The Genius of Kinship: Human Kinship Systems and the Search for Human Origins

Thank you, Kambiz, for letting me introduce my new book to the community.

The story behind The Genius of Kinship is an interesting one. In 1991, then a student of history at the St. Petersburg State University, I wrote a course paper on the traditional social organization of the Shoshone Indians as could be gleaned from ethnographies and trappers’ accounts. Why would a Russian student be interested in the Shoshone Indians is an entirely different story to be told on a different occasion. Let’s just say I was researching Shoshone Indians because they were not widely known in the Russian ethnological literature. My advisors apparently noticed my interest in pre-industrial social structures, and recommended that I explored Shoshone Indian kinship structure in greater detail next year. I poured over literature on kinship studies in Russian, French and English for a few months and then looked at Shoshone kinship again. I was struck by their logical consistency and by the fact that this elegant simplicity was not mentioned anywhere in the basic literature on kinship. Typical case studies came from Australia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Sino-Tibetan languages, but not from North America.

I thought that was puzzling: kinship studies, as we all know, were founded in the mid-19th century by the American lawyer, Lewis Henry Morgan, on the basis on Iroquois and other North American Indian tribes/nations. The birth of kinship studies coincided with the birth of anthropology as a romantic quest for the origins of Western civilziation. But by the end of the 20th century American Indian kinship structures are nowhere that prominent. Possessed by a pioneer’s zeal, I ventured into kinship terminologies around the world and initially amassed a database of over a thousand kinship nomenclatures from many linguistic families. In 1997, I defended my research as a Ph.D. dissertation at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology in St.Petersburg, and in 2001 I published it as a book entitled The Phenomenon of Kinship. Without a particular premeditation, I followed in Morgan’s early footsteps when he wrote The Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (1870) and conceived of kinship terminologies as a source of information about ancient human population dispersals. (Morgan as a famous social evolutionist emerged with the publication of Ancient Society in 1877 when he attempted to explain the diversity of human kinship structures as a matter of stages in the progressive maturation of humankind.) Over and over again, I caught myself thinking that American Indian kinship structures are unique and can provide a missing link for the evolution of Old World kinship structures.

When I came to the U.S. in 1997 as a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at Stanford, I faced another puzzling irony of history: it’s not just American Indian kinship structures that have been eclipsed from the anthropological agenda, American anthropologists were not doing kinship studies at all. As Sylvia Yanagisako said upon learning about my Russian research, “But nobody does this stuff here anymore.” Truth be told, she herself was part of a “revival” of kinship studies in the U.S. in the late 1980s but more along the lines of gender, with “kinship” being scowled at as a spurious Victorian invention. For some inexplicable reason, she was sceptical of kinship systems, structures, lineages, and especially terminologies. Speaking to other feminist professors at Stanford’s Department of Anthropology (later Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology) such as Jane Collier and Carol Delaney, I couldn’t figure out where all the good old kinship studies went. Where were Lowie, Kroeber, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski, Fortes, Levi-Strauss, Dole, Murdock, Tax, Scheffler, Lounsbury, Dumont, Allen, Barnes, Trautmann, Tyler, Kronenfeld, componential analysis, generative analysis, equivalence-rule analysis and other proud representatives of the anthropological tribe? Yanagisako, Delaney and Collier all referred me back to David Schneider who allegedly “proved” that “kinship” was a malignant excresecence on the body of the discipline manifesting all the imaginable vices from racism and colonialism to the masculine bias.

It didn’t make much sense: coming out of a former Soviet country with all its anti-racism and anti-colonialism and anti-capitalism-with-its-severe-exploitation-of-women-and-children, I still felt okay about kinship. Of course, it’s a tough field, not for everyone, but anthropology and kinship are inseparable. You can critisize, develop new theories, change paradigms, but still groom the central concept of the discipline. That’s how I felt.

Across the Main Quad at Stanford, another group of American anthropologists was setting up a different anthropology department called “Anthropological Sciences.” Jim Fox was teaching anthropological linguistics, Joanna Mountain population genetics, Merritt Ruhlen Greenberg’s multilateral comparison, Bill Durham general evolution. There was no kinship studies either, but at least Tom Trautmann once came in with a talk, Hill Gates asked me about the Russian kinship theorist, Mikhail Kryukov, and Joanna Mountain heard about African “segmentary lineages.” Needless to say, the Anthropological Sciences people were very much into out-of-Africa theory of human evolution. Correspondingly, they were supporters of Clovis-I in the Americas. I took classes with Joanna Mountain and worked in her genetics lab. She was a student of Luca Cavalli-Sforza. I also heard wonderful presentations from Richard Klein on African fossils, Peter Underhill on Y chromosome, Marcus Feldman and Lev Zhivotovsky (a Russian geneticist from Moscow) on autosomal markers, and Joe Greenberg on the peopling of the Americas. When Greenberg passed away in 2001, Christie Turner flew in from Arizona for the memorial conference, only to reiterate the “consensus” between his odontology and Greenberg’s linguistics as a rock-solid proof of a recent origin of American Indians. (By 2005, Matsumura and Hudson in “Dental Perspectives on the Population History in Souteast Asia” //
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 127 deconstructed Turner’s celebrated Sundadonty category as a result of relatively recent admixture, thus depriving his general theories of much of their power.) In 1997-1998, Tom Dillehay’s Monte Verde was coming into spotlight, and John Rick grudgingly accepted Dillehay’s dates, with a caveat that “Tom probably mixed up the strata” but now it’s too late to disprove his Monte Verde tome.

So, I was caught in a cross-fire: on the one hand, feminists and post-structuralists “proved” that kinship studies was the unfortunate invention of the confused Cro-Magnon male; on the other hand, archaeology and genetics from across the Quad “proved” that humans came from Africa some 50,000 BP and peopled the Americas no earlier than 11,500 BP (okay, 12,500 BP but Dillehay must have confused the layers). In 1986, Greenberg tried to endorse the latter view linguistically with his tripartite division of American Indian languages into Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut. (This classification was eventually rejected by the actual specialists in American Indian languages, and with it went down the linguistic counterpart of the out-of-Africa model.) But there was a gap between molecular genetics and linguistics, namely demography, social structure, marriage practices, residence patterns and kinship terminologies. Only this sociocultural bit of evidence could imbue our human origins story with necessary realism. I thought kinship studies could definitely furnish this missing link, and whether human kinship is about “biology” or about “culture” was an utterly secondary matter. I was contemplating terms like “idenetics” and “gignetics” (from Greek gigno ‘to give birth’, a cognate of gen-) to dub this mature state of kinship studies in the 21st century.

Human origins and dispersals research in the 1980s-1990s was driven by “physical” disiplines, those being archaeology/paleontology and genetics. Sociocultural data, meaning linguistics, kinship systems, mythology, were lagging behind. As late as 1980, Robert Austerlitz published a paper in a highly-specialized linguistics periodical called Ural-Altaische Jahrbucher calling attention to the fact that American Indians harbor much more linguistic diversity than the Old World. In 1992, Johanna Nichols published Linguistic Diversity in Space in Time and concluded that our perspective on early human languages comes from America and Australia/Oceania and not from Africa and Europe. Sociocultural anthropology was supposed to contribute kinship studies to the growing interdisciplinary effort, but it forsook it for the sake of abstract ethical polemics. This is all the more bizarre and unfortunate, since anthropology had been working with worldwide databases of kinship terminologies and forms of social organization long before blood groups were discovered, never mind mtDNA sequenced. (In 1967, Murdock sampled 800 kinship terminologies for the patterns of sibling nomenclature that gave a pretty good overall resolution of what patterns are found on what continents.) And the futility of post-modernist moralizing was vividly manifested “across the Quad,” where any reflexivity was tantamount to heresy. Both versions of anthropology looked equally sterile to me.

As a true patriot of Stanford’s Anthropology, I escaped the split of the department into Cultural and Social Anthropology and Anthropological Sciences by migrating for two quarters to the University of Chicago. I listened to terrific Terry Turner on the Kayapo, the late Kostas Kazazis on Indo-European historical linguistics and Balkan dialectology, flamboyant Michael Silverstein on evidentiality, and cowboy-hatted Ray Fogelson (once Yanagisako’s professor at the University of Washington) on American Indian studies and psychological anthropology. I saw legendary Marshall Sahlins from behind and narrowly missed Eric Hamp and Paul Friedrich. And lo and behold, Tom Dillehay himself was there teaching “Andean Prehistory” for half-a-year from the University of Kentucky. For his class, I wrote a paper suggesting that a crucial piece is missing from our human origins research (namely, kinship systems and related linguistic typology), that the out-of-Africa theory is quick and premature, and that if we look closely at American archaeology we won’t be able to see the exact process by which an adventurous group of Siberian hunters colonized the Americas. Symptomatically enough, Cavalli-Sforza assumed a relatively recent entry into the Americas in order to substantiate his claims of an African origin of modern humans; genetically, American Indians and Africans are polar opposites, hence, if we know that America was peopled late, then we can be sure that Africa was the cradle. Looking at Pleistocene archaeology with a critical eye leads one to believe that the data can’t exactly justify using America as an inverted yardstick for Africa. Clovis tools are found everywhere in the Americas but not in Siberia; microblades are found everywhere in Siberia from 20,000 BP but in America they never penetrated south of the Vancouver Island.

Dillehay gave me an A-, and put me in touch with a fellow out of California by the name of Alvah (Pardner) Hicks who’s been trying for a good decade to convince people to look at America as a possible homeland of modern humans. Hicks was in the midst of the 1990s hoopla around the peopling of the America: he attended conferences, dated skulls in South America, corresponded with Tad Schurr, Dave Meltzer and Lou Binford, buttonholed Lyle Campbell and Emoke Szathmary and summarized a myriad of human origins-related scholarly articles for the Mother Tongue readership (kinda doing blogging before blogging became popular). He tried his best to at least make people consider the possibility that American Indians could have migrated into Siberia at the end of the Ice Age. (Franz Boas talked about it a hundred years ago after the Jesup expedition.) But scholars simply refused to listen to Hicks: he brought to the table wacky ideas and he didn’t have a Ph.D. Nevertheless, Dillehay put me in touch with Hicks probably because I had one extra Ph.D. to give away.

When I returned to Stanford in 1999, I rushed to the library to update my kinship terminological database. The Russian library resources are no match for the Stanford ones, and the several years I spent at Green library comparing kinship terminologies from America, Africa, Oceania, Australia and Eurasia were totally worth it. I dug into obscure Brazilian Ph.D. theses, old French dictionaries of rare Austroasiatic languages and Joe Greenberg’s own collection of African language studies. In the end, I assembled a database of some 2500 languages, diligently assembled a comprehensive bibliography and screened this sample for a bunch of typological markers, such as self-reciprocal terminology, “Crow-Omaha,” sibling nomenclature, formal morphology, etc. Some of these typological/polysemic markers were well-known in the literature, others I had to describe anew. When the ordeal was over, I realized that my initial findings were reinforced and bolstered. American Indian kinship terminologies are archaic, while African kinsip terminologies are transformed.

This is the central thesis of The Genius of Kinship. But it’s not the only one. I introduce the reader into the history of kinship studies within and outside of anthropology, compare the ideas about kinship held by Morgan, Darwin and Lyell and conclude (very much in a post-structuralist vein) that our 19th century ideas about human kinship influenced our ideas about human origins. We looked into archaeology and paleontology for answers to the questions of where we came from, while outright dismissing evidence from living human populations (language, kinship, folklore). We were interested in what was left behind in a garbage pit, not in what was passed down to the next generation. We sought our origins in Neandertals, while letting American Indians pass into oblivion. We bypassed American Indian linguistic diversity and grammatical uniqueness and declared them a “recent” population in virtue of the fact that no fossil hominids were ever found in the Americas.

The Genius of Kinship is not meant to be an advocacy for an out-of-America theory of human origins and dispersals. This is a gigantic task. Rather, it’s a revival of kinship studies in anthropology in conjunction with the recent advances in linguistics, psychology, sociology and historiography, a nitty-gritty typological analysis of a large sample of kin terminologies and its application to the prehistory of such accepted language families as Na-Dene, Austronesian and others. One of the results of this revival is a suspicion that the 150 years of finagling with anthropological knowledge (are Indians savages? shall we continue with kinship or shall we switch to gender? only archaeology can furnish reliable data, let’s look at Neandertals, languages are too difficult to comprehend, while we need something tangible to look at, etc.) has resulted in a confused picture of human origins and dispersals in which fundamental assumptions remain unproven, while every new piece of evidence is either swept under the carpet or instantly reinterpreted to fit the consensus.

For instance, the original mtDNA paper, namely “Radiation of Human Mitochondrial DNA Types Analyzed by Restriction Endonuclease Cleavage Pattern” published by Johnson, Doug Wallace and Cavalli-Sforza in the Journal of Molecular Evolution 19 (1983) clearly showed that American Indians have the highest frequency of the ancestral human mtDNA “morph combination” (That was a restriction-site analysis, but still it provided a foundation for all subsequent research, the only difference being that at some point the tree was flipped around and the Africans were declared the oldest population.) The tree topology in this early paper bears close resemblance to the map of human blood types, with American Indians being preponderantly type O. Now, match Johnson et al. (1983) with Ward et al.’s (1992) intriguing paper on extensive mtDNA diversity among the Nuu-Chah-Nullth exceeding that of African !Kung, and ponder as to why American Indians are widely considered to be a young population. In order to explain away an inconvenient fact, Ward et al. had to resort to an argument that American Indians brought this diversity with them from Siberia. Now that pre-Clovis coprolites attest to the antiquity of mtDNA A and B lineages in North America (see Gilbert et al. Science 320 [5877], 2008), even The Onion is smart enough to ridicule Ward et al.’s logic when it writes: “How can we be sure that some ancient nerd didn’t just carry an already thousand-year-old petrified turd with him when he crossed over the land bridge from Asia?”

Or, take Edward Vajda’s recent discovery of a linguistic connection between an isolated Siberian language, Ket, and Na-Dene in North America. The system of verbal prefixes is better preserved in Na-Dene than in Ket, the Ket sibling terminology is radically transformed from its Na-Dene prototype (The Genius of Kinship, p. 325). Or, the fact that the Kets’ neighbors, the Selkups and the Evenkis have a subtype of the purely American Indian mtDNA haplotype A2 (Tamm et al. Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS One, September 2007, no. 9). Isn’t it a genetic illustration of Boas’s and Hicks’s “back-migration”? While we find traces of American Indian genes in Siberia, the reverse isn’t true: we haven’t found such a close variant of a Siberian gene in the Americas. Or, if one reads Russian and opens up Vladimir Napolskikh’s dissertation on the Earth-Diver myths in America and Siberia, a simple scheme shows that all the archaic variants of this widely-spread motif are in North America, while all the derived ones are in Siberia.

There’s a puzzling contradiction in our data (if this data is looked at through unbiased interdisciplinary lenses), namely that “physical” disciplines such as archaeology/paleontology find lots of support for out-of-Africa, while “ideational” disciplines such as linguistics and kinship studies have Africa as a secondary spread zone and not a homeland. Which data should we trust? Can we ever hoe to build a robust theory on the basis of archaeology’s always-fragmentary-and-accidental evidence? Or, as Eldridge ad Gould famously claimed, such a theory can only be built on the basis of data coming from living biota? How do we now that the currently popular out-of-Africa interpretation of mtDNA and Y chromosome data is not simply a theoretically possible scenario and and the adaptation of a new system of information to suit the existing archaeological/paleontological consensus but a true description of unique population events? All our population genetic maps show the world at 1492, when Africa was probably genetically most diverse, but by 2008 America is arguably the most diverse continent: what scenario of human evolution would we develop hundreds of years from now provided that we wouldn’t know upfront that America was peopled from Europe, Asia and Africa after 1492? We dismissed America as a “New World” and its inhabitants as an Asian offshoot back in the 16th century, which is long before any scientific evidence has been accumulated, but can we reject the possibility that our modern archaeological, genetic, linguistic and ethnological data is consistent with two opposite “single-origin” scenarios? If so, can we rationally adjudicate between the two scenarios without demolishing one as “wacky” and then using the rubble to lionize the other?

133 thoughts on “The Genius of Kinship: Human Kinship Systems and the Search for Human Origins

  1. “While we find traces of American Indian genes in Siberia, the reverse isn’t true…”

    “How do we now that the currently popular out-of-Africa interpretation of mtDNA and Y chromosome data is not simply a theoretically possible scenario and and the adaptation of a new system of information to suit the existing archaeological/paleontological consensus but a true description of unique population events?”

    Do you really understand that all Native American haplogroups (both Y-DNA and mtDNA) are subclades of Asian ones? If there is Q in America, in Eurasia there is not just Q but also it’s upstream relatives: P and its other derivates (R), K and its other derivates (K1, K2, K3, K4, L, M, NO, PxQ), F and its other derivates (F1, F2, G, H, IJ), etc. If you go upstream by the tree you need to look at Africa, of course. The same applies for C3 and the mtDNA haplogroups.

    Eurasian genetics are a subset of African ones, and Native American genetics are a subset of Eurasian ones. Claiming the opposite makes absolutely no sense, sorry. This does not contradict nor is contradicted by back-migration, either from Eurasia to Africa or from Beringia to mainland Siberia.

    I think you really fail to understand the basics of haploid genetics: that SNPs are so rare that with all likehood only happened once in all Human history (prehistory included, of course). That Native Americans have the same upstream SNPs as Eurasians and Africans, that their whole haploid genome is just a subset of those.

    It’s just primary school concepts:

    1. The American set is a subset of the Eurasian one
    2. The Eurasian set is a subset of the African one

    The opposite is not true.

    “There’s a puzzling contradiction in our data (if this data is looked at through unbiased interdisciplinary lenses), namely that “physical” disciplines such as archaeology/paleontology find lots of support for out-of-Africa, while “ideational” disciplines such as linguistics and kinship studies have Africa as a secondary spread zone and not a homeland. Which data should we trust?”

    For me it is very clear. Kinship is cultural, like language or religion. Bones and codons are real stuff, not subject to easy manipulation by the always creative human mind.

    Anyhow, more complex kinship structures do not need to mean older ones, the same that more complex architecture does not mean older buildings. Normally it is the opposite in fact. I really can’t believe that someone is challenging the quite well estabilished OOA model only on the grounds of theories of kinship.

  2. Luis,

    Thank you for you comment. Please revisit Table 3 and Fig. 6 in Johnson et al. 1983 paper (attached to my post) and you will see that the original mtDNA tree was rooted in the restriction site combination found at 100% of American Indians with the decreasing frequency thereof among Asians, Europeans and Africans. The tree topology is very similar to the well-known blood type map.

    You’re making a common logical mistake: you assume something to be true (because bones and codons can’t lie – period) and then dismiss everything that patently contradicts it as a product of a creative mind. An ideal theoretical model fits all kinds of evidence, no matter what their provenance is. Example: genetically Basques are similar to other Europeans, while linguistically they are very distinct. In this case, linguistics preserves the traces of an ancient population process better than genetics because genetics is subject to forces that linguistics is absolved of (and vice versa). The same with the Ket language: genetically they are like other Siberians, but linguistically they are distinct and, now we know, related to Na-Dene.

    The Genius of Kinship is not an advocacy for the out-of-America model of human dispersals. Hence, I wouldn’t try to shoot it down just because it contradicts your beliefs about out-of-Africa. It’s a presentation of a systematic source of information located between linguistics and population genetics that contains an invaluable account of human prehistory. It needs to be taken into account on its own terms. After this is done, meaning The Genius of Kinship is read and digested, a single-origin alternative to OOA has to be tested against all the data (archaeology, genetics, kinship studies, linguistics). So far OOA was tested only against Multiregional Evolution, and out-of-America shares all its advantages over the latter by virtue of the fact it’s another single-origin model.

    This is your school exercise in subset reasoning: OOA won over Multiregional in the single-origin category. Now it has to compete with out-of-America in the exact-continent-of-origin category.

    1. Hello, German. I presume that you are the author of the opening piece. Concerning Luis, I noticed that he used the term “upstream”, as though it had actually been PROVEN that mankind originated “out of Africa”. If a contrary theory, such as, “out of America” or “out of New Guinea” were proven to be the case, of course, his “upstream” mutations would become “downstream” ones; so his arguments are moot.

      I am a hobbyist in fields such as linguistics and anthropology, my degrees being in computer science and chemistry; but I have been interested in both the former fields for several decades. Years ago, I was intrigued, upon reading the Funk and Wagnalls article on American Indian Languages, to see the incredible diversity of grammatical and sound variations they contain. I was fluent in Vietnamese language at the time, and recall having had some minor challenge in pronouncing the initial “ng” sound, distinguishing between aspirated and unaspirated “t”s, and acquiring an ear for tonality; but otherwise, it was not too difficult for this Indo-European speaker to speak and write as an Austronesian. I would have a great deal of difficulty, however, learning the plethora of linguistic devices employed by my Native American ancestors and their kin, though — such as ergartive typology, switch reference, verbal directionals, voceless “l”s, lateral affricatives, glottalized consonants and much more.

      I wanted to see what other languages had these attributes, and learned, to my surprize, that languages of the “Old World” were actually less diverse than those in America. A few years later, Dr. Joseph Greenburg’s work was published, I believe, in Science magazine, which seemed to confirm my findings to a degree. First of all, Greenburg postulated that most humans spoke a group of related languages known as “Nostratic”, and most of the remainder spoke languages in the “Basque-Denean” group. I believe Greenburg himself proposed that all of his groups originated, not too many thousand years ago, in the Middle East.

      We known that Greenburg was a “lumper” rather than a splitter; as you have noted, he greatly erred in lumping together the bulk of American languages into a super-group called “Amerind”. I was rather surprized myself to see this grouping, for I saw more structural similarities between languages in “Old World” groups, such as Nilo-Saharan and Austronesian, than I saw between those in the single “Amerind” group. Of course, this was Greenburg’s field and not mine, so I took his word for it. What DID interest me, even so, was that the greatest diversity of languages occurred at the PERIPHERY of his “spread zone”, not at the center. This caused me to wonder, years later, when I saw anthropological DNA studies based on the assumption that the areas of greatest diversity were assumed to be at the CENTER of such spreading.

      This all seemed rather counter-intuitive. The border of Sudan with neighboring Chad and Ethiopia, for instance, is peppered with many small, diverse language families. I reasoned that these small, endangered groups congregated near the borders as a protection against being wiped out by vindictive policies of governments on either side — as the current genocide among the Fur, one such small group, amply illustrates. It would be unreasonable, on the other hand, to assume that these desert areas of great diversity were centers, out of which the greater neighboring civilizations flowed; yet this seems to be the very thinking of anthropologists, and it is the principal argument I have seen in promoting the “Out of Africa” theory. You seem to be contending that an “Out of America” theory is valid for the same reason — that it is America, in fact, where the greatest diversity is found.

      You noted that African and American populations are “polar opposites” genetically; so that if the African populations were more ancient, it follows that the Americans should be more recent arrivals, and visa-versa. In likening this “genetic tree” to a “yardstick” with two “ends”, you touch upon something else I’ve noticed in this field of study: The Out of Africa “tree” doesn’t look like a “tree” at all, but a rather lopsided affair. If the mtDNA tree were rooted, for instance, in Hg “N” (common among aboriginal Australians but also present in the Middle East) instead of one of the “L” groups in Africa, the branches would have a much more even spread. A similar correction would result from rooting the yDNA tree in, say, “IJ”. Both adjustments would correlate with Greenburg’s model of the dispersion of languages. I cannot say anything definitive about where to root the DNA trees, other than to say that the rooting used in the “Out of Africa” model appears arbitray and perhaps is biased. This hearkens back to the “upstream” arguments of Luis.

      You said something which ought to shine a light on this matter, namely,

      “…the original mtDNA tree was rooted in the restriction site combination found at 100% of American Indians with the decreasing frequency thereof among Asians, Europeans and Africans.”

      Could you amplify this for me? I am not a social scientist, and am too old to learn the lingo. I DO know that mutations, such as those occurring in mtDNA base arrangements, are generally reversible; so one can’t make assumptions as to whether a particular mutation is “uphill” or “downhill”; and therefore, where a tree ought to be “rooted”.

      I will note that, given Greenburg’s calculation that the dispersion of languages began only a few thousand years ago, physical anthropologists can shout linguists right out of the room when discussing theories of “origins”. Their argument is that since man evolved “out of Africa” millions of years ago, then language — being a very recent phenomenon of man’s development — is not a proper basis for studying “origins”. I can’t fault them on that sort of thinking, providing that their assumptions are correct. As you have noted, those assumptions are based on a very sparse, spotty corpus of fossil evidence — enhanced, it seems, by a biased interpretation of genetic data. In any case, the “cradle” of the human gene pool and the “cradle” of human languages needn’t be the same place: the environment needed to foster the one is not necessarily that which engenders the other.

      I do not subscribe to the “Out of America” theory, which of course neither have you explicitly done. I am, like you, skeptical of the “Out of Africa” theory; though I would like some more elucidation from you on this matter. There are many places on earth where human existence could have begun: not only Africa and America, but also India and Southeast Asia — or, given that the earth’s climate has varied considerably over the millenia, even the Biblical “Eden” in the Middle East. The book doesn’t seem to be closed on these matters, except, perhaps, in the minds of some privileged academics; and I am glad to see honest enquiry still seeing the light of day.

      Thank you for your good work. I look forward to hearing something from you on these points.

  3. As I was thinking more about Luis’s comment, I figured we’re dealing with two different demographic/population scenarios here. The Out-of-Africa theory assumes that the African population has been steadily accumulating size and allele/gene diversity over a long period of time, spitting out on a number of occasions daughter populations that colonized the globe. These daughter populations went through a bottleneck, lost the original African genes and developed new ones along the way. They’ve never recovered from the bottleneck and never exceeded Africans in gene diversity. At the next junction between Asia and America, this situation repeated itself: American Indians have never recovered from a bottleneck and they lost all the most frequent Asian genes (specifically, those belonging to macrohaplogroup M). These two bottlenecks that progressively obliterate the most frequent parental genes from a daughter population seem to be rather odd.

    Basing on Native American population realities (Neal and Ward and other old-school geneticists wrote extensively about it between 1970s and 1990s), an alternative demographic/population scenario would assume that the parental population has remained in the original state of dispersed demes charcaterized by high mobility, frequent loss of lineages and low effective and demographic population size. This is consistent with America having the largest linguistic diversity in the world, the latter reflecting this highly fragmented population. As these small demes exited America, they expanded in size in response to the demographic pressure of colonizing the globe and achieved a high level of gene flow and lineage retention. As America was geographically isolated, there was no gene flow between the New World and the Old World. Africa ended up in the long run the most demographically dominant. America has preserved the ancient demographic condition, and not suprisingly Cavalli-Sforza advised other geneticists to use Brazilian tribes as models of original human population structure. In one of such papers built on Cavalli-Sforza’s method (Zhivotovsky, Estimating Divergence Time with the Use of Microsatellite Genetics Distances: Impacts of Population Growth and Gene Flow. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18 (5), 2001), South American Indians are considered “a reference for microsatellite variation in an ancient African ancestor because their population size is low and might be compared with that estimated for an African ancestor.”

