above: map of the alcohol intolerance allele included in the study (notice that the Chinese border is pretty much fictitious, including all claims the PRC may have) with clines of frequency and symbols for different estimated ages.

Notice that if the claim of Neolithic origin and spread of this allele is correct it would frontally clash with the notion that the Mongoloid morphotype spread within this same period. Personally I am pretty much skeptic of both claims. However I can imagine that this allele may have spread along some South to North demic expansion like the one associated to Y-DNA haplogroup O maybe.

Ample solidarity with persecuted Basque language newspaper

A diverse array of high-profile people from the areas of culture and politics gathered at the monastery of Arantzazu, symbol of the resistence of Basque culture and language under fascism, to support the persecuted editors of Egunkaria newspaper, gratuitously accused of being part of ETA, in the inquisitorial campaign that has marred Basque and Spanish political situation in the last decade.

Among the supporters were known artists like Fermin Muguruza, linguists like Txillardegi, iconic politicians like Xabier Arzalluz, two former lehendakariak, Carlos Garaikoetxea and J.A. Ardanza, as well as the presidents of the three western Basque provincial governments.

They expressed their solidarity with the accused in the Egunkaria case and specially with former secretary general of major labor union LAB, Rafa Díez, who is now in prison.

Tomorrow the trial against Egunkaria editors, promoted by fascist organizations after the government gave up, will continue at Madrid.

Source: Gara [sp - eu].

Related posts:
- Multitudes support Egunkaria.
- Political trial against Basque-language newspaper.

European groups against the High Speed Train join forces in Hendaia

Thirteen organizations from the Italian, French and Spanish states joined forces yesterday at the Basque locality of Hendaia (Hendaye) before a demonstration against this kind of mega-infrastructure.

Snapshot of the demonstration held at Hendaia (Gara)

They reject the high speed train because it causes a ecological, socio-economic and human disaster, and because these projects disdain citizen participation. They denounce that in search of a justification for these kind of abusive transport structures the institutional promoters use many false hypothesis.

As alternative, the popular organisms demand improvement and optimization of the already existing railroads. In a further step of criticism they suggest that a reduction of transportation, along with a deep transformation of the economic model are much needed.

These points have been written down in a declaration known as the Hendaia Charter, which was signed by all present groups and ten other organizations across the continent. The Hendaia Charter has been translated to many languages already (so far I have only been able to locate the version in Basque).

Sources: Gara (sp), France24 (en).
Other references: AHT Gelditu! (eu - sp - fr)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Kafkian case of the archaeology of Iruña-Veleia

I have been recently posting on the controversy about the potentially most important Vasco-Roman site of Iruña-Veleia. Veleia was the Roman name, Iruña, "the city", the Basque term used for the area in Medieval and Modern times, in spite of not being anything but a monastery there anymore (memory is oddly stubborn sometimes).

Now K. Fernández de Pinedo writes at Herrian, a small magazine of the provincial government, mostly oriented to the rural areas, reviewing the process of criminalization of the lead archaeologists and how reports that are either neutral or clearly contradictory with the claims of falsification have mounted up without the institutions (provincial government of Araba, Basque public University) backing in their claims of falsehood.

Air picture of the house called "Pompeia Valentina" where most of the inscriptions were found, among the rubble used to ciment the building. The room of the findings is marked with an X.

The article (in Spanish) is provided by linguist Juan Martin Elexpuru at his dedicated blog: Iruña-Veleia, gezurra ala egia? (Iruña-Veleia, lie or truth?) as a PDF download. I can't translate it in its integrity (though I recommend all who are minimally fluent in Spanish and interested to take a direct look) but I can make a synthesis.

Elexpuru also provides an extensive private Flickr archive of photos of the Basque texts, with brief explanations in Basque, that should not be any major handicap for whoever is really interested in the matter.

The late chronology of the Iruña-Veleia case

In 2008 the ad-hoc Advisory Scientific Committee on Iruña-Veleia reported to the provincial parliament of Araba (Alava) and left no doubt: the impressive findings of the Roman age city were fake, there was no linguistic theoretical way they could be true (no mention of archaeological or other factual data, at least nothing clear). A few days later, Eliseo Gil, lead researcher, gave a press conference to defend his innocence and that of his team members, including his wife and co-researcher, Idoia Filloy. A few weeks later the provincial government publishes in the net the acts, reports and a good deal of the photos.

More than a year later the official stand is the same, in spite of Gil and Filloy being acquitted of scam at court (the accusation of forgery is still pendant at another court). There is not a single material evidence that supports the case of forgery and there are 13 new reports that show that things then considered as "impossible" were real in other areas of the Roman Empire.

As time has passed, the irregularities of what happened in the committee, made up mostly by members of the same faculty (Philology). All what happened then is irregular: Eliseo Gil is faced with some kind of unexpected trap, some negative reports are read and he's made to know that the decision has been taken. On a written order from the provincial public servant, Félix López, the authorities sentence that the inscriptions are false in spite of only one report being published by then. The rest would appear only weeks later.

By this order, Eliseo Gil is expelled from the site.

That same evening a press conference tries to demonstrate that all was a forgery. The use of glue by the archaeologists to compose broken pieces (a common practice) is the only material "evidence". They claim that in one shard it's read "Descartes", when the actual word very clearly reads "Miscart", seemingly a variant of the Phoenician name of Mercury, Melkart.

Do you read Descartes or Miscart here?

One of the worse irregularities has just been known: assigning the research of the site to Julio Núñez, author of one of the most negative reports.

The reports of the commission are all very negative, emphasizing that they are forgeries, basing their conclusions specially on the uniqueness of some of the shards and the alleged "impossible anachronisms" among the findings.

The "impossible" materials include names like Nefertiti or Deidre, combination of capital and small letters, some epigraphic issues, existence of words that rather belong to Vulgar than Classical Latin, words in a Basque that is "too modern"...

The only material report actually confirms that the shards have either been buried for centuries or have suffered some other sort of accelerated aging process, though in the conclussions section takes a Pilatean attitude: "we can't confirm that the shards are false or authentic".

