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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'Clovis impact' theory rejected

No nanodiamonds are found.

I reported last year on the novel theory that a meteorite may have caused megafauna extinction in North America (specially) at the end of Pleistocene. This theory relied heavily on alleged evidence of nanodiamonds (carbon spherules containing lonsdaleite, a carbon crystal likened to diamonds and found only in meteorites).

This evidence seems now to be nowhere. That is at least what Tyrone Daulton of Washington University claims: that it is nothing but graphene (graphite) what has been mistaken for lonsdaleite, an error that had happened before.

Source: Science Daily (no paper linked and too lazy to search it myself).

Dog remains from Epipaleolithic Portugal

As suspected, the dog was already domestic before the Neolithic and that was certainly the case in Europe. This seems confirmed by new findings of dog remains in the shell middens of the Muge area, the main clutural group of pre-Neolithic Portugal.

Cleia Detry and Joao Luis Cardoso, On some remains of dog (Canis familiaris) from the Mesolithic shell-middens of Muge, Portugal. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2010. Pay per view.

Just for the record. Notice that the oldest known dog skeleton is from Aurignacian Belgium although its mtDNA line is now extinct.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Latin American Left demands freedom for Arnaldo Otegi

Sao Paulo Forum, which gathers the Latin American left-wing parties, accepted to deal with the case of political repression against Basque nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi, who is in prison for his ideas and proud rejection to bow to Spanish arbitrary impositions.

All parties present, as well as important personalities such as Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Nora Cortiñas from the Madres de Plaza de Mayo human rights organization, signed the letter. This includes such important organizations as Brazilian Workers' Party (PT), Venezuelan Socialist Unified Party (PSUV), Mexico's Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), Uruguay's Broad Front (Frente Amplio), Cuba's Communist Party and Nicaraguan Sandinist Front of National Liberation (FSLN), as well as the Revolutionary Left Movement of Chile, the Communist parties of Venezuela and Brazil, etc.

The initiative, exposed by Doris Benegas, was promoted by Castilian Left (Izquierda Castellana, a small but veteran and very active Castilian nationalist party, solidarious with other stateless nations under the Spanish boot), which is observer at the Sao Paulo Forum.

A formal request by the Forum to ask the Spanish government for the release of Otegi was however shelved as the ruling parties of Brazil and Venezuela considered they would have to consult with their chancellors and there was no time for that.

Source: Gara[es]

Basque author on trial in Chile for supporting Mapuche struggle

Basque writer Asel Luzarraga
was arrested in December 31 2009 while making a graffiti in solidarity with the Mapuche struggle for land and self-rule. He was accused of "terrorism", specifically of planting two bombs in Temuko in December 2009, one of them when he was not in Chile and the other (not exploded) the very same day of his arrest.

In spite of the severity of the accusations he has been under home arrest (while simultaneously an order of expulsion has been issued as well).

There seems to no grounds whatsoever for the accusation other than being anarchist, solidarious with the Mapuche cause and possibly being Basque. There was a newspaper cartoon the other day that read: "everybody is innocent until proven Basque", funny maybe but way too real.

However the trial begins today.

Meanwhile the Mapuche struggle continues. Prisoners have been in hunger strike for many weeks already and are being force-fed by the authorities. Some may die soon. Mostly this struggle has gone unnoticed in the media, even in Chile itself. And that may be because, as Atilio Boron said, the Mapuches are not Cubans. Can you imagine anything like this happening in Cuba and not being first page in all the international media?

Well, if it happens in Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Morocco or Spain... it seems it is not news-worthy.

Canarians get involved in West Sahara while the Moroccan tyrant choses repression again

Tenerife con el Sahara
reports[es] that a number of Canarian citizens have taken part in a protest for the rights of the Arab Democratic Sahrawi Republic at El Aaiun. The reaction of the Moroccan autocracy has been brutal, as usual.

Carmen Roger one of the Canarian victims

After being beaten by the Moroccan occupation forces, the Canarians have been arrested at the "House of Spain". Two international observers, Mexican Antonio Velázquez Díaz and Catalan Isabel Terraza, are being besieged by the occupation forces at the homes of their Sahrawi host family. Tenerife con el Sahara claims that they are at serious risk, as well as the Sahrawi families besieged at their homes by the invader troops.

The international protests are organized by Saharaacciones which is promoting nonviolent protest in order to make the occupation and repression of the West Sahara more visible and hopefully push towards a democratic solution through the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people:

We are demonstrating to make visible a vetoed territory, where we are unwelcome by the occupation forces, following the example set by the admirable peaceful resistance that the Sahrawi people are doing once and again since the beginning of the Intifada in May 2005.

Morocco may be pushing for greater involvement of Spain

This is what Pedro Canales argues at El Imparcial newspaper (found at Sahara Libre). According to him, Morocco wants Spain to take a more clear pro-Moroccan stand in regards to the West Sahara, a former Spanish province. As Spain cannot really control the high level of popular support for the Sahrawi cause, which is generally perceived as a treason to the formerly "Spanish" people of the Sahara by Madrid, nor can reign on the local and regional administrations in this matter, Morocco seems to have opted to do the same: leave the Moroccan popular discontent with Spain on matters such as the colonial outposts of Ceuta and Melilla or the treatment of immigrants, break loose.

However Canales seems to be writing for the Moroccan viewpoint and seems to think that greater Spanish involvement alone could change things. This is not possible because Spain already has a very shameful role by mere inhibition and cannot really take any stronger political stand against the Arab Democratic Sahrawi Republic. So if Spain would get involved, it could only do with a stand at least moderately opposed to Morocco's aspirations, so really Morocco is doing it wrong if Canales is right. After all some border riots at the Melilla fence won't get anyone worried this side of the Strait.

On the other hand, I guess it is always positive when the people, in this case the Moroccan people can express their discontent. It is a positive development that may be in the future will turn against the autocrat of Rabat. If the people can really express their anger and gets organized maybe in the near future we can hope to see a simultaneous solution to both colonial problems: Moroccan occupation of the Sahara and Spanish control of Ceuta and Melilla.

In any case, I don't think that Morocco really wants to press Spain to get itself "more involved" in the conflict of West Sahara because it can only backfire. For Moroccan imperialist interests the best situation is the status quo, with Spain inhibiting itself, what is as pro-Moroccan as it can get.