    Consequently, the nesting structure of the human genetic trees referred to by Luis, in which Asians are subsets of Africans, and American Indians are subsets of Asians, represents the result of a long-term evolution but doesn’t accurately reflect the actual process. If we assume the OOAf model, then the differences in the levels of linguistic diversity between Africa and America will remain aberrant. If we assume the OOAm model, then things look more logical, with both linguistics and genetics falling into their proper places. Kinship structures further corroborate the OOAm scenario, as Old World kinship structures, especially in Australia/Oceania and along the Pacific Rim, less so in Africa and Europe, show residues/survivals of that ancient demographic/population condition which is more fully preserved in American Indian kinship terminologies.

  4. Genetic and linguistic diversity can seem greater due to greater isolation in different regions. However, this diversity might just involve subsets of populations, for example genetic haplogroups, from elsewhere that migrated into the region.

  5. You realize, of course, that New Guinea has the highest level of linguistic diversity in the world. Most likely the result of prolonged isolation on the part of a great many different populations and most certainly NOT because homo sapiens originated on that island.

    There is no possible interpretation of kinship systems per se that can tell you where the concept started, just as there is no possible interpretation of language families per se that can tell you where language originated. I’ve worked for years on the musical evidence and I can tell you that there is no possible interpretation of the various musical families per se that can tell you where music originated.

    Since the genetic research does, at least in principle, provide exactly that sort of evidence, kinship studies, historical linguistics and comparative musicology need to follow the lead of population genetics, not the other way ’round. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the musical evidence I’ve studied is in fact consistent with OOA. So, apparently, is the linguistic evidence.

    If you find the kinship evidence to be inconsistent with OOA, then you can certainly feel free to contest it’s validity on that basis, rather than attempt to create a whole new theory of human origins on the basis of kinship alone. It can’t be done.

    Frankly I’m disappointed, because I thought you were about to argue for the importance of kinship studies in the context of the new anthropological paradigm, based on the new genetic research. You could make a very strong point, because so much of the genetic research depends on an understanding of kinship, not only the different concepts and vocabularies, but also the different practices, based on kinship, by which different peoples select appropriate mates. Many of the differences between mtDNA and Y results can be explained on such a basis, yet kinship studies are rarely considered in most pop. genetics studies I’ve seen.

    You could make an important contribution if you were willing to accept a more modest role. Which would not prevent you from contesting OOA on the basis of your kinship research.

    Most meaningful research is based on a process or set of processes rather than a lightbulb going off over someone’s head.

  6. Thanks Victor.

    1. You argue too opposite things at the same time: kinship studies are rarely, if ever, considered in population genetics research and genetic research hinges on a certain understanding of kinship, but kinship studies can only follow population genetics in the questions of prehistoric human dispersals. What’s the point of doing kinship studies if population genetics has already provided us with a correct picture? You dismiss 150 years of kinship research for the sake of a recent mtDNA and Y chromosome paradigm. This is not prudent. I believe, on the contrary, that every system of information, if properly analyzed, yields unique results. Then you compare across those unique results to weed out unwarranted assumptions. Kinship systems and terminologies don’t contradict genetic evidence, but they do contradict a particular interpretation of this evidence, namely the OOAf model of human dispersals. OOAf is based on certain assumptions about demography and Old vs. New World antiquity that haven’t been tested. Love it or leave it.
    2. Papua New Guinea is not “more” diverse linguistically than the Americas. They are comparable and it depends how you look at it. If you judge diversity by the size of the geographic area, yes, but, then, for instance, America harbors all 6 possible types of word order; the same for kinship terminologies. American Indian linguistic diversity is associated with pretty archaic kinship structures, which leads me to believe that it may be the function of age, and not of linguistic evolution run amok in the last 10,000 years. But overall you are of course right: both America and Papua New Guinea (but not Africa!), are the examples of linguistic differentiation consistent with an ancient human demographic/population model. Outside of the Americas, it’s Australia, Oceania and the Pacific Rim in general that show this pattern in languages and kinship terminologies.
    3. Kinship systems and terminologies have been sliced by scholars for at least 150 years. The available databases are considerable. I did additional typing of new variants and focused on those paterns that show lineal transformation over time, but overall my analysis stands on the shoulders of many generations of scholars. If we ever develop the same level of granularity in our musicological research, I would love to see the results. Folklore is problematic for many reasons, but sometimes transcontinetal similarities are striking. Every system of information requires its own training and its own patience, but methodologically truth is the common denominator behind multiple sources of data. Archaeology and genetics cannot furnish a complete picture without forcing us to apriori dismiss other disciplines as incoherent.
    4. As for modesty, I think honesty is more humble: if your evidence doesn’t fit the consensus, stay with the evidence but be able to argue rationally and rescind statements that are being falsified by new evidence. I don’t feel compelled to rescind anything so far. And my book is full of rather modest applications to low-level language families.

  7. “You argue too opposite things at the same time: kinship studies are rarely, if ever, considered in population genetics research and genetic research hinges on a certain understanding of kinship, but kinship studies can only follow population genetics in the questions of prehistoric human dispersals.”

    Clearly both fields need one another. Which is why I’d rather see someone like you collaborating with geneticists instead of spending all your time trying to convince everyone you’re not a crackpot, which is probably going to be your destiny for the next few years. The problem is that, for all the challenges pop. genetics still faces, theirs is the only field that holds any real promise when it comes to tracing human origins, because they are studying lineages directly — not indirectly via the various ways in which they are represented. Certain problems involving the relation of mtDNA and Y will probably require some help from kinship studies, for sure. But even without that help, they have compiled a mountain (no pun intended) of evidence strongly suggesting that they are on the right track.

    Any theory you come up with will ultimately have to be tested against their results, not vice-versa. So why not work with them rather than fight them?

    I’m not saying you are necessarily on the wrong track, just that you are probably going about things the wrong way.

    >What’s the point of doing kinship studies if population genetics has already provided us with a correct picture?

    It’s not necessarily correct. If you are able to convincingly demonstrate that your kinship research is inconsistent with their results, then they will be forced to pay attention to you. But if you simply dismiss their results and insist that your kinship research is all that is needed, then they’ll simply ignore you, along with everyone else.

  8. Victor, thanks again for your thoughts. You are right in principle. A few clarifications. Geneticists know that their results don’t sit well with American Indian linguistics. Their temporary alliance with Greenberg fell through because he was dismissed by all other linguists. Professional linguists don’t read what Cavalli-Sforza writes about a putative isomorphism between his gene trees and language trees because he uses unproven megaphyla. Then, geneticists are different. There’re genetic labs, such as David G. Smith’s at UC Davism, that work on small piecemeal research that I have a great interest in and a great respect for. For instance, I can see the same specificity and antiquity in Saami kinship terminology as the geneticists see in their mtDNA genes. I just think that OOAf is a premature solution that is based on unproven assumptions. Only a coalition of disciplines representing biology, society and culture can decide where humans came from, not one single discipline.

    Collaborating with linguists is pretty easy for me. However, collaboration across such vast fields is still problematic because people are up to their ears in their own stuff with their own deadlines and deliverables.

    I slightly regret that people snatch on my out-of-America ideas instead of thinking with me about what constitutes my real focus, namely human kinship systems, interdisciplinary alliances, the nature of anthropology as a discipline, and historical reconstructions without exotic solutions. But I look like a crackpot only because we’ve invested too much belief in such theories as OOAf or Clovis-I. We’re glued to them as if they were a Bible. In reality they impede our real progress. For me OOAm is a valid hypothesis to undertake, a strategic possibility, a good way to look at the data, and OOAm and OOAf are good to play against each other to make sure we don’t create false beliefs that will take hundreds of years to dismantle. But neither should become a matter of belief transcending logic and facts.

    1. Quote: “For instance, I can see the same specificity and antiquity in Saami kinship terminology as the geneticists see in their mtDNA genes.”

      That’s were I live. Could you please explain – in a sentence or two…?!

      Best regards

  9. One part of my problem with your approach is that I’m skeptical when you claim the ability to determine the antiquity of a kinship system — and by implication the antiquity of the culture as a whole — from its kinship terminology per se.

    I’m especially sensitive to such claims because for a long time musicologists assumed that they could do the same for musical styles. Melodies with one or two notes, or “tumbling strains” regarded as basically “pathogenic,” were assumed to be archaic precursors of more “advanced” musical practices, involving more complex melodic types, leading ultimately to the most complex and sophisticated music of all: contrapuntal polyphony — which was generally assumed to have been developed only in Medieval European high culture.

    As more and more field studies and recordings became available it became increasingly clear that this couldn’t possibly be the case, because in fact a great many indigenous hunter/gatherer groups in various parts of the world sing and play together in polyphonic styles that are indeed contrapuntal and in fact remarkably sophisticated in many ways. Others on the other hand, have much simpler musical styles with no polyphony.

    If we were to consider only the music in itself, therefore, there would be no way to determine which style was truly archaic, and thus representative of the oldest form, because the most “archaic” societies sing in so many different styles.

    It was only when I began studying the genetic research that a pattern began to emerge that made sense and enabled me to come up with a hypothesis, which, if not necessary the correct one, is at least coherent — and testable.

    I’m very curious, nonetheless. And since I can’t afford to buy your book, I’m wondering if you could tell us what features of a kinship system are, according to your theory, consistent with the greatest antiquity.

    1. Hi, Victor

      First of all, I need to repeat something I posted elsewhere to German: When speaking of “origins”, we need to be aware that that the environment that fostered rapid growth and subsequent dissemination of, say, a kinship system or musical style, needn’t be the same as the environment that fostered the development (if the evolutionary model is correct) of opposing thumbs, or of their use in making tools. German could be entirely correct in postulating that kinship systems used throughout the world today originated in America; at the same time the music of today may have originated in the Middle East and our genetic ancestor may have come from Africa.

      I cannot say where our biological ancestors came from, based on the DNA evidence I’ve seen so far. I am a retired chemist, and I do not have access to the resources that could satisfy my curiosity on this matter. I would like to know, IN DETAIL, what the key mutations are, upon which various DNA “trees” have been based; but I can’t find anything of the sort on the Internet.

      I have been deeply involved in genealogical research for several years, though, and I know that DNA evidence is rather useless unless it can be correlated with some sort of paper trail. We have many genealogies on record, the most well-known being those in the Bible, which go back several thousand years; and they point back to origins of HISTORICAL MAN in the Middle East. I believe it is no coincidence, that TECHNOLOGICAL MAN — man capable of making tools, successively, from copper, bronze and iron — originated in the Middle East. It also seems apparent that LITERATE MAN, the inventor of the cuneiform script and subsequently of the alphabet, came from the Middle East. Whether or not these people were preceded by some primal sort of APE MAN in Africa, does not negate the overwhelming evidence that “Cultured Man”, “Capable Man”, “Powerful Man, able to fill the earth” originated in the Middle East.

      As I said, I am a Chemist by training and not an Anthropologist (Charles Darwin, by comparison, was trained as a Theologian). I cannot speak with great authority on these matters, but I hope you can appreciate my common sense. Colin McEvedy, in “The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History”, said, concerning the arrival of the Neolithic Revolution,

      “The contrast between a temporary mesolithic camp and a village of neolithic farmers is certainly striking enough to justify the term ‘neolithic revolution’, but just as modern technology mkes its most drmatic appearance in backward countries, so the neolithic was at its most ‘revolutionary’ when, in its fully developed form, it spread beyond the Near-Eastern area where it had evolved into mesolithic Europe, Africa and Asia.”

      McEvedy thus makes an analogy between technological breakthroughs in the ancient world, with the encroachment of European civilization and technology upon the American Indians (yes, p.c. is “Native Americans”. My ancestors were these people, so what of it?). In North America, where the cultural divide was the greatest, the original inhabitants were all but anihilated. Even at that, the “cultural divide” was not as great as some seem to suppose. In the early days of settlement, for instance, the Mohawks had stronger forts and more adequate housing than the settlers. They learned very quickly how to use the newcomers’ weapons, and some of their number were even schooled in European schools and well able to transform their societies. The natives resisted these efforts, though — not because of ignorance, but because on a plane of thinking that was meaningful to them, it was better to fade into near-extinction than to become aliens to themselves and to their ancestors and survive.

      Just translate this thinking to primitive people faced with the neolithic revolution, the copper age, etc., and you can see the pattern for subsequent population groups at least POTENTIALLY exterminating those who lived before them. This is the current reasoning behind the disappearance of the Neanderthanls, and it is not too great a stretch to extend this reasoning to all ancient peoples.

      Our PHYSICAL ancestors, then, whatever “ape-men” or “pig-men” some may suppose them to have sprung from, out of Africa or elsewhere, more likely than not came from the Middle East. By extension, that is probably where musical styles and kinship systems began — unless, of course, one can conclusively prove otherwise.

      A word on things “primitive”, which you may concur with: A man using stone tools, who hunts and gathers rather than farming, is not necessarily primitive. If you want to disprove me, get yourself a deerhide bow, a tinderbox and some primitive stone tools and set out, say, in January, to live in the wilderness. I dare say, you will not fare very well. Our “primitive” ancestors were extremely smart people, able to live in the harshest of environments while travelling very light. They lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle because their numbers were few and game was plentiful. It would have made no sense, for them to lug an anvil around with them on which to forge metal tools. People who lived in the easy-to-irrigate plain of Mesopotamia, on the other hand, would find farming and metalworking to be far more useful.

      So, why did some tribes practice polyphony and others not? Why do WE do it? Two reasons: (1) we have technologically advanced, to where we can produce well-tuned instruments, and (2) we are able to write down and transmit, over miles and generations, every tune we play. Where these factors were absent, one could expect the record to be spotty; and it is. Give a “primitive” man an instrument, and teach him to play it in an orchestra, and he may even become a prodigy: He (or she, p.c.) doesn’t have to “evolve” into anything — all he needs is the tools, and the desire. Likewise, put a master pianist like Wladyslaw Szpilman in the Warsaw Ghetto, and he will become a common laborer, pushing a wheelbarrow: What he DOES depends on his circumstances. So it was with out ancestors; they needn’t have “evolved” forward or back; they simply needed to undergo a change of environment.

      All that said, I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Thanks for contributing.

  10. My two cents worth:

    German Dziebel wrote, “we’ve invested too much belief in such theories as OOAf or Clovis-I. We’re glued to them as if they were a Bible”. I guess most people here now know I believe the beliefs actually come from the Bible. The OOAf theory allows us to still believe species come from just one couple (or virtually so). It’s easily possible to interpret all the evidence as showing that various human subspecies have been interbreeding since H. erectus times, but that’s another argument.

    Both German and Victor bring up the comparison between New Guinea and America. What about the Caucasus Mountains? We consistently find the greatest genetic and linguistic diversity in mountainous or heavily forested regions. The reason is obvious if you think about it. Less intergroup contact. Africa has a largely more homogeneous habitat. Human groups have been able to expand greatly, obliterating earlier diversity. I suggest this accounts for the apparent less diversity in Africa than in either New Guinea/Southeast Asia or America.

  11. Just briefly:

    “These daughter populations went through a bottleneck, lost the original African genes and developed new ones along the way.”

    They lost nothing, sorry. The original mutations leading to the nearest African branch of the Eurasian group are still there. Every single Eurasian male has all SNPs between macrohaplogroup CT (CR) and BT (CR) (and Y-DNA “Adam”, the root of the tree) too. Africans instead are more variegated, as they can belong to macrohaplo A, B or CT (specially E).

    This clearly indicates that Eurasians are a subset of Africans. It’s impossible that it’s the other way around.

    The same applies to mtDNA. And certainly it is the same with Native Americans, who are a subset of Eurasians. Native Americans are all (Y-DNA-wise) CF (C and F, recently discovered they were once one single lineage by Karafet or Underhill, not sure right now). In fact they are only C3 and Q, subsets of C and F (or K, or P) respectively. They don’t even have other important haplos of Eurasia, like D, IJ, NO, etc. (and some of them are frequent in their vicinity: in East Asia). They just have two Siberian clades – and that’s all (at least for Y-DNA, that is slightly simpler to explain).

    So Native Americans are not even a subset of Eurasians, but a subset of Siberians. Would Eurasians be a subset of Americans, then all Eurasian haplos would be downstream of Q and C3 – and that’s not the case at all: the opposite is true instead.

    You are founding all your delusion in a single old paper of the times when human genetics was in its baby stage (1983! That’s pre-Cavalli-Sforza!). And holding to it as the proverbial burning nail (not sure if this analogy exists in English but in Spanish it does, implying desperate stubborness).

    The same with the Ket language: genetically they are like other Siberians, but linguistically they are distinct and, now we know, related to Na-Dene.

    I’m not sure about Ket genetics right now but their “Ostyak” cousins, the Selkups (Samoyedized something-else) are one of the most American-like populations of Siberia, with large ammounts of haplogroup Q. Ket language is the only survivor (100-500 speakers) of the Yenisean language family, in other times widespread in parts of Siberia.

    AFAIK , it’s not like they are unrelated genetically either.

    So far OOA was tested only against Multiregional Evolution, and out-of-America shares all its advantages over the latter by virtue of the fact it’s another single-origin model.

    I think it’s self-evident but kind of proof would you need to be persuaded of OOA? Americans being a subset of Eurasians and these being a subset of Africans seems more than sufficient evidence to me.

    I think you are too much into formal kinship and ignoring biological one.

    “Basing on Native American population realities (Neal and Ward and other old-school geneticists wrote extensively about it between 1970s and 1990s), an alternative demographic/population scenario would assume that the parental population has remained in the original state of dispersed demes charcaterized by high mobility, frequent loss of lineages and low effective and demographic population size. This is consistent with America having the largest linguistic diversity in the world, the latter reflecting this highly fragmented population. As these small demes exited America, they expanded in size in response to the demographic pressure of colonizing the globe and achieved a high level of gene flow and lineage retention. As America was geographically isolated, there was no gene flow between the New World and the Old World. Africa ended up in the long run the most demographically dominant.”

    This is, with all due respect, the weirdest idea I have ever read. Basically you are saying that magically (no apparent reason for that, as America and Africa are comparable in size, and Eurasia is somewhat larger but also colder on average) Americans went through massive bottlenecks and so did Eurasians to less extent, while Africans never experienced any bottleneck at all – not even when crossing Hormuz strait, the deserts of Arabia and Bab-el-Mandeb. Right?

    You are saying that a Noah’s Ark of American genetics crossed Beriningia in Western direction and that The Flood (or some other hyper-massive catastrophe) left America virtually depopulated (only way to explain the few surviving lineages, more consistent with the typical Beringia-to-America model). And that the same story (second Noah’s Ark and second Flood) happened between Eurasia and Africa again later on.

    Don’t you realize that is totally ilogical? Isn’t it a lot simpler that a small subgroup of Africans crossed Bab-el-Mandeb (or surrounded the Red Sea, but that seems less likely nowadays) and later Hormuz Strait. In that case, only the lineages of the founding fathers and mothers would survive (and later branch out). And that is exactly what we see. And the same regarding America.

    Were there minor back-migrations? Certainly. But as they did not find a virgin land, they never became really prominent. And exception to this was thought once to be haplogroup E but nowadays, after DE* has been found in Nigeria, it’s accepted that the E clan remained in Africa all the time, only spreading out in the Mesolithic.

    You have to build up a really mythical story to justify your hyothesis. The OOA model is just plainly logical instead.

    The main point you seem to bring to account is linguistic diversity. But we know that in older times Eurasia was much more diverse than it is now. Really a handful of quite well studied late prehistorical events can account for all that loss of linguistic diversity:

    – Afroasiatic expansion (Mesolithic in Africa and later Semitic migrations in lowlands West Asia, the latter documented historically c. 4000-3500 BCE).
    – Indo-European expansion (explained well with the Kurgan theory). Parallely, Uralic expansion across NE Europe.
    – Chinese Meso-Neolithic expansion southwards, still occurring in historical times.
    – Turkic expansion since the time of the Huns or before.

    And, in addition, general localized homogenization because of trade and empires.

    In sud-Saharan Africa also the loss of linguistic diversity can mostly be attributed to the expansion of the Niger-Kongo branch (Bantu expansion). Anyhow, considering how widespread is Y-DNA E, it’s only logical to think in some linguistic homogeneization related to this dominant (but not exclussive) male ancestry. It does seem like the E clan (and its subclans) spread around in the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic homogenizing somewhat nearly all Africa, but not erasing the diversity nevertheless (macro-clans B and A still exist).

    In comparison with Europe and Africa, America was underdeveloped (Neolithic, Chalcolithic at most in some areas), so there were few groups that could become dominant as happened in Eurasia. Additionally we really don’t know how “Amerindian” languages releate to each other – at least not like we know most Eurasian and African ones.

    Linguistics is also underdeveloped in this region. Greenberg (first real classificator of African languages) suggested that all non-Inuit non-Na-Dene languages belong to a single superfamily. This is controversial but, if real, it will reduce your “huge linguistic diversity” to just 3 groups. It would certainly be very consistent with the Beringia model, assuming that Na-Denes and Inuits arrived in later waves (from Beringia or otherwise in Siberia anyhow).

    But in any case, linguistics cannot be the reference, as it has only a limited time depth and accuracy. Also people can learn new languages somewhat easily but cannot change their genes. We know of languages dissapearing every other day, not by physical extinction of the peoples that spoke them but because of cultural assimilation. We also know looking at history how languages diverge. A Northern Spaniard can have difficulties understanding a Southern one or a Mexican and certainly Hadrian would be unable to understand but a handful of words from either of them. The Chaclolithic proto-Indoeuropean who moved from the steppes into what is now the land of Saxony would certainly not understand a word of the verses of Bertolt Brech (nor any other modern IE language for the case). Languages diverge fast and die easily, they cannot be the foundation of any model of humankind dispersal – specially when we have much better tools available.

  12. Very good discussions. I won’t be able to comment on all the points made by Victor, Luis and TerryT, but here’re just a few attempts.

    To Victor: Any data coming from living populations has chronological uncertainties. This concerns genetics, linguistics and kinship studies. Archaeological and geological evidence are the only ones that can be dated directly. this uncertainty diminishes with the increasing granularity of description but won’t disappear altogether, I think.

    Relative chronology is nevertheless important. In linguistics, some very respectable scholars , such as Johanna Nichols or Sergei Starostin, will even say that glottochronology, if words are selected using stringent criteria, can give solid results. I’m very cautious about glottochronology but relative chronology coupled with typological and stock diversity in both kinship studies and linguistics cannot be dismissed. To Luis’s point, some language familes and subfamilies (like Romance) show rapid change, others (like Lithuanian) have been highly conservative. The kinship of Ket with Na-Dene may mean that languages can be very conservative and very stable over time (this is Ed Vajda’s contention as well), unless we prove that there was a direct migration across the Bering Strait in the last 5,000 years. So far we haven’t found any evidence of that, and the end of the Ice Age remains the only closest point in time during which Siberia and North America was in contact. This suggests that certain language families can be very old.

    Kinship terminological evolution is established on the basis of the following diachronic universals:
    1. “Dravidian” (symmetrical-prescriptive) systems that systematically link affines and consanguines (mother’s brother equals spouse’s father, etc.) change to “non-Dravidian” systems. “Dravidian” systems should better be called “Amazonian” systems, as the students of Amazonian kinship noted that they conform to the ideal type better than the kinship systems of the Dravidian-speakers. Africa is completely lacking Dravidian/Amazonian systems.
    2. In the same way as “cross” kin categories are linked to affinal categories, “parallel” kin categories (such as father’s brother and mother’s sister) are linked to adoptive categories (step-father, step-mother). In later kinship systems adoptive categories and parallel consanguineal categories are kept separate.
    3. Alternate-generation equations (grandfather equals grandson, mother’s brother equals sister’s son, etc.) disintegrate yielding terms for the polar kin categories. There’s a tremendous amount of diversity within “alternate-generation equivalence” systems, but Australian aborigines and North American Indians show the most complete sets of those equations. Similar forms exist in Munda, Uralic, Papua New Guinean and Dravidian terminologies. Khoisans in Africa come the closest to exhibiting this feature, but they are more derived than Australian and North American systems.
    4. Sibling sets fall between two poles: those systems that lexicalize sex-of-speaker, sex-of-relative and relative age (yielding up to 8 terms) vs. those that have only one (e.g. Swahili ndugu ‘sibling’) or only two terms (Eng brother/sister; sibling is an artificially constructed term). Out of some 4,000 possible combinations of the 3 parameters, languages consistently lexicalize only a dozen types. These types have language-family and continent-specific distributional regularities and can be linked into a “tree” (Fig. 7 in “The Genius of Kinship”). Africans end up on the “transformed” end (Niger-Congo in the middle), while American Indians, Papua New Guineans and some CircumPacific groups such as Hmong-Mien, Koreans and Ainu end up on the ancestral end of the tree. The linearity of change has been tested on all available evidence (Austronesian sibling set evolution is the one that was meticulously described in the early 1980s by both linguists and anthropologists).
    5. Traditional typological markers such as Bifurcate Merging, Generational, Bifurcate Collateral and Lineal remain valid markers. In the 1950s, Dumont and others tied them to the “Dravidian” equations; I further clarified their connection to the other parameters (described above under points 2-4). Bifurcate Collateral is associated with strong Alternate Generation equations. Again, this feature is found in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Americas but not in Africa.
    6. Kinship terms and terminologies display variation on the morphological side as well. Descriptive systems (namely, thos comprised of kinship terms such as “father’s brother”, “mother’s sister’s son” in which the exact genealogical connection is decsribed literally in the surface realization of the term) have long been considered secondary. “Archaic” kinship systems (again, Australia, Papua New Guinea, America) that tend to disregard genealogies don’t have them. Descriptive terms are widely spread in Africa, the Causacus and Europe. In Africa, even siblings are called decsriptively (“mother’s son”, etc.)
    7. Pragmatic variation is less of a formal and trackable feature in kin terminologies, but even here there’s a sharp division between Australia, Papua New Guinea and America, on the one hand, and Europe and Africa, on the other. (Nichols, by the way, showed the same continental opposition in grammatical features) For instance, inalienable possession (further linked to the grand division of world languages into head-marking vs. dependent-marking) and vocativity are strongly expressed in the “archaic” zones and almost non-existent in the “transformed” zones.

    These seven diachronic universals (1-6 are the most important) yield a myriad of forms and subtypes around the globe. Universals 6-7 are intimately tied to the global language typology (Greenberg, van Driem, Nichols, among others), while universals 1-5 are kinship-specific with the ties to marriage forms, demography, etc. Proto-kinship systems for every language family can be described in terms of these parameters.

    Kinship studies isn’t a master key to world secrets, but just an overlooked type of evidence with a strong position between linguistics and population genetics and with a long history of painstaking research behind it and a large global database. And once again no system of evidence is exempt from weaknesses. Kinship studies doesn’t have an objective chronology, it’s subject to selective forces of demography and social organization; archaeology is hopelessly divorced from modern-day populations, and it’s their prehistory that we’re trying to understand; population genetics is subject to demographic parameters and suffers from a lack of objective chronology. Linguistic connections can be confused by borrowing and coinicidences. Folklore is easily borrowed, etc.

    To Luis: Hence, no single system of evidence can provide us with an ultimate answer, and your continuing apology for population genetics creates another mythological scenario for human prehistory. No matter how many times you use the word “prove” in your presentation of genetic data, it doesn’t add strength to your argument. All real “proofs” are interdisciplinary. If American Indians are a subset of Siberians, then this should be immediately evident in their kinship systems and in their languages. I can assure you that OOAf doesn’t translate into anything outside of genetics. Even archaeologically there’s no evidence of an “expansion” out-of-Africa. In the cases of America, it would’ve been easy to see because the process would’ve been very very recent, but the truth is there’s no evidence for American Indian kinship and languages being a subset of Siberian kinship and languages. Neither there’s evidence for Asian/Pacific languages being a subset of African languages. If you’re prepared to show how exactly typological and stock language diversity disappeared in Africa, or how American Indian grammatical features appeared from a Siberian linguistic soure, I’d be delighted to see it.