Shard with a Christian cross drawing and the text neure ata (my father in Basque). Intrusions in the graph are quite apparent.

Two of the members of the committee, Santos and Ciprés, have all the time nevertheless defended the authenticity of all. Another one, Gorrochategui, did originally but changed his mind later on. Yet another member, Henrique Knörr, also supported the authenticity of the findings, even if favored an Early Middle Age origin for them, but he has passed away since then.

Since then 13 experts have elaborated for free, based on the images that can be found on the Internet, different reports, all of which support the authenticity of the findings. These can be grouped in three categories: archaeological (dealing with excavation methods), philological (dealing with the plausibility and possible meaning of the texts) and technical (dealing with the autheticity of the shards).

Three of these reports deal with the archaeological methodology, including one by Edward Cecil Harris, who concludes that "the research was carried on with the highest standards"

Seven other papers are of linguistic nature and notice numerous contradictions in the committee's reports and the lack of any expert in Vulgar Latin in the team, in spite of most Latin texts being written in Vulgar dialect, as almost nobody spoke Classic Latin anymore by the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries, when these shards are dated.

The last group, includes three reports (by geologists Koenraad Van Der Driessche and Mikel Albizu and paleopathologist Joaquim Baxarias) all of which find enough physical evidence that supports a likely ancient origin, such as crusts, carbon remains, marks of roots, etc.

Another inscription showing clear incrustations (detail). The full text reads Denos zure naiaDenos your will, with Denos being a rare Celtic name according to H. Iglesias)

While the judicial procedure continues its course, the provincial government has requested a graphological report on a latrine that presumptly demonstrate the hand of Gil in the texts. As Fernández de Pinedo notices, these also resemble closely, for example, the types used by popular comic of Roman Age ambient, Astérix.

In this situation, the author makes a demand for an independent reanalysis of the findings, which, if authentic, would be of exceptional importance. This is the request of SOS Veleia, which is gathering e-signatures in demand of such revision.

The materials found at Veleia include some 400 texts, mostly on pottery shards, though there are also some on bone, brick and glass, dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries CE mostly (some also from the 5th century). They have drawings and/or text on them, mostly in Vulgar Latin but also a few in Greek, with Egyptian hieroglyphs (maybe just decorative) and crucially some 50 of them with texts in ancient Basque. Many have a Christian theme, being one of the most controversial ones a calvary with a supposed "RIP" inscription that may be only three strokes.

Previous posts on the subject:
- Rare Celtic and Phoenician names add credibility to the Iruña-Veleia findings.
- Further voices in favor of the authenticity of Iruña-Veleia's findings.

See also:, where you may find all or most of the reports briefly mentioned here.

R1b1b2 and R1b1b2a1 distinct STR diversity

I'm borrowing here the work of
Aargiedude (again) because it's such a priceless addition that it really deserves to be paid some attention. If professional geneticists would be half as serious as this amateur, we'd know a lot more and a lot better about our the population history of humankind by now.

These two maps represent the haplotype diversity of R1b1b2a1 (ht15) and R1b1b2* (ht35) respectively:

Click to expand

Aargiedude's own observations at Dienekes' blog follow:

I've finished estimating ht15 and ht35 diversity, it's taken me 2 days to do this, and I think the results are amazing. The diversity clines of ht15 and ht35 are almost polar opposites. I think these results seriously call into question the conclusion of the Balaresque study, which is what prompted me to look into this. There's no surfing-on-an-expanding-wave phenomenon occuring with ht15. It has its lowest variance in the supposed origination point: Anatolia.

Instead, as Maju pointed out brilliantly, the study's tree diagram of their R1b1b2 haplotypes seems the result of 2 separate events, not a single wave diffusion. And he was absolutely right.

The diversity of ht35 doesn't form a gradually decreasing cline. It seems to be uniformly similar from Iran to west Iberia, or at least up to Italy, because there are issues with the validity of the North African and Iberian data (small sample size in one case and confusion with ht15 samples, in the other). Its cline seems to be more north-south than diagonally from southwest to northeast. East European countries have the same ht35 diversity as West Europe, with the special consideration of the west Iberian results.

Some technical details to keep in mind. Ht15 can be differentiated from ht35 by barely 2 markers: 393 and 461. Few studies test 461, so most of the samples I used were chosen on the basis of 393 alone. But about 3% of ht15 and 10% of ht35 have the "wrong" value, becoming confused with the other group. This usually doesn't matter, exceot in countries where there is an overwhelming ratio difference between the frequencies of both groups, such as in Iberia, France, Britain, Netherlands, Anatolia, and the Levant. In these extreme cases, I've included, where possible, 2 pair of results. The top pair uses samples predicted as narrowly as possible, by using both 393 and 461. The bottom pair is the standard prediction using just 393. The top pair should be more accurate, but they tend to lack in sample size, so then again, maybe not. Notice in the case of Iberia, that the less restrictive result changes drastically from the more restrictive result, and results in identical values to Iberia's ht15 diversity estimate, suggesting most of the samples are in fact ht15 samples that are being confused for ht35 because they had a mutation in 393 to the modal value of ht35 on that marker. Curiously, this didn't happen in France, where I was only able to use the less accurate method (393 alone), and yet the result is notably low and different from France's ht15 diversity. I'd seriously take North Africa's high ht35 result (0,30) with a military-issue teaspoon of salt, it's just 5 samples. On the other hand, it's notoriously high ht15 diversity (0,28) is pretty solid.

To recap, Baralesque and all geneticists are stuck in a time warp, they're back in 2003, thinking R1b is just R1b. What a waste, after going through all the effort of collecting and processing the samples, to not have had the sense to test for a few extra key mutations that define some major subdivisions of R1b1b2 and are well known for more than 5 years. The conclusions they reached would then have been very different.

The Balaresque paper was discussed at Leherensuge a few days ago.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Motivation is different for different personalities

this article at Science Daily. There seems to be two different types of personalities, those who strive for excellence and those who strive for fun.