But that the people organizes itself and gets to speak out loud in any conflict is as such a good development. In an ideal democracy situation all these conflicts would not exist because it'd be up to each local people to self-determine their status and their future.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More evidence for arrows 60,000 years ago

New findings at Sibudu cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), add evidence in favor of a very ancient use of bow and arrow by Homo sapiens. These findings are small stone points which keep traces of blood and bone from the impacts and also of the resin used to glue them to the shafts.

Forensic analysis of this evidence seems to discard that they were used as hand-held spear points but must have been shot with much greater energy. However I cannot find any reasoning that excludes their possible shooting with atlats.

The BBC article that is the source of this information claims that this finding pushes the use of bow and arrow back some 20,000 years, however bone points found at the same site two years ago, and also dated to c. 60 Ka, already suggested this.

UN whitewashes the ecocide and genocide of Shell in Niger Delta

If BP is insulting and harming the US people and clearly manipulating the US government, go figure what can happen in a much poorer country like Nigeria!

But what about the United Nations? It seems that Royal Dutch Shell, the second largest company of the world and one with a very murky past (specially remembered for its support of the Apartheid regime in South Africa), is also perfectly able to buy its favors.

This is what Black Agenda Report denounced a few days ago: that the study by the UN Environmental Program, paid by Shell, blames locals and the guerrilla for 90% of polution and spills in the Delta Region, once known as Biafra. However it seems that it has backtracked and claims now that no official report is due until next year.

Whatever the case the situation in the Niger Delta, denounced by AI, may be even worse than that of the Gulf of Mexico, at least in many aspects.

The true scope of Niger River Delta pollution is catastrophic, with the equivalent of 9 to 13 million barrels of oil fouling the waterways, farmlands and mangrove forests of Africa's largest wetland. That's at least twice as much oil as escaped in the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster, thus ranking Nigeria and Shell as the number one oil polluters in the world (Glenn Ford at Black Agenda Report).

Thousands demonstrate in Bilbao 'for the rights of the Basque Country'

Plaza Zabalburu in Bilbao became yesterday the scenario of another demonstration for the rights of the Basque Country.

This was in fact their motto: Euskal Herriaren eskubideen alde - for the rights of the Basque Country.

Leaders of the 'illegal' Nationalist Left, Kiko Moreno, Miren Legorburu, Tasio Erkizia and Jone Goirizelaia, spoke to the crowd in the current line of trying to build a scenario of democratic solution to the Basque-Spanish conflict.

The official acknowledgement or the legality of Kosovar independence was also cheered in the demo, as it clears the way, in the international legal frame, for Basque self-determination as well.

The demonstration as such was initially banned by the current undemocratic 'Basque government' but was eventually authorized as mere meeting by the judiciary. Still the people were forbidden from demonstrating through the streets of the city and closely watched by the police.

Sources: Boltxe (photos) and Gara [both in Spanish].

Thursday, August 26, 2010

R1b1b2a1 is almost unique of West Europe

[Typo: in the maps M529, also known as L21, is wrongly written as M259. My apologies]

This is one of the virtues of Myres' paper (that I mentioned yesterday): that a somewhat more clear phylogenetic subdivision is made, emphasizing the difference between West European R1b1b2a and other R1b or R1b1b2, often blurred in previous papers, causing great confusion even to researchers themselves.

A defect is that instead of using a standard name for the defining SNP (L51/S167 per ISOGG) they chose to name it M412. However Argiedude says it is the same marker and I imagine it is. [Update: confirmed: the rs number indicates it is the same SNP].

Another virtue is that some of the substructure of R1b1b2a1 is also mapped, what really covers pretty well the Northern and Italian area of spread of this lineage and even some relatively unmapped areas of SW Europe, specially France.

In any case the apparent structure is curious, so I got the supplementary table S4 (supp. material is freely accessible) and made this map:

Click to enlarge

Notice that, following Argiedude, M412 stands for L51 and M529 stands for L21, what, if confirmed would make the following equivalences:
  • R1b1b2a-M412 = R1b1b2a1 (L51)
  • R1b1b2a1a2-M529 = R1b1b2a1a2f (L21)
Even if not confirmed, the equivalence should be approximate anyhow.

I'm sorry for the horrible color palette but it's my first attempt to make pie charts with Open Office spreadsheet gadget. Next time I'll do better I hope.

Notice also that I did not use all the samples, in the cases of small countries or less relevant regions I arbitrarily chose and discarded some.

Finally notice that pie charts represent only apportions of R1b1b2 and say nothing of the frequency of the lineage overall, which in most of East Europe and West Asia (excepting Turkey and a few neighbors) is extremely low.

The apparent structure of R1b1b2a1

The most apparent structure is, as we already knew the rather different R1b1b2a1a1 and R1b1b2a1a2 distribution. The first one (color coded brown and light blue) is dominant in the North and rather rare in the South - hence: 'North clade' for short hereafter. The second one (dark green, light green, purple and light orange) is by comparison not just more frequent in the South but also probably more diverse as well - hence: 'South clade'. However it is also found in the North.

Then there are some transitional "remnants": R1b1b2a1a* (L11) and R1b1b2a1* (M412). These should be informative (meaning some extra diversity at their structural levels) in order to infer the history of the haplogroup.

Per the hierarchical distribution seen here and diversity data from older works, the most likely origin of R1b1b2 as a whole is Anatolia.

Then R1b1b2a1* (M412) (yellow) is suggestive of a Mid-Danubian (or Italian or Iberian) coalescence.

R1b1b2a1a* (L11) (middle green) is suggestive of a West-Central European (or SW European) coalescence. More data on the Pyrenean region would clarify this maybe.

And, after this layer, comes the division into the widespread Southern and Northern clades mentioned before.

A reasonable interpretation is that the lineage traveled relatively fast upstream of the Danube (and/or via North Italy onto the SW), branching out then into the two major North/South clades. These two lower level lineages are in fact the two main stars of this demographic expansion.

My bet is that this represents a wave of colonization of Europe (when?) with secondary expansions from SW Europe (Franco-Cantabrian region possibly) and Central Europe (Rhine-Danube region I presume). There are several scenarios that can account for this, essentially Paleolithic (or pushing into the Epipaleolithic).