    Your perspective forces you to dismiss kinship and languages altogether; mine allows integration of all systems of evidence into one.

    My reference to the Johnson et al. 1983 paper (by the way, Cavalli-Sforza is one of the authors) is justified by the fact that its results have never been overturned, that the same tree is used in more recent papers by Alan Templeton, and that any search for alternatives requires revisiting some critical old stuff. The tree offered in Johnson et al. 1983 makes a complete sense from the kinship and linguistics perspectives. What a coincidence!

    The fact that OOAf is built on certain demographic assumptions is no secret to anybody. Masatoshi Nei was one of those who wrote about it. Population genealogy, as described in the language of gene markers, and demography are related.

    Let’s look at mtDNA: lineages L1, L2 and L3 are African-specific. They aren’t found anywhere outside of Africa, including Australia and Andaman islands, i.e. places that are thought of as possible first stops on the out-of-Africa journey. Haplogroup M is spread everywhere is Asia and Siberia but for some reason it didn’t make it into the Americas? Why would the two bottlenecks eliminate precisely the “oldest” and the most frequent markers in the daughter populations? Why would American Indians pick out rare Asian (A, C and D) and rare European (X) lineages but still pick them from both macrohaplogroups found outside of Africa (M [C and D] and N [B, A and X])? It’s just too much selectivity and sharpshooting on the part of a group of Siberian hunters.

    Once again, I have a deep respect for genetics, and hope things will straighten out but we have to juggle between different systems of refernce without committing too much to one single view. We’re dealing with empirical data of radically different provenance, and not with objective experiements, hence we can’t afford an assumption that something transcends interpretation and is true by virtue of simply being a fact.

    If OOAf proves to be true, it will be fine with me, just as long as it translates into other disciplines outside of genetics and helps me, as a specilaist on human kinship systems, to make sense of my data. As of now, looking out-of-Africa mangles my data beyond repair.
    You of course may retort that my demographic scenario doesn’t make genetic sense. I’ll definitely think more about it, but be advised that all systems of genetic information concur that, on a worldwide scale, low diversity in the Americas is coupled with very high FST values (especially in South America) suggesting that American Indian demographic evolution has been unique for at least 10,000 years. What prevents us to think that it’s been the same for as long as humans existed as a separate species as soon as we can see that this population structure translates nicely into high levels of linguistic diversity and archaic kinship structures?

    To Terry: you’re making an excellent point about geography. African geography may have been conducive to greater gene flow and lineage retention in Africa, hence to the greater levels of diversity, as well as to the aberrant proliferation of languages in such areas as the Caucasus, Papua New Guinea or California

  13. More on Luis’s comments:

    Regarding Greenberg’s classifications, the only reason it worked in Africa is because he based his studies on the earlier work by Westermann’s, who used traditional methods. Still, it’s not without its problems even there (see Roger Blench’s work, including the proposed connection between Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo, the recent origin of the Pygmies, etc.). The classification of American Indian languages into Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut has been rejected once and for all. It can be revived only under the assumption that Amerind is the oldest human language megaphylum, but any unity of American Indian languages beyond the first-order families is hard to illustrate linguistically. In terms of kinship, Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene and the rest share unique similarities vs. the Old World families (I believe these similarities are very old), hence Greenberg’s theory is falsifiable on all fronts. See (Weiss-Bolnick, Deborah A., (Schultz) Beth A. Shook, Lyle Campbell, and Ives Goddard. 2004. Problematic Use of Greenberg’s Linguistic Classification of the Americas in Studies of Native American Genetic Variation. American Journal of Human Genetics 75 (3): 519–522) for an example of how inconsistent genetic results are with the language situation in the Americas.

  14. Thanks very much, German, for the very interesting explanation of the kinship evidence and your interpretation of it. While I remain skeptical regarding aspects of this interpretation, I have a feeling the database you’ve compiled will prove to be of real importance, regardless of whether or not any of your more ambitious hypotheses eventually pan out.

    I find it especially interesting that you’ve been able to attach a kind of historical “topology” to various types of kinship structure, on the basis of what sort of system is most likely to succeed what other system. While I’m wondering how much of this is based on rigorous analysis and how much is simply assumption, I agree that this is an approach well worth exploring.

    Assuming, however, that your inferences regarding the difference between archaic and more recent kinship systems are essentially on track, I’m still wondering whether there might be another set of assumptions at work that you may be taking for granted.

    Since, as I assume you’d agree, all contemporary societies stem ultimately from the same ancestral root population, all societies must be regarded as essentially of the same “age”. Therefore, the presence of archaic kinship systems among certain groups in one particular part of the world does not necessarily mean this region is necessarily where “modern” humans first developed. It could mean that certain groups may simply be more conservative than others. In other words, there is nothing necessarily archaic about a lineage that has stayed put as opposed to one that has migrated thousands of miles.

    Archaic systems of thought, belief, expression, subsistence, etc. can be found in many different parts of the world, among many different types of indigenous peoples. As I see it, that’s more likely to be a measure of their relative isolation (and perhaps their collective conservatism), than their innate “archaic-ness.” Thus, if the Saami happen to have a more archaic kinship system than other peoples living in the same general area, I’d say that’s most likely because they’ve been more isolated and less subject to external influences and pressures. The same could be said for both the New Guinea highlanders and a great many Amerindian groups, especially in S. America. That doesn’t make such groups any “older” than any others. It just means that they have managed to preserve more archaic survivals than their neighbors.

    As far as Africa is concerned, the great majority of sub-Saharan African peoples have not been isolated, at least not since the Bantu expansion of ca. 3,000 years ago. So one wouldn’t expect them to have retained the most archaic kinship systems — or language families. Bantu may in fact be among the more recently developed language families. And, like Indo-European, it undoubtedly replaced a great many far more archaic languages. The same is probably true of most Bantu musical styles, which also show signs of more recent provenance. This tells us nothing about whether “modern” humans originally migrated from Africa or not. It is simply a reflection of certain historical contingencies.

  15. …some language familes and subfamilies (like Romance) show rapid change, others (like Lithuanian) have been highly conservative.

    I agree that language evolution does not necesarily happen at “constant mutation rates” (against what some linguists would like). Probably isolation makes evolution slower and expansion and creolization faster. Still Lithuanian is not PIE and a hypothetical PIE speaker would not understand Lithuanian at all. And it’s been “only” some 5-6000 years, a very short period in comparison with “modern” humankind (estimated some 150,000 years, probably more).

    Where does IE stans in the global languages tree some 5,000 years before? We just have no idea. There are two or three of hypothesis and that’s all. We just cannot reconstruct the linguistic reality of the Upper Paleolithic, nor in most cases that of Neolithic times (Eurasian chronolgy). There’s an “event horizon” for linguistics beyond which we cannot see anything – like in a black hole.

    The kinship of Ket with Na-Dene may mean that languages can be very conservative and very stable over time (this is Ed Vajda’s contention as well), unless we prove that there was a direct migration across the Bering Strait in the last 5,000 years.

    Haven’t read enough on the issue (too recent) but I fancy that the 5,000 years figure is arbitrary. Dene-Yeniseic is a superfamily including two families: Yeniseic and Na-Dane. I know of no age estimates for divergence but I suspect that figure is ultra-conservative and somewhat capricious.

    Still Na-Dene peoples might belong to a second Berigian wave that would have arrived after the main group (vaguely grouped as Amerindians). They seem the main group to have the second important Sibero-American Y-DNA clade: C3, what suggests a somewhat differentiated origin in any case. If Amerindians coast-migrated (say) c. 15,000 years ago, Na-Dene could well have arrived some 10,000 years ago (maybe bringing the famous Clovis tech with them). Inuits (the third wave) are a quite recent arrival but they still seem to be original from Beringia, fitting wholly in the Beringian-American restricted genetic genealogy.

    Kinship terminological evolution is established on the basis of the following diachronic universals…

    I really appreciate your class on kinship systems but I strongly suspect that kinship structures appear and disappear as societies evolve. The only really fundamental kinship terms are mother, son, daughter, brother, sister – and maybe father, if it’s known at all. Then guess that direct or extended relatives of the parental lines may be convenient (though you can also use terms like brother for cousin and father for uncle, etc.), and then you can fancy all kind of terms for all sort of possible kinship structures. But reality tells us that all options (from the simplest to the most elaborate) are equally possible and there is no real clear pattern.

    I wonder if what you percieve as oldest types of kinship aren’t but the special (regional) forms that appeared in the circumpacific region in the time of human dispersal and not the truly original ones. For truly original anthropological stuff I always look to Pygmies and (specially) !Kung and these are a lot simpler – as are their societies.

    …sibling is an artificially constructed term

    Of course: all words are artificially constructed. Languages are always human-made (artificial) after all. There’s nothing humans make that is not artificial. A flintstone burin is not less artificial than a microwave oven , the word “mum” is not less artificial than “telescope”.

    Africans end up on the “transformed” end…

    I fear you are the one putting the tree upside down most likely. Why on Earth would be such a complex kinship system as that of Papuans be more ancient than the rather simple one of !Kung? I think that the complex system must be created by “intelligent design” (i.e. the human mind in action, trying to configure society according to some pre-concieved ideas), while the simpler system is more natural/spontaneous/intuitive/fresh. I also suspect that kinship systems can wildly change when socio-economical imperatives demand it (and mentality change has already taken palce somewhat).

    If I don’t recall badly from the classics (I only know of Morgan via Engels, I admit – but anyhow) transitions from one system of kinship to another were rather easily done by “decree” in a single generation in many cases. This mostly refers to matrilineal to patrilineal but is still suggestive on how these social constructs can change easily.

    In brief, while I think kinship studies are interesting, I don’t think you can build much upon them (as you are trying to).

    Hence, no single system of evidence can provide us with an ultimate answer, and your continuing apology for population genetics creates another mythological scenario for human prehistory. No matter how many times you use the word “prove” in your presentation of genetic data, it doesn’t add strength to your argument.

    I think I did much more than to say “prove” like a parrot. I explained in quite detail how genetics have reconstructed, so far not disproven or even put in question, trees of human parental lineages. These trees have a very obvious root in Africa and a main branch in Asia.

    For interdiscplinarity, this is in excellent correlation with archaeology (precursor hominins, earliest H. sapiens remains, etc.) and biology (closest living relatives: gorilla and, specially, chimpanzee and bonobo). This is pretty good hard science interdisplinarity and you are just trying to interfere with humanistic disciplines, with what can only be described as speculative philosophy.

    The alternative being “bones and codons” or wild speculation on human-created words, I strongly prefer the first (and so do most people, logically). But anyhow, I don’t really believe that linguistics or kinship studies contradict the OOA model at all (they do not have the time-depth nor the degree of certainty provided by biology and archaeology to challenge anything), it’s just your quite skewed (and I dare say: fundamentalist) interpretation of them which does.

    Your perspective forces you to dismiss kinship and languages altogether; mine allows integration of all systems of evidence into one.

    I just consider them too unclear and unable to penetrate the depths of human prehistory. But I don’t dismiss them for what they are worth, what I question is your viewpoint of them being able to do so and of doing precisely in the sense you suggest.

    But certainly they seem to lack weight in comparison with biology and archaeology. They are still interesting though.

    Linguistic studies for instance do suggest some correlation with less time-deep archaeological and genetical findings. For instance it is very possible to correlate Y-DNA R1a (some would argue that all R1) and the Kurgan theory (mostly archaeological) with the expansion of Indoeuropean languages, Y-DNA E3b and some archaeological cultures spwaning from Nubia with the spread of Afroasiatic languages, Y-DNA Q, the Dene-Yenisean language superfamily and the Beringia model for the peopling of America (2nd wave?) – just to mention some of the more clear ones. We can even study genetics more in depth and find (mostly mtDNA) haplogroups that seem to correlate with Aurignacian, Gravettian, Magdalenian or Neolithic demic movements in Europe… but at this time depth linguistics is not anymore of much help. You can still find some words that could well have a common Neolithic origin in West Asia (words meaning things like ram or town maybe) but that’s about all. Beyond Neolithic or Epipaleolithic we are really lost in what refers to languages.

    I am not sure how kinship applies to all that, as I never really gave it such importance, but if your kinship models conflict with all that (including linguistics it seems), then you are probably in need of a radical review of your ideas. You seem to be watching the birds fly and conclude from it that the theory of Gravity is wrong.

    … lineages L1, L2 and L3 are African-specific. They aren’t found anywhere outside of Africa…

    Absolutely wrong, sorry. L3 is found all outside Africa: M and N (and all Eurasian, Oceanian and American natives belong to either of these macrohaplogroups) aren’t but subclades of L3. Just that, for convenience (and historical accidents, like Eurocentric bias), geneticists use shorter names (they could well be called, quite logically, L3a and L3b as well). This is most basic Wikipedia-level knowledge: no breaking news here, really.

    Someone who is trying to put all the field of genetics upside down and boasts of having two PhDs should know that very well.

    If OOAf proves to be true…

    Does my clarification of this fundamental misconception of you constitute enough evidence? I hope so.

    Kind regards,

    PS- Regarding Greenberg’s classifications…
    Sure. I know that Greenberg’s proposal for America is most controversial. But I also have the strong feeling that we are now in regards to Native American languages in a stage like when in a different geography Germanic, Hindi and Greek were considered totally different language families., or when Berber and Semitic were thought to have no connection whatsoever (other than loanwords). It may well still be the case, as linguistics advances with the more strict (but difficult) methodology, that Native American languages show quite less diversity than the one you believe. Only time will say.

    1. “And holding to it as the proverbial burning nail (not sure if this analogy exists in English but in Spanish it does, implying desperate stubborness)…”

  16. To Luis: Most of what you wrote is the re-phrasing of your belief in genetics and disbelief in kinship or languages. I can’t make you change these assumptions. Neither I can make you change your assumption of what constitutes a proof: a consensus within a closed group of scholars of the same discipline, or an objective set of correlations between one discipline and another representing a common historical process. But time will. In the meantime, here’s what occurred to me as I was reading your comments.

    You believe that paleontology (early hominids), taxonomy (gorillas in Africa) and a certain interpretation of population genetics form a system “proving” that modern humans expanded from Africa. Instead of simply reiterating the current consensus in population genetics, you should elaborate on the correlations between genetics, paleontology and taxonomy more, showing how they actually feed into each other. I believe that languages, kinship studies and a different interpretation of population genetics point to America as an autochthonous population, and also an isolate (an autochthonous population is an isolate as well). Methodologically, there’s a tighter connection between kinship, language and genetics, than between genetics, paleontology and evolutionary taxonomy. The former triad describes from different angles the same population process that happened within a manageable amount of time and on the basis of exhaustive global databases coming from virtually the same populations; the second triad is less integrated because paleontology/archaeology deals with accidental finds with dubious relation to living populations, and taxonomy is a very broad perspective on the whole diversity of nature and can’t provide any clues into most recent processes (the fact that gorillas live in Africa doesn’t mean that modern humans came from Africa, at least because other expansions out of Africa happened between 6 million years and 50,000 years ago).

    You seem to follow the 19th century logic of evolutionary research: there’s a generic category of “man”. This “man” is related to “apes.” We need transitional forms to prove it: fossils furnish one category of transitional forms, non-Western peoples furnish the other category. Darwin is a noble representative of this logic but I also think we should go beyond that. In the 21 century we could focus on living human diversity, assess it from different angles, and understand where this whole diversity came from. Then we can go outside of our species and make further connections.

    Again, humans may have come from Africa (or from America, or elsewhere), but the current ways of proving this alienate a lot of useful evidence from living human populations. Hence, OOAf is unconvincing.

  17. More on Luis’s comments: You claim that macrohaplogroups M and N are somehow the same thing as L3. I didn’t find the Wikipedia articles you’re relying on, but here’s a quote from a more specialized source: “Although 2 mtDNA lineages with an African origin (haplogroups M and N) were the progenitors of all non-African haplogroups, macrohaplogroup L (including haplogroups L0-L6) is limited to sub-Saharan Africa.” Or, “Only two mtDNA macrohaplogroups (M and N) and their derivatives persisted in non-Africans after the migration of modern humans out of Africa. macrohaplogroup L is geographically limited to Sub-Saharan Africa and has been divided into haplogroups L0-L6” (Gonder et al. Whole mtDNA genome sequence analysis of ancient African lineages. Molecular Biology and Evolution 24 (3), 2007). These quotes show that L, M and N are distinct (macro)haplogroups. What’s happening here is that African lineages show a bunch of mutations in parts of genome that show no mutations whatsoever outside of Africa. One way to make sense of the evolution of this diversity is to assume that that African allele diversity is the direct reflection of population age. But another way is to suspect that the genome has “hot spots”. The same goes for languages: some language families evolve slow, others change fast. To say that M and N are “subsets” of L3 is like to say that all languages outside of Africa are subsets of Niger-Congo simply because Niger-Congo, of all language families, has the greatest number of distinct languages. Or, that Caucasians are a subset of blacks because the range of fluctuation of body size in Sub-Saharan Africa is greater than outside of Africa. M is indeed found in northeastern Africa (M1), but there’s a disagreement as to whether M1 came from India or M haplogroup shows too much homoplasy that you can’t really resolve this question.

    1. “I believe that languages, kinship studies and a different interpretation of population genetics point to America as an autochthonous population, and also an isolate (an autochthonous population is an isolate as well).”

      This is a basic issue in the field of anthropology – biological as well as cultural.

      The discovery of Luzia and a row of other “anomalies” constitute a clean proof that the amerindians have a separate history from both africans, australians and eurasians – until the end of ice-time.

      Somewhere between the older and the elder Dryas there seem to have been contacts though – through the northern corridors of the North Atlantic (Solutrean artefacts) as well as via the Beringia. The latter are probably post Younger Dryas.

      Since the discovery of 11.000 year old archaic amerindians in Brazil there is ample evidence that the OoA-theory propagated by National Geographic is outdated.

      Another blow to the OoA is the updates from hominid genetics, outlining that the Orangutangs are distinctivly closer to the human being than any chimp or gorilla.

      If we are to go by empirical evidence there is still no reason to jump to the conclusion of an African origin for the human specie. Even Darwin were aware of that…

      BTW.: Darwin considered that a doctrine of Origin, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory unless the ALL the causes at work were correctly identified…

      Still his theory of modification by natural selection was of such absolute importance that he would formulate it without the neccesary body of experimental evidence to support the theory. Thus he fell back on speculative arguments, placing his faith in “common sense”.

      His code of argumentation is still used by evolutionists and their modern adepts, the geneticans. The simplicity of their models may help to create the answers that create the same sense of “commons sense” – helping the professional biologists create order and present a viable “understanding” of the human evolution. That may make the discussion of these (their!) ideas extremely difficult.

      Personal convictions, simple possibilities, are presented as if they were proofs, or at least valid arguments in favour of the theory.

      Without Lamarc old Darwins theory can still be modified without difficulty to fit any conceivable case. Thus it is without clearly defined scientific value, since it cannot be verified by experiment. Though, since the imagination has free rein, it is easy to convey the impression that concrete examples of real, irreversabel transmutations has been given. In fact we have no such evidences – still…!

      Though – to follow in Darwins exact foot-steps with the dna-material is still the more appealing because of the fundamental simplicity of A explanation. Thus antropologists, archaologists and the general public alike may be completely ignorant of biological processes and yet FEEL very well with a easy-to-understand theory that seem to put evrything in place.

      Today we have a growing number of non-biologists peeping into the field of human genetics to learn all the neccesary elements and principles described by the leading authorities. By mastering the elementary terms and maths one may feel that one understand what causes and determinates the variety of plants, animals and human beings.

      This blending of simplification, sense and “reasonability” was certainly a major cause for the success of Darwins “flawless” theory. Still, in the hands of amateurs, it becomes a deception. Or self-deception.

      That seems to be even more the case for the present view on human origin and genetic evolution. There’s still three kinds of lies though. Outrigth lies, hidden lies and popularized statistics…

  18. To Victor: I like your observations on “age.” Very true. I am also glad you can differentiate between two levels of argument: my thoughts on OOAm do no harm to my empirical analysis of human kinship systems. The same concerns some of the great genetics papers that are written by scholars believing in OOAf. In the case of the Saami, the fact that their kinship terminology provides an outgroup for all other Uralic kinship structures coupled with the fact that their mtDNA make up is unique has a certain bearing on the classification of Uralic languages. The traditional classification placed Finnic and Saamic at the tip of the Uralic tree, with Samoyedic being closest to the root, or the proto-language, while more recent research (independently of my kinship and of mtDNA) indicated that Volgaic, Balto-Finnic and Samoyedic may be equidistant from the Uralic proto-language. “In the standard binary classification, the number of proto-languages between Proto-Uralic and a Sámi language, for example Inari Sámi, is higher than the number of proto-languages leading to a Samoyed language. As the first steps, Inari Sámi derives via Proto-Eastern Sámi from Proto-Sámi, while the earlier stages are known as Proto-Finno-Sámi…, Proto-Finno-Volgaic, Proto-Finno-Permian, Proto-Finno-Ugrian, and, finally, Proto-Uralic.” But: “Indeed, by comparing material from any two of the nine basic branches, including pairs such as Sámi and Finnic, or even just Mansi and Khanty, we reach a level of reconstruction that is very close if not essentially identical to Proto-Uralic” (Salminen, Tapani. 2002. Problems in the Taxonomy of the Uralic Languages in the Light of Modern Comparative Studies. // Lingvisticheskii bespredel: Sbornik statei k 70-letiiu A. I. Kuznetso-voi. Ss. 44–55. Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta).

    It’s not a tree anymore, but rather “leaves” fallen from a tree. This metaphor is applicable to population genetic models: instead of connecting all human populations into a linear tree that supposedly accurately reflects the historical process of budding off, we should think of them as independent populations with varying demographic histories, hence with varying levels of diversity, and with different intensity of expression of features common to all. These archaisms will eventually lead us back to the most isolated “population,” that being an autochthonous one. I agree that the fact that the Saami have an archaic kinship system doesn’t mean that the Uralic family originated in Scandinavia, but it does suggest that the Saami didn’t participate in the major expansion of Samoyedic and Volgaic branches, and that their position on the map is a retention of a different distribution of a bunch of languages related to Saami. mtDNA suggests that these para-Saamic languages may have been present in Western Europe and that they migrated north with the northward recession of the glacier.

    Another great paper in historical linguistics pertaining to the pitfalls of genealogical classifications and tree models (or “subsets” in Luis’s terminology) is Garrett, Andrew. 2006. Convergence in the Formation of Indo-European Subgroups: Phylogeny and Chronology // Phylogenetic Methods and the Prehistory of Languages, edited by Peter Forster and Colin Renfrew. Pp. 139–151. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

    1. According to Sami linguists their language have a non-uralic substrate, counting for up to 40 % of their vocabulary.

      Is there any clue to where this substrate may be oriented?
      There has been theories about tocharian/tibetan influences…

  19. I didn’t find the Wikipedia articles you’re relying on, but here’s a quote from a more specialized source: “Although 2 mtDNA lineages with an African origin (haplogroups M and N) were the progenitors of all non-African haplogroups, macrohaplogroup L (including haplogroups L0-L6) is limited to sub-Saharan Africa.” Or, “Only two mtDNA macrohaplogroups (M and N) and their derivatives persisted in non-Africans after the migration of modern humans out of Africa. macrohaplogroup L is geographically limited to Sub-Saharan Africa and has been divided into haplogroups L0-L6″”

    Those sentences are plainly wrong (taken literally) or at least quite misleading (if we take them in a context of specialists’ communication, where everybody knows what is being talked about). It only makes sense if you interpretate, as the author undoubtedly meant, that L3 in this context means L3(xM,N). It is a normal usage of the term L3 but not a precise one.

    Using the term “macro-haplogroup” for L is anyhow extremely slippery. L(xM,N) is not a haplogroup because it is paraphiletic. The term paragroup or para-haplogroup is used in these cases with much better sense.

    From Wikipedia – Haplogroup: The mitochondrial haplogroups are divided into 3 main groups, which are designated by the 3 sequential letters L, M, N. Humanity first split within the L group between L0 and L1. L1 gave rise to other L groups, one of which, L3, split into the M and N group. There is also a quite nice clickable tree with the same structure.

    From Wikipedia – Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup:

    Descendants of haplogroup L3
    * Haplogroup M
    * Haplogroup N

    Some more professional references:

    1. Graphs and maps: (huge mtDNA tree but already obsolete in some aspects: lacks L4-L7 lineages for instance) (mtDNA skeleton by Vincent Macaulay, a notable geneticist) (a quite handy, even if not the most precise maybe, global reference for anyone interested in human genetics: global maps and simplified trees for Y-DNA and mtDNA haplos)

    – (“The making of the African genetic landscape“, A. Salas et al, 2002).

    There is much more literature, of course, specially for the Y-DNA lineages (most handy reference anyhow: but I think that for mtDNA that is the most basic.

    I am not lying nor I am confused on this issue: M and N are subclades of L3. And a parallel scheme happens at the Y-DNA level, with C, D and F being part of a larger Afroasiatic macroclade known as CR (or CT since a few weeks ago). I have been following as much as possible this issue of human historical genetics since many years ago, having discussed it in many spaces with other more or less knowlegeable people. I know what I’m talking about here even if I am not a professional geneticist myself.

    Please, don’t fool yourself with the casual language of some imprecise geneticist. The reality is very different and well documented.

  20. Luis, then how come the sole African representative of macrohaplogroup M, namely M1 (found both in East and West African samples), is claimed to be the result of a back-migration into Africa? If M1 was the same thing as L3, then how can it migrate back into itself? If the whole world is Africa, then evolution is at a stalemate.

    See Gonzalez et al. Mitochondrial lineage M1 traces an early human backflow to Africa. BMC Genomics 2007 (8).

    There’re other recent papers on the issue. The back migration of M1, U6, N and J into Africa, all the way into Mali and Tanzania, has been argued for by several labs. And now recall the controversy around the YAP+ lineages that account for more than a half of African Y chromosome diversity and that may have antecedents in Central and South Asia. This issue isn’t resolved yet, though.

    Yes, geneticists do use the word “subset” to describe tree topology. But it doesn’t mean “identity”. You could say that humans are a “subset” of Neandertals just because Neandertals have a whole string of mutations where humans have none. Since all species are related, and the older species tend to vary more than the younger ones, they end up on top of the tree, and the variation within younger species can be said to be a “subset” of the variation within older populations, but in actuality the younger ones don’t just reapeat a part of the older ones but only partially overlap with them. But for interspecific trees the word “subset” isn’t used, because in this case “humans” will become a “subset” of apes, while in fact the correct way to describe it is that our ancestors at some point converged with their ancestors.

    You have to understand that tree-building is a theoretical exercise; it’s not immediately present in empirical data. What geneticists are saying is that since Africa shows a lot of allele variation and we need to somehow tie it back to non-Africa, we assume that certain mutations happened before others, and some of the mutations are not recorded in the available sequences. L3 is not identical to M or N. L3 is the way to link M and N to L0, L1 and L2. The whole L thing (call it para-) is African-specific, and is sufficiently distinct from M and N found everywhere around the globe, including Africa. Johnson et al. 1983 noticed exactly that: you either stick with the most common, pan-human markers, and then the root seems to lie outside of Africa; or you stick with the divergent lineages found only in Africa, and then the root is in Africa.