Oddly enough they are similarly productive, it all depends on the motivation. For the first type (achievers), when something is presented as challenging or are motivated by subliminal messages of excellence and accomplishment, they work better... but when something is presented as fun, they are just not interested and fail. The other type (enjoyers), maybe more common, do exactly the opposite thing: they will perform well when something is presented as fun but will feel demotivated when it's presented as a competition for excellence. Again, with the wrong motivation, they just lose interest and do worse.

As a decided member of the club of anti-competitive enjoyers, I perfectly understand this type: Excellence? That's boring. Fun? Then I will give my best.

As the co-author of the research, Dolores Albarracín, suggests: enjoying life is not a bad goal. But placed in a competitive environment we will unavoidably feel disenchanted and, almost willingly, allow ourselves to "lose".

We just want some other kind of game, one that is, simply put, enjoyable and not just demanding. It's not that we are worse: we are just not interested in winning just for the sake of it. First of all it has to be emotionally gratifying.

That's what communism (well understood) is about: destroying alienation and making work and production again something cool, not just the worthless competition of of the living dead that is today.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

US military intervention effectively blocks aid in Haití

It was bad already and then the marines arrived.

They do not only do zero humanitarian work but severely hamper that of those who want and can help.

Yesterday I watched in TV returning Spanish rescue specialists that complained that they were forced by the invaders to stop their work at 5pm and severely restricted their activities on "security grounds", when they say that they never felt any threat at all.

Some propaganda images of the marines distributing aid have been spread by the media but RNE journalist Fran Sevilla absolutely denies that they are doing anything at all, not even patrolling much. They have taken indeed control of of the Port-au-Prince airport and give absolute priority to their own deployment and the evacuation of US nationals, in practice blockading the the aid distribution.

France and Brazil have joined the chore of complaints by many Latin American countries against the ugly reality of US unilateral intervention. Bolivian President Evo Morales is even organizing a UN meeting to demand the retreat of US troops on light of their harmful activity.

Physicians without Borders and Intermon OXFAM have complained that their aid is stuck at Santo Domingo unable to reach Port-au-Prince because the marines don't give them authorization. .

The maybe feeble but anyhow real, aid organizatiod by the Haitian government, that had moved its headquarters to a police station near the airport, has been totally overruled without legal authority by the disproportionate, meaningless and useless US military invasion, which seems more designed to promote obscure imperialist interests than to help in any meaningful way.

Source: Rebelión.

Molecular clock speculation obscuring the real Jurassic origin of primates

Again reality and reason clash frontally with the
molecular clock hypothesis (or at least the most common interpretations of it).

If we'd have to follow the molecular clock speculations, so fashionable these days, we'd have to have sailor monkeys, which would have crossed oceans to get into America already in the Eocene, when the Atlantic Ocean was already huge. Such a colossal feat is plainly impossible, even for humans before just some centuries ago, but the fanatics of the molecular clock religion have argued for transoceanic rafting and hypothetical "island hopping" en masse.

Non-human primate range.

Common Sense shakes its head in disbelief, Folly laughs delighted at the naivety of even some of the supposedly most brilliant human minds.

Luckily Reason still has good cards to play in this surrealistic meta-game of honest facts versus trickster blind faith. The card that Reason plays now reads:

Michael Heads, Evolution and biogeography of primates: a new model based on molecular phylogenetics, vicariance and plate tectonics. Zoologica Scripta 2010.


The ages of the oldest fossils suggest an origin for primates in the Paleocene (∼56 Ma). Fossil-calibrated molecular clock dates give Cretaceous dates (∼80–116 Ma). Both these estimates are minimum dates although they are often 'transmogrified' and treated as maximum or absolute dates. Oldest fossils can underestimate ages by tens of millions of years and instead of calibrating the time-course of evolution with a scanty fossil record, the geographical boundaries of the main molecular clades of primates are calibrated here with radiometrically dated tectonic events. This indicates that primates originated when a globally widespread ancestor (early Archonta) differentiated into a northern group (Plesiadapiformes, extinct), a southern group (Primates), and two south-east Asian groups (Dermoptera and Scandentia). The division occurred with the breakup of Pangea in the Early Jurassic and the opening of the central Atlantic (∼185 Ma). Within primates, the strepsirrhines and haplorhines diverged with volcanism and buckling on the Lebombo Monocline, a volcanic rifted margin in south-east Africa (Early Jurassic, ∼180 Ma). Within strepsirrhines, lorises and galagos (Africa and Asia) and lemurs (Madagascar) diverged with the formation of the Mozambique Channel (Middle Jurassic, ∼160 Ma). Within haplorhines, Old World monkeys and New World monkeys diverged with the opening of the Atlantic (Early Cretaceous, ∼130 Ma). The main aspects of primate distribution are interpreted as the result of plate tectonics, phylogeny and vicariance, with some subsequent range expansion leading to secondary overlap. Long-distance, trans-oceanic dispersal events are not necessary. The primate ancestral complex was already widespread globally when sea-floor spreading, strike-slip rifting and orogeny fractured and deformed distributions through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, leading to the origin of the modern clades. The model suggests that the topology of the phylogenetic tree reflects a sequence of differentiation in a widespread ancestor rather than a series of dispersal events.

The paper is behind paywall but you can read a synthesis at Science Daily.

The molecular clock, if it still makes any sense at all, is certainly much slower. Primates migrated to South America in the Jurassic, when it was still part of Gondwanaland.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

R1b1b2a1: Neolithic or what?

I found at Dienekes the reference of a new paper on R1b1b2, focused on demonstrating (quite forcibly) that the lineage is Neolithic and not Paleolithic. Dienekes is, of course, happy that they chose to use his favorite (but rather disliked in the field) molecular clock methodology: the one based on the pedigree mutation rate, which make all haplogroups look extremely recent.

Patricia Balaresque et al. A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Haplogroups. PLoS Biology 2010. Open access. I'm provding a link to PubMed Central because at the time of writing this the original link remained broken.