I don't see clearly how this structure could account for a Neolithic spread, really: no Mediterranean Neolithic pattern is apparent at all and Danubian limited expansion cannot account for any spread to SW Europe, certainly not South of the Loire and certainly not at the frequencies it is found there (nor in Britain/Ireland either). Claiming a Neolithic spread of R1b1b2 with this structure can only be done from a very shallow understanding of Neolithic archaeology and prehistory overall.

The main known demographic expansion we know of in the European Upper Paleolithic is the one after the Last Glacial Maximum, when Magdalenian culture expanded from the Franco-Cantabrian region, both northwards to Central Europe and, later, southwards into Iberia. This led to cultural divergence into the Epipaleolithic, with the important expansion into the newly available areas of the Far North, earlier covered in ice. Within the Epipaleolithic some further cultural flows are detected: from the Franco-Cantabrian region into Iberia (Azilian) and from somewhere in Mid-West Europe into the Southwest (Sauveterre-Tardenoisian).

Also, back to the LGM, Magdalenian techno-culture may have got a NW European ultimate inspirational origin but anyhow mediated by the warmer and richer Franco-Cantabrian region, where the culture flourished properly.

It's difficult to reconstruct in detail but, as far as I can tell, the two main North/South clades must have expanded in the Magdalenian period (one from the Franco-Cantabrian region, the other from Central-NW Europe itself) and also in the ulterior Epipaleolithic. Neolithic does not seem able to account for much but may have helped to shake the board a bit, specially in East-to-West direction.

Frequency maps

Selected frequency maps from the paper
Click to enlarge

Notice that the expansion of the South clade to the Atlantic islands does not invalidate its southern character and probably represents an Epipaleolithic-to-Neolithic spread.

Notice also the large amount of unclassified Southern clade in Iberia. The area around the Pyrenees was not really sampled in this study and therefore it is distorted by neighbors ("South France", looking more like SE France, Valencia and Cantabria).

In order to appreciate better the real thing in this aspect it's probably good to take a look at Cruciani 2010, who did bother to sample near the Pyrenees and gets maybe better (or at least complementary) maps illustrating the same problem.

Update: I superimposed (with complementary colors) the South (red) and North (blue) clades from the frequency maps above. However in order to account for the differences of frequency, I had to lighten the blue shade (North clade) because the scales are different. Take it as an "artist's impression" anyhow:

Update (Aug 27):

Here there is a hopefully better version of the map at the beginning of this post:

Click to enlarge

I put special care in giving each distinct clade an specific color range for easier visualization. All R1b1b2a1 (M412/L51/S167) seems to have coalesced in the Central-to-Western European area but the real expansion seems to have happened after this haplogroup split in two, which I dubbed the North and South clades.

And this is my reconstruction of the haplogroup expansion:

Click to enlarge
Color coded as above

Update (Aug 28):

Take a peek at the comment section, where I briefly discuss molecular clock difficulties and also the only possible Neolithic scenario for R1b1b2a1a2 (South clade): a massive demographic expansion in the context of Megalithism.

Rejecting or confirming this would require greater research in the structure hidden "under the asterisk" in SW Europe. At the moment only two minimally-sized sub-haplogroups are known: Basque/Gascon-specific R1b1b2a1a2b and sub-Pyrenean R1b1b2a1a2c (Gascon, Catalan, etc.). This alone gives highest structural diversity to the Pyrenean region, however most of the South clade remains unresolved (hidden under the asterisk), both in the Pyrenean area as in Iberia proper. And the key issue to solve would be if R1b1b2a1a2 is most diverse at the Pyrenees, what favors a Paleolithic spread scenario, or in West Iberia (and Brittany/West France), what would favor a Neolithic-Megalithic spread scenario instead.

Also it's maybe important to remind here the excellent STR work of Laura Morelli earlier this year, which was discussed in this article.

Importantly, this graph (annotated by me):

The graph is suggestive of the existence of another "West Asian" distinct haplogroup "under the asterisk" (that I labeled "R1b1b2a2?") and a possible Balcanic, rather than Anatolian origin for the R1b1b2 clade.

If so, this would correlate with the high diversity of the (much smaller) brother haplogroup R1b1a in the Italy-West Asia arch (as well as in Central Africa) and would suggest a slightly different origin and scatter for R1b as a whole (ref 1, ref 2).

Boycott day at Bilbao Fiestas

mentioned yesterday, wednesday was a journey of protest for freedom of speech and the participative popular model of fiestas, against the persecution of ideas and konpartsak by the authorities, be them remotely located at Madrid or nearby at the local Town Hall.

The konpartsak made a massive concentration at the Town Hall:

They also parodied the mayor, who has not only be as weak and treacherous as to accept the imposition of the Spanish flag but who is also actively cooperating with the repressive policies designed by the Spaniards:

Source: Gara (link 1, link 2)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A couple of new genetic papers I'd love to read

But by the moment just mentioning them briefly.

Both are published by the European Journal of Human Genetics (Nature) and both are mentioned by Diekenes today (link 1, link 2).

African genetic structure shows novel elements

There has been some negligence in mapping the genetic structure of African populations, with most papers taken a West African proxy (typically Nigerians), sometimes enriched with some of the last hunter-gatherers of the continent, to represent the whole complexity of the ancestral continent.

This paper seems to address this lack.

Martin Sikora et al., A genomic analysis identifies a novel component in the genetic structure of sub-Saharan African populations. EJHG 2010. Pay per view.


Studies of large sets of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data have proven to be a powerful tool in the analysis of the genetic structure of human populations. In this work, we analyze genotyping data for 2841 SNPs in 12 sub-Saharan African populations, including a previously unsampled region of southeastern Africa (Mozambique). We show that robust results in a world-wide perspective can be obtained when analyzing only 1000 SNPs. Our main results both confirm the results of previous studies, and show new and interesting features in sub-Saharan African genetic complexity. There is a strong differentiation of Nilo-Saharans, much beyond what would be expected by geography. Hunter-gatherer populations (Khoisan and Pygmies) show a clear distinctiveness with very intrinsic Pygmy (and not only Khoisan) genetic features. Populations of the West Africa present an unexpected similarity among them, possibly the result of a population expansion. Finally, we find a strong differentiation of the southeastern Bantu population from Mozambique, which suggests an assimilation of a pre-Bantu substrate by Bantu speakers in the region.