    The question is where L (or more exactly, L0, L1 and L2) comes from. If it’s so diverse, then we may assume that it’s the oldest human clade (but then shouldn’t we find the same restriction sites active in Australia, Andaman Islands, or in other archaic pockets outside-of-Africa, in the same way as we find M and N lineages in Africa?); or we may suspect an admixture with H. erectus or whoever else; or we may hypothesize a combination of varying rates (hot spots) and demographic history (free gene flow, large effective population size, no lineage loss, etc.) I tend to lean toward the latter explanation, and it’s not because of ignorance. The diversity of L is not unique. M shows “a dazzling array of basal lineages” in India (see Sun et al 2006). A similar situation occurs in Australia, where a whole bunch of local lineages within the M and N macrohaplogroups have been described.

    If African genetic diversity was simply a function of age, I would love to see how this translates into my data and into linguistics. That would help a lot, and I don’t care who is right. As of now, there’s a disconnect that I think needs to be openly discussed and not tacitly dismissed. If the American Indians simply preserved certain archaisms vis-a-vis the Asians, but Africans scored high on archaic characters, I wouldn’t care, but the whole kinship and linguistic spectrum is skewed away from Africa into Australia/Papua New Guinea/Pacific Rim/America. The situation is the exact opposite from the current consensus found in genetics, and I thought it was fascinating and intriguing. No need to take sides, just develop theories that are targeted toward explaining a puzzling situation but not explaining inconvenient data away.

    See my most recent response to Victor regarding the problems with tree-building in linguistics, with examples from Uralic and Indo-European. A simplistic approach to tree-building results in certain languages/populations ending up at the tips of trees as supposedly the last ones to branch off (Saami in the traditional classifications of Uralic languages or American Indians in the recent genetic research). Why? Because scholars don’t know upfront what to look at, what is secondary local variation, what is the result of parallel evolution or coincidence (e.g., the satem languages within Indo-European are not a genetic grouping, but the result of convergent processes of palatalization that happened independently in the eastern “branches”; Grassman’s law in Greek and Indic describes two separate events, while on the surface they look like common inheritance, etc.), and what constitutes the ancient common fund, they tend to quickly generate trees based on unweighed/superficial characters. Then these trees are said to represent a real historical process.

    1. German,

      Regarding L-diversity in mtDNA, I very much agree that mutation rate diversity COULD explain the whole phenomenon. DNA molecules have:

      (1) a primary structure, a “ladder”-like affair, with the “bases” as “rungs”,

      (2) a secondary structure, the “alpha-helix” which winds mainly as a result of energetics within the two stems of the “ladder”, and

      (3) a tertiary structure, caused by the DNA strand interacting with neighboring parts of the strand, and with neighboring entities such as proteins.

      Each of these structures affects the reactivity of a particular base or strand section towards mutation. We have become familiar with certain “hot” spots on the chain, and base-pair combinations, which are more reactive than others. It wouldn’t surpize me at all, if parts of the “L” strain are extremely reactive.

      Another factor, which I have never heard espoused, is the effect of environment on mutation rate. Millions of people put on sunblock every year to avoid exposure to mutation-causing solar radiation. I even heard that the fact that men wear trousers, and therefore inhibit their testes from cooling, produces more mutations than all the atmospheric nuclear testing of the 1950s and 60s. How much more, might the movement of humans from more equable climates to hot places like India and Africa have caused more mutations? Diet is also a potential culprit. The bottom line is, that mutation rates need not be and are not identical to one another.

      By the way, a mutation takes only nanoseconds, if that, to happen: It doesn’t take tens, hundreds or thousands of years. What we call a mutation “rate”, is more properly called a mutation “probability”; and that probability must be applied to ambient conditions.

      I have encountered DNA studies quit often in my genealogical research. The DNA testing service provides “ballpark” estimates about probable times to the “most recent common ancestor”; but when comparing these to the paperwork data, based on contemporary records, some of these results were clearly hit “out of the ballpark”. Moreover, there are many, many cases where definitely unrelated individuals are closer matches than definitely related ones (because of back-mutations). You no doubt know all this; I’m only mentioning it, to reinforce what you said about the need for an interworking on these matters between people in widely differing disciplines.

  21. Further thoughts: it’s also instructive to look at African click languages as a parallel to the African genetic situation. The Khoisans are as specific phonologically as all Africans are genetically. Knight and Mountain, who I know well from my days at the Anthropological Genetics lab at Stanford, once argued that since clicks mirror genes and we know that African genes are the most ancient, then we could say that the early human language was a click language, and that the Khoisans are the living testimony of that. It kinda jibes with our stereotype of ancient humans being odd and primitive like children who use clicking sounds for fun. But no serious linguist can accept that. Why? Because clicks are Khoisan-specific. The only other instance of a click language is Lardil, a secret language in Australia, but it can’t be used for comparison, since it’s an artificial language created for ritual purposes. The whole diversity of world phonologies shows no traces of clicks whatsoever. We need some kind of transition from clicks to the rest of world sounds in order to even to start thinking about clicks being as old the human language capacity. The only answer that makes sense to a professional linguist (and even Joe Greenberg used to say “I know how clicks evolved”) is that clicks are a local Khoisan innovation caused by isolation and other social factors. Christie Turner once said the same thing regarding the so-called “Bushman canine,” a dental character found only among the Khoisan-speakers but nowhere else in the world: “If modern humans had originated in and spread out of Africa, we would expect the Bushman canine to be more frequent than it is outside of Africa.”

    All these themes are expounded on in “The Genius of Kinship.”

  22. German, the issues you are raising take us back to an era of anthropology, (and comparative musicology as well) where all sorts of very puzzling and contradictory ethnographic, linguistic, musicological and archaeological evidence was being tossed around both in favor of certain grand theories of human origins and evolution and against them. There is no lack of this sort of evidence both for and against just about any such theory anyone could think of. At a certain point everyone just gave up on that sort of thinking because it was leading nowhere. There was a ton of very compelling evidence, but it was impossible to interpret in any consistently meaningful way — and above all it was impossible to formulate a hypothesis based on any of the old theories that could be tested with any degree of rigor and objectivity.

    At around the same time, very sadly, the postmodernists came along and turned anthropology (and comparative musicology) into a very mean spirited and also misguided puritanical inquisition, so it actually became dangerous to ones career to delve anymore into such issues at all.

    What has changed in recent years is largely due to the verysurprising and unexpected findings of the geneticists, led by people like Cavalli-Sforza, Rebecca Cann, Alan Wilson, et al. Thanks to their efforts it is now possible to tie the ethnographic, linguistic, musicological and archaeological evidence to research that is far more objective, rigorous and reliable than anything that had even been imagined in the past. Is it perfect? No. Are there problems in devising these phylogenetic trees? Do they contain errors? Are they based on samples that may be too small or too biased? The answer to all the above is: yes. Nevertheless, such trees are based on a trulyrigorous and exciting new approach to human history that can indeed be tested and is being tested by people who for the most part have open minds and are not attached to any particular agenda. Their research is part of an ongoing process and is continually being critiqued and refined.

    The points you have been making in your comments here are certainly interesting and meaningful but they look very much like an attempt to revive the old type of theorizing and revive the old pointless disputes that gave all this sort of thing such a bad name in the past. I have the impression that you are very knowledgeable about kinship and kinship terminology as well as historical linguistics, but any meaningful theory based on such knowledge has to be formulated in such a way that it can be tested. The new genetic research for the first time offers us the means to test such theories with a reasonable degree of rigor. It seems to me that you are rejecting the genetic research out of hand simply because you assume in advance that your theory will fail that test. Fair enough. But you must then find some other means of rigorously testing your theory, rather than simply dismissing whatever doesn’t appear to fit it. And if you can’t come up with any such test, then you are simply one more person out of the many thousands who’ve come before you who’s come up with an interesting theory that might or might not be true. As I see it, that’s the old way of thinking, the way that led nowhere and there’s no point in continuing any more along that path.

  23. Victor: Very eloquently written but I can’t see how it all applies to my research. I just can’t see OOAf and the recent peopling of the Americas from my data, from linguistics data, or from any other ethnological data that can be brought to the round table. Should I just stop right there, and not go into genetics at all? There must be people in science who could, with various degree of success, move between the data to see what fits and what doesn’t. Otherwise, one discipline usurps control over a certain set of questions and there’s no way to test if the theories are true. Archaeology has been treating the peopling of the Americas as its home turf for a century and arrived at a theory that was supposed to be super rigorous, namely Clovis I. But now it gets falsified almost every 5 years, from Monte Verde to Oregon excrements. There’s nothing in the archaeological record that warrants the idea that humans came to teh Americas 11,500 BP; no finds doesn’t mean no humans. But we were trained to believe that this rigor permeates the Pleistocene-Holocene archaeology of the American-Siberian interface. Rigor is great but rigor worship is not. We should clearly distinguish what we can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt and what we cannot. Neither the recent peopling of the Americas, nor OOAf are currently demonstrable. And that’s fine: we have tons of evidence now, let’s just integrate it as we go along, family after family, region after region, and then we’ll see where we all came from. But nay! Naive 19th century science gets revived over and over again: let’s build grand theories before we can prove anything. And watch living languages die because we just don’t see what we can make of them. My OOAm theory is a way to preserve a critical spirit on this high level of the argument.

    Now you can see, Victor, that I would rather read your well-written piece as a critique of Cavalli-Sforza et al., who try to penetrate new great data with the blunt tools of 19th century reasoning. I agree with your critique of post-modernism, but my reminiscences of my life at Stanford were intended to communicate the fact that both Cultural and Social Anthropology and Anthropological Sciences approach anthropological knowledge from two different perspectives, two different methodologies and are prone to commiting two different kinds of errors. OOAf theorists refuse to acknowledge that there’s an interpretive model working in their minds beyond what actual data shows. Post-modernists refuse to take their own principles literally and deteriorate into ethical formalism. I believe that we’re embedded in culture and hence absorb ideas through communicative channels that are very subjective. But then I believe you can always work toward lifting this veil of subjectivity, and that’s the modest purpose of science. It’s not whether this lifting can ever be final, it’s the process that matters, for it creates a better picture of the world.

    I’m not afraid of having my ideas tested. “The Genius of Kinship” contains a different histioriography, a different demographic scenario, a different migration scenario and a different primary source of information. I didn’t try to re-do genetic trees, but I did come up with a tree-like structure of the evolution of sibling nomenclatures as the easiest kinship data to slice that way. Clear differentiation along all the critical points of a debate is what allows ideas to be tested. I may not have succeeded in explicating it in a way that makes it appealing to scholars who could test it, but the intention is clearly there. And now time will decide.

    Recent history shows that science didn’t replace religion in public consciousness, and as we all know there’re a lot of people who believe in the Bible rather than in evolution. Science and religion simply divided the world into the spheres of influence. It means there’re insurmountable cultural differences between people. For instance, you’re criticizing me for something I can’t even accept as applicable to me. I appear to be the person who dismisses genetics – not true; I can see where a possible alternative was surpressed early on in mtDNA research – true. I appear to be the person who is afraid to have his theories tested – not true; I believe general theories have to be tested against data from multiple disciplines, not just one. What can I do to share at least the same reference frame with you? Agree on OOAf? But what if the root of the problem will turn out to have nothing to do with OOAf?

  24. then how come the sole African representative of macrohaplogroup M, namely M1 (found both in East and West African samples), is claimed to be the result of a back-migration into Africa? If M1 was the same thing as L3, then how can it migrate back into itself?

    Oh my…!

    M1 is not “the same” as L3 it is a subclade of a subclade (M) of L3. It is different from other L3 subclades and, yes, it is thought to represent a back-migration from West Asia at a later date than OAA.

    There’re other recent papers on the issue. The back migration of M1, U6, N and J into Africa, all the way into Mali and Tanzania, has been argued for by several labs. And now recall the controversy around the YAP+ lineages that account for more than a half of African Y chromosome diversity and that may have antecedents in Central and South Asia. This issue isn’t resolved yet, though.

    Sure, the fine detail may be not wholly clear. For instance Maca-Mayer suggests that U6 back-migrated via Ethiopia in spite of being more diverse in the Iberian peninsula (her own data). The YAP debate is apparently cleared anyhow since DE* has been found in Nigeria (and also because E is soooo diverse in sud-Saharan Africa). DE is now mostly believed to have coalesced in Africa and only a branch of it (D) originally being part of the OAA migration.

    But nothing of this challenges the fact that the highest diversity at high levels of the tree is in Africa and not anywhere else. Y-DNA has two main baranches (A and BR) that are exclusively or most diverse in Africa, BR has two branches, B and CR, of which only CR is more diverse out of Africa. CR itself has two branches CF and DE (YAP), the first one almost exclusively Eurasian and the latter divided in two branches: one Eurasian (Asian only actually) and the other almost African only. The high diversity for Eurasia only appears at lower levels of the tree than in Africa.

    Exactly the same happens with mtDNA: L0, L1*, L2, L3(xN,M), L4, L5, L6 and L7 are only found in Africa. M and N are subclades of L3, which is a subclade of L1. M and N are thought to have coalesced in Arabia or South Asia at the time of the OOA migration.

    So the OOA clades were: C, D and F (Y-DNA) and M and N (mtDNA). The simplest model suggests that they all were together in Arabia or South Asia (where they coalesced before branching out and expanding further). Of course there can be alternative theories (seevral migrations, migration via Palestine…) but all seem to require an ancestral African urheimat anyhow.

    You could say that humans are a “subset” of Neandertals just because Neandertals have a whole string of mutations where humans have none.

    No way! Neanderthals and H. sapiens are separate sets on light of all known research. Both are subsets of a more ancient species certainly (it used to be known as H. erectus but now there is varied terminology) but not subsets of each other, not at all.

    … but in actuality the younger ones don’t just reapeat a part of the older ones but only partially overlap with them.

    That is not a subset but an intersection. It’s rare in biology but you can well say that the claimed introgressions of Neanderthal or other archaic species into modern humans acount for that. It would be a minimal intersection in any case.

    … “humans” will become a “subset” of apes…

    You are mixing apples and oranges wildly here. Humans are certainly a subset of apes because all apes, including humans, have a (biologically certified) common ancestor. But humans are not a subset of chimpanzees: humans, chimpanzees and bonobos share a common ancestor but (apart of possible introgressions) they are different subsets of the Pan+Homo higher level set.

    You have to understand that tree-building is a theoretical exercise; it’s not immediately present in empirical data.

    You have to understand that there are a number of mutations there that are shared by all L1 and L3 branches (sets), implying a common maternal ancestor. Check the mytomap tree to see them. That is what makes those branches certain biological entities. You could argue that all those mutations might have evolved separately in different places… but that is not what geneticists would consider plausible, really.

    It is not a theoretical excercise when we are talking of autosomal lineages: it is just drawing the actual mother-mother and father-father lineages as they actually happened.

    … we assume that certain mutations happened before others…

    We assume nothing but that the likehood of such mutations happening twice in the time of human existence as species is extremely low. As most branches are defined by several mutations the likehood of them being artificial constructs based on genetic accidents is virtually zero.

    L3 is the way to link M and N to L0, L1 and L2.

    L3 (the node) is the real link between M, N and the other L3 sublineages to the higher level L tree.

    The whole L thing (call it para-) is African-specific, and is sufficiently distinct from M and N found everywhere around the globe, including Africa.

    Only if you exclude M and N. But that’s not a serious approach, it is not a correct understanding of haploid genetics. M and N are necessarily part of L. There’s just a lot of mutations that are shared: I can count 16 in the mitomap. These 16 mutations are shared by all M and N people, as well as by all L3(xM,N) people. That is why we can speak of L3. These 16 mutations are what define macrohaplogroup L3 (though some are shared with higher levels of the L tree).

    … shouldn’t we find the same restriction sites active in Australia, Andaman Islands, or in other archaic pockets outside-of-Africa, in the same way as we find M and N lineages in Africa?

    Andaman, Australia, etc. were populated after the OAA. They are as Eurasian as I am, maybe even more (as cannot totally exclude the occasional Black African erratic in my roots, which is not likely to have ever happened among such isolated populations).

    … or we may suspect an admixture with H. erectus or whoever else…

    Sorry, at least from the vierwpoint of haploid genetics, admixture with other Homo species has been quite reasonably excluded. We cannot wholly discard the occasional introgression, of course, but that is not visible in the maternal/paternal lineages in any case.

    If you are thinking in racialist terms (i.e. they look so archaic that they must have a different or very distant origin), please begin to ponder that all ancient remains of humans in Eurasian (and elsewhere) also look very archaic. That the modern features we can see in the different areas are a product of recent evolution (and probably sexual selection, though this is a complex issue), some elements like the extremely pale skin of some Northern Europeans seem to date to only some few thousand years ago, after the Ice Age was over.

    The diversity of L is not unique. M shows “a dazzling array of basal lineages” in India (see Sun et al 2006). A similar situation occurs in Australia, where a whole bunch of local lineages within the M and N macrohaplogroups have been described.

    Sure. But it is diversity within L: lower level diversity that was formed after the OOA. South Asia is believed to have played a major role as the main hub of human dispersal in Eurasia (and Oceania). Australia (Sahul) was populated also shortly after the OAA and remained virtualy isolated since then probably, yielding their own relatively large continental diversity. But always downstream of L3.

    If African genetic diversity was simply a function of age, I would love to see how this translates into my data and into linguistics.

    Please notice that internal expansions within Africa also have taken place (Y-DNA E being the most obvious). The paper I linked on African diversity discusses the issue of linguistics certainly too, so you may find it useful.

    Regarding kinship and linguistic studies, I reckon it is a very complex matter (and I’d rather prefer to avoid it except for what is more or less solidly estabilished). But I sincerely doubt you can challenge biology (and archaeology) from that point of view.

    Unlike what you want to believe. Genetics has provided in the last two decades extremely strong evidence in favor of the single origin in Africa model. I could maybe search for more and more papers on how this is real but I think it is time that you do your own homework, really. I have already done all I could to explain the state of the art in haploid genetics. All around the Net there are papers (many open access), sites and forums discussing these issues. Being a universitary you surely have easy access to specialist colleagues and books that can help you a lot.

    My work here is more than finished. Now it’s up to you to get your facts straight.

  25. Erratum: “autosomal lineages” should read “haploid lineages” – there is no such thing as “autosomal lineages” because autosomal genes get scrambled in the meiosis and recombination.

  26. Luis: First, you wrote “L3 is found all outside Africa,” now you’re saying “M1 is not “the same” as L3 it is a subclade of a subclade (M) of L3”. “Subclades” are theoretical entities, they are a way to classify extant diversity. What you call “African” is in fact “human,” for it’s found on all continents. Once again, go back to Johnson et al. 1983 and re-read it. African-specific mutations are called L with various numerical subscripts. African lineages contain only some 25% of markers shared by other continents. 75% are African-specific. This is your “African diversity”. You automatically take it as a sign of age, but every geneticist knows that diversity is a direct function of effective population side.

    When I gave you the example of M1, I wanted you to see what I would expect to find outside of Africa if OOAf were convincing. Namely, an old trace of L3, L1, L2 somewhere in Melanesia. In the same way as M1 is an illustration of a migration into Africa. But we don’t have any uniquely African lineages outside of Africa. You can say they got lost (I heard geneticists say that), but isn’t it convenient to have critical pieces of evidence getting lost in the course of history?

    As for YAP+, you know that more lineages were discovered in Central Asia, India and Andaman Islands. The issue is not settled, but you continue to force the data into the African straightjacket just because there’s more “stuff” in Africa.

    Do I have to demonstrate to you the knowledge of genetic theory and literature? You tend to dismiss my comments as ignorant, but believe me I’ve diligently read much of what’s been written since Cavalli-Sforza 1964. And OOAf faces challenges not only from me, but from other biologists, as you know.

    If you open Gonder et al. on p. 758 you’ll see that Neandertals are depicted precisely as a superclade of humans, in the same way as L is a superclade of M and N. That’s the way trees are constructed. And with every tree there’s a problem of its historical reality. You dismiss Neandertals but then safely apply the dismissed logic to L.

  27. To clarify: the connection between effective population size and allele diversity is taken into consideration in OOAf. It’s assumed that Africa is the oldest continent because it had more time to accumulate both size and diversity. OOAf is a theory and I take it seriously. If it translated into languages or kinship, I’d be cool with it. But since it doesn’t, another demographic scenario should be entertained, I think.

  28. What you call “African” is in fact “human,” for it’s found on all continents.

    Ok. Agreed as for L3 but not for any of its sister clades nor its daughter subclades that are not specifically M or N. Of all that wide L-level diversity, only two haplos: M and N are found outside Africa. So the terms “human” and “African” really become almost one, don’t they?

    That’s why OOA.

    go back to Johnson et al. 1983

    Why do you insist in Jurassic literature. In 1983 there was almost no knowledge of genetics and the uncertainty you have could have been more widespread (I don’t know: I as too young then to bother). Please look for literature of this century, as genetics has been a extremely fast moving field.

    African-specific mutations are called L with various numerical subscripts. African lineages contain only some 25% of markers shared by other continents. 75% are African-specific. This is your “African diversity”. You automatically take it as a sign of age, but every geneticist knows that diversity is a direct function of effective population side.

    No I don’t. I just know better than anything that could have been written in the 80s or early 90s. What Johnson says is correct (I understand) but lacks of the improved knowledge achieved later on.

    When I gave you the example of M1, I wanted you to see what I would expect to find outside of Africa if OOAf were convincing. Namely, an old trace of L3, L1, L2 somewhere in Melanesia.

    Why would you find that in Melanesia precisely? According to the model the hub was probably in India and the corridor in Southern Arabia. There’s no known trace in Southern Arabia (not 100% sure because very recent work has found an M subclade that is very similar to one of Australia) but in South Asia you have a good deal of the earliest remains, not of L3 (or CR) as such but of some of its oldest Eurasian offspring. I know better for the Y-DNA and C* and F* are only or almost only found in South Asia. But also for M and N, South Asia has greatest high level diversity in Eurasia.

    So everything seems to point to:

    1. Migration and coalescence in Southern Arabia. Probably a small population heavily reliant on fish and seafood. Here is where the African (or pan-Human if you wish) root clades become what we usually call them: C, D, F for the Y-DNA and M, N and maybe even R (the most important subclade of N) for the mtDNA.

    2. Migration to South Asia: expansion and dispersal, specially (but not only) along the coastal route of SE Asia.

    Southern Arabia, the area between Yemen and Oman, is the key place but apparently all or most traces of early population have been lost along time. It’s a very arid place certainly and one must understand how genes drift: if the original Eurasian populaton was there for some milennia, as believed, drift would almost necessarily have erased most intermediate varation. This not just happened at that key place but all around in different moments and circumstances. When we do find some early remains, it is probably because the population in that area (case of India, or Africa largely too) has been large enough all the time to prevent the extreme drift that would necesarily happen to any small isolated group.

    As in the Paleolithic all populations were somewhat small and relatively isolated, some drift happened everywhere along the milennia. Instead now there is almost no drift, with so many people all interconnected. There is increased admixture (homogeneization) though.

    You can say they got lost (I heard geneticists say that), but isn’t it convenient to have critical pieces of evidence getting lost in the course of history?

    I would not say “they got lost”: they evolved. Mutations happen along all lines: nothing remains static, only the diversity sometimes. What got lost is the diversity of that evolution. If you are looking for L3 descendants in Eurasia, you have them all around: M and N and all their progenie. If you are looking for a fixated L3, you will find it nowhere, not even in Africa, as that stage happened maybe 80,000 years ago. It’s long gone.

    What happened in Yemen/Oman was (possibly) that a a small clan with L3 women only arrived there. Along the generations many mutations happened but of them only two lineages (those of two specific grandmothers) survived. The other grandmothers could also have descendants, they probably did but at some moment the mother-daughter chain got broken.

    Let’s call the foremothers Martha and Nelly, ok? There were other women with them, one of them called Carla (capricious choice). Carla had a different mutation that here I will call C. She had many sons but no daughters. And that’s how the C mithocondrial lineage never was known to us (this C is hypothetical, there is a real C that is descendant of M and has nothing to do with this story). Another friend of Martha, Nelly and Carla, called (again capriciously) Irene, did have several daughters, three actually. One got lost in the dunes when she was 6 years old and was never heard of again (probably a hyena ate the poor girl), the other died while giving birth to her first son, and the last one was more lucky and had three sons and one daughter. But this only grandaughter of Irene caught the smallpox and died. The mithocondrial line of Irene died with her. She may still be your ancestor but not by an interrupted woman-woman line.

    You see that it is very easy that mitochondrial (or Y-chromosome) lineages can “get lost” along the generations, specially when demographic growth is small and the overall population reduced.

    When you think that the Eurasian clan was at the beaches of southern Arabia for maybe 10,000 years, never being able to expand until the deserts that surrounded them became more transitable c. 60-50,000 years ago, you really understand why Eurasians have such a restricted original pool of L3 sublineages.

    If instead of a dificult desertic passage (plus two water barriers), there would have been a wide fertile savannah, then probably there would be much less differences between Eurasians and sud-Saharan Africans; the passage would not have been any barrier and genes would have been flowing in both directions much more freely all the time.

    Obviously this wasn’t the case. Geography matters. The barrier was not absolute either. In several moments it was breached: first the apparently discontinuated emigration to Palestine c. 100,000 years ago, then the OOA epysode we are discussing here, then the back-migration of M1, later the expansion of E3b from Africa into parts of Eurasia… and, of course, more recent historical events as well.

    As for YAP+, you know that more lineages were discovered in Central Asia, India and Andaman Islands.

    AFAIK all within haplogroup D.

    And OOAf faces challenges not only from me, but from other biologists, as you know.

    No, I don’t know. Right now I know of absolutely no one who is challenging that model. Not anymore. You’d need really good stuff to be able to.

    If you open Gonder et al. on p. 758 you’ll see that Neandertals are depicted precisely as a superclade of humans…

    Some of your links don’t work for me, sorry. Probably my obsolete browser’s fault.

    Anyhow, at the current state of knowledge, Neanderthals seem to be very distant from H. sapiens, not sharing any known specific genetics (mtDNA, gene causing red-hair). Unless new data comes around that shows the opposite, Neanders and Sapiens split some 500,000 years ago (genetic estimates, probably almost double in my humble opinion) never to mix again – at least in significative manner.

    The commonly acknowledged ancestor of H. sapiens is H. heidelbergensis, an African variant of H. erectus. Instead the ancestor of H. neanderthalensis is H. antecessor, an European variant of the same H. erectus. It is H. erectus who is the superclade here.

    There is some debate on the level of introgression (if there was any at all) and erudite discussion on the validity (lack of contamination) of some apparently contradictory evidence. But overall the issue seems pretty much settled since some years ago with the result of Neanders and Sapiens are different and did not probably mix at all.

    Maybe the future will bring new contradictory evidence but so far the result is that no modern human seems to have significative Neanderthal ancestry of any sort.

    Anyhow, I feel like arguing with a creationist. I’m done with this discussion.