I am not really happy: the pedigree rate can't be used for ages older than 5000 years (and all dates reported in this paper are clearly older) and, anyhow, the highly hypothetical molecular clock methodologies are anything but helpful when they become the main theme of a "research" paper.

I am not happy either because instead of using the already known SNP-based phylogeny of the haplogroup, they choose to treat the whole haplogroup as a single amorphous clade, when it is clearly structured. This isn't very helpful either.

Finally I am not happy either because they treat (again) the process of Neolithic spread in Europe as a single phenomenon, when it is in fact a complex array of various cultures, notably two different main vectors: one via the Morava-Danube and another via the Mediterranean coast. Both with origins not in Anatolia directly but in the Balcans. They ignore all these archaeological facts rather insultingly.

However for those who like to dig in the raw data, instead of just jumping to the too often biased and misleading conclusions, the paper still has some interest.

Notably I found figure 3 (haplotype structure) quite interesting. Here you have it with a crucial annotation for better understanding:

Click to expand

The crucial annotation is of course marking (with a dark red line) what is not part of R1b1b2a1, which is, as you can see a single branch of the star-like structure, but, unlike the others, is clearly not part of the fundamentally European haplogroup R1b1b2a1. Part of it is at the root of R1b1b2 and R1b1b2a but the rest of sub-branches must be derived, representing a distinct process centered in Turkey and nearby areas.

I dwelt on this matter in a previous post, so I'm not going to go all over it again here. Just for a quick reference a copy of the graph I posted then, showing major haplotypes and their relation with the various layers of the haplogroup:

Click to expand. Based on Alonso-2005.
DYS are 19-390-391-392-393.

As you can easily see most of the Turkish diversity belongs to the R1b1b2(xR1b1b2a1) part of the haplogroup structure. And sure I don't doubt that Anatolia or somewhere nearby is at the ultimate origin of R1b1b2. But there is a sharp distinction between that and what we find in Europe, which almost exclusively belongs to R1b1b2a1, a very specific sublineage.

And a sublineage that is very much ramified in a star-like structure, implying rapid demic expansion. When? That is not really the crucial issue as I see it. "Where?" should be the first question and a question that no paper has yet dealt with from the viewpoint of R1b1b2a1 on its own right.

In the past the lack of knowledge of the structure of the haplogroup may have served as excuse but not anymore. In fact any self-respecting geneticist should look at that SNP-based structure before dealing with STR-based haplotypes and take good notice of the distinctions.

And, if not, why not to include R1b1b1 (Central Asian) or even R1b1a (Italy and Africa mostly) and other R1b*? It is an arbitrary choice, poorly justified.

But, well, what do we get from this data set after we scrap off the extreme bias? For those who enjoy dealing with haplotypes in detail there is a long list in the supplementary material, which duly processed may provide very useful information.

I have not the time nor the resources to do that, so I have done something much simpler but also very informative: count the haplotypes by region as defined in figure 3 (above). Sadly France (incl. Basques), Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, England (incl. Cornwall) and Ireland are all dumped together in the category "other" ("West Europe" hereafter). Unlike the authors I do make the important distinction of what is R1b1b2a1 and what is not.

Follows the number of haplotypes by region and phylogenetic category (manual count so subject to minor error maybe):

  • Turkey: 37
  • West Europe: 20
  • Iberia: 8
  • Balcans: 2
  • Italy: none
  • West Europe: 198
  • Iberia: 90
  • Turkey: 13
  • Italy: 11
  • Balcans: 6
What does this say? That even between perfectly comparable regions such as Turkey, Italy and Iberia, the highest diversity for R1b1b2a1 is in the West. If you look again at figure 3 you'll notice that most Turkish haplotypes of this clade are derived from European ones, what implies back-migration after the formation and spread of R1b1b2a1, which must have happened in Western or Central Europe.

When did this happen? I am not sure but I have some things clear:

The structure of R1b1b2 does not correspond at all with what one would expect from a demic spread from the Balcans (not Anatolia directly) through two clearly distinct pathways, one to the Danube and Central Europe and the other through Italy to SE France and Iberia. Neither the Balcans nor Italy look particularly central nor we see two differentiated founder effects but only one.

Also the distribution of R1b1b2a1 in a cline that is, as the authors of this paper shamelessly admit, totally the inverse of what one could expect of a demic spread from SE Europe.

The structure of R1b1b2a1 in fact strongly suggests a spread from somewhere in the region described as "Other" and or Iberia, i.e. in Magdalenian Europe. This is in full agreement with the generally accepted theory that R1b1b2a1 spread from the Franco Cantabrian region after the Last Glacial Maximum, along with Magdalenian culture. It could have other explanations (Epipaleolithic flows, older Upper Paleolithic cultural dispersals like Gravettian or Aurignacian) but it just cannot fit within a Neolithic frame. No way!

How did it back-migrate to Anatolia? Possibly with the people who carried the rock art fashion to southern Turkey (Beldibi), which may have an offshoot also at Egypt, where some R1b1b2 is also found, as well as related haplogroup R1b1a. The exact process is still somewhat uncertain anyhow.

Sadly enough the authors have missed an opportunity to analyze the regional structure of this haplogroup in Europe. Hopefully someone else will eventually do it, helping to clarify the matter. The raw data is anyhow there for whoever wants to do it.

Update: a much more realistic geographic analysis of the diversity at the two different phylogenetic levels (by Aargiedude) can be found at this new post.

Imaz: key player in pro-Spanish Basque politics.

I remember very well how the now defunct magazine Ardi Beltza (dedicated to research journalism and hence one of the first victims of the
Neoinquisitorial process that began 1998) denounced Josu Jon Imaz as "the man of the Zionist Lobby in the Basque Country".

By that time he was already a rising star within the institutional Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), that has a soft nationalist discourse but a mere regionalist praxis and which has ruled the region for the last many decades, benefitting from polarization. He became a key member of the Western Basque autonomous government in 1999 and in 2004 he managed to reach the highest position of the ruling party, representing the "moderate" faction.