This Mozambican specificity was already spotted accidentally in Patin's paper on Pygmy Genetics last year but himself downplayed its importance because of his focus on Pygmy structure specifically.

West European R1b is distinct

Nothing really new for those who have kept a keen eye on the research of this Y-DNA haplogroup, the most characteristic of West Europe. But I'd still like to know more about the details. I doubt I could concur with the suggested timeline in any case.

Natalie M. Myres et al., A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe. EJHG 2010. Pay per view.


The phylogenetic relationships of numerous branches within the core Y-chromosome haplogroup R-M207 support a West Asian origin of haplogroup R1b, its initial differentiation there followed by a rapid spread of one of its sub-clades carrying the M269 mutation to Europe. Here, we present phylogeographically resolved data for 2043 M269-derived Y-chromosomes from 118 West Asian and European populations assessed for the M412 SNP that largely separates the majority of Central and West European R1b lineages from those observed in Eastern Europe, the Circum-Uralic region, the Near East, the Caucasus and Pakistan. Within the M412 dichotomy, the major S116 sub-clade shows a frequency peak in the upper Danube basin and Paris area with declining frequency toward Italy, Iberia, Southern France and British Isles. Although this frequency pattern closely approximates the spread of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), Neolithic culture, an advent leading to a number of pre-historic cultural developments during the past ≤10 thousand years, more complex pre-Neolithic scenarios remain possible for the L23(xM412) components in Southeast Europe and elsewhere.

M412 seems to be a novel SNP not yet reported at ISOGG. S116 (defined as its major subclade) used to describe R1b1b2a2, most diverse around the Pyrenees (unless this paper says the opposite). So I doubt the LBK hypothesis can hold, regardless of frequency.

Bilbao Fiestas on strike

Today at 10 am, the official inauguration of the festive journey, the kompartsak (popular festive teams which are the heart of the fiestas since 1978) went on strike for the whole journey. If you happen to visit today the festive area you will find nearly everything closed.

Additionally this year, all the stands are decorated on black background as sign of protest, a pretty unusual sight.

Why? Because the Town Hall decided to ban three kompartsak (Kaskagorri, Txori Barrote and Komantxe) because they included photos of Basque prisoners in their stands. Such photos have been part of the Basque landscape since I have memory but, as of late, the undemocratic imposed government of Patxi López, has been working to get them out of the streets and taverns on the pretext that they are offensive for "the victims of terrorism".

There is no clear legal frame for such an actuation but, of course, judges are siding with the Spaniards and their local lackeys in this matter as well.

As the photos have been anyhow present in the fiestas, with them hanged from every tree and lamp, yesterday Spanish Neoinquisition judge Velasco ordered for second time their removal and now also investigation on who may be placing them (what a silly question: everybody!, these doctors seem to ignore the best of Spanish literature).

But they also seem to ignore history: the Basque flag was illegal until a campaign of flag-bombs forced its recognition. Such a scenario may happen again indeed with the photos of prisoners or whatever other expression that is formally banned by some distant judge in his crystal palace of Madrid. It happened again indeed with the prohibition of banners of Basque Nationalist content, causing some policemen to be injured in Navarre a few years ago.

Whatever the case, these are the strangest fiestas I have ever witnessed.

Judge Velasko has also ordered police to intervene against the homage to repressed members of Kaskagorri konpartsa (Nationalist Left youth) and even a toast (brindis) to women prisoners in Barcelona, which in his opinion is an act of welcome of recently freed anarchist prisoner Laura Riera, as well as homage to other two Catalan political prisoners: Dolores López Resina and Marina Bernadó.

Image of the police aggression yesterday on orders of the Spanish Inquisition (Audiencia Nacional).
More photos at Boltxe.

Video: police repression in Barcelona (text and most dialogue in Catalan)
People chant: you fascists are the terrorists, Audiencia Nacional dissolution and Laura Riera welcome home

The konpartsak however made exception to their strike for the visit to children in hospital, being present there with all the festive paraphernalia: Mari Jaia, pregonero, txupinera, circus clowns and even the mayor, who avoided any declarations.

Source: Gara[es] (link 1, link 2)

Cave bears extinct on human and climate pressure

That seems to be the conclusion of a mostly European research:

Mathias Stiller et al. Withering Away—25,000 Years of Genetic Decline Preceded Cave Bear Extinction. Molecular Biology and Evolution 2010. Pay per view.


The causes of the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions are still enigmatic. Although the fossil record can provide approximations for when a species went extinct, the timing of its disappearance alone cannot resolve the causes and mode of the decline preceding its extinction. However, ancient DNA analyses can reveal population size changes over time and narrow down potential causes of extinction. Here, we present an ancient DNA study comparing late Pleistocene population dynamics of two closely related species, cave and brown bears. We found that the decline of cave bears started approximately 25,000 years before their extinction, whereas brown bear population size remained constant. We conclude that neither the effects of climate change nor human hunting alone can be responsible for the decline of the cave bear and suggest that a complex of factors including human competition for cave sites lead to the cave bear's extinction.

Cave bears went extinct roughly at the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, 25-18,000 years ago.

See also:
· Article at Science Daily
· Leherensuge: Mammoths died because of forest expansion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stellar system somewhat like ours found

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), which owns some of the most sophisticated Earth-based telescopes (all them located in Chile's Atacama Desert), has detected at least five Neptune-sized planets orbiting star HD 10180 in the constellation of Hydrus. Other two smaller planets have been detected as well but with some uncertainty, one of them orbiting very close to the parent star and measuring 1.4 times the mass of Earth.

Artist's impression of a detail of the new system

The finding represents the first time a planetary system so similar to ours, with planets organized following the Titus-Bode law (each planet is roughly twice the distance of the one immediately closer to the Sun) and with almost circular orbits. It is also sign of a new phase in the exploration of extrasolar planets, not anymore searching for individual planets as much as for whole planetary systems.