  29. Luis, no need to reply, but a few more things:
    1. Johnson et al. is a very basic, because first, presentation of world mtDNA diversity. Nobody has refuted their findings, but people developed only one of the two alternatives that they identified. They didn’t invent the connection between diversity and effective population size – this is a schoolbook principle tested on hundreds of populations before and after 1983. You may heard of the fact that population genetics is a pretty old field, it’s just they’ve never had access to nonrecombinable markers, and mtDNA was really the first one. But the principles of population structure/demography and its impact on diversity were elaborated for quite a while now.
    2. Africans contain only 25% of “human” mtDNA markers, Europeans 50%, Asians 75% and American Indians close to 100%. (All figures are approximate.)
    3. “Melanesia” is an arbitrary area but the fact remains that L lineages are noweher to be found outside of Africa. Geneticists were hoping that Australia would turn up some (since Australia and Papua new Guinea have a good archaeological record up to 60,000 BP), but no, Australians are all M and N.
    4. YAP+ is a derived state of YAP. More than 50% of Africans are YAP+, American Indians are all YAP-. How come the most recent population carries only the oldest states, while the ancient population carries mostly the derived states?
    5. The world is much more diverse than “scientists” vs. “creationists.” I am a scientist due to my broad university education, the years of committment to the academic fields, and my methodology. I have absolutely no affiliation with any religious organizations or mentalities. And precisely because I’m a scientist who has been exposed to the best data in anthropology, genetics and linguistics (and also because I took classes in archaeology, physical anthropology and evolutionism), I know that things are complicated, and it takes time to sort everything ut. No need to fall in love with something and hold on to it beyond what data actually shows us.

  30. German, the only viable challenge to the recent Out of Africa model has been mounted by the multiregionalists, whose model is also very different from yours. No one but you, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that any of the evidence, archaeological, paleontological, ethnographic, linguistic, genetic, etc. supports an American origin model. In fact all such evidence points away from such a model.

    While you would rather not place this aspect of your thinking into the foreground, this highly dubious notion has clearly colored your attitude toward everyone else’s research and given you a whopping huge burden of proof to overcome. You are acting as though the burden of proof is on the other side, but since you are mounting such a bizarre challenge, it is really up to you to establish that it is at the very least worth considering. Perhaps you’ve been able to do that. I’m certainly interested in reading your book. But you will never be able to adequately defend your very dubious sounding position simply by attacking everyone else’s.

    As I see it, if your interpretation of the kinship and linguistic evidence requires serious consideration of an Out of America theory of human origins, then there is probably something very wrong with your interpretation, not the other way ’round.

    I am certainly not a supporter of Clovis first. In fact I think it likely that the Americas could have been populated thousands of years before that, very possibly prior to the peak of the last Ice Age, via an extension of the earliest Out of African migration, up the east coast of Asia and down the west coast of the Americas all the way down to Argentina very quickly, by sea. That would have ultimately isolated all humans living south of the glacial maximum when the Ice Age reached its peak. Which means there could have been two very differnt American populations at that time, one centered in Beringia, the other strewn across large areas of Central and South America. Such a model allows a very long time for all sorts of different languages and kinship systems to arise, with great diversity, especially in the south.

    I’m not saying it had to have happened that way, but I am saying that you have to take all sorts of possibilities and contingencies into account when evaluating and interpreting your data. I see no reason to accept Greenberg’s interpretation of the language situation either, especially in the light of the extreme complexity of the language picture in S. America generally. But I do feel confident that much of this will get sorted out if the geneticists are able to continue with their research — which is probably the only hope of sorting it out.

    I think it unfortunate that you are going to be spending so much of your energy defending what looks like an indefensible interpretation while at the same time having mastered such a vast amount of clearly valuable kinship data. I have a feeling that your work on sorting the archaic from the recent in this realm could be especially interesting and meaningful in itself and possibly lead to some significant findings, but only if you are willling to pull back a bit, open your mind, and consider a wider range of possibilities that could be consistent with the evidence you’ve been working with.

    This is not to say that you are necessarily wrong. Only that you need to pay more attention to the enormous difference between valid evidence, valid analysis of that evidence and the interpretation of what that evidence might mean.

    1. Victor, you said,

      “I think it unfortunate that you are going to be spending so much of your energy defending what looks like an indefensible interpretation”.

      So far, there’s nothing German said that looks “indefensible”. He isn’t foisting OOAm as a “done deal”; he’s just proposing it as a counter to OOAf, so a legitimate debate can take place that examines ALL the evidence from a diversity of disciplines. I think, therefore, that you didn’t use the term “indefensible” because you thought German’s theories were unbelievable or wrong; you simply viewed German’s position as a scientist being judged by a haughty, intractible scientific aristocracy. You’re advising German, in essence “not to make waves”.

      I only have a MS in Chemistry, Victor, because I spent my life doing things I thought were more important: building relationships, helping people in need, raising my children. I couldn’t see a direct connection between those things — which I felt and still feel to be eminently important — and getting a sheepskin. But I did rise high enough in the academic community, to see the infighting, backslapping and backstabbing that goes on, along with the horrendous pride of many. They equate having dozens or hundreds of students looking at them and hanging on their every word (so they get a good grade on the next test) with wisdom and greatness; and the industry just reeks with evil. You want to spare German of the consequenses of rubbing that beast the wrong way; but I’m afraid that for some, truth actually matters more than this; truth is more beautiful than a gorgeous woman, more valuable than a house full of gold. German might just be one of these; and your well-intended admonition may come to nought…

      …but I’ll be glad: not because German has suffered, but because he’s free!

  31. Victor, I appreciate your thoughts very much.

    Believe it or not I did a round of self-doubts and rechecking the data. Once I talked to Professor Dmitry Petrov from Stanford’s Genetics Deprtament, and he told me literally the following: “Don’t use your great data to argue for an out-of-America migration; use it instead to help us finally demonstrate how America was peopled.” I was stunned by the irony of this statement, and since I always really wanted to be part of a larger process and integrate my data with another discipline, I went back to revisit everything I knew. It took me literally years to do this extensive check. I’ve never been the person who would just run around advocating for an exotic theory. I’m a scientist who’s trying to feed an old tradition of research (kinship studies, for many years a centerpiece of anthropology) into a current consensus. And, believe me, I’m a no pedestrian in the related fields. I can read and make sense of pretty much any literature pertaining to the peopling of the Americas and modern human origins. Of course, one person can’t know everything, but I’ve been a good student. And I’ve met with and talked to many respectable archaeologists, paleontologists, geneticists, linguists, anthropologists, geologists in both Russia and the U.S. learning first-hand from people who apply scientific methodology to a growing body of evidence.

    And while doing all that I still diligently exercised caution with my ideas. It’s also important to understand that “The Genius of Kinship” is not a book about a new theory of human origins. It’s composed of the following parts: the historiography of the kinship problem in several disciplines, the linguistic analysis of kinship terms, the report on the structural parameters of my database, the application of a new historical typology to low-level language families, with comparisons with the intersting findings in genetics and linguistics that pertain to the dispersal of these families. Only the last chapter is the critique of the current theories of the peopling of the Americas and OOAf. Only in the very end of the book I suggest that a single-origin alternative to OOAf has never been tested, that American Indian genetic, linguistic ad kinship terminological variation are the polar opposites of the African variation, that there’s a consistency between all of them, but there’re problems with OOAf because all archaic linguo-cultural characters seem to be pushed away from Africa into the Americas. And I’m not sure there’s a realistic scenario to explain this concentration of these features on the opposite side of the globe from a putative homeland. Since 1) archaeologically we don’t have any real evidence to demonstrate American Indian recency, 2) since we “established” that America was peopled, and possibly from Siberia in the 16th century, 3) there’s always been a historical bias against America and science hasn’t provdied us with the hard data to substitute for this bias, the scientific procedure has failed in this part of the globe. It’s time to scrutinize this issue under glass.

    That’s it! And even this cautious approach and solid logic now faces outright rejection. Why? I’m not as attached to OOAm as other people are to OOAf: I’m just challenging scholars to demonstrate how American Indian kinship, cultural and linguistic variation can be derived from Siberia or East Asia. A Russian scholar, Yuri Berezkin, who is an archaeologist by training, has been working on procesing a huge mythological database from America, Asia, Australia, Oceania, and less so Africa. His two monographs are unfortunately available only in Russian. He documented all the surprising connections between Northern Plains and South Siberia, between Circumpolar America and Circumpolar Asia, between Amazonia and Melanesia, between North America, Siberia and Northern Australia, between Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa. Like all judicious archaeologists, he used to believe in Clovis-I, but his own data shows rather that there’s enough diversity in American Indian myths to tie them to all other continents. I can even add that at least in several instances known to me the plot diversity within a motif is noticeably greater in America than in Siberia (Earth-Diver) or Southeast Asia (Sun-Catcher). Berezkin’s explanation (and we’ve talked about it on several occasions) is that the Old World folklore diversity was affected by the world religions. In many instances, this explanation won’t work, but even if it did, the loss of diversity in the Old World doesn’t mean American Indians were not subjected to the loss of plots and motifs on their end as well. In many parts of America, population extinction unfolded so fast (e.g., through diseases, if not human-administered violence) that we can’t claim we know everything about their pre-Columbian folklore (or languages, for this matter) in those areas. Also, small isolated demes are subject to the vicissitudes of climate and to neighbor violence more than larger, agglomerated populations, hence we can’t say that the Old World was simply more affected by massive diversity reduction sweeps than the New World.

    Folklore is also subject to borrowing beyond what kinship nomenclatures and grammatical features can experience. Be it as it may, I can’t relate to your claim that “[all] archaeological, paleontological, ethnographic, linguistic, genetic, etc….evidence points away from [OOAm].” Language, kinship and culture are likely to form a system that doesn’t sit well with OOAf and an early peopling of the Americas. These human-specific and historical systems of reference provide an interesting test to more surreptitious types of evidence and more trans-specific analyses coming from archaeology, paleontology and population genetics. My exchanges with Luis made me think that population genetics forms an interesting middle ground between the evidence from living human populations with their exhaustive databases and the evidence coming from accidental finds and remains. But I don’t think there’s only one interpretation of the available mtDNA, Y chromosome and autosomal evidence. This evidence has been tested against Multiregional Evolution but people make a logical mistake assuming that the evidence that contradicts MRE autmatically supports OOAf. In fact the evidence that contradicts MRE supports a single-origin alternative, but not necessarily OOAf. Luis makes precisely this mistake, when he conflates the common allele mutations shared between all continents and the African gene pool in which these “pan-human” mutations are found at radically reduced frequencies, while African-specific mutations are rampant but not found outside of Africa.

    The problem with my interpretation of genetic evidence is two-fold: first, mutations are known to occur relatively rarely, hence if Africans are rich in mutations it means they had more time to accumulate them; second, if American Indians were a very ancient population, we would expect them to be more divergent from the Old World populations than they appear to be. We would expect to find some kind of weird outliers deep in South America.

    I’ve talked about these issues with geneticists, I know this is a problem. My answer to this is 1) the human gene pool is very recent, and American Indians just didn’t have time to develop this kind of divergence; 2) the human gene pool outside of Africa was subjected to “selective” pressures related to the colonization of vast geographic expanses; 3) mtDNA’s rate of mutation is much higher than that of Y chromosome, and, if we look at Y chromosome, American Indian uniqueness (especially in South America) stands out more saliently in comparison to the Old World; 4) blood groups, with their low rate of mutation, show American Indians as really different by virtue of them being almost exclusively type O, again especially in South America (Siberia is predominantly type B); 5) American Indian homogeneity (high-levels of homozygosity) is a direct reflection of their small long-term effective population size (the number of reproductively active adults) and great isolation by distance. American Indians have accumulated population diversity (measured by the number of linguistic families) but not gene diversity.

    Am I alone in asking all these questions? Absolutely, not. Turner, Harpending and others pointed out that “Cavalli-Sforza’s genes” are too recent to dwell too much on them. Physical anthropology (odontology and craniology) deals with more stable and predictable characters and these characters tend to point away from Africa. (This is an indirect indication that MRE is false, while an alternative to OOAf can be detected in the available evidence.) For instance, African dentition, as well as European, is not archaic, at least from Turner’s perspective. Our perspective on ancient human dentition comes from Australia, Asia and America. (What a surprise: even before my analysis of kinship data, anthropologists looked at Australia as a model of ancient human society, but never at Africa.) Some of the Khoisans, who are featured as the earliest branch of modern humans in many OOAf publications, have several characteristically “Mongoloid” markers, namely the epicanthus, the shovel-shaped incisors or the “Mongolian spot.” These markers are said to be some 20,000 years old. So, Harpending & Eller (2000. Human Diversity and Its History. In The Biology of Biodiversity, edited by M. Kato. Pp. 301–314. Tokyo.) hypothesize that “physical morphology grounded in non-neutral genes, preserves traces of common origin better than neutral variation, which is susceptible to continental gene flow [and drift].”

    I think now that the battle between MRE and OOAf is over it’s time to test OOAf against another single-origin theory. I propose that this theory is OOAm. “The Genius of Kinship” isn’t a new theory human origins, but it’s an invitation to develop an alternative look at the growing body of data, so that our passionate advocacy for scientific rigor doesn’t blunt this very rigor.

    One way of accessing my book is to place a library order on it.

  32. Another important consideration: the strongest genetic argument against MRE was not the mtDNA, Y chromosome or autosomal phylogeny, since we can always find parallels in the living world when in-situ lineages are simply obliterated through expansion and gene flow, but the estimated low effective population size of modern human populations. MRE requires a large EPS, since there’re pre-existing hominid populations in Europe, Africa and Asia. Low EPS translates nicely into the factor of lower diversity among non-Africans, than among Africans. If other continents showed the same proliferation of lineages as in Africa, this would’ve been a proof of MRE. Since only Africa is rich in outliers, its gene pool is the only one that fits the prediction of MRE, while non-African genetic variation is the best proof of a single-origin model for modern human evolution.

    In the OOAm model, the extent of gene flow increases as one moves away from America. There’s little gene flow between American Indian demes, there’s little-to-no gene flow between the New World and the Old World; but gene flow increases between Asia and Europe and between Eurasia and Africa, and it reaches its peak between various African populations.
    Gene flow is inversely related to the degree of isolation by distance: the closer one population is to another, the more likely those two are going to be connected by recurrent gene flows.

  33. Thanks so much, German, for sharing your thoughts in such detail. The strongest impression I’m getting from you is that you are correctly bothered by anomalies in the evidence and the way it’s being interpreted and are struggling to find some path through this thicket that can ultimately lead to a satisfactory resolution. In other words your problem may be that you are asking the right questions, but possibly at the wrong time. For example, if scientists had been overly bothered by the perihelion of Mercury back in Newton’s day, then they might have rejected his theory of universal gravitation because it can’t explain Mercury’s orbit. Fortunately most scientists either weren’t aware of the problem or were not overly bothered by it. I say fortunately, because the science of their time wasn’t equipped to deal with it. It was only in the 20th Century, as a spinoff benefit of General Relativity, that the perihelion was finally accounted for.

    As I see it, the new genetics has opened the door to a whole new way of thinking about human evolution, both physical and cultural, and as a result a whole new set of “perihelion type” problems are emerging. And you may well be among those foresighted enough to be bothered by some of these problems whereas most others may not yet have reached that level of awareness. All I can say is: don’t be in too much of a hurry to find answers to all your good questions, because now may be the time to explore various possibilities rather than the time to come up with definitive solutions.

    My principal reason for skepticism regarding OOAm is not the genetics, though I tend to agree pretty strongly with Luis on that , but the Archaeology. There is simply no archaeological evidence for the existence of homo sapiens in the Americas prior to roughly 14,000 years ago. And also no evidence whatsoever for more archaic humans, such as homo erectus, for the homo sapiens to have evolved from. This, despite the fact that the Americas have probably been probed more thoroughly by Archaeologists than anywhere else outside Europe. A tremendous amount of research has been done in the Americas (far more than in Africa) and no trace of archaic humans has ever been found. It’s possible to speculate on an early arrival in America based on OOAf, because the new arrivals may well have been hugging the coast and the coast they were hugging is now under water. But if we’re talking OOAm, we’d expect to find signs of early humans, both homo sapiens and earlier, all over both continents and that hasn’t happend and probably won’t happen.

    “I’m just challenging scholars to demonstrate how American Indian kinship, cultural and linguistic variation can be derived from Siberia or East Asia.”

    IMO it’s in the above statement that I see signs of where you might have gotten onto the wrong track. Because the new picture that I’m getting of cultural evolution, based on my own research on the musical end, is that we can no longer rely on that old model by which later developments can be understood as derivations from what came before, at least not according to the usual model of cultural evolution as a gradual process. The picture we are now getting is full of very puzzling, but also very suggestive gaps.

    For example, there are indeed very strong musical connections between certain groups in Melanesia and certain groups in Central and S. America. But NOT N. America. There is no simple way to explain such a connection, and such a gap, which applies to many other things in addition to music, as I’m sure you are aware. In the past it was argued that there must have been a direct connection between the two via a transPacific crossing. But the archaeological evidence appears to contradict that, as does the genetic evidence. There is in fact no simple explanation based on any traditional model of cultural evolution. But IMO it CAN be explained if we back up a bit and consider the importance, not of cultural continuity, but simple contingency.

    In other words there may very well be no laws that determine how culture evolves and if that’s the case then we have to learn to think differently about cultural evolution and in fact to look at the whole problem differently. Instead of trying to derive “laws of derivation,” maybe what we need to think about is the way certain elements of culture may have either survived or died out in response to events in the past that we may or may not be able to recreate.

    All I can say is that there is a theory of the populating of the Americas, based in the OOAf model, but also based on certain contingencies, that made perfect sense to me when I read it, because it enabled me to come up with an explanation for the Melanesian- S. American connection that had never occurred to me before. And it was not based on how one practice is derived from another, but on how a certain set of practices might have survived intact over tens of thousands of years and tens of thousands of miles. Resulting in the existence of an “archaic” cultural practice at the endpoint of a long migration rather than at the beginning.

    I’m wondering whether you’ve ever considered this way of thinking, or whether you are convinced that cultural evolution must always be based on “laws of derivation.”

  34. Victor, this is a very good analysis. I would certainly consider America as a a potential example of the situation you described in the following paragraph: “And it was not based on how one practice is derived from another, but on how a certain set of practices might have survived intact over tens of thousands of years and tens of thousands of miles. Resulting in the existence of an “archaic” cultural practice at the endpoint of a long migration rather than at the beginning.” But my immediate thoughts are: But how would we document this early migration that resulted in such a dramatic inversion of cultural properties beyond postulating it apriori? At the same time, how would we explain the loss of all those very properties in the homeland? And why not develop a genetics theory in which American Indians would serve as a model of an ancient population and then declare that humans came from Africa just because of the law of inverted correlation between population age and its current genetic and cultural makeup?

    For me you’re absolutely right in thinking of America as a residual zone (in Nichols’s terms) but any authochthonous population is just an extreme version of an isolated population.

    It’s indeed interesting that Melenesia and South America are connected without North America being involved. I can see a similar pattern in kinship systems, although North America and Australia show some striking similarities. In South America, only one language family, namely Panoan, shows links to Australia, and these are not too striking. Although a minor issue, I think North America is a spead zone in which southern properties could survive in pockets such as California, Southwest or Southeast. Berezkin notes striking similarities in myths among the Eskimos and some Amazonian Indians.

    Your argument regarding the paucity of archaeological finds in America is, of course, no surprise to me. We’ve always applied to America the standards of European Paleolithic. Assuming America represents an early stage of human adaptation, this may turn out to be a methodological mistake, for it involves placing a cart before the horse. The distinguishing features of American Paleolithic before Clovis may be not lithic technologies, but “soft” technologies (bone tools, snares, hearths and other perishables). (Notably, according to Alan Bryant, an ethnographic collection from a modern tribe contains only 20% of lithic tools, the rest are perishables.) Coupled with low population size (worldwide, the number of archaeological finds progressively increases over time, with cultural evolution and population growth), this factor can influence the frequency of recognizable (from the Old World standards) human signatures. The fuzziness of these signatures in the Americas (Pendejo Cave had only fingerprints around a fireplace) is well-known, but unlike some archaeologists I wouldn’t conclude that humans weren’t present in the Ameircas, or that archaeologists, who try to present these difficult sites as indicative of human activity, are being unprofessional.

    This is a broad perspective on archaeological “assumptions” that I have. More practically, two facts should’ve prevented scholars from creating Clovis-I in the first place: 1) microblades are pervasive in Siberia (and all over the Old World, including Africa) since 20,000 PB, while in America they’re found only in some Circumpolar assemblages and aren’t recorded anywhere south of Vancouver island; 2) bifacial tools are rare and Clovis-type points are absolutely not found in Siberia (why can’t we have Solutreanesque finds in Siberia?!) There’s one site in Northeast Asia called Uptar that turned up a fluted projectile point, and its by a 1000 years younger than Clovis. The lower level of Ushki is also younger than Clovis, although it’s rather rich in bifaces by Siberian standards. There’s a clear trend for fluted points to move up north into the area once occupied by the glacier (Dixon’s research, well-documented). Clovis, in general, is a very short-lived phenomenon that probably spead from North America to South America (fish-tailed points) by diffusion. Sites like Monte Verde or the recent find of coprolites in Oregon with mtDNA A2 and B2 markers in them suggest that Clovis spread over a vast pre-existing population.

    How can we even begin to use archaeology as an entry into the epochal story of the colonization of the Americas? If Hrdlicka collaborated with Sapir, who authored the first contemporary classification of American Indian languages, he would’ve seen the extent of American Indian linguistic diversity and pulled back on any far-fetched archaeological theories. But he created a formidable intellectual glacier in American archaeology that only now is starting to melt down. The impact of the conservative estimates of the timing of the peopling of the Americas on archaeological research has been devastating, with no funding allocated on pre-Clovis research and peopled losing careers over suspicious finds.

    Genetics and linguistics are the two disciplines, with their massive databases, that, I think, contributed to the demise of Clovis I in the late 1990s. Let’s keep it up!

    I am aware of the fact that we don’t have hominid remains in the Americas, and I don’t know why and how significant this is. (If an Asian H. erectus slipped into the Americas, it’s an ideal place for a new species to emerge due to its isolation and the absents of other hominid species.) The only thing I realized as I was reading through the 19th century debates about human origins, we were preoccupied with the Neandertal fossils, while at the same time calling American Indians a “vanishing race”? Why would one be so interested in tracing one’s lineage to an extinct population of semi-humans, while letting thousands of living ethnic groups slip into oblivion? This is philosophy and cultural critique, but I think if post-modernists were more responsible in their critique of modernism, they would’ve come across this irony long before me. In my opinion, what happened is that, while transitioning to a scientific worldview (a deep geology-based chronology is one of the key defining moments of it in the 19th century), we left America out of sight. Hence, we inherited pre-scientific assumptions about which of the two “worlds” is “new” (of course, the one not mentioned in the Bible) and preserved a short, “Biblical” chronology in the New World. Why would people be so hell-bent on keeping the timing of the peopling of the Americas at as late a point in time as possible? Why would Hrdlicka hunt down those scholars who believed that the American Indian population is older than 5,000 years? It’s just irrational!

    On another note: Cavalli-Sforza has always been very keen on connecting his genetic maps to language and culture. In the late 1980s-early 1990s, he co-authored several papers around the problem of genetic and linguistic classifications as well as biological vs. cultural transmission (see, e.g., Gugliemino et al. 1995. Cultural Variation in Africa // Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). The reason for this interest of his is that his genetic material is neutral, hence you can’t find any confirmation for his patterns in phenotypic structures (see earlier on odontology and craniology). And any phylogeny, by biological standards, works only if there’re correlations between genes and phenotypes. So he chose languages because languages are also “selectively neutral.” His results were absolutely unconvincing and awkward on both global and local scales. Greenberg and Ruhlen were his sidekicks in this effort, but Indo-Pacific didn’t work, Eurasiatic didn’t work and Amerind didn’t work.

    If the phylogenies of neutral genes were sufficient to illustrate the dispersal of modern humans, why would a professional geneticist suddenly devote so much time struggling with linguistic and cultural variation?

    1. Hi, German and Victor.

      Victor: “And it was not based on how one practice is derived from another, but on how a certain set of practices might have survived intact over tens of thousands of years and tens of thousands of miles. Resulting in the existence of an “archaic” cultural practice at the endpoint of a long migration rather than at the beginning.”

      German: But my immediate thoughts are: “But how would we document this early migration that resulted in such a dramatic inversion of cultural properties beyond postulating it apriori? At the same time, how would we explain the loss of all those very properties in the homeland?”

      German, I was raised in Milwaukee, WI, which was at that time the most German city in America. In school, all my close friends played a card game called “schafkopf”, which at the time was only played in Wisconsin. It was a very popular game in the 1800s in Germany, but had become unpopular ther in the 20th century. When I became a chemist, I worked with a fellow chemist who was very fond of his German heritage, and had made many trips to the “old country”. Once, someone from the “old country” came over and noted some of the “German” things we did in Milwaukee. He said, “Ah — that’s the way we USED TO do such and such; but we don’t do that anymore.”

      There was another incident, where the US President hired on a Polish-American as an interpreter. He drew guffaws from the crowd at something he interpreted, but was at a loss as to why. Later, someone informed him that what he said, while considered very proper decades ago, was now spoken only in dirty jokes.

      Cases of the most ancient custom getting dispersed, where it is lost in the homeland, abound everywhere. I’m told that Icelandic is more conservative than any other Scandanavian language, and that Lithuanian (far from the epicenter of Indo-European language spread) was the most conservative IE language. Applying this reasoning to your statement,

      “Africans contain only 25% of “human” mtDNA markers, Europeans 50%, Asians 75% and American Indians close to 100%”,

      I think I’m beginning to see possibilities: Native Americans may indeed be the “oldest” race on earth, in that they retain the most original mtDNA markers. That does not preclude their having migrated to America from somewhere else. Of course, the same conditions would have to apply as in the “schafkopf” case: their retention of the markers would have to have come through lack of contact with conditions that would lead to attrition of the markers. In the case of our playing schafkopf, we were somehow more interested in preserving a unique German (and therefore “Milwaukean” — I’m not even German) identity than the Germans were. I can understand how this could happen with cultural items: The Germans were secure in their identity, and therefore less concerned about losing it than we were; but how can this thinking be extended to something physical such as DNA markers?

      If the American Indians were an “old” population living originally in, say, Siberia, what caused other peoples to lose their markers while they retained them? Perhaps their isolation in Siberia, or the Caucasus, or wherever they originally came from, had a conserving quality; while founder effects and bottlenecks attritted the others.

      There you have it — a theory that is neither MRE, OOAf nor OOAm, that accounts for the “genetic markers” problem. It’s “OOTME” (out of the Middle East), which I’m pre-disposed towards. The greatest bottleneck would then have been the Sahara, which may have been crossable at some point only by the Nile valley.

  35. “But how would we document this early migration that resulted in such a dramatic inversion of cultural properties beyond postulating it apriori? At the same time, how would we explain the loss of all those very properties in the homeland?”