In 2008 he left for a private (formerly public) company, Petronor, part of the Repsol-YPF corporation, and curiously after an important share (15%) was acquired by Argentine investor Enrique Eskenazi (not sure how Zionist is this guy but the surname is obviously Jewish, so probably a lot, considering he's also a major international investor).

He has kept a low profile since then but he remains quite obviously influential (his ultra-soft current remains in control of PNV, he managed to persuade Athletic football club to accept the sponsorship of his company).

This peculiar far-reaching influence of Josu Jon, as he is often called "affectively", is now again on the spot after he has been apparently appointed as advisor (along with several other high-profile capitalists - but no labor unionists) of the undemocratically elected new Lehendakari, Patxi López (unionist, PSE-PSOE). His party has declined to comment on grounds that is a private activity (is it?)

Gara newspaper dwells on the matter today, including the protest of major labor union LAB against such a spat of corporative appointments, and notices that the unionist proconsul López has several times declared his admiration for Imaz, whom he considers one of "those nationalists we have always had understanding with in the past, and will have in the future".

The newspaper also recalls how Imaz was the head of the representation at the last political negotiations at Loiola, in 2006, and how he seconded the breakup of them by the Socialist Party, ruling in Spain then and now. López has also used the figure of "moderate" Imaz against that of "radical" Juan José Ibarretxe (last democratically elected Lehendakari), much more popular for the electors, obviously. Imaz in turn has got absolutely no problem in showing up along the undemocratic new local ruler in spite of remaining a member, and a very influential one, of the Nationalist Party, now forced to be mere opposition, after some 12-18% of the electors have been deprived of their civic rights.

For me he's nothing but an opportunist squirrel but it seems that he holds some very unusual leverage.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In search of Tartessos at Doñana marshes

The Tartessian (proto Tartessian, Tartessian and Tartessian-Orientalizing) culture is a well known stage of Iron Age Southern Iberia, however the semi-mythical city of
Tartessos (Tarshish in the Bible), allegedly destroyed by the Phoenicians, has never been located, so the understanding of this civilization is lacking the cornerstone.

For long people has speculated that it might been hiding in the marshes of Doñana, a national park at the Low Guadalquivir river. However archaeological research in the area has been nil so far. Until now.

Some years ago aereal photos showed rectangular and circular structures in the marshes that must have been man-made. Now finally researchers of the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) are digging the area.

No results have been presented so far but the fact that there is an ongoing excavation is at least assuring.

Source: Telegraph (via Archaeology in Europe).

Note: I would totally disregard the speculations regarding "Atlantis" in the article, specially those related to that pseudocientific Cuban so-called archaeologist, who has no real cue and has been forging artifacts to make his Atlantean claims more appealing to the people he gets donations from.

In my opinion, the legend of Atlantis, as well as the Heraklean one on Erythia, must refer to the slightly better known Portuguese culture of Vila Nova de Sao Pedro and particularly its long living and large capital of Zambujal, many of whose characteristics resemble Plato's description, including that it had a large canal of about the dimensions stated by the Greek philosopher connecting it to the Atlantic Ocean. If I'm correct, then the events reflected in these two legends should have happened in the Bronze Age, when Greek (Mycenaean) influence in SE Iberia is more apparent (later Phoenicians would have the main role). Also the critical role of tin in this period would have been a major drive in whatever conflicts happened in the "far west" (the Hesperides), where the most important sources of this strategic metal used to be (Galicia, Cornwall).

Tartessos belongs to a later phase, surely taking the role of the ill-fated Zambujal and El Argar civilizations for some centuries before its own destruction (by Phoenicians, according to their own claims). Its legacy was nevertheless long-lasting, an is believed that the Turdetani living in the Guadalquivir basin were its cultural descendants.

For a wider review of Ancient Iberia, check my old article on this matter at All Empires.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New "consensus" radiocarbon calibration curve

The INTCAL committee has forged a revised and consensual new calibration curve, which was published of Friday
at Science magazine (found via Archaeology in Europe).

A simplified format, useful for reference for amateurs like myself is openly available:

Very roughly, for an even quicker reference: 10,000 BP means 11,500 years ago, 20,000 BP means 23,000 years ago and 35,000 BP is equivalent to 40,000 years ago. Uncalibrated dates are noted as BP, while calibrated dates are usually tagged as calBP (or similar) or even, quite informally, as "years ago". Different calibration curves can bring confusion too and therefore having a single reference curve as this one may be quite important.

It is worth mentioning in this regard the review of this matter of C
14 dates, raw and calibrated, that Julien Riel-Salvatore made a few days ago at A Very Remote Period Indeed, which is very instructive.

New ETA communication: political means should lead the way

In a new communication to Basque newspaper Gara, militant group ETA assumes the initiative to fight by political means debated by the Basque Nationalist Left, however it warns that
repression must be confronted.

It looks like they are wishing for a scenario like that of North Ireland: ... carrying the Basque Country to self-determination in a gradual, regulated and consensual way...

However they do not seem naive at all about what to expect from Spain and request the people to organize and go active and the Spanish state to cease in its violence.

A quote from historical militant Argala (murdered by the Spanish secret services) serves to reinforce the message: not ETA nor any political party, it will be the Basque People who will give freedom to the Basque Country.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homo erectus in Europe even earlier

Recent research at Herault (SE France) has uncovered bones of our genus that date to c. 1.57 million years ago, pushing the earliest presence of Homo erectus (or maybe H. habilis or H. georgicus...) back several hundred thousand years.

Read more at Stone Pages-Aechaeo News.

More Paleolithic rock art found in Central India

Stone Pages - Archaeo News:

A group of naturalists from Amravati districts (India) has discovered a set of 17 unique cave paintings in the Satpura range of Madhya Pradesh - which opens up new avenues of research as this art form are believed to be of Paleolithic period. The group has been working since the last six years on this project and include scientist Dr V.T. Ingole, wildlife writer P.S. Hirurkar, Padmakar Lad, Shirishkumar Patil, Dnyaneswar Damahe and Manohar Khode.