This has been possible thanks to the HARPS or High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, a highly sophisticated spectrograph. Other 75 exoplanets have been discovered with this instrument.

The details are explained at ESO's site. BBC also has an article on this discovery.

Megalithic aDNA from Charente Maritime

The paper requires payment and the abstract is not too informative but John Hawks mentions
in his blog the essential findings and Jean Manco has already added its results to her exhaustive aDNA list.

Testing only for HVS-1 (hyper-variable control region 1) haplotypes, they found that three individuals buried in Megalithic context at Prissé-la-Charrière, near La Rochelle (Charente Maritime, France), dating to c. 4200 BCE, have the following mtDNA haplogroups: X2, U5a and N1a.

Notice that HVS-1 sequencing is subject to potential criticism because, sometimes, different haplogroups may share the same or very similar signature. Generally aDNA studies are considered more reliable when they go to great lengths to make sure that there is no contamination or sequencing error (they seem to have accounted for that in this case) and when they can confirm haplogroup adscription by testing for SNPs in the control region of the mitochondrial genome.

In any case, this is more data to add to the list of European aDNA, on which I may work out an actualized synthesis soon. It is also intriguing data.


The authors, as Hawk and others, focus specially on the presence of N1a and with good reason: this haplogroup, now residual among Europeans, has been showing up, sometimes at high apportions, in aDNA from Central European Neolithic sites belonging to the Linear Pottery culture (Danubian Neolithic, LBK by its German acronym): 1/1 in Hungary, 4/11 in East Germany and 1/10 in West Rhenania. The haplogroup nowadays is most common in West Asia and had not been found before in any European aDNA other than Danubian Neolithic and some later Hungarian ones.

It is also noticeable because its relative haplogroup I (also part of haplogroup N1) has been shown to be relatively common among ancient and medieval Danes but is now quite rare.

While other haplogroups like K or various subclades of U also seem to have experienced some contraction, their decline is nothing compared with that of N1 sublineages.


Haplogroup X2 is also somewhat noticeable in my opinion. The lineage is not that common either in Europe (excepting to some extent Orkney islands and some Mediterranean scatter) and can easily be speculated of as a Neolithic arrival. However the antiquity and wide spread of this lineage (from Europe to Native Americans via Altai) does not allow us to reach to conclusions easily.

In any case this is the oldest individual known to have carried this haplogroup. Excepting some unclear cases from the Southern Basque Neolithic (T or X), the next case are two siblings from a Corded Ware culture burial in Eulau, East Germany, c. 2600 BCE, and then some scattered findings from historical times.

This haplogroup, unlike N1 (N1a and I), does not pose any real issue because it is not really being found at high frequencies at all, just like today.


There seems to be some confusion about which haplogroup is this one: while Hawks reports it as U5a, Jean Manco does as U5b. However searching for the sequence provided by Jean herself at PhyloTree, I can only find a close match in U5a, probably a variant of U5a2a1.

This is where the sequence 16270T, 16271C leads me to. However there is another marker not defining this U5a2a1 haplogroup, 16189C, but this seems extremely variable, with matches in every other haplogroup in the mtDNA tree of humankind, so it is very possible that it only responds to individual or microlineage variance in this case.

U variants including U5 (and U2, U4, U*, etc.) have been reported in the most ancient DNA sequenced anywhere in Europe: Kostenki culture in Russia (1/1 U2), Gravetto-Solutrean in Andalusia (1/2 U*), Magdalenian in Swabia (2/2 U*) and the Epipaleolithic of Portugal (1/9 U5, 1/9 U*), the Don Basin (2/2 U5a), Swabia (2/4 U5b2, 1/4 U5a, 1/4 U4), England (1/1 U5) and Lithuania (3/4 U5b2, 1/4 U4). Additionally they have been reported as dominant in subneolithic or regressive neolithic peoples in the island of Götland and related cultures in Baltic Poland and Germany (Pitted Ware senso lato).

Later the presence of haplogroup U and specifically U5 becomes less common, although it keeps showing up until present, being nowadays a most important haplogroup in all Europe, specially towards the NE. In that part of Europe we do find not just U5a but also U5b and U4 at relatively high frequencies. This is largely coincident with what we do find in aDNA, with the caveat that everywhere but Iberia, the haplogroups seem to have shrunk somewhat since Neolithic arrival (what is easily explained in terms of partial population replacement).

However there is much more than that to haplogroup U: U2 for instance has a more Asian distribution, U6 is typically North African and Iberian, being extremely rare elsewhere, U3 is typical of the Black Sea area and the most common subclade of U8, K, is very much widespread nowadays but only shows up in aDNA since the Neolithic (Alps, Central Europe, Pyrenees). Haplogroup U after all is a very old macro-lineage, by all accounts dispersed at the very colonization of West Eurasia some 40-50,000 years ago.

In context

Neolithic mtDNA in West Eurasia (updated)
Each dot represents one individual
High U Baltic area sites are subneolithic or regressive Neolithic (Pitted Ware)

Hawks, following Dienekes, argues that:
If N1a were present somewhere in pre-Neolithic Europe, it would require some kind of "partition" of the pre-Neolithic population, along with its propagation -- presumably southeastward -- into the LBK of central Europe. Seems doubtful.
I fail to see the point, sincerely. It does not require anything of that, I don't see why. We must remember that Neolithic diffusion, following the archaeological record, is a complex process in many cases showing clear signs of cultural (and hence demographic) continuity at least in the Mediterranean (Cardium pottery and related remains are often found along locally rooted Epipaleolithic tools and only in specific sites colonization seems the most likely explanation for its expansion). Even if population replacement may be a more likely case for Central Europe, there is still the unsolved problem of where did the core immigrant population originated: West Asia, Greece, Hungary or a mix of all three? The lack of aDNA for the Balcans and Turkey does not really help, the only reference remaining being the PPNB site of Tell Halula, at the Upper Euphrates.