    These are excellent questions. The migration can be inferred by backward extrapolation from the contemporary evidence: archaeological, linguistic, kinship, genetic, musical, etc. However, since contingency is now an essential part of the mix, it is no longer necessary for all these elements to reinforce each other, as you seem to expect. For instance, one important reason why African linguistic and kinship patterns might not have the expected “archaic” properties may have nothing to do with any “laws” of cultural evolution, but are most likely due to the relatively recent Bantu expansion, an historically contingent event that could never have been anticipated by any evolutionary theory. All Pygmy groups now live in close association with Bantu groups. They speak (with one very interesting exception) Bantu languages. And in many cases they have adopted Bantu ritual practices, such as circumcision. Since many Pygmy women have married Bantu men, it’s not difficult to see how Pygmy kinship practices could have been modified to accomodate this historically contingent situation, with predictable effects on the genetic evidence as well.

    Nevertheless, most Pygmies remained hunter/gatherers (at least until very recently, due to other contingent events) and most Pygmy groups still make music in a manner that I would regard (after many years of systematic research in comparative musicology) as “archaic.” (This also happens to be the most intricate and complex polyphony to be found in any oral traditions anywhere, so again it’s important to understand that nothing can be taken for granted — “archaic” characteristics need not be the simplest, only the oldest.) Since the genetic evidence has identified them as associated with one of the oldest lineages and the musical evidence reinforces that same picture, I have no problem with the Out of Africa model, despite the fact that the Pygmies speak Bantu and not an archaic language, etc.


  36. Oops, I submitted that last one too soon. To continue . . .

    “It’s indeed interesting that Melenesia and South America are connected without North America being involved. I can see a similar pattern in kinship systems, although North America and Australia show some striking similarities.”

    There are also striking similarities between North American and Australian music. South America presents a more complex picture, with some groups more like N. America (and Australia) and others more like Melanesia. However, there are also groups in Melanesia who sing like Australians. It’s very hard to characterize Melanesia in fact, as there is a variety of different musical styles, as with the languages.

    I just can’t see any of this as the result of “laws of cultural evolution.” Once we see these patterns as resulting from contingencies, however, then we can roll up our sleeves and try to figure out what might have happened, where and when. If the musical end of this sort of approach interests you, you might want to take a look at my essay “Echoes of Our Forgotten Ancestors,” which can be downloaded from my Yahoo Briefcase: Access the “My Documents” folder and download the file titled “wom_2006_21– pp 1-134 only”. There are some other things in there you might want to take a look at if you have the time.

    As far as Cavalli-Sforza is concerned, many years ago he attempted to contact the man whose pioneering work in comparative musicology got me so deeply involved in world music, Alan Lomax. Unfortunately, Lomax’s health declined around that same time, so they were never able to work together. IMO music is much more useful than language for comparative studies on cultural evolution, since traditional peoples tend to maintain their musical traditions intact even after their language has either evolved or totally changed.

  37. Victor, I would be cautious about assuming the Pygmies’ antiquity. Although due to their miniature size and long gene branches they’ve been considered a Middle Stone Age relic by some biologists, including Cavalli-Sforza, linguistics and archaeology yields no support for this. There’re no Pygmy remains associated with the African Middle or Late Stone Age. Linguistically, all Pygmies speak Bantu, Adamawa-Ubangi or Nilo-Saharan languages. But most importantly, their subsitence system is hunting-and-gathering, while their larger linguistic relatives are all agriculturalists. If their subsistence dated back to the African Stone Age, we would expect to find substratum lexical items that are not part of the general Bantu etc. lexical funds because Bantu languages have a specialized agricultural and cattle-breeding vocabulary but a very rudimentary hunting-and-gathering vocabulary. The fact is that all lexical items in the Pygmy languages pertaining to hunting and food exploitation are perfectly Bantu, Adamawa or Nilo-Saharan (Blench, Roger. Are the African Pygmies an Ethnographic Fiction // Central African Hunter-Gatherers in a Multidisciplinary Perspective. Leiden, 1999). I thought those are very strong arguments against interpreting Pygmy long Y chromosome and mtDNA branches as a sign of great age. Most likely, they were originally a caste within a larger agricultural population that developed adaptation to the tropic forest, went through genetic drift and underwent dwarfism. I concur with Blench that the earliest African populations are the Khoisans, Laal and others but not the Pygmies. In the 1950s, one of the students of kinship systems, Gertrude Dole, argued that the Pygmies and the Andaman Islanders preserve the ancestral human kinship system because their kinship terminologies are very simple. Now, it seems more likely to explain this simplicity, which incidentally is also found among the Paleoasiatic peoples or the Kaingang or the Fuegians, as a result of isolation and recent evolution.

    The most recent paper based on a sample of complete sequences from the Pygmies and the agriculturalists argues for their common ancestry in L1c and for a long history of gene flow (Quintana-Murci et al. (2008) Maternal traces of deep common ancestry and asymmetric gene flow between Pygmy hunter-gatherers and Bantu-speaking farmers. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105 (5) ). The dates of 70-40,000 years, I suspect, are too old and one can’t fully trust the molecular clock, but it’s good to know that kinship and linguistics preserves history better than some hasty population genetics studies.

    As I was reading your website, I came across an issue of The World of Music in which you published the results of your comparative music studies. I was wondering if I could purchase this issue from you. I could mail you a check if you happen to have an extra copy.

  38. Victor, I think we were typing simultaneously. I just found your second part in the string. Thanks for the link to your music paper. This is an entirely foreign field to me (although my mother is an opera pianist), but I’ll be happy to delve into it and try to make sense of your data. I’ve heard about Lomax and cantometrics – a good occasion to learn more about it.

  39. I’ve read Blench’s chapter. He could be right, but for the wrong reasons. You’ll find another chapter in that same volume claiming that Pygmy music and Bushmen music are fundamentally different. Those ladies are definitely wrong — also for the wrong reasons. To learn why you’ll need to read another paper of mine that’s in the same Yahoo folder: “Concept, Style and Structure . . . ” If you can read music and follow the analyses, you’ll see how amazingly close the two musical traditions really are. Despite an estimated date of separation that could be over 100,000 years ago. That’s what I call cultural survival! Another paper in the same batch, “New Perspectives on the Kalahari Debate,” makes essentially the same point, but in language most anthropologists can more easily understand.

    I’m not interested in how small the Pygmies are or how they got that way, which is what Blench’s paper seems to be about. As representative of some of the most archaic lineages and cultural practices in the world they are certainly not a fiction. Yes, the eastern Pygmies have very different lineages than the western Pygmies, but according to Destro-Bisol, who’s done the most work on that relationship and their relationship to the Bantu lineages, this is a sign of their great antiquity, not their irrelevance. At one time in the past they (pygmies, bushmen, bantu) were all part of the same group, but branched off at different times. That, as I recall, is the point of the Quintana-Murci paper you cite. Almost all Pygmy groups, east and west, Aka, Mbuti, whatever, vocalize in essentially the same very unusual and distinctive manner. So do many of the Bushmen groups. This couldn’t possbily be a fluke, it has to mean something.

    I’m glad you’re interested in reading my essay, which is aimed at non-musicians, is non-technical, and shouldn’t be difficult to follow. I’m pleased to learn you’ve been looking at my blog as well. Thanks. I hope you’ll have some time to comment on the blog or to email me with your responses. In a sense we are both in the same boat, since I’ve been trying to revive interest in comparative musicology and you’ve been doing the same with kinship. And we both seem to have interesting databases to play around with. Two mad scientists at war with the establishment. A pity we don’t agree more as to our respective madnesses. But maybe, over time our differences can be smoothed out. I hope we can keep in touch.

  40. Victor,

    I am very glad that you brought another missing piece of evidence, namely music and singing, to the table. It’s especially intriguing to me, since both kinship terminologies and music profiles are highly patterned cultural forms. Their remarkable formal properties justify the use of these two cultural systems in the humans dispersals research. I’ve always thought that the fact that kinship terminologies are highly prone to symmetrical and asymmetrical structuring (that’s one of the ways in which a unilinear evolutionary process and relative chronology can be inferred from the data) makes them resemble musical rhythmicity. When Stock talks about the mother-child bond as a fertile ground for hocketing, I can’t help but thinking of all those “baby-blabber” (Lallworter in the German tradition) kinship terms (baba, papa, tata, yaya, etc.) that are shared by all world languages but have an apparently non-random worldwide distribution (Buschmann first explored this in 1852, then Murdock screened his sample for these parental rhythmic words, then Jakobson wrote a famous paper, then Leach followed up, then Ruhlen, Bancel and Matthey d’Etang built a global database). In addition to forms like mama/papa, there’s a remarkable pattern in vocative kinship terminologies for parents and grandparents to be called by the terms for, respectively, children and grandchildren, and vice versa. In Arabic (and among the Arabs speaking English in the U.S.), father calls his little son ‘father’, etc. This is semantic rhythmicity, and not morphological rhythmicity. There’s a vague association between morphological and semantic rhythmicity and child-parent interaction.

    In linguistics, the similarity of parental terms across languages was an early example of innateness and parallel evolution. Indeed, these forms are literally identical around the world and could be a proof of the monogenesis of human languages. But nobody would seriously entertain this possibility. Alternatively they tend to concentrate along the parent-child axis, and hence pertain to the vertical transmission of culture. We can’t say whether children, learning a mother tongue, “inherit” it and not “borrow” it. Along the vertical axis of transmission, the linguistic opposition of “inherited” to “borrowed” vocabulary simply doesn’t work, for it was designed to describe unstructured “adult” language and not structured and kinship-embedded “child” language.

    The rhythmicity of kinship terms is not explained easily on the assumption of them being “part of language.” Their musicality may point to a deeper process of semiosis that transcends phonology and grammar.

    Your speculations on language and music are also very germane to my thinking, and I remember discussing it with a linguistics student who was at the same time a choir singer at Stanford. The remarkable existence of click languages in Sub-Saharan Africa and nowhere else (as well as the noteworthy presence of clicks in child-to-child and child-to-adult interaction around the world) seems to offer another possible connection to comparative music. Could it be that the clicks, being so aberrant in the light of other human phonological systems, emerged as a crossover between language and music feeding off of the same child-to-parent interaction system with its unstructured sources of new sounds? However Freudian this may sound (and in fact Freud had a paper remotely connected to the theme in question), the deep internal structures of gender/age/kinship underlying both language and music may explain the sudden emergence of previously unknown cultural patterns in restricted geographic areas.

    From what I read, I didn’t get a sense that music shows any pattern that could allow us to adjudicate between OOAf and OOAm. I like your extension of Oppenheimer’s beachcomber migration all the way to South America. (For many people, this would be a stretch of imagination because they “know” that America was peopled recently.) I noticed that Amazonia is musically connected to Melanesia/Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa and that panpipes show a gender divison and hence belong to a wider male-female ritual complex well-described for Amazonia and Melanesia (see Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia, edited by Thomas Gregor and Donald Tuzin. Berkeley, 2001). The same complex contains bull-roarers again in all three areas (Amazonia, Melanesia and Sub-Saharan Africa). Berezkin documents the same transcontinental link in initiation myths. I think any time we encounted an integrated socio-cultural complex, any recurrent resemblances strengthen the deep-common-ancestry argument.

    I completely agree with your Occam’s Razor and Leibniz’s principles of interpretation: independent invention cannot explain these kinds of transcontinental similarities, only retention can. Berezkin independently of me or you employs the same principle to the distribution of myths. (I reserve independent invention to the region- and continent-specific “aberrancies” such as Khoisan clicks.)

    The relative homogeneity of North America and Australia is very interesting. In terms of kinship systems, Australia is a very homogeneous and conservative relic, and anthroplogists have used it as a model of ancient kinship structure since Radcliffe-Brown 1913. I also read Lomax 1962 and know from experience how easily American Indian tribes swap songs and music at their pow-wows. Terry Turner also once shared his amazement at how strikingly similar Kayapo singing in Brazil is to Omaha singing in North America.

    One of the intersting oppositions between North American and South American kinship structures is the heavy encoding of age differences in the former vs. gender differences in the latter. Is there any age-related substructure to musical styles and instruments reminiscent of the division of panpipes into male and female in Amazonia?

    I was also intrigued by the only incidence of the Siberian and North American hand-drum in South America, namely among the Mapuche. Otherwise, it’s not found anywhere in South America. The Mapuche also have no bull-roarer. In terms of mtDNa frequencies, the haplotypes that belong to macrohaplogroup N (A, X and B) are rarer in South America than in North/Central America, with the majority of South American Indians being members of macrohaplogroup M (C and D haplogroups). It’s possible that this fluctuation reflects some kind of population movement from North to South America within the last 10,000 years.

    I am sympathetic with Stock’s separation of Pygmy music from Khoisan music, just because I think Pygmies share ancestry with Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan, while Khoisans (at least in my data are closer to North America and Australia; for instance, they share such a unique grammatical feature as “kinship verbs” with North American and Australian languages). Needless to say, this is my first foray into comparative musicology, so you could easily convince me that the Pygmies and the Khoisans share an ancient legacy.

    As an outsider, I would be interested in developing an integrated understanding of worldwide patterns in musical instruments, the acoustics and the musico-social structure. For instance, is the flute a predecessor of the panpipe; can we think of the panpipe as a complex flute, etc.

    1. Hi, German. You said,

      “I am sympathetic with Stock’s separation of Pygmy music from Khoisan music, just because I think Pygmies share ancestry with Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan, while Khoisans (at least in my data are closer to North America and Australia; for instance, they share such a unique grammatical feature as “kinship verbs” with North American and Australian languages).”

      This blows me away! you’re connecting Khosians with Australians with North Americans! I’m not an anthropologist nor linguist; just an interested onlooker; but years ago I noticed a superficial resemblance between Niger-Congo and Austronesian languages. I can’t remember what the connections was, other than the initial “ng” and tonality. Of course, my greatest foreign language exposure was with Vietnamse, which has both features, so you can understand my interest. I remember seeing some sort of Australian-American connection as well, but can’t remember what it was. The explanation that intuitively came to mind was that this was something of a “fairy ring” effect. “Fairy rings” are growth patterns of some mushrooms, which advance on a “ring” front over the years, as the “core” area of soil gets depleted. I thought these were caused by successive waves (literally) of migration from a central area in the Middle East. Doesn’t that make more sense than a beachcombing espedition from Mombassa to Venice Beach? I admit, I’m just a duffer.

  41. Victor,

    Again, I sent my response without seeing your comment. Unfortunately I don’t read music scores, so I have to take your word on the similarities between the Khoisan and the Pygmy music styles. Below are some of my scattered reflections on the material largely inscrutable to me, so please forgive me if I am getting completely off.

    I intuitively felt that a formal analysis such as the one Furniss and Olivier offered is the right track toward a worldwide comparative music analysis (just because it sounded so much like the analysis I’m used to in kinship studies and linguistics), but if you contend that they’re wrong, I believe you. Is there a way to describe musical evolution in terms of structurally opposing types (say, polyphony vs. non-polyphony, etc.) and then see their distribution and the states of intensity of expression of these types here and there? Like Nichols did for world grammar, in which head-marking languages are opposed to dependent-marking languages, and these two types have two different distributions. If you could make an argument that the intensity of expression of ancestral formal properties for all the musical clades, types, categories, etc. is the strongest worldwide among the Pygmies and the Khoisans, and then it more or less progressively declines as one moves away from Africa, I would deem it a strong argument. In New Perspectives, you give distributional statistics for INTERLOCK, but I can’t figure out relative continental frequencies, since sample sizes are vastly different and some labels seem to be mutually non-exclusive. In any case, it looks like African and American Indian hunter-gatherers stand out as showing elevated frequencies for this typological character. (There also seems to be a radical cutoff between Siberia and America, which is similar to what we see in blood groups and kinship systems.) Also, frequencies are good but only if we’ve identified variation within a “type”, so we could assess the relative evolutionary states for this and that character.

    Why is Russian panpipe music reminiscent of African hunters and not of American Indian hunters?

    Quintana-Murci et al. 2008 and also Behar et al. The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity // Am J Hum Gen 2008 isolate the Khoisans into a separate clade L0 and consider them the earliest branch of humans. The rest of Africans, including the Pygmies, are on the other side of the divide (haplogroups L1, L2, L3, etc.) At least genetically, therefore, the Pygmies and the Khoisans are two vastly separate populations. Any similarities between them go back to the original undifferentiated human (or African, in my interpretation) gene pool, and don’t indicate any exclusive Pygmy-Khoisan interface. I can see the Pygmies as an early offshoot of Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan (or Congo-Saharan if we follow Blench in believing that these two language families are demonstrably related), while the Khoisan as having an entirely different history. Ideally, of course, I would like to see Khoisan being somewhat reminiscent of Australian aborigines (non-polyphonic?), while the Congo-Saharan leaning more toward Melanesia, South America, and Papua New Guinea. What are the chances that the Khoisan and the Congo-Saharan clades interacted in the past, so that originally non-polyphonic Khoisan borrowed polyphonism from the ancestors of Pygmies?

  42. I might pop in here. German wrote: “isolate the Khoisans into a separate clade L0 … rest of Africans, including the Pygmies, are on the other side of the divide (haplogroups L1, L2, L3, etc.) … therefore, the Pygmies and the Khoisans are two vastly separate populations”. That’s a simplification of the data. Behar et al stress that L0 is only part of the story. Khoisans also have other L haplogroups. They interpet this as demonstrating two separate movements from East Africa, although why they don’t consider L0 may have evolved in Southern Africa is beyond my comprehension. But, in other words the Khoisan are a hybrid population. I would argue that all of us are.

    In fact I would also argue that culture, including music and kinship systems, have been zooming around the earth for many thousands of years. Further, that just because Y-chromosome and mtDNA both have their roots in Africa, specificaly southern and eastern Africa, doesn’t mean at all that modern humans emerged from there as a single wave. The root of each is nearly 100,000 years apart for a start. I’d bet there was much interaction with other human groups, even though other genetic evidence is taken to demonstrate there was no mixing.

    I’m quite prepared to accept some movement from America back into Asia but I’m very sceptical of any idea modern humans emerged from there. I’m also comfortable with the idea humans were in America long before Clovis. However they must have been present in just small numbers because megafauna extinction largely coincides with Clovis. Throughout the world extinction of other species marks the first human arrival. Any time human arrival can be shown to pre-date extinction I would claim it proves a population of very limited size. The limitation usually being inbreeding depression, a product of a small founding population.

    By the way. I still have no information as to where Y-chromosome haplogroup C6 is found. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. Hi, Terry.

      I’m writing this nearly a year after you posted, so you may never read it. Just a reality check on the tens of thousands of years you mention for these mutation events to happen. I couldn’t let that slide. One problem with genetic studies, is that there is NO absolute time scale to work with. Mutations are individual chemical events which do NOT require hundreds or thousands of years to happen.

      I worked for a while as an organic chemist, and am familiar with some long-lasting chemical reactions — namely, the manufacture of resins. Resins require a LONG time to react (by which I mean, sometimes over a day at kettle temperature), because they grow into very large, unweildy molecules that are slow to properly present reactive sites at the appropriate orientation towards incoming reactants. Some other reactions, such as those in pharmaceutical-type syntheses, are purposely made to react slowly (a matter of a few days), in order to minimize the production of unwanted side products.

      I also spent a few years in solid-state inorganic chemistry, doing high-temperature oven reactions to produce crystals. These mimiced, after a fashion, rock-forming reactions in nature, which usually occur under conditions of great temperature and pressure. They don’t take a long time to happen in a geological sense: Once the reactants arrive at the appropriate conditions of temperature and pressure, they don’t take any longer to completely react than my laboratory experiments. Even long processes such as erosion of rocks do not take long in a geological timeframe: Try reading a marble tombstone from only 100 years ago, and you will see that this process happens rather quickly.

      Mutations of DNA base pairs happen almost instantaneously, in comparison to the above reactions. DNA molecules are repeatedly being “unzipped” and reconstructed as twins through reaction with reactant molecules in the cell. It’s not a slow, sloshy affair like the making of a paint resin: every unzipped base pair is a highly reactive site. The reactants have a shape specificity that makes the process something like a child assembling a jigsaw puzzle through trial and error. Occasionally, a “near fit” gets let slip; but the body has control mechanisms to minimize this sort of thing, such as proteins that zip along the DNA strand at lightning speed to make repairs.

      What takes a lot of “time” in making a mutation, is actually the extremely low PROBABILITY of a mis-matched base pair escaping detection long enough to survive to the next “unzipping”, at which time it can perpetuate itself by pairing with its natural mate. Other unusual ambient events could occur to cause mutations, such as the presence of free radicals. I’m not familiar enough with the subject to freely discourse on it.

      The bottom line is that these processes are not slow, drawn-out processes, but nearly instantaneous events, which happen or don’t happen because of some aberration in the system: a protein malfunctioning, or an ambient free radical; and these aberrations are much more likely to be the result of changing ambient conditions than they are of time. The bulk of human mutations could actually have occurred during a period of intense solar radiation, or because of some social habit such as wearing trousers, or because of a geologic or near-space catastrophe such as a meteor impact, which momentarily altered atmospheric radiation levels; or of eating a peculiar free-radical-rich diet. There is no smoothness or regularity in this matter, so there is no actual “clock” to date things by. This is the great pitfall of studying genetic data in isolation, divorced from corraborating evidence from other disciplines such as linguistics, genealogy and archealogy.

  43. Terry,

    C6 is the same as SRY-2627 and haplogroup 22. It’s a northern Iberian lineage.

    See Hurles et al. Recent Male-Mediated Gene Flow over a Linguistic Barrier in Iberia, Suggested by Analysis of a Y-Chromosomal DNA PolymorphismAm J Hum Genet. 1999 November; 65(5): 1437–1448.

    The reason Behar et al. postulates two migrations out of East Africa is the fact that EA (sometimes Tanzania, sometimes Ethiopia) is most diverse genetically (and incidentally linguistically). In my interpretation, East Africa is the first area occupied by the incoming migrants into Africa (otherwise, it’s seems to be a strange coinicidence that the area with greatest diversity in Africa is the same as the area from which humans suposedly exited Africa), from which they spread south and west. It’s possible that this is the area in which proto-Congo-Saharans shared some cultural features with proto-Khoisans.

    No imposition of course, but OOAm is based on new data, a critique of existing theories and reinterpretation of old data. Like any other theory, it needs even more data to illustrate it, but it’s important to understand that it’s not simply my subjective preference to think the opposite way from everybody else. Science progresses through the accumulation of new evidence. Sometimes this leads to the revision of old ideas.

  44. Thanks German. Yes the C6 I’m interested in is related to the C Y-chromosome group spread across Central Asia and into SE Asia and Australia. C is also found in Pakistan and parts of the east coast of India, probably at opposite ends of an original cline. I suspect C6 is a new one identified around SE Asia but I could be totally wrong.

    And thanks for your other comments. I’m still thinking about them!

  45. Having felt for some time that the application of historical linguistics to kinship terminology systems may lead to interesting insights, I found your post quite stimulating. However, there is one aspect of your argument, as briefly summarized in your post, that makes me raise my eyebrows. Specifically, as a linguist, I find your characterization of particular kinship terminologies as ‘archaic’ surprising.

    Linguists never speak, as far as I am aware, of archaic structural or semantic *types*. For example, linguists do not speak of archaic constituent order types, or of archaic types of agreement system types, or of archaic types of morphosyntactic alignment systems. It is of course the case that any particular *instance* of semantic or structural organization may be of great antiquity — classifier systems in the Arawak languages, for example, probably go back several thousand years — but all *types* of systems in human languages are coeval (this is of a piece with the fact that there are no ‘primitive’ languages). For example, there is nothing ‘archaic’ about classifier systems. Does what I’ve said thus far fit with your understanding?

    If this line of argument is basically correct, it seems to pose significant difficulties for the claim that any synchronically extant system of kinship terminology — which is a semantico-structural linguistic type, after all — could be characterized as ‘archaic’.

    I’m sure you have thought long and hard about this point, but since you didn’t address it in your post (As far as I could tell ;)), I’m curious what your take on this issue is.

  46. German, I’m really pleased to learn that you’ve already read through my essay — and the responses as well! I only have time for a few responses to your posts, but all of your comments are interesting and deserve consideration:

    “From what I read, I didn’t get a sense that music shows any pattern that could allow us to adjudicate between OOAf and OOAm.”

    As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think it possible on the basis of the musical evidence alone (OR the kinship or linguistic evidence either) to make a really solid case for any theory of human origins. In that sense, the genetic evidence would seem to be unique, because, as hard evidence, its meaning would appear to require far less in the way of speculative interpretation. That said, I must add that I’d be at a total loss if confronted by the need to explain the musical evidence on the basis of an OOAm scenario. Possibly because I simply haven’t given much thought to such a possibilty.

    “Is there any age-related substructure to musical styles and instruments reminiscent of the division of panpipes into male and female in Amazonia?”

    Interesting question. Unfortunately I can’t answer it for sure. But my overall impression from studying the ethnographic literature is that there probably is not. The male female symbolism of the hocket ensembles (not only panpipes, by the way) can also be found in Africa, according to at least one report, from a colleague. There are also very strong bird associations with many of the pipe and panpipe ensembles across the continents, from Africa to Europe to China and possibly also, as I recall, S. America. Clearly such a complex could not have arisen via independent invention and I’m glad you agree.

    “I am sympathetic with Stock’s separation of Pygmy music from Khoisan music, just because I think Pygmies share ancestry with Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan, while Khoisans (at least in my data are closer to North America and Australia; for instance, they share such a unique grammatical feature as “kinship verbs” with North American and Australian languages).”

    Interesting that their kinship grammars are so different and that the Khoisan are so close to N. America and Australia in that respect. I have no idea what to make of that. Pygmies and Khoisan can be distinguished in a great many ways, but 1. both are continually being referenced as having the oldest lineages in the world, despite having very different roots in the less distant past; 2. they really do vocalize in essentially the same intricate, highly integrated and distinctive manner — again there is simply no way this could be attributed to independent invention.

    “As an outsider, I would be interested in developing an integrated understanding of worldwide patterns in musical instruments, the acoustics and the musico-social structure. For instance, is the flute a predecessor of the panpipe; can we think of the panpipe as a complex flute, etc.”

    Most of my research has been with vocal music, which is IMO far easier to encode, as there are far fewer variables to deal with. But I do believe it possible to develop the following historical sequence: first free pipes; then free horns and trumpets; then bound pipes (panpipes); and finally flutes with finger holes. The first three require ensemble performance structured as interlock/hocket, which for many reasons does seem to be the earliest form of vocalizing, possibly developing from primate duetting and chorusing, and could easily have been extended to groups of simple one note instruments. Finger holes make it possible for one person to play a tune alone, which may have been a later development. But it’s hard to say for sure. The flute is found all over the place so is also a very early instrument, no question.

    “Unfortunately I don’t read music scores, so I have to take your word on the similarities between the Khoisan and the Pygmy music styles.”

    No need to take my word. A cursory run-through of my paper should make it clear that their interpretation of their own data is based on extremely shoddy scholarship, supported only by an opinion. It’s a shame because most of what they did was first rate. It’s just their off the wall conclusion that makes no sense. Interesting that this article appears in the same volume as the Blench paper, as both seem motivated by the same “revisionist” ideology.

    “Is there a way to describe musical evolution in terms of structurally opposing types (say, polyphony vs. non-polyphony, etc.) and then see their distribution and the states of intensity of expression of these types here and there?”

    As far as the opposition between (vocal) polyphony and non-polyphony, yes, that does seem to be the case. One of the clearest examples is from Europe, as I discuss on my blog (see posts 118 et seq.).