The first cave with a rock painting was spotted in January 2007. "It is really unique and must be preserved," says Ingol. "We have so far found and surveyed 65 rock shelters and we found 17 cave paintings," Hirurkar said. "We expect that there could be more such paintings in the 20-km range of our current discovery," he said, adding: "We expect this to be 15,000 to 20,000 years old." All these are located in the Tapti valley. Talking about his discovery, Hirurkar draws parallel with the Bhimbetka rock shelters, which is a World Heritage Site. "In these paintings one can see images of different animals," said Ingole.

The first cave which was visited is facing the north is in good condition and has more than 50 rock paintings comprising mainly of animal figures such as a herd of spotted deer, a herd of Samber, Rhinos, a group of wild dogs, bison, blue bull, tiger, and so on. The stags are painted very prominently with long antlers.

Many of the paintings are in red colour, perhaps made of red iron oxide. There are other paintings which are coloured in white mainly depicting human figures on horse with sword and other gears. Two smooth deep holes (mortar like) 10 cm diameter and 15 cm deep were also found near the cave. These holes might have been used to powder minerals used for paint.

Original link to Sankar News (Nov-30-2009) is broken but I trust Diego and Paula enough to understand it's a problem of the newspaper and nothing else.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The new fascist bishop of Donostia, Haiti and the foot-in-mouth syndrome

I don't often comment on religious matters, even if they have a political and social twist. Unless it's something exaggerated, a truly serious matter like child abuse or other kind of exploitation "in the name of God", it's the problem of the respective sect members, not mine.

But this guy is so deeply fascist that is insulting even to me.

The appointment of Spaniard and J. I. Munilla as bishop of Donostia (San Sebastian) raised more than just eyebrows among Basque Catholics, every day less in number and less committed. After all it was the second appointment of a non-Basque as bishop in the last years and he is seen as in line with the extreme right that controls the Catholic Church, in Spain and elsewhere. Most Gipuzkoan priests signed a manifest against his nomination and people protested at the ceremony of his appointment, a few days ago, while the fascists arrived from Madrid for the occasion asked the police what were they waiting to charge against them.

The feeling I have is more or less like one of those occasional landings by reduced bands of Spanish fascists under heavy police escort. What the Spanish call "poner una pica en Flandes" ("set a pike in Flanders", an allusion to the Dutch War of Independence).

But, well, whatever: problem of the Christians. If they don't like Ratzinger and Rouco, they should break apart, I believe.

But it seems that the guy is going to be outrageous, not like his also Spaniard colleague, Blázquez, who, probably aware of being outside his native Salamanca (where the Devil lives according to Basque legend), tries to keep a low profile.

First time (or almost) that Munilla opens his mouth and is to say something as brutal and improper for a priest as there are greater evils than what Haitians are suffering these days.


What the heck! While I throw my hands to my head and look around trying to find confirmation that this is real life and not a nightmare, I try to imagine what kind of evil can be worse than such a total disaster, with thousands of corpses causing true roadblocks and people dying of thirst without any assistance whatsoever... and even the worst depictions of Hell look benevolent in comparison.

Alone worth an no-return ticket to Port-au-Prince for him in the hope that he might at least serve as food or his blood be used to quench the thirst of someone in dire need.

But this is not all: when he tries to excuse himself about that, he does by saying that the evil that those innocents are suffering does not have the last word because God promises eternal happiness.

Alright, Munilla, why don't you go and embrace that "eternal happiness" that God promises and quit being such a highly insulting jerk?

It seems that the only utility that you may have, apart of possible uses as food for pigs or something like that, is to cause such widespread outrage that the already waning influence of the Catholic Church in our little country finally collapses completely.

News source: Gara.

Update (Jan 16):

There is a Spanish saying that goes: "otro vendrá que bueno te hará" (someone else will come that will make you [look] good).

In the case of Munilla this one is US fascist politician and televangelist Pat Robertson. He is of course also a "Christian", one of those that would make Jesus himself renegate.

This "Christian" has shamelessly declared in the aftermath of the Hati earthquake that:

... they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal. [...] ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.

Source: Al Jazeera blogs - Americas.

Why isn't the guillotine working extra hours these days?

Further voices in favor of the authenticity of Iruña-Veleia's findings

Valencian archaeologist and epigraphist Luis Silgo Gauche is yet another voice to support the authenticity of the materials found in the important Basque site of Roman era, that have been inquisitorially persecuted by a gang of institutionally powerful linguists lead by Joseba Lakarra, with the sympathies of the Castilian nationalist school of historians (Celticists and generally anti-Basque) and the shameful complicity of some politicians.

In a recently published paper he states that the finding of inscriptions in situ, within a perfectly documented excavation procedure, discards in a total and definintive manner that it would be, in all cases, a falsification.


See also:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

R1b1 origin: Italy or West Asia?

One thing I have been chewing on
since I read the recent Cruciani paper on R1b1a-V88 is that, at least in that study, the region where R1b1-P25 has highest basal diversity (by haplogroups) are Italy and West Asia. Both regions have R1b1a, R1b1b and some other R1b1* (3/1173=0.25% in Italy and 1/328=0.3% in West Asia).

Another R1b1* was observed in the East Asian sample but this region lacks R1b1a.

The Italian R1b1* seems to belong (by haplotype) to two different subclades, what makes Italy provisionally a good candidate for the origin of R1b1. However notice that the Italian sample is much larger than the West Asian one, almost in direct proportion to the number of R1b1* individuals found.

Italy (incl. Corsica and Sardinia) also has high R1b1a diversity (by subhaplogroups: 2/4 basal sublineages, but lacks R1b1a*). This would suggest that the origin of R1b1a actually lays towards Africa, where basal diversity seems somewhat higher.

Of course it's a very tricky issue. Take with a grain of salt.

Santimamiñe: new data

Just a brief note while I gather more information.