This site does show abundance of mtDNA K and T (specifically T2b) and some presence of the ubiquitous H too, together with L2, R* and C1. The K+T combo shows up also in Central European Neolithic but the explanation for the origin of other associated haplogroups (J and N1a specially) is not clear on light of the present data. It can be argued for them having a West Asian origin certainly but the case is far from settled. The other LBK haplogroups, found in Paleolithic individuals from Europe and Morocco, can hardly be argued to have spread with Neolithic (the problem of the expansion of H to Northern Europe remains murky however with my favorite explanatory vectors being either the late Bronze Age Urnfield culture or Megalithism but notice also low Paleolithic/Neolithic sampling in the North Sea area, still allowing for UP presence for this lineage). The causes of the apparent decline of N1 (N1a and I) in Europe remain equally confusing as well.

The particular case of Prissé-la-Charrière also requires an explanation but I can only give a negative one: it cannot be attributed to LBK in any case because Danubian Neolithic never reached so far south. But it actually contrasts more with the samples related to Cardium Pottery (Mediterranean Neolithic) and Megalithism (largely "Atlantic Neolithic") in Iberia and Italy, which display a very different array of haplogroups (H, U*, U5, K, J, etc.) This in turn makes more difficult to argue for a Mediterranean or Atlantic Neolithic origin of this localized aDNA sample.

The case remains open in my opinion.


Marie-France Deguilloux et al., News from the West: Ancient DNA from a French Megalithic burial chamber. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2010. Pay per view.

Building History: Ancient Eurasian DNA.

Leherensuge: European ancient DNA in sequential maps (not updated in almost a year).

Update: Link to the whole paper (PDF), courtesy of Natsuya. They report the U5 individual as U5b, by the way.

Utah mesolithic

Science Daily (press release, no known paper).

People inhabiting southern Utah's Escalante Valley used hand mills some 10,000 years ago to grind seeds to make flour. This kind of economy is generally considered Mesolithic¹ (transitional from Paleolithic hunter-gatherer to Neolithic "production" economy) in other contexts and it is very revealing to find ancient Native Americans doing the same that their contemporaries in West Asia, North Africa or China were doing about that same time.

Hunt continued however but it's very possible that the millers of Utah were already creating the conceptual and economical scenario for the eventual Neolithic revolution (farming) in America.

Update: Julien Riel-Salvatore has a nice article on these findings.


¹ Note: I follow the school that uses the term Mesolithic only for cultures that do display that transitional economy, other contemporary cultures that do not show any sign of transition towards Neolithic are best called Epipaleolithic. However I must mention that others use the term Mesolithic indiscriminately for all post-Glacial pre-Neolithic cultures.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I am Israel (video - documentary)

Not long, dynamic and very explanatory video on what is wrong with Israel (if you had still any doubt). It is available in several languages (version here in English).

The fact that it can explain so much in so little time really shows why Israel and its Lobby cannot win even the propaganda war: because truth defends itself and does it with relative ease, because it's too easy to identify the racist, colonialist and genocidal nature of this abhorrent polity.

Found at Justice, posted at YouTube by Jihano92, original site: I am Israel.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

70th anniversary of the murder of Leon Trotsky

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, best known to history as
Leon Trotsky, was murdered today, 70 years ago in Mexico City by Catalan Stalinist Ramón Mercader, who infamously used a pickaxe for the crime (and almost failed).

Trotsky led, together with Lenin and other bolsheviks, the Russian Revolution which, for the first time in history, brought a party of the Working Class to power. He was particularly relevant in organizing the Red Army, which became able to withstand not just the reactionary White forces but also the invading armies of Western powers that landed at several locations at the Russian coasts in support of the reaction.

It was also responsible however for the eventual destruction of the Anarchist Free Territory in Eastern Ukraine, one of the two almost successful Anarchist large-scale socio-political experiences in the 20th century (the other was the revolutionary zone in Catalonia and Eastern Aragon during the Spanish Civil War).

But surely Trotsky is best remembered as the main leader of the genuine Revolutionary Bolshevik faction after the death of Lenin, which was eventually defeated by the nationalist and fascistoid tendency lead by Stalin. As such, Trotsky was expelled from the party and exiled. Trotsky first had to go to the remote Alma Ata (now Almaty in Kazakhstan), then to Turkey, France, Norway and eventually Mexico, after European authorities decided they did not want such a revolutionary leader in their territories.

In Mexico he was hosted by the famous couple of revolutionary artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Soon after breaking with Rivera, he moved to his final residence a few blocs away, where the infamous Mercader found and killed him.

Trotsky and US trotskyists in Mexico, 1940, soon before his death

As disillusion grew on Stalin's authoritarian and criminal tendencies, Trotsky became the main reference for genuine Leninism, which was often also called Trotskyism. The current was formalized in 1930 as the Fourth International. This current however has been often marred by schisms and sectarianism, although has also inspired many genuine revolutionary leaders such as Che Guevara.

Crucial concepts in Trotskyism are that the revolution should be permanent and international, that Stalinist USSR was not a genuine but a deformed or degenerated workers' state. Nowadays some Trotskyist sectors favor the creation of a new Fifth International, idea now promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

For further reading on Trotsky and Trotskyism, you may find useful and the commemorative series at In Defense of Marxism.

Who made the Chatelperronian? And the Uluzzian?

I want here to mention
a notable post by Julien-Riel Salvatore at his always interesting blog (A Very Remote Period Indeed), In it he reviews a recent paper:

Ofer Bar-Yosef and Jean-Guillaume Bordes, Who were the makers of the Châtelperronian culture? Journal of Human Evolution, 2010. Pay per view.

The authors cast doubt on the attribution to H. neanderthalensis of the early Upper Paleolithic (aka "transitional") techno-culture known as Chatelperronian, hinting at the possibility that the Neanderthal skull found at Grotte du Renne may have been dug up from earlier Mousterian deposits when setting up the cave for habitation and dumped near the cave mouth. However their argument for the one found buried at St. Cesáire in a late Chatelperronian context as unrelated to the tool findings in the same layer is more difficult to defend (but it is still the only known Neanderthal secondary burial).

The post has also further interest because it includes free links to two of the latest papers of Prof. Riel-Salvatore on the MP-UP transition in Italy, which are a most interesting read. Intriguingly, it seems that the transitional period in the peninsula was characterized by the presence of two early UP industries in the North (Proto-Aurignacian) and in the South (Uluzzian) buffered by a Mousterian zone at the center. Riel-Salvatore also argues in one of them that Uluzzian shows no signs of "transition" from Mousterian but that is a new introduction in South Italy, just falling short, for lack of direct evidence, of attributing it to H. sapiens.

