Misc. links

Genome-wide association studies: slightly breathless article from the AP; why they can fail at Genetic Future

Lebanese Christians and Muslims genetically differentiated: Dienekes links the paper (PDF); supplemental data (PDF); GENEALOGY-DNA posters question elements of the study

John Hawks: Schiller skull to be identified using DNA? On "Boskopoids":
This category became untenable as further information about the archaeology of South Africa came to light. Ronald Singer (1958) reviewed the "Boskop race" evidence as it existed by the 1950's. He concluded that there was no reason to maintain that any "big-headed, small-faced group" had existed in prehistory, separate from the current biological variability of "Bushman, Hottentot and Negro." But that view is unsupportable -- in fact, what happened is that a small set of large crania were taken from a much larger sample of varied crania, and given the name, "Boskopoid." This selection was initially done almost without any regard for archaeological or cultural associations -- any old, large skull was a "Boskop". Later, when a more systematic inventory of archaeological associations was entered into evidence, it became clear that the "Boskop race" was entirely a figment of anthropologists' imaginations. Instead, the MSA-to-LSA population of South Africa had a varied array of features, within the last 20,000 years trending toward those present in historic southern African peoples.

[. . .]

So, how did this idea of ancient Boskops make it into a book by two neuroscientists in 2008?

If not through science, then possibly from science fiction. The "Boskop race" was immortalized in popular writing by Loren Eiseley, who included an essay on Boskop Man in his collection, The Immense Journey, first published in 1958. As you can see, by this time the entire concept of a "Boskop race" had fallen into scientific disrepute. But Eiseley was undeterred: he conjured the idea that the Boskopoids were advanced in their large brains and small faces -- the apex of a trend toward paedomorphism, the retention of juvenile characteristics.

[. . .]

For Eiseley, Boskop served as a kind of memento mori -- the so-called advanced race had succumbed to "more prolific and aggressive stocks." A theme of the essay is that the entire idea of "Future Man" is anti-evolutionary -- there are no ineluctible trends of progress in evolution, because such progressive populations may always be endangered by their own direction of change.

I hate to think that the theme of a 2008 book was pulled straight from a 1958 essay, but I don't know where else they would have gotten the idea. No anthropologists have written much about the so-called "Boskopoids" since 1958. There is no such thing as an "IQ estimate" for a fossil human; that's entirely nonsensical. There's no question that there have been massive cultural changes in the last 10,000 years. But the idea that our brains' functions have atrophied from some Pleistocene state has been left long behind in the dust of nineteenth-century race studies.

(In that case, it would seem Carleton Coon was engaged in "nineteenth-century race studies" as late as 1981:
Those that stayed on in Europe and western Asia from Upper Paleolithic to modern times have lost an average of two inches (5 cm) of stature and 140 cc of cranial capacity [. . .] From Neolithic to modern times, stature remained about the same, while average cranial capacity fell, though it rallied a little during the Bronze Age when metal took over from stone and much skill was needed to go to the sources of copper and tin and to smelt and cast the metals. Iron was more abundant and easier to work. The dip to the modern level may reflect a division of labor in which the specialists are outnumbered by those whom they have domesticated or who have domesticated themselves.

Racial Adaptations. pp. 170-171.)

Egypt: Study shows life was tough for ancient Egyptians:
CAIRO (Reuters) - New evidence of a sick, deprived population working under harsh conditions contradicts earlier images of wealth and abundance from the art records of the ancient Egyptian city of Tell el-Amarna, a study has found.

[. . .]

Studies on the remains of ordinary ancient Egyptians in a cemetery in Tell el-Amarna showed that many of them suffered from anemia, fractured bones, stunted growth and high juvenile mortality rates, according to professors Barry Kemp and Jerome Rose, who led the research.

[. . .]

Paintings in the tombs of the nobles show an abundance of offerings, but the remains of ordinary people tell a different story.

Rose displayed pictures showing spinal injuries among teenagers, probably because of accidents during construction work to build the city.

The study showed that anemia ran at 74 percent among children and teenagers, and at 44 percent among adults, Rose said. The average height of men was 159 cm (5 feet 2 inches) and 153 cm among women.

"Adult heights are used as a proxy for overall standard of living," he said. "Short statures reflect a diet deficient in protein. ... People were not growing to their full potential."

[. . .]

"We are seeing a more realistic picture of what life was like," he told Reuters.

Altai: New tomb for 'Altai Princess' to be built in Siberia:
NOVOSIBIRSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - A tomb to house the remains of a woman found after being preserved in ice for 2,500 years will be built in Siberia's Altai Republic, the director of a local museum said on Thursday.

The well-preserved remains of the woman dubbed the Altai Princess were discovered in the region by a team led by a Novosibirsk archeologist in 1993 near the Mongolian border, and have been studied at the Archaeology and Ethnography Institute in Novosibirsk.

[. . .]

Scientists have no information on the actual history of the Altai Princess, but DNA tests and facial reconstruction have suggested she was ethnically European.

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