Pileta en Blogger informs that the cave of Santimamiñe (Biscay, Basque Country) has seen further research, that have uncovered new Magdalenian harpoons and other materials. Interestingly it seems that mitochondrial DNA analysis of ancient dwellers are in course.

The entry includes a video from EiTB (Western Basque public TV) in Spanish language, that at the moment I have no idea how to embed here.

My paternal family comes from that area and a visit to the cave when I was a kid (now it's closed except for few guided visits) no doubt triggered my fascination for everything Paleolithic, so I am always interested in this site in particular, which includes one of the most extensive habitation sequences of Europe: from Chatelperronian to the Iron Age.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

African R1b is distinct single haplogroup

I missed the relevant post at Dienekes and I'm not subscribed to the relevant magazine. Hence I'm posting on this matter somewhat late.

Whatever the case, a new subhaplogroup of Y-DNA R1b has been finally defined including all or most of African R1b1*. The defining SNP has been named V88. This lineage is found specially at the Nile area (more common in Sudan than Egypt and more in Upper Egypt than Lower Egypt) and in the Chad basin (Chadic speakers).

The authors conjecture an age of 9200-5600 BP for the haplogroup but I'd say that it should be rather from c. 16,000 BP, when rock art in the style of Europe and Anatolia (other regions high in R1b) is found in Upper Egypt. As always, molecular clock age estimates should be taken with extreme caution if not total disregard: it's much closer to pseudoscientific speculation than to empirical science.

Fluvio Cruciani et al. Human Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88: a paternal genetic record of early mid Holocene trans-Saharan connections and the spread of Chadic languages. European Journal of Human Genetics 2010. Behind a paywall.


Update (Jan 13):

I finally put my hands on the paper (thanks to Vincent) and is quite curious. Anyhow it is worth mentioning first of all that the new phylogeny has already been added to ISOGG.

Second, it is also worth mentioning that this paper does not deal with Sudanese R1b1*, which is probably part of the new haplogroup but still awaiting confirmation.

Third, it is most interesting that, while the new R1b1a (V88) is most frequent in Central Africa (and secondarily North Africa, specially among Siwa Berbers, Egypt), two out of four basal sublineages are exclusively found in Southern Europe.

In detail:

  • R1b1a* (V88) is common in Central Africa (0-95.5% depending on the ethnicity), with some presence in North Africa (0-23.7%, this last among Siwa Berbers) and also found in West Asia and the Balcans at very low levels (0.3 and 0.2% respectively of regional composite samples).
  • R1b1a1 (M18), formerly R1b1a, is located in Corsica (0.7%), though is also known (older materials) to exist in Sardinia at high frequencies and, if my memory is correct, SE France as well.
  • R1b1a2 (V8) is a private lineage found only in one Tali individual (4.5%, n=22). The Tali are a Niger-Congo (Adamawa) speaking population of North Cameroon that also shows 9.1% (two individuals) with R1b1a*.
  • R1b1a3 (V35) is a very small lineage restricted to Italy (two individuals, one belonging to sublineage R1b1a3a-V7), where some R1b1* (P25) was also observed (3/1173).
  • R1b1a4 (V69) makes up the largest subhaplogroup of R1b1a and is found with about the same distribution as R1b1a*, that is in Central (0-62.5%) and North Africa (0-4.9%).
Conclusions? Few and cautious. The haplogroup shows a striking distribution in two branches: one in Africa (R1b1a* and R1b1a4 primarily) and the other in southern Europe (R1b1a* at very low levels with R1b1a1 as main subclade almost circumscribed to Sardinia). Based on its European distribution, apparently unrelated to Africa, it should have a timeline dating to at least Neolithic times. It might be older in Africa (see above), though I'd be willing to consider a Neolithic timescale if a consistent archaeological pattern is provided as support. A Nile area origin is very likely for this continent (but see the haplotype structure, with Central African R1b1a* at the very center - yet looks as an artifact because of the many lateral branches leading to R1b1* and other control subclades).


Adendum (Jan 15):

Ebizur has posted some nice complementary information for this lineage, specifically the M18 subclade, in the comments section. I find it so informative that I can't but copy here:

Haplogroup R1b1a1-M18 has previously been observed in Sardinia and Lebanon.

Peter A. Underhill, Peidong Shen, Alice A. Lin et al. (2000), "Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations," Nature Genetics, Volume 26:

1/22 = 4.5% Haplotype 2(=A3b2-M13/M63/M127)

1/22 = 4.5% Haplotype 32(=E1b1b1c1-M34(xE1b1b1c1a1-M136))
4/22 = 18.2% Haplotype 35(=E1b1b1a-M78(xE1b1b1a3a-M148))

11/22 = 50.0% Haplotype 50(=I2a1-M26(xI2a1a-M161))
1/22 = 4.5% Haplotype 56(=J2a4b-M67(xJ2a4b1-M92, J2a4b2-M163/M166))
2/22 = 9.1% Haplotype 71(=F-M89(xH(1?)-M52/M69, I-M170, J2-M172, K-M9, M62))

2/22 = 9.1% Haplotype 100(=R1b1a1-M18)

Daniela Contu, Laura Morelli, Federico Santoni et al., "Y-Chromosome Based Evidence for Pre-Neolithic Origin of the Genetically Homogeneous but Diverse Sardinian Population: Inference for Association Scans," PLoS ONE, Issue 1, January 2008:

Cagliari (southern Sardinia)
3/187 = 1.6% R1b1a1-M18

Sorgono (central Sardinia)
5/103 = 4.9% R1b1a1-M18

Tempio (northern Sardinia)
0/86 = 0.0% R1b1a1-M18

Pierre A. Zalloua, Yali Xue, Jade Khalife et al., "Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Lebanon Is Structured by Recent Historical Events," American Journal of Human Genetics 82, 873–882, April 2008:

5/914 = 0.55% R1b1a1-M18
(seems to have been found in 3/104 = 2.9% Lebanon Druze, 2/432 = 0.46% Lebanon non-Druze Muslim, and 0/378 = 0.0% Lebanon Christian).