Among the various references at the bottom of the article, there is one which is freely accessible: Mellars 2005. As you may know Prof. Mellars has repeatedly argued for the attribution to H. sapiens of all or most so-called "transitional" industries (earliest UP) in Europe and thinks that there was some sort of cognitive or otherwise wide cultural gap between the two human species that favored Neanderthal extinction and its replacement by our species. In any case also an interesting read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

US ship to break the Gaza siege

It has been named The Audacity of Hope, not for Obama but for his former pastor
Jeremiah Wright, whom he shunned in order to get to the White House but from whom he borrowed the phrase anyhow.

Source: Justice (Chet has volunteered to go in that boat)

Information, donations, etc. at USTOGAZA.ORG

Indian Maoists seen from within

I just stumbled on
a Spanish translation of an essay published in March in English but that was unknown to me until now.

You may have heard from the Maoist guerrilla of India (also called Naxalites) and maybe even know that they have gained the hearts of many adivasi (tribals) in the Eastern part of the country through their opposition to predatory mining. You may have heard that India is since some time ago considering them the biggest threat to the state (above Islamic Fundamentalists and secessionist movements in Kashmir or the NE) and that there is some sort of low intensity war being waged in parts of India between the guerrillas and the state.

But probably you, like myself, know very little about what is really going on. Specially from the viewpoint of the guerrilla.

Therefore this essay, rather a first person report from inside the Maoist ranks, by acclaimed author Aundhati Roy, is a must-read. It was published almost simultaneously in British newspaper The Guardian with the title Gandhi but with guns and in the Indian magazine Outlook with the one of Walking with the comrades.

A very interesting read indeed. I include here a few fragments to entice you to read the whole story:

When a country that calls itself a democracy openly declares war within its borders, what does that war look like? Does the resistance stand a chance? Should it? Who are the Maoists? Are they just violent nihilists foisting an outdated ideology on tribal people, goading them into a hopeless insurrection? What lessons have they learned from their past experience? Is armed struggle intrinsically undemocratic?


We passed the house of the Superintendent of Police (SP), which I recognised from my last visit. He was a candid man, the SP: “See Ma’am, frankly speaking this problem can’t be solved by us police or military. The problem with these tribals is they don’t understand greed. Unless they become greedy, there’s no hope for us. I have told my boss, remove the force and instead put a TV in every home. Everything will be automatically sorted out.”


The first converts, the village chiefs and big landlords (...) were conferred the status of Dwij, twice-born, Brahmins. (...) As part of the Hindutva drive, the names of villages were changed in land records, as a result of which most have two names now, people’s names and government names. Innar village, for example, became Chinnari. On voters’ lists, tribal names were changed to Hindu names. (Massa Karma became Mahendra Karma.) Those who did not come forward to join the Hindu fold were declared ‘Katwas’ (by which they meant untouchables) who later became the natural constituency for the Maoists.


I looked around at the camp before we left. There are no signs that almost a hundred people had camped here, except for some ash where the fires had been. I cannot believe this army. As far as consumption goes, it’s more Gandhian than any Gandhian, and has a lighter carbon footprint than any climate change evangelist. (...) Should I write a play, I wonder—Gandhi Get Your Gun? Or will I be lynched?


KAMS [the Maoist women organization, with 90,000 members] campaigns against the adivasi traditions of forced marriage and abduction. Against the custom of making menstruating women live outside the village in a hut in the forest. Against bigamy and domestic violence. It hasn’t won all its battles, but then which feminists have?


A lot of the rape and bestial sexual mutilation was directed at members of KAMS. Many young women who witnessed the savagery then joined the PLGA and now women make up 45 per cent of its cadre.


Comrade Sumitra joined the PLGA in 2004, before the Salwa Judum began its rampage. She joined, she says, because she wanted to escape from home. “Women are controlled in every way,” she told me. “In our village, girls were not allowed to climb trees; if they did, they would have to pay a fine of Rs 500 or a hen. If a man hits a woman and she hits him back she has to give the village a goat. Men go off to the hills for months together to hunt. Women are not allowed to go near the kill, the best part of the meat goes to men. Women are not allowed to eat eggs.” Good reason to join a guerrilla army?


And what Chairman Mao said about the guerrillas being the fish and people being the water they swim in, is, at this moment, literally true.


When the Party is a suitor (as it is now in Dandakaranya), wooing the people, attentive to their every need, then it genuinely is a People’s Party, its army genuinely a People’s Army. But after the Revolution how easily this love affair can turn into a bitter marriage. How easily the People’s Army can turn upon the people. Today in Dandakaranya, the Party wants to keep the bauxite in the mountain. Tomorrow, will it change its mind? But can we, should we let apprehensions about the future immobilise us in the present?


I think of what Comrade Venu said to me: they want to crush us, not only because of the minerals, but because we are offering the world an alternative model.

Huge underwater "dispersed" oil plume confirmed and other Louisiana catastrophe news

As I have said before, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and misinformation around the Louisiana Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and hence I cannot follow it here at Leherensuge with the intensity I would like. I have mentioned also that other more dedicated blogs, such as
Washington Blog, Alexander Higgins' Blog and Florida Oil Spill Law, provide a much better and comprehensive critical following of the catastrophe at official and unofficial levels.

But today I must mention some important news. However I am in a hurry, so I apologize in advance for being brief.

Giant oil plume scientifically confirmed at 1 km depth

This is official enough to have made it to the mainstream media. BBC (watch out for a clear pro-BP bias in all British media) and Science Daily report on it, for instance.

The plume is made up of dispersed oil, up to the point that is not easy to see with naked eye. Yet it is there, it is huge and it is not being degraded biologically because water temperature is way too cold.

The news comes from a research paper, published at Science magazine yesterday, by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). However they had to stop their field research short because of bad weather. Therefore the plume has not been fully mapped yet.

This confirms the previous denounce by other scientists about the US administration oil figures being a fairy tale. Most oil is still there and because the use of dispersants (which are still being sprayed and are themselves highly toxic) the oil cannot be cleaned up (nor easily found) at surface nor can be degraded naturally by microorganisms, posing an even worse threat.