    “If you could make an argument that the intensity of expression of ancestral formal properties for all the musical clades, types, categories, etc. is the strongest worldwide among the Pygmies and the Khoisans, and then it more or less progressively declines as one moves away from Africa, I would deem it a strong argument.”

    Such an argument can’t be made because there’s been too much history in all that time in the intervening geographic areas. Many old connections have been blotted out, so its useless to look for clades linking the oldest practices. The strategy I’ve employed is to look for possible survivals in isolated refuge areas. The most widely distributed survivals in the most remote pockets of indigenous survival are most likely to tell us something about the most distant past. And over and over again I find what I’ve called the “African signature,” i.e., traces of P/B style in both vocal and instrumental music.

    “In New Perspectives, you give distributional statistics for INTERLOCK, but I can’t figure out relative continental frequencies, since sample sizes are vastly different and some labels seem to be mutually non-exclusive.”

    I’m glad you read that, good. The Cantometric samples are not ideal in many areas and I would definitely want to extend them in the future if I can. But the overall picture is consistent with other sources of information, such as field reports and general regional surveys. Interlock and yodel both tend to be extremely rare, except among certain very isolated groups of indigenous peoples. However, both features are plentiful among Pygmies and Bushmen and interlocked vocalizing especially is not uncommon among many other African groups as well. In addition, the “hocket principle” has been singled out as especially characteristic of many types of instrumental music in Africa, not by me but by an outstanding Africanist, Nketia.

    “In any case, it looks like African and American Indian hunter-gatherers stand out as showing elevated frequencies for this typological character.”

    The Hupa of California tend to vocalize in a kind of roughly hocketed manner, resembling Ainu hocket, actually. And interlock has been coded for certain S. American groups such as the Jivaro (Shuar) and Campa, etc. But this is a somewhat different type of interlock, what I’ve called “canonic/echoic” and is far less complex than Pygmy or Bushmen polyphony. There are many nuances that the codings can’t do justice to.

    “(There also seems to be a radical cutoff between Siberia and America, which is similar to what we see in blood groups and kinship systems.)”

    Excellent point and that’s true. There is something wrong with any theory of a smooth transition between Siberia and America because that simply isn’t borne out the by the musical evidence. However, there IS a link between Siberia and the Inuit, as both vocalize in a variant of P/B called “throat singing.” This is probably what you noticed in the tables I presented. Again there are nuances that the statistics can’t convey.

    “Also, frequencies are good but only if we’ve identified variation within a “type”, so we could assess the relative evolutionary states for this and that character.”

    Sorry, I don’t follow you here.

    “Why is Russian panpipe music reminiscent of African hunters and not of American Indian hunters?”

    Because the Russian pipers sound almost identical to certain types of African pipers, while the Amerindians don’t. The similarities are actually amazing.

    All I have time for now. Got to watch “Bones.” :-)

    1. Victor,

      I just got your website at,

      by googling “interlock and yodel”. I also had my wife play a “hocket” piece, so I knew what on earth you were talking about. You are in such an esoteric field; I imagine you’re in near ecstasy when you find someone like German, who can intelligently read what you have to offer. I’m rather awestruck, considering the amount of work that must have been involved at collecting data from all over Africa.

      Good research is such a slow and tedious process. I am reminded of chemists who dedicated much of their academic careers to the pursuit of understanding one protein, only to see the whole field explode into frenzied activity with the arrival of new investigative techniques. Even so, the academics of today seem unable to assemble this plethora of data into meaningful models. What we’ve come up with is something of a Monet painting: It can only be appreciated from a distance, yet the academic community rewards those most adept at analyzing the colors in the individual squiggles of paint.

      You two pictures of groups of Africans and Alpine Europeans, both performing with identical instruments in their respective native surroundings, speaks volumes about cultural dispersal — or incredible coincidence. It’s not my field, so I can’t say which it is.

  47. I shouldn’t do this sort of thing when I’m tired:

    “Many old connections have been blotted out, so its useless to look for clades linking the oldest practices.”

    I meant “clines,” NOT clades. Sorry.

    Also I didn’t properly answer your comment about Pygmy/Bushmen similarities, because I’m too focused on the bogus claims of the women who wrote that article on how they are “radically different.” You don’t have to trust me on that matter because, aside from these two ladies, whose claims are clearly off the mark, everyone else who’s taken a hard look at the two traditions has also been impressed by the many striking similarities. See the references in my “New Perspectives” article. There are musical clips linked to my blog that you can check out so you can hear for yourself.

    Ok, commercial over, back to the boob tube.

  48. OK, I can’t sleep anyhow, so I’m back. And more tired than ever, so be prepared for some more slips.

    “At least genetically, therefore, the Pygmies and the Khoisans are two vastly separate populations. Any similarities between them go back to the original undifferentiated human (or African, in my interpretation) gene pool, and don’t indicate any exclusive Pygmy-Khoisan interface.”

    Exactly. I never claimed that one influenced the other. But in study after study both are mentioned as representing the oldest lineages in Africa. NO other groups appear to have lineages (or if you prefer, pedigrees) going back as far. In Chen et al (2000) the divergence estimate for the Aka Pygmies is somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 years, with the Bushmen diverging somewhat later, but still prior to any other group. Other researchers have come up with different figures, but all date back to the Upper Paleolithic. As there is no evidence nor any reason to believe that the two populations had any significant contact since the initial divergences, the remarkable affinities between the two styles strongly suggests that the original band from which both diverged was also vocalizing (and possibly also piping) in the same manner. Not more or less the same manner, because if that were the case there would now be more difference between the two styes than we hear in the recordings. While there are some differences, they are all relatively minor, which tells me that the original tradition must have been awfully close to what we can hear today. This is a stunning claim, admittedly, but awfully difficult to challenge.

    “What are the chances that the Khoisan and the Congo-Saharan clades interacted in the past, so that originally non-polyphonic Khoisan borrowed polyphonism from the ancestors of Pygmies?”

    Very little, as I see it. But anything is possible. The reason I say this is 1. there is no evidence of any interaction, certainly not any genetic evidence; 2. we’re talking about a very intricate style of both contrapuntal interaction and voice quality (yodel). This is not the sort of thing one can just pick up, like a tune or a new instrument. Moreover, we find strong signs of the survival of closely similar styles among two basic types of population: 1. groups that have historically interacted closely with Pygmies and Bushmen; 2. groups located in remote “refuge” areas, notably the mountains of southwest Ethiopia and the Mandara Mts. of Cameroon. When we find survivals of very similar traditions in remote areas, difficult of access, such as mountains, forests and deserts, spread out over vast areas, that’s a telltale sign that at one time the tradition must have been widespread throughout the entire area. This in turn tells us we are dealing with something very old indeed. As I see it, all these traditions must represent variants of the same original tradition exemplified by the Pygmies and Bushmen, but most likely with a later divergence time (since they differ from one another more than the Ps and Bs differ).

    Terry: “In fact I would also argue that culture, including music and kinship systems, have been zooming around the earth for many thousands of years.”

    That’s not consistent with the evidence. If that were the case, i.e., if we want to consider the reticulated model currently being offered by the multiregionalists, then the musical styles of the world would be expected to be far more intermixed than they are today. But on the contrary, aside from some very interesting and probably archaic survivals in remote regions, there are very strong and consistent patterns with large and clear geographic boundaries.

  49. To Lev: Thanks for joining the discussion. The term “archaic” may sound a bit antiquated to a linguist’s ear, but I use it in the most general sense of “old” or “ancestral” or “proto-.” The study of kinship systems in anthropology treats aspects of language that are similar to traditional grammatical elements (and presently covered by the studies of linguistic typology) using the methodology of historical linguistics. From the mid-19th century onward, anthropologists noticed that kinship terminologies fall into types that can be connected into evolutionary sequences. The historical typology of kinship terminologies has gone through several revisions (one of them involved the departure from the perception of simple kinship systems such as that of the Pygmies as archaic), but the underlying empirical observation remains the same: kinship terminologies if properly sampled and analyzed display steady tendencies for unilinear change. The existing historical typology, with my revisions made on the basis of a large worldwide database, can be applied to the first-order language families to determine the structural parameters of the respective proto-kinship terminologies.

    “Archaic” doesn’t mean “primitive.” Archaic kinship systems are simply built on a different set of principles from the more recent ones. The differences between older and newer kinship systems can be assessed in terms of complex vs. simple, but it’s always a matter of differential and relative complexity and simplicity.

    There’s a distaste in synchronic linguistics for arranging structural types into evolutionary sequences; but then, historical linguistics has a certain aversion for typological inferences (recall glottalic theory’s reliance on typology to offer an alternative to the traditional Proto-Indo-European phonological reconstruction). I think we’ve learned from the errors of evolutionism and functionalism to be able to extract the best from both approaches. Interestingly enough, Johanna Nichols used Klimov’s historical typology of syntactic types (active, ergative, etc.) in order to devise her “population linguistic” approach and develop an understanding of the significant patterns of distribution of a set of grammatical elements around the globe. Alternatively Ed Vajda deomnstrated a kinship between Na-Dene and Ket relying on their system of verbal prefixes (a typological feature) and only secondarily on sound correspondences (the traditional way of establishing genetic relationships between languages).

  50. Victor,

    Thanks for all your explanations and comments. Frankly, you caught me offguard with comparative music because I didn’t know it was used in research on human prehistory. Hence, I’ve never tried to keep abreast of the data and the evidence, hence now it’s hard for me to keep up with your analysis. Something I’ll have to do in the nearest future to be able to incorporate music into the OOAm theory.

    The fact that scholars like you, who have a firm grasp of rich data, have never looked at American Indians as possible contributors to the Old World gene pool, is another illustration of the inadequacy of our research methodologies. Apriori ideas of the age of a major continental population are so deeply-entrenched than any hypothesis testing is impossible simple because people have never looked at their data with an eye on possibilities. When people are adamant about OOAm, I can never tell whether this is because they truly see problems with this scenario, or simply because they’ve never thought about it, hence excluded this possibility before looking at the actual data.

    I completely agree with you that cultural traits show a clear trend toward geographic structure plus some surprising transcontinetal connections that attest to ancient survivals. In my practice, however, I’ve never encountered a piece of data from kinship, language or mythology/ritual/beliefs that single out Africa as attesting in some pure form to an archaic pattern. There’re African-specific developments (such as clicks) but if something is shared between Africa and elsewhere Africa usually shows reduced frequencies, mitigated expressions and blunted trends. For instance, Russian fairy-tales often contain motifs that show striking resemblance to South American myths (say, a witch gnawing on the trunk of a tree, with the hero hiding in the branches). South American myths display traits that provide a missing background to the Russian peasant narratives or contain features that were probably effaced by Christianity (e.g., the hero’s enemy gnaws on the tree with her vagina, which represents a widely spread Vagina Dentata forlkloric theme). That’s why I asked you why Russian panpipes harken back to Africa and not America because I’m more used to opposite observations. And these observations don’t mean much by themselves unless they achieve systematicity approximating at least partially the systematicity of population genetic data.

    From reading your piece in The World of Music I made an impression that Are Are and Jivaro have both canonic/echoic and polyphony. Am I mistaken?

    Regarding Siberia and America, I think the cutoff in the continuity of traits that we both observed comes from the fact that nothing major happened across the Bering Strait at the end of the Ice Age. Maybe a migration here and there, but no major population expansion between the two continents.

    From my interactions with Luis and you I also gleaned an observation that you tend to take genetic data in isolation from the population process and demography underlying human intraspecific evolution. All the features of African genetic landscape (such as long branches and allele diversity) have explanations that don’t have to invoke unique events in human history and population age. Long branches always appear in a population genetic make up if this population has gone through long-term genetic drift. Diversity is a function of effective population size and gene flow governed by isolation by distance. That’s why I found Blench’s critique of more traditional perceptions of the Pygmies so illuminating. It just placed the Pygmy situation into an African context rather than attaching to it a cosmic significance.

    For a recent critique of OOAf, see Templeton, AR. Genetics and recent human evolution. Evolution 2007 61:1507-1519.

  51. LUIS AND DZIEBEL. ooa theory is missnamed it should be called the out of africa “recently” theory Wolpoff and probably heidenreich also favor an out of africa theory only differing in that our ancestors were homo erectus who left africa quite some time ago with heidenreichs theory proposing that some modern traits were so beneficial that they travelled extensively differentially penetrating various populations leaving some populations as pure archaic erectus with and others not. Essentially the argument is whether Homo Sapiens is a valid taxon or whether we are all just erectus. Arguments about clads and sublads favoring an african origin do not really touch this point because of the argument about time depth. certainly, if what we are measuring stretches back to homo erectus there would have been time for gene flow back and forth from america which we would be hard put to identify now.
    The comments about mito chondrial diversity on western vancouver island are really very interesting Dzeibel , I do not really think Luis points really argue against a population shift from america to Siberia carrying”modern” traits.. According to heidenreich useful traits could have originated anywhere and been passed around rapidly.the largest blow against the out of africa recently theory is the many recent modern morphologies coming to light which contain much of the old erectus[dmanisi floresiensis kow swamp coobol bindaubo and several american skulls]
    By the way whichever way they traveled beringia has go to be a red herring for the na dene kut etc. The Yenissey river where all these groups reside sweeps out into the northern most part of eastern siberia towards the zemlyas spitzbergen[svalyard] and northern greenland. The northpole formerly resident in greenland is predicted to be in one of th zemlyas by 2050. north greenland has had several colonizations stretching back to 5000bc. The tool assemblages show nothing of innuit but resemble typical european assemblages of the time. If we postulate a polar entry for the na dene it does not argue with greenbergs west to east movement for na dene as long as after entry in greenland we suppose that the immigrants followed the backside of th artic coast towards alaska rather than towards gander newfoundland. Incidentally novaya zemlya means new lands and we allready know of mammoth hunters in the islands north of russia. Pretty much anything old in Svalyard would be a smoking gun although sea level rise will have made the looking kind of dicey.

  52. The clades as measured by Luis reflect large population shifts the problem is that superior genes may not spread in this way.Consider one man with one superior gene[perhaps for ex ray vision] arrives upon a new coast. with each generation of admixture most of his genome is washed away into statistical irrelevancy except the small snippet of dna which produces the benefit. By Luis method a population which had been modernized ‘perhaps by a gene from America” would be indistinguishable in origins from another nearbye whch had not been because of the vast prepoderance of uchanged genetic and mitochondrial material. With Heidenreich small backwashes of population are not immaterial they are the whole point.

  53. luis where you write “no significative” intermixture for neanderthals and homo sapiens reflect that all neanderthal skulls show considerable morpholigical similarity to other european skulls the later skulls the more so. I grant you the red hair and the rest. No big population admixtures here, but significative ones ? I think that is an entirely different question.Any admixture which carries an advantageous adaption into a population is a significant one., and a gene for a particular phenotype could become quite prevalent if useful enough.The skulls look so much the same . I think we cannot measure genetic interrelations with a bushel basket method. Tiny bits of dna acquired in a one off fashion and heavily diluted could still have had a huge part in the changes we see in Neanderthal evolution. This contradicts paabo not in the least.

  54. Luis,, by the way I also think DZeibelgs particular theory is quite possibly all wet but not for the reasons you do.

  55. German, there is a long history of attempts to use the musical evidence to sort out early migrations and origins. But it never went well so was eventually dropped. Lomax tried again, using a fresh approach that was imo much more diagnostic, Cantometrics, but for various reasons that fizzled too. Now ethnomusicologists do things like study Blue Grass bands in the Czech Republic and Sri Lankans who are into Hula dancing. (I kid you not.) The whole field has turned away from comparative studies, so with just a few notable exceptions I’ve got the field more or less to myself. Cornered the market, so to speak. :-)

    My ace in the hole is the new genetics. It’s not that I have anything against any other theory per se, it’s just that whenever I read the latest paper on haplotypes and SNPS and linkage disequilibrium, etc. I find myself learning something that makes sense to me, both in itself and in terms of the musical evidence.

    Which is not to say your book doesn’t interest me. It does. Very much so, because I have the impression that you are working with the kinship data in a fresh way, by using a rich database to search for meaningful large scale patterns, which is basically what Lomax and I were doing with Cantometrics years ago and what I am again doing with Cantometrics (and other methods) today (on my own, sadly, since Lomax is no longer with us). I want to learn more about the patterns you’re finding and will definitely try to locate your book . I don’t think it matters if there are or are not one-to-one correspondences, because as I see it, each aspect of culture may well “evolve” according to rules (or maybe better, contingencies) of its own.

    I’m especially enthusiastic about the musical aspect because: 1. in very traditional non-specialized societies, music has a way of persisting even after everything else changes. Not the music itself, or even the instruments, but the style in which it is performed, which is what Cantometrics zeroes in on. Also certain basic structural aspects. 2. the musical data is extremely plentiful. Right now by cruising the internet you can find snippets here and there from very valuable recordings that could be used to test anyones theory, including my own. Assuming you know what to listen for, natch. There are literally thousands and thousands of recordings out there from just about every corner of the world. The sort of gold mine that archaeologists would die for. I’m sure you really have to dig for your kinship data, but the musical sources are ridiculously easy to find. And there is also a huge accumulation of field reports and transcriptions that can be sifted through, many of which are freely available on the ‘net. So not only do we have a lot to work with, it’s also a lot easier for our research to be replicated by others (assuming they are motivated to do all that work, which right now they aren’t).

    3. the musical evidence in the form of recordings is much easier to assess than just about any other evidence, because all you need is a recording, an audio playback system, some experience with listening to non-western music and an open mind. Compare that with the linguistic evidence, for example, which can only be assessed by a very small group of specialists in each language or language family. Which makes comparative research especially difficult and problematic. While it’s definitely a good idea to have some musical training, especially to be able to read music and follow a score, that’s nothing compared to the sort of preparation needed in other fields. So, the musical picture is in principle something that can relatively easily be communicated to others, its not just for the experts. Of course it’s a big help if you know what to listen for, but that too can be taught without a lot of fuss.

    When you write things like “Apriori ideas of the age of a major continental population are so deeply-entrenched . . . ” etc., you have to be very careful because that’s the way UFO fanatics and advocates of intelligent design tend to sound. There are very good reasons for doubting OOAm, as I’m sure you are aware. The burden of proof is on YOU, just as the burden of proof for intelligent design is on the people who refuse to look at the fossil evidence. In a sense you too are refusing to look at the fossil evidence, or the absence of same in America.Which is OK. When I read your book I’ll try to read the “proofs” you offer with an open mind.

    “In my practice, however, I’ve never encountered a piece of data from kinship, language or mythology/ritual/beliefs that single out Africa as attesting in some pure form to an archaic pattern. There’re African-specific developments (such as clicks) but if something is shared between Africa and elsewhere Africa usually shows reduced frequencies, mitigated expressions and blunted trends.”

    Take a look at shamanism. And trance. There again, pygmies and bushmen go into trance and also dream. Their music often comes from trance and dreams. These are then transmitted cross-gender, from husband to wife or from sister to brother. It’s been said that in some Bushmen groups just about every male is a shaman, aka healer. This is part of a rich complex of ritual, dance, music, costume, possession, body marking, etc. It used to be claimed tha t shamanism began among the Paleo-Siberians, and maybe a certain type did. But only among the Bushmen do we find it in so common and rich a form.

    What makes the musical picture especially strong for OOAf is the fact that Africa is musical as is no other continent in the world. In many groups, everyone participates and musical and dance activities are a common everyday part of life day in day out. Musical practices that in Africa are part of the normal routine are found only in ritual settings in other parts of the world. That’s especially true for the “African signature” I’ve found among so many indigenous groups in so many different places. They often organize their music in a manner very similar to Pygmy/Bushmen style but usually that’s reserved for special ceremonies only.

    But as I’ve said before, there is no way to tell from any of these practices in themselves, including the music and also the kinship, where they originally came from. Because a very “old” tradition can survive either in place or on the march, in its original habitat or thousands of miles away. Which is why we need the geneticists.

    “From reading your piece in The World of Music I made an impression that Are Are and Jivaro have both canonic/echoic and polyphony. Am I mistaken?”

    The Are Are are very special because they have preserved a variety of different but closely related P/B variants. One such variant is true hocket, very close to P/B. Another variant is what I call “canonic/echoic” style, derived from another aspect of P/B — singing the same melody with temporal displacement. But only out of Africa is this displacement performed with loosely synchronized parts. It’s this type of thing that we find in both the Are Are (and also many other parts of SE Asia, Melanesia, etc.) and parts of S. and C. America, including the Jivaro, yes. It is also very distinctive. The Are Are also have panpipes, as do many S. and C. Amer. groups, but not the Jivaro I don’t think.

    As for Blench, his idea hasn’t gotten much support from Africanists, I don’t think. I have a feeling he succumbed to the “revisionist” ideology which many anthropologists feel obliged to support because it sounds good to them at present. As far as the music is concerned he should know better because he is an excellent ethnomusicologist with a good knowledge of African music. He knows very well that both the Eastern and Western Pygmies sing in essentially the same very distinctive way and that this has to mean something. He refers to the erroneous paper (in the same volume) by Furniss and Olivier to bolster his theory, but again he should know better because he’s heard that music and knows it’s thoroughly polyphonic. I have a feeling he never read their work, only the conclusion, because it suited him. If he had read it he’d have realized there was nothing in it, no analysis, no arguments, no references to the work of other researchers, nothing but an opinion.

    As for Templeton, I’m sorry I’ve read a lot by him and Wolpoff and some others and it all sounds to me like special pleading. The tipoff is that literally all the research being done on pop. genetics is oriented toward the OOAf model and consistently reinforces it, along a great many different lines of evidence. I’ve never seen a single research paper based on the multiregional model, aside from the efforts of Templeton, et al to “debunk” OOAf. The Multiregional theory is going nowhere while OOAf is proving extraordinarily fruitful.

  56. now victor we cant quite say no evidence before 14000 years can we? Louis b. Leakey is worth a little more respect than that The foremost expert of his time on stone tools{remember that the skeletal finds came after his stone tool classifications] believed he had found stone tools in California.they arent in situ and they are under an overburden of very old gravel but a few of them look utterly convincing.

  57. Victor,

    Once again, I’ll have to succumb to your musical arguments, as the data is very new to me, and I’m simply glad another semiotic level is engaged in the study of human origins. I’m still trying to put my finger on the differences between you and me: we both work with cultural evidence on a global scale, but arrive at opposite conclusions. How come? Below I’ll offer a few humble observations:

    You seem to me a bit too polarized: Blue Grass in the Czech Republic vs. comparative musicology, intelligent design vs. the fossil evidence; OOAf vs. MRE. It’s always either/or. Although always caught in a crossfire, I see grains of truth in both ways of looking at things. Someone called it “an opposable mind.” Another project I was running at Stanford was about Europeans who reenact traditional American Indian lifestyles in Europe, so I’m sympathetic to “revisionism” and “traditionalism” at the same time; it’s just a matter of application. It’s true that revisionists oftentimes revise for the sake of revisionism as an ideological stance, rather than for the sake of truth. I didn’t feel this about Blench’s paper: just because he brought about two pieces of evidence that Cavalli-Sforza didn’t: 1) the absence of Pygmy skeletons in the archaeological record remotely comparable to the dates assigned to these population by geneticists; 2) the absence of any substratum words related to hunting and gathering in their languages. And Blench is a stalwart supporter of OOAf, he just thinks the Pygmies have been overstated, while other African relics understudied.

    Intelligent design vs. the fossil evidence. In my opinion, it’s always both: you have to start with intelligently designing a framework of interpretation on the basis of living populations; then you look at how the fossils fit in there. Archaeology is great, paleontology is great but only as illustrative science, not as a prescriptive science. I don’t care about creationism, but the reason why creationism and science fight is because science hasn’t separated itself from religion but left certain sacred zones which are sacred because there’s a lot of human interest invested in it. A Durkheimian irony: by trying to scientifically deconstruct religion, we often model science on religion. And if you ever tried to tread a forbidden terrain in academia (and I know you did), you must’ve confronted an almost-religious resistance.
    Science and religion are not absolute categories for me, but rather Jakobsonian “shifters” that are relative in nature: too much trust in fossils takes you away from the scientific procedure into a quasi-religious fundamentalism.

    OOAf vs. MRE. Again, I see them as non-exclusive paradigms. One dwells on the other. The fact that OOAf uses African genetic diversity as the main argument for African antiquity is a MRE-style argument. MRE would like to see the same situation as we see in Africa, but also in Europe and in Asia. Namely lots of European- and Asian-specific lineages. But the only region that satisfies the MRE predictions is Africa. How ironic! From my perspective, if Asia, Europe and Africa showed diverse strictly-local lineages, while America didn’t, this would have been a proof of the peopling of the America, but since only Africa has them, they can be explained through gene flow and isolation by distance. OOAm combines both lines of thought by saying: although modern human diversity is the result of a rapid replacement of pre-existing hominid populations, major population growth has occurred outside of the “homeland,” hence all continents have accumulated regional diversity, with Africa being the most successful.

    Templeton appeals to me because he clearly sees the tendency in all OOAf publications to make data “compatible” with OOAf instead of testing it against a “null hypothesis” or an “alternative hypothesis.” MRE is not a valid alternative for OOAf because, as I said, OOAf depends on MRE for some of its predictions. During my years at Stanford I observed OOAf in the making, and have no illusions about it. It doesn’t mean that I “know” that humans didn’t descend from an ancestral African population; the only thing that I’m saying is that the scientific procedure has failed in the case of the current rendition of OOAf. We need to re-evaluate our data, go interdisciplinary, look at “controlled alternatives” and try to achieve a level of analysis in which genetics, linguistics, kinship and culture mutually reinforce each other. And you can’t rely on the new genetics as an “ace in the hole”: look at the Basques, genetically they are Indo-Europeans, and only thanks to their language that we know that their history was different from the Indo-European-speakers. The Kets and the Ket language is another example. Interstingly enough, the mythologist Yuri Berezkin considers archaeology as an “ace in the hole” and distrusts genetics. This tells me that people working with cultural data tend to idealize a supposedly “hard” science toward which they can gear their admittedly fuzzy results. And here I feel that I’m different: I think kinship studies are mature enough to furnish their own perspective on prehistory and poke holes into both genetics and archaeology.

  58. I also dont buy amerindian largely because of Cyrus gordons views{the guy who worked on ugaritic and other semitic tongues]I think he was talking about nahuatl when he claimed that if found in Africa the pronominal system would have labled it as semitic There are also many other similarities. Does Greenbergs system search for similarities and block out contradictory information as non useful noise?His original work in Africa was mapping the Bantu expansion not looking for inclusions within it.

  59. If you can in a nutshell? why postulate the rise of “modern humans” in america rather than just thinking of various human strains arising there and moving on to other parts of the world. Without the constraint of ooa we have a very large time period to deal with. The phrase modern is becoming more and more slippery at the moment anyway as variant modern strains with what were previously considered homo erectus charactaristics keep popping and we keep having to hack away at the supposedly special features of homo sapiens

  60. Victor, there’s an interesting parallel between the Kung! kinship system and that of the Eskimos/Inuits and Paleoasiatic peoples. They assign kinship terms on the basis of personal names that circulate from generation to generation. This creates cyclicity in their kinship terminology so well described by Lorna Marshall and Alan Barnard. The Inuits have a very very similar practice. Otherwise, this practice is extremely rare, wth some echoes in Australasia and South America. Regarding shamanism, North American shamanism is different from Siberian in a couple of respects, one being the absence of a multi-level universe and of the shamanic flight. (The Tukano in South America have something similar to a shamanic flight, though.) Alternatively North American Indians have vision quest and other pesonalized forms of shamanism, if this label can be stretched that far. Overall, similarly to kinship, genetics and language, American Indians show a great diversity of “shamanhood” that varies from tribe to tribe. Since North American music is very uniform and since you described musical strcutures as transparent to an outsider (“the musical picture is in principle something that can relatively easily be communicated to others, its not just for the experts”), I ponder whether musical forms are easily borrowed from culture to culture (with Blue Grass in the Czech Republic being a contemporary, media-facilitated case of diffusion).

  61. Mike, you are absolutely right, there is no reason to stop at 14,000 ya for the Americas. I’m of the opinion that the first “Americans” may well have entered this continent as a continuation of the original OOAf migration, continuing north along the east coast of Asia, east along the south coast of Beringia and then down the west coast of the Americas, arriving in S. America possibly as early as 30 thousand ya.

    You may be right about me, German, but I don’t see myself as all that polarized. In fact the only aspect of all this that I’m adamant about is the Pygmy-Bushmen connection. That for me is absolutely solid. Everything else is based mainly on what I see as a very clear and logical fit between the genetic findings and the musical evidence. If the genetic findings are ultimately falsified then I’ll be happy to consider alternative explanations for why the musical patterns look the way they do.

    It may interest you to learn that the musical evidence does not, as I see it, definitively favor OOAf vs. the original muiltiregional paradigm, the old one where each region evolved independently and converged on homo sapiens status. Originally, in fact, Lomax and I were seriously considering a dual origin theory for music, in both Africa and Paleosiberia, which would fit this old multiregional idea quite well. It explains some of the musical differences found between different parts of the world quite nicely (though not all the equally significant similarities).

    The problem is that this version of multiregionalism had so many problems that no one is anymore pushing it. And the new improved version being promoted by Wolpoff et al, with multiple genetic and cultural reticulations all over the globe for millions of years, does not fit the musical — or cultural — evidence. Because such a process could not have produced all the many clearly defined patterns we now see, clearly differentiating so many different regions.

    As for Bluegrass in the Czech Republic, all I can say is that this may just be a personal preference on my part. Some people enjoy playing Trivial Pursuit, I prefer Chess.

    Re science vs. religion. I’m not religious (IMO religion is the oldest of all scams). But I do not believe that all things spiritual, including the “mind,” and possibly life itself, can be reduced to physical causes. I guess I could be called a “Derridaean” in this respect. Or a “Bohrian” as well. Both posited a world that is fundamentally undecidable, and in a strictly logical sense, impossible. So for me the key term in all this is “complementarity.”

    “The fact that OOAf uses African genetic diversity as the main argument for African antiquity is a MRE-style argument.”

    Wolpoff, Templeton and Co. want you to believe that this is the principal argument. It isn’t. It’s only one of a great many types of evidence pointing to a single OOAf migration during the middle or upper Paleolithic. OOAf also provides an extraordinarily elegant explanation for what happened in history. It is not perfect, however, and there are certain gaps that need to be explained. What impressed me when I first read about it was that some of the same gaps existed in the musical evidence. The original version of MRE offered a reasonable sounding explanation of certain basic differences. But it couldn’t explain certain basic similarities — e.g. language, music, ritual, etc. OOAf provides an elegant explanation of the similarities but has serious problems with certain differences. If your theory can provide elegant answers to both, then I’m definitely interested in what you have to say.

    My own feeling is that there are no completely elegant answers, that at some point no matter what there will always be some gap that can only be explained ugly. My own preferred ugly explanation for the differences is based on the notion of the population bottleneck. It’s ugly because explaining all the many differences on that basis just seems too easy, as though you were explaining them away. But we may have no better choice, since so much in evolution is based on contingencies, things that just happened to happen — i.e., “just so” stories. Sounds awful, but hey, life can be like that.

    “Victor, there’s an interesting parallel between the Kung! kinship system and that of the Eskimos/Inuits and Paleoasiatic peoples. They assign kinship terms on the basis of personal names that circulate from generation to generation.”

    Well, the !Kung also tend to systematically drift upward in pitch when singing certain repertoires. The Pygmies don’t seem to as much (though that hasn’t been verified I don’t think). So if we found some people somewhere who also tended to drift upward in a similar way, what would that mean? Possibly very little. I think you have to assess every similarity in terms of the big picture, and if you don’t see a big picture then it’s going to be difficult to draw meaningful conclusions about any similarities. I’m not saying you can’t see the big kinship picture, all I’m saying is that it’s very hard for me to assess the similarities you’re pointing to without having a more comprehensive sense of that overall picture. I’m looking forward to reading your book and learning more about that.

    “I ponder whether musical forms are easily borrowed from culture to culture (with Blue Grass in the Czech Republic being a contemporary, media-facilitated case of diffusion).”

    Unfortunately most ethnomusicologists are basing their notions of musical change on the ease with which various musical practices can be diffused in the world of today. There is no good reason for such an assumption. First, we can’t base our understanding of Paleolithic culture on the global situation of today, where many “influences” can easily be explained as forms of cultural colonialism. Second, because there is a difference between societies dedicated to the preservation of culture and the current situation where cultural boundaries are continually being breached. When any group conquers another, they are going to want to control the culture of the conquered group. We are no exception, even when the conquest is political and economic rather than military.

    Also, I think we have to make a dividing line between cultures that lack significant specialization and cultures that have it. When you get specialists those specialists can serve as conduits from one society to the next — in a way they can form a society of their own that cuts across the usual social boundaries. To me, such individuals can function as agents of cultural influence. Most “traditional” societies have on the other hand not encouraged specialization and preferred to hold to the “old ways.”

  62. Victor:

    “The original version of MRE offered a reasonable sounding explanation of certain basic differences. But it couldn’t explain certain basic similarities — e.g. language, music, ritual, etc. OOAf provides an elegant explanation of the similarities but has serious problems with certain differences. If your theory can provide elegant answers to both, then I’m definitely interested in what you have to say.”

    This is exactly what OOAm offers: a theory that accounts for regional differences (there was more “population activity” in the colonized areas than in the homeland) and for the general pan-human core that survived as relics around the globe but most prominently in the homeland since the homeland was isolated from the colonized areas during thousands of years. When OOAf postulates that genetic variation outside of Africa forms “subsets” of the African variation, it ignores the specificity of the regional clades and predicts that everything around the globe (including language and culture) are just versions of the African traits, which is plainly wrong. In fact, if we look at kinship systems, even America, the most recently peopled continent, at least according to the traditional model, displays a highly salient specificity. Part of this specificity seems to provide a good background to some of the residual traits in the Old World. I could potentially dismiss American specificity (high incidence of alternate generation merging, relative age and relative sex factors, etc.) as a local development, but this would result in getting rid of some of the most enigmatic traits recorded in the Old World, which show high systematicity and logic.

    When I wrote that “the fact that OOAf uses African genetic diversity as the main argument for African antiquity is a MRE-style argument” I meant that African allele diversity has been repeatedly invoked as a sign of the age of the African population. OOAm clearly separates itself from this MRE logic by saying that the human genome “evolved” from a set of small demes in the direction of creating several regional clades, with effective population size, lineage retention and gene flow determining where diversity ended up the greatest. Originally humans went through a huge bottleneck that erased all the early hominid signs; since then humans have been recovering from it and developing new variation, especially so in the colonized areas where selection pressured genetic diversification in response to demic expansion.

    Also note that all diversity levels we’ve been treated to by geneticists are from 1492; right now, or possibly in the immediate future America, and not Africa, is arguably the most genetically diverse continent. When the first mtDNA studies were conducted, they used American blacks as an example of an African population, thus falsifying their own theory in its infancy. The current levels of genetic diversity in the world are the result of massive recent gene flow and not age. (You may retort that these processes have been enhanced by our sophisticated culture, and hence cannot be used as a predictor of what happened in the past. To this I would say that in the past gene flow didn’t transform the world in a matter of 500 years, it took thousands of years but still it was essentially the same.)

    I would like to learn a bit more about your and Lomax’s thoughts on Paleosiberian music that makes it a possible alternative to P/B music. Did you publish them in some form? The similarities between the Kung! and the Eskimo kinship systems are very striking, although, I have to admit, their place in a “big picture” is still unclear. I was also always intrigued by the fact that Y chromosome shows that the Paleosiberians are the only populations outside of the Americas that carry DYS199 T, the first continent-specific marker identified in Underhill et al. 1996. Underhill et al. thought it was derived from DYS199C by a single transition, bit then DYS199C was found in association with DYS287 YAP+ that is found in the Ainu and the Tibetans and accounts for more than 50% of African Y-DNA.

  63. Just while at it, how can we explain the Hofmeyr skull from South Africa dated at 36,000 YBP and displaying features resembling European Upper Paleolithic (~ 40,000 YBP) and not modern Africans, including San, from the point of view of OOAf? My favorite quote comes from NYT (01.12.2007):

    “Dr. Grine and his colleagues said in an announcement by Stony Brook that the skull was the first fossil evidence ‘in agreement with the out-of-Africa theory, which predicts that humans like those that inhabited Eurasia should be found in sub-Saharan Africa around 36,000 years ago’.”

    From this quote one can read that OOAf is a theory that correctly predicts its own refutation? (We need to find San or Pygmy skulls in European Upper Paleolithic to make a case for OOAf, not the other way around.) The earliest know Sub-Saharan skull has nothing to do with the Khoisan who are supposedly the most ancient African and human population?

  64. This argument is extremely interesting. I have huge difficulty accepting we’ve all evolved from a relatively recent migration from any particulaer region, Africa or America. German offers a solution with, “in the past gene flow didn’t transform the world in a matter of 500 years, it took thousands of years but still it was essentially the same”. Exactly. I guess I’d have to agree that genes, technology and culture haven’t exactly been ‘zooming’ around the world since Homo erectus emerged.

    And Victor had this to say, “The original version of MRE offered a reasonable sounding explanation of certain basic differences. But it couldn’t explain certain basic similarities …. OOAf provides an elegant explanation of the similarities but has serious problems with certain differences”. And not just for musical problems.

    The real explanation probably lies somewhere between OOAf and MRE. People obviously came out of Africa, not necessarily in a single migration, and mixed to varying degrees with indigenous people as they moved. This idea does explain most of the differences and similarities.

  65. Good comeback, Terry. A migration plus mixing is of course a possible scenario, and a very literal attempt to explain the interplay of commonalities and differences in the global distribution of cultural and genetic traits. However how would you go about illustrating it on the basis of kinship systems, music, language, myths, etc.? It may not be a very parsimonious idea when it comes to culture traits, and it will require some theory of the evolution of language and cognition among those “indigenous people” independently of each other. What evidence would you use to build such a theory? Victor and I seem to concur on the necessity to explain similarities and differences in terms of a single process (OOAf or OOAm), which is commanded by logic and data availability. Your scenario is possible and “easy to say,” but seems to be a difficult thing to demonstrate in a long run.

    The fact that the levels of diversity shifted radically around the globe in the past 500 years proves that genetic diversity doesn’t need to be explained as the factor of a population’s age. OOAm makes full use of the well-recorded process of recent diversity shift, while OOAf suppresses it. Ironically, if the last 500 years are taked into accunt, OOAm literally fullfills the key prediction of the OOAf theory in population genetics, which states that highest diversity equals great in-situ age of a population. But in reality it falsifies it and points away from it toward a different prediction, namely that high diversity levels are the result of long-term population aggregation. Then it fullfills the prediction of the OOAm theory that says that an ancestral population is defined not by the recorded levels of “allele” diversity but by the recorded levels of pan-human retentions and of “population” diversity described in terms of both biology and culture.

    Human prehistory is a story of increasing diversity, coupled with demographic growth, with migrations, gene flow controlled by isolation by distance and lineage extinction/retention that have distributed and redistributed this diversity first from America to Asia, Europe and the Pacific, then to Africa, then back to America in the last 500 years. America stayed more or less constant demographically and population-structure-wise and isolated from the new growing diversity patterns for thousands of years. This is my vision of a single origin plus regional diversification that seems to be easier to illustrate on the basis of cultural and genetic traits than single origin plus admixture from in-situ hominids.

  66. German, I think it best for me to wait till I have a chance to read your book, which does interest me very much, before making any attempt to evaluate your argument with any degree of fairness to you. I’m eager to see what you’ve done with the kinship data, assuming I can follow your logic. Kinship is not something I know much about.

    I do want to say something about your comments regarding diversity, however, because it’s not clear to me whether you understand the difference between the two different types of population diversity that are now being studied by the geneticists. There is an important difference between intra-group diversity, the diversity found within each group, and inter-group diversity, the diversity between different groups. So it’s not enough simply to reference “diversity,” it’s important to make clear which type you mean. Sometimes “diversity” is used to characterize the former and “difference” the latter.

    As far as your question regarding Paleosiberian music, what you are referring to is a hypothesis regarding a possible dual origin of music that Lomax and I kicked around and were never able to resolve (to my knowledge at least) while we were working together. I’m he published something on that somewhere — I thought I remembered where but when I checked I didn’t see it. A version of this picture can be found on my blog, where I refer to it as a “multiregional tree”:
    There’s a link to the tree on the post. Style A is P/B and Style B, labeled “breathless” represents the most typical music we could find of the Paleosiberians, a type of heavily glottalized solo singing, characterized very distinctively by the lack of coordination between the phrase and the breath, making it very difficult if not impossible to determine the phrase structure of the song in many instances. Often a singer will simply gasp when he is out of breath, rather than take a breath after the conclusion of a phrase, as is typical for almost all other types of music.

    What P/B and “Breathless style” have in common is their very unusual distribution. In each case we have essentially the same type of highly idiomatic singing style found in widely separated places within a vast region of the world. P/S (PaleoSiberian) style is characteristic of just about all Paleosiberian groups, as well as the Saami and as I recall the Ainu too. Given the vast distances between groups and the very difficult terrain, we concluded that this must be a style dating to at least the Upper Paleolithic. The only other style with a similarly diverse distribution over a similarly vast area was P/B, which also suggested a very early provenance.

    It seemed to us as though P/B must be prototypical for all group vocalizing and P/S prototypical for all — or most — solo vocalizing. And under such circumstances either we have a dual origin of music among the ancestors of these two groups or both styles could be understood as spinoffs from an original prototypical style. Which is why I placed that X at the top. There is also a third style that seemed independently derived, which I labeled C. This particular tree was never published, but a “dual-origin” tree of some sort WAS published by Lomax. I just have to locate the reference.

  67. Victor,

    Looks like you have to read my book, and I have to read up on comparative music. I can make sense of everything from archaeology to kinship studies but musicology is my Achilles heel. The chart you pointed me to is very very interesting. It’s exactly what I was looking for, while reading your articles earlier: polyphony vs. unison, etc. I would appreciate it if you could locate a reference to Lomax’s treatment of “dual-origin.” (In your blog, I also read that P/B finds close cognates in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia. This is consistent with my data and with myths, with further connections to Amazonia, as discussed earlier.)

    You’re absolutely right about the two kinds of diversity. In all mtDNA, Y-DNA and autosomal studies, American Indians are described as having reduced heterozygosity and allele diversity (directly related to mutation rate and effective population size and indirectly to demographic population size), but high Fst or Gst values measuring the degree of differentiation between populations (directly related to isolation, genetic drift and low levels of gene flow). In Africa, heterozygosity is higher, while Fst/Gst are lower than in America. In general, human intra-population variability (heterozygosity, allele diversity) is higher than inter-population variability measured by Fst/Gst, but some systems like Y-DNA reverse this trend somewhat due to such outliers as the Finns in Europe. On average, although the exact number will differ from one genetic system to another, inter-group population variability is only 10-15%. This is one of the molecular arguments for the shallowness of “racial” divisions in humans. In the OOAm model, high levels of Fst/Gst and low heterozygosity represent an ancestral population structure characterized by dispersed demes existing against the background of low population density and low demographic and effective population size.

  68. Ok, German, I found it! The reference is Alan Lomax, “Factors of Musical Style,” in Theory and Practice: Essays Presented to Gene Weltfish, ed. Stanley Diamond, The Hague:Mouton, 1980. The “Tree of regional song styles” appears on p. 39. Lomax writes, on the same page: “This tree of performance style appears to have two roots: (1) in Siberia and (2) among African Gatherers.

    This was arrived at via a factor analysis and not according to the same criteria I was using for my tree, which was more subjective and also based on at least one parameter that isn’t part of Cantometrics: breathlessness. So it does seem pretty convincing, deriving from two different approaches.

    I’ll only add that I had problems with this dual root approach and also the three rooted approach in the tree on my blog. It was only until I got into the recent genetic research findings that the “scales lifted from my eyes” and I realized that a single origin approach was all that was needed. Because as ugly as they might seem, bottlenecks are real and have very real effects that enable us to account for all sorts of differences that would otherwise be inexplicable. If bottlenecks are not part of your theory, then imo you are in trouble. Bottlenecks would necessarily have to a part of any multiregional theory as well.

    As I see it, the Paleosiberian style pattern and its distribution can best be explained as the result of a major population bottleneck that must have occurred a few thousand years after the OOAf event, probably all along the Indian Ocean coast, as the result of a major catastrophe. Possibly the Toba explosion, but also possibly a Tsunami, centered due south of India. This could have been the source of much of the differentiation we now see in the world, morphologically, genetically, linguistically — and musically. And there could have been several different founder effects stemming from the same event, as it affected people in different parts of the Indian Ocean coast.

    One clue is that the Vedda, an australoid people of southern India and Sri Lanka also chant in breathless style, at least according to one very old recording I was able to find. I think P/S style could have had its origin in some small survival group in southern India that eventually made its way north and split off into what we now know as the paleosiberians. Some of them may have made it to the Americas as well.

    The reason the above explanation is so convincing to me is that we don’t find clear evidence of the “African signature” (P/B style) or African phenotypes until we are far enough to the East that neither Toba nor a tsunami would have had an effect. Thus in Asia and vicinity almost all the “negrito” groups and all the groups that have hocketing traditions musically can be found only in SE Asia, South China and the various island populations, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Melanesia, etc. If you trace the effects of Toba or an Indian Ocean tsunami, you’ll see that the effects would be in exactly the places where differentiation appears to have been centered.

    I could be wrong, however, and the dual origin theory IS consistent with the older form of the multiregional model, so I suppose it could be used to bolster that. If anyone is still interested in it.

    Also, if you’ve found a strong kinship link between the Bushmen and the Paleosiberians that would definitely be worth looking into. Also because of the tie-in to shamanism. So see what you can make of it.

  69. Victor,

    Thank you for the reference. I’ll get hold of Lomax’s paper in the next few days. I also looked at the single-root vs. dual-root trees on your website. Intuitively (I hate using this word but in the case of musicology, this is my constant caveat), the dual- and triple-root trees look better to me, for they seem to reflect regional diversity of styles without quick reduction to a definitive single prototype. In my analysis of kinship systems, I track down the dissolution of ancestral structures, a process that has generated a wide variety of secondary forms. In an earlier historical typology by Dole (1959) that I mentioned earlier she simply designated the Pygmies, the Khoisans, the Negritos and the Paleosiberians as “archaic” because they all showed very simple kinship systems. The rest of the “tree” turned out to be forced because all of the derivations from this simplest type were ad hoc. Dole followed Father Schmidt in her focus on the Pygmies, and since then this has been overcome in kinship studies by several scholars including Mikhail Kryukov in Russia and Nick Allen in England. The Khoisans, in fact, under a closer look and with a larger sample of terminologies, considerably deviate from the “Pygmy” type and the similarity of one or two Khoisan samples to a Pygmy sample come from convergence.

    If you have missed Johnson et al 1983, I recommend you take a look at it because it saw a “dual” origin in mtDNa but they phrased it in an either/or way, postulating that the root of the mtDNA tree can be placed either in Africa or “outside of Africa.” (Then you go to their tables, and you follow the frequencies to see that “outside of Africa” means all the way in the Americas, which of course they didn’t dare to announce.)

  70. 1983 is a long time ago. Much more evidence is now available.

    It’s interesting that you appear to be associating the complexity of a kinship system with its age, so all later systems would be “dissolutions” or I suppose “dilutions” of the originals. I get essentially the same picture from the music, with P/B as the most complex of all forms of traditional music, with simpler forms most likely produced as the result of bottlenecks of various kinds. And you’re right, the earlier tendency was to go from simple to complex, which is clearly wrong as far as the music is concerned.

    However! I see no reason to apply a formula arbitrarily, either complex to simple or vice versa. I think we need to follow the evidence to see which trend is the most likely, not just decide on principle that complexity or simplicity necessarily has to come first. Music and kinship are two completely different aspects of culture so there’s no reason to assume that complexity in one has to be matched by complexity in the other. We know for a fact that tools tend to go from the simplest to the most complex, and that could be true for kinship and language as well.

  71. Victor, I agree with you in principle: “complex” and “simple” are relative terms. The post-war tradition of the study of marital alliance systems (a subbranch of kinship studies) headed up by Levi-Strauss used the language of transition from “simple” to “complex” forms of alliance. “Simple” marriage systems involve alliance repetition from generation to generation (from symmetrical-prescriptive to asymmetrical prescriptive), while “complex” systems are based on the freedom of choice of a marriage partner. Here the language is fully justified (and again “simple” alliances are found in America, Dravidian India and Australasia, while “complex” alliance systems in Europe and Africa). Levi-Strauss was the first one to note this strict areality.

    However when it comes to the evolution of consanguineal terminology (cross-generational and sibling sets), then America, Australasia, Dravidian and Munda India show “complex” arrangements, while Europe and Africa relatively “simple” forms. But then you can look at all that with a fresh eye, and you’ll see that consanguineal terminology in America, Australasia is based on a very simple underlying logic, which is simply different from the one found in Africa and Europe. Alternatively American and Australasian alliance systems can appear very complex if seen vertically from generation to generation.

    In a word, empirical differences between these two macroregions are ubiquitous and unambiguous, but the language to describe them can vary widely. One of criticisms that my book may face from the specialists in kinship is that it’s not based on any clear mathematical and geometrical language. While there’s a wealth of algebraic approaches to kinship systems, they had to yield to the necessity to somehow summarize the new empirical database and to outline the parameters of integration between kinship studies and other sciences at least as far as human origins research is concerned.

    Regarding tool evolution, on the basis of European Upper Paleolithic it’s been showed that it takes ~ 30 intermediate stages to arrive at a Solutrean projectile point. Meanwhile, in the Americas projectile points remarkably similar to the Solutrean ones appear to have emerged without any antecedents in the archaeological record only to disappear 500 years thereafter. One explanation would be diffusion, but one potential source of technological influence, Siberia, shows very little similarity to Clovis, while the other one, Europe, is geographically too detached (albeit, no more distant as Siberia) from America to build a convincing case. Unless proto-Clovis is found in such new sites as Cactus Hill, the only other explanation is accelerated evolution in which a complete mental template necessary to produce a projectile point was borrowed from another sphere of life and apllied to lithic materials. At the end of the day, humans don’t need 5 million years to slowly develop a new tool.

  72. Also, regarding bottlenecks, you’re right – I read human genetic history through the lenses of diversity accumulation and not diversity loss, for I believe the essence of recent human evolution (and evolution writ large) is diversification and not retardation. In seems to me that OOAf allows diversity to slowly accumulated on one continent simply as a function of time, but then the whole colonization of the world, which is a good chunk of human history, is described as a stepwise loss of diversity. In evolutionary terms, the loss of genetic diversity equals reduction in the ability of a population to survive. With this logic, American Indians end up once again a “vanishing race,” now because they are the most homozygous in the world.

    Bottlenecks are of course normal facts in the life of a genome, but if applied to a small deme, a bottleneck reduces diversity for a very short period of time followed by a longer period of diversity accumulation through new mutations. If the parental deme and the daughter deme are not connected through a regular gene flow, then the daughter population won’t share its new genes with its source deme.

  73. It is great to see the valued responses German’s Dziebel’s recent publication The Genius of Kinship has generated. There are many concerns highlighted in these comments and I would like to offer an archaeological perspective concerning the pre-Clovis human signature and its place in behavioral archaeology. That most of the discussants accept a pre-Clovis presence is commendable but what would they make of the significantly early occupations (Monte Verde I at 33 y.b.p. or earlier) that coincide and/or breach the earliest sapient continental dispersals in the Old World. What is the significance of such a unique human signature and what evolutionary relationship do they possibly hold to advanced Paleolithic definitions from the Old World.

    Pre-Clovis advocates have long been reined in by pullers (Clovis firsters) when it comes to New World archaeology timeframes. The opposite can be said of the Old World where advocates of sapient antiquity are given much more leeway although discerning readers are well aware of the limitations drawn from the actual archaeological record (Parkington 1990). While we have little, if any, evidence to validate an earlier then 45,000 year sapient presence anywhere in the Old World (including Klasies River Mouth in southern Africa C-14 dated at no more than 37,000 y.b.p (Singer and Wymer 1982) geneticists are rarely put us-sunder when suggesting much earlier dates often used to accompany mutation rates as a measures of time. Linguistic, genetic, and now kinship studies all support pre-Clovis occupation but few are willing to incorporate the earlier/est pre-Clovis signs as if Ales Hrdlicka might be stirred from his grave. This said I believe the next step in archaeological theory building is to ponder the worldwide significance a validation of early early man sites from the Americas holds when scrutinizing the pre-Clovis archaeological record as a truly ancient evolutionary signature. Have we applied “paradigm growth and theory building” to the autochthonous Amerindian model in order to synthesize a greater antiquity for pre-Clovis America? Certainly, this phase of human behavior is difficult to derive from Old World Middle or Late/Upper Paleolithic contexts, the primary reason the “pre-Clovis” has taken so long to gain favor. It is time to examine early pre-Clovis/Pleistocene sites as an ancestral condition uniquely aligned with an autochthonous inhabitancy of the Americas.

    Can we distinguish the evolution of human behavior by looking first to the widespread pre-Clovis New World reliance on bone, wood, and simple stone tools? In contrast to later Fluted Paleoindian Traditions, earlier pre-Clovis sites show their own uniformity marked by similarities supporting archaeological descriptions throughout the Americas (as with the remarkably well preserved site at Monte Verde-II, dated at 12, 800, and the earlier less discernible level MV-I, dated to 33,000 years (Dillehay, 1989, 1997)). Many Pleistocene sites offer distinct evidence of hearths a modern human behavior. These New World hand-made often clay-lined hearths, often associated with other pre-Clovis human activities, can NOT be the result of geo-factual production due to the simple fact that such natural occurrences (geo-facts) would be expected in or near Homo erectus occupations and we all know archaeologists studying the Middle Paleolithic would be exacting we accept such an occurrence as proof of sapient behavior. These and other pre-Clovis anomalies, although they are less robust archaeological productions, defy a scientific analogy less we forge an archaeological theory to guide the evolutionary significance of this and other ancient patterns of behavior distinguished by what seems to be a non-Paleolithic signature.

    The worldwide dispersal of modern humans and the accompanying extinction of many animal species earlier there accommodates Dziebel’s OOAm hypothesis. The idea that pre-Clovis peoples co-existed with 36 genera of animal species before the advent of Paleoindian Industries is fascinating and can be seen to fit an autochthonous Amerindian presence that is behaviorally unique and significantly pre-Paleolithic i.e. not projectile based. The later arrival/diffusion of Upper Paleolithic-like industries into