Anyway, according to presently available data, the maximum frequency of R1b1a1-M18 is found in the same population in which the maximum frequency of haplogroup I2a1-M26 is found: that of the central highlands (i.e. the so-called "Barbagia") of Sardinia. Barbagia is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe.

Update: I uploaded the paper HERE.

Bering strait closure caused the end of last Ice Age in the long run

A very interesting new climate theory the one mentioned today
at Science Daily: while the cooling of Earth was caused by orbit perturbations, leading to the closure of Bering Strait and the formation of the Beringia isthmus, this last caused such perturbation in global oceanic currents that in the long run sentenced the Ice Age to its end.

The Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific, what leads to water flowing from this latter to the former. This circulation can only go through the south or via the Arctic Ocean. With Bering Strait closed, Atlantic salinity grew and the North Atlantic Conveyor (Gulf Stream) was enhanced leading to a gradual meltdown of the North Atlantic Ice sheets (in North America and Northern Europe), which in turn lead to higher sea levels and eventually to the reopening of the Bering Strait and the stabilization of climate in the Holocene.

It took many many thousand years though.

Monday, January 11, 2010

US Air Force tries to provoke Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has denounced that US military airplanes have crossed twice into Venezuelan air space in a provocative manner, ignoring all the warnings. Chávez denounced that they are trying clearly to provoke Venezuela into a military clash.

I find again important to denounce the responsability of the Netherlands, who is ceding the military base of Curaçao, just offshore of Venezuela. Curaçao was the first colony of the Netherlands in the Caribbean Sea and was then used to attack the Spanish Empire, now it is used against democratic sovereign countries by just another imperialist state.

Source: Gara.

African-style quartz tools in Crete from 130,000 BP

From Science News (found via Archaeology in Europe).

Archaeologists have found quartz tools in the Mediterranean island of Crete, dated to c. 130,000 BP, that resemble the type of tools used in Africa c. 800,000 BP (Acheulean I presume). For that reason they speculate, in spite of the late date, that the makers could have been part of the Homo erectus para-species, rather than H. sapiens or H. neanderthalensis, who lived nearby anyhow.

Whatever the species, what this finding makes clear is that ancient members of our genus were able to navigate, as Crete has never been connected to the mainland, since the Mediterranean Sea exists.

However, and very cautiously, I'd consider the possibility that they could be Homo sapiens, who are known to have lived in Palestine and North Africa not much later than this date.


Update (Aug 19): Julien Riel-Salvatore mentions in his blog that the paper on this matter has finally appeared (LINK, pay per view). Importantly, he quotes:

The dating of the Palaeolithic in the Plakias region presents a considerable challenge, not least because of the long period of time that may have elapsed since the occupation of the earliest sites, during which postdepositional natural processes may have obscured the archaeological record. Additionally complicating the issue are the small number of sites, the lack of excavation, and the impact of modern development on the area, which has destroyed many sites.

Several approaches to dating were attempted, and our research on this topic continues. At Preveli 2, east of the Preveli Gorge, Palaeolithic artifacts are associated with a flight of marine terraces resulting from relatively high sea levels in the Pleistocene that were preserved by subsequent rock uplift. The lowest late Pleistocene marine terraces resulting from high stands of the sea at Preveli (14 ± 1 masl) and Schinaria (21 ± 1 masl) have 2-sigma calibrated radiocarbon ages of 45,400 ± 1,600 and 49,120 ± 2,890 years b.p., respectively, and are correlated with Marine Isotope Stages 3.3 and 3.4, both eustatic high stands. The higher terraces, at 59 and 96 masl, are unquestionably older. How much older? Assuming similar rates of rock uplift (1.4 ± 0.1 m/kyr) determined from the age-elevation relationships of the dated terraces at 14 and 21 masl, it is possible to estimate the approximate ages of the terraces associated with artifacts. This correlation provides an approximate age for the lithic artifacts. The higher terrace, at 96 masl, may belong to Marine Isotope Stage 5, possibly early 5e, ca. 110,000 b.p. Artifacts associated with the terrace at 59 masl could correlate with Marine Isotope Stage 5a, ca. 70,000 b.p. It should be stressed that these are rough approximations and these ages are probably minima that represent a terminus ante quem. If the uplift rate is changed, the terraces and the artifacts associated with them could be much older.

At Preveli 3, Preveli 7, Timeos Stavros 1, and Schinaria 5, Palaeolithic artifacts were found in outcrops of paleosols that exhibit the characteristics of the oldest maturity stage for such features, that is, Maturity Stage 6, or in geological terms, Marine Isotope Stage 6. Together these observations suggest an age of ca. 190,000–130,000 b.p. and serve as a terminus ante quem for the artifacts embedded within them. The stone tools were incorporated in the paleosols as part of a process described by Runnels and van Andel in Epirus: “the top of the Bt horizon itself would move gradually upward as a result of slow deposition, so engulfing any artifacts laid down on former land surfaces above it.” In other words, the Bt horizon, especially as much of the clay comes from eolian sources, will increase in thickness through time, slowly engulfing clasts, such as stone tools, that were formerly in the A horizon.

In sum, the dating of the Palaeolithic sites is based on geological data derived from the study of marine terraces on the southwestern coast of Crete and our identification of paleosols, and these data place the Palaeolithic lithic artifacts firmly in the Pleistocene, ca. 130,000 b.p. or earlier. The chronology can be further refined, however, and a dating program currently in progress may provide data for doing so.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow on beaches: not seen since the 80s

Just a silly postcard post from "Ice Age Europe", so to say.

While forecasters have been warning that snow could reach the coast, their previous warning of this kind simply failed. So I suspected it would also be the case now, in spite of watching this impressive satellite image of frozen Britain, which is some many degrees further north anyhow, largely because it has not happened since more than 20 years ago.

But it did arrive in the end, just that not really here but further east. Some curious pics from Gara:

Donibane Lohitzune (St. Jean de Luz)

Donostia (San Sebastian)

Not here anyhow. Biscay is the only Basque region that seems largely unaffected by the storm, though it's damn cold anyhow.