Independent expert speaks out

Washington Blog published yesterday an interview with University of California professor Dr. Robert Bea, engineer with ample experience in offshore drilling.

According to him, the good news is that the methane bubble doomsday scenario is most unlikely to be a real risk. All the rest are bad news: the geology is fractured and oil will follow such fractures and possibly leak out to the sea many kilometers from the damaged well. Solving the leak certainly will need relief wells - some previous such incidents have needed as many as five different relief wells.

Seafloor fractures in detail

Alexander Higgins has a great article today on how the macondo well might have fractured the geology of the area and its consequences. It can be synthesized to some extent in this image:

There are many other news, many of great interest, but I seriously recommend you to browse the blogs I mentioned in the first paragraph because I have no room in Leherensuge nor even in my mind for all them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Solar activity may even trigger earthquakes down here

Everything is connected to some extent. We know for example that solar cycles affect the weather down here on Earth but I would not have suspected that solar activity could be related to earthquakes on our planet.

It is as of now a tentative hypothesis but it makes some good sense, it seems.

Read more at NASA Science News (found originally at Washington Blog).

Update (Aug 23): it seems I got it totally wrong. It does not seem to be able to trigger earthquakes, in spite of Earth and Sun vibrating in the same frequency and fancy stuff like that. At least a connection has not been found as of yet.

Psychedelics as psychological medicine?

This is not really new, after all a host of religions across the globe use some such drugs in various ways with special success in tackling alcoholism and existential anxiety in general. Also independent researchers such as the "father of LSD"
Albert Hofmann have for long defended their usefulness in psychotherapy.

But still it's good to see that the same line of thought keeps reappearing once and again in spite of the institutional demonization of psychedelics. As reported by News Daily today, Franz Vollenweider and Michael Kometer, argue that drugs such as LSD or Psylocibes (magic mushrooms) have a lot of potential in psychotherapy, with the additional advantage that they would be used only for short periods, at low doses in combination with psychotherapy.

Psychedelics can give patients a new perspective -- particularly when things like suppressed memories come up -- and then they can work with that experience.
Mental illnesses...

... are serious, debilitating, life-shortening illnesses, and as the currently available treatments have high failure rates, psychedelics might offer alternative treatment strategies that could improve the well-being of patients and the associated economic burden on patients and society.
But Big Pharma surely prefers to have them taking their mostly useless (and potentially harmful) products for life, regardless of outcome.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Signs of positive selection favoring disease risk genes

It is very much counterintuitive but that is what Stanford University researchers conclude after looking at the evidence.

Erik Corona et al., Extreme Evolutionary Disparities Seen in Positive Selection across Seven Complex Diseases. PLoS ONE 2010. Open access.


Positive selection is known to occur when the environment that an organism inhabits is suddenly altered, as is the case across recent human history. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have successfully illuminated disease-associated variation. However, whether human evolution is heading towards or away from disease susceptibility in general remains an open question. The genetic-basis of common complex disease may partially be caused by positive selection events, which simultaneously increased fitness and susceptibility to disease. We analyze seven diseases studied by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium to compare evidence for selection at every locus associated with disease. We take a large set of the most strongly associated SNPs in each GWA study in order to capture more hidden associations at the cost of introducing false positives into our analysis. We then search for signs of positive selection in this inclusive set of SNPs. There are striking differences between the seven studied diseases. We find alleles increasing susceptibility to Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and Crohn's Disease CD) underwent recent positive selection. There is more selection in alleles increasing, rather than decreasing, susceptibility to T1D. In the 80 SNPs most associated with T1D (p-value less than 7.01×10−5) showing strong signs of positive selection, 58 alleles associated with disease susceptibility show signs of positive selection, while only 22 associated with disease protection show signs of positive selection. Alleles increasing susceptibility to RA are under selection as well. In contrast, selection in SNPs associated with CD favors protective alleles. These results inform the current understanding of disease etiology, shed light on potential benefits associated with the genetic-basis of disease, and aid in the efforts to identify causal genetic factors underlying complex disease.

Maybe the best understood case is that of rheumatoid arthritis, which, following the archaeological record, seems to have only manifested in west central Kentucky (USA) some 6500 years ago, slowly extending to other parts of North America (West Ohio some 1000 years ago) and then scattering worldwide after colonization. In contrast the alleles that favor the disease are much older everywhere and seem to work well against tuberculosis (TB). So it would be a clearly favorable allele (protecting against TB) until whatever (not yet known) pathogen or allergenic that triggers RA spread from the Ohio basin.

So now RA susceptibility alleles have become deleterious in those areas where TB is not anymore a problem but, until a few centuries ago, they were only being selected for, because there was no exogenous trigger for RA outside of the Ohio basin and instead they protected from tuberculosis.

A good example of how fitness value is therefore not absolute but contextual.

There are also some indications that T1D susceptibility alleles may be implied in defense against enteroviruses, which cause some pretty bad diseases such as poliomyelitis and meningitis.

Indian Megalithic wares and other Archaeonews

Stone Pages' weekly newsletter
Archaeonews has arrived again at my mailbox bringing some interesting informations:

Tamil Nadu Iron Age findings

Sengalur village (Puddukotari district, Tamil Nadu, India) hosts some 300 Iron Age burials of Megalithic style, described as stone circles with or without cairn packing, stone circle with cist burial of different types, cist burial with an extension in the front, urn burials, urn burials with capstone, menhir and rectangular shaped structure.

They are being excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), reaching also to the nearby villages of Sittanavasal, Melapatti and Nathakadu, producing a large catalog of material culture from that period, that includes terracotta figurines, beads made of glass, semi-precious stones and terracotta, broken bangles (glass bracelets) and potsherds inscribed with graffiti.

Source: The Hindu

Other news

The newsletter also includes other archaeological news such as:

  • Looting seems to have destroyed more than half of ancestor stones at Cross Rivers State (Nigeria). More at The Sun.
  • Teotihuacan dwellers used the bones of their relatives for buttons and other quotidian objects. More at National Geographic.
  • Most ancient known house of Britain found at Scarborough, dated to 8500 years ago (Epipaleolithic). More at BBC and many other news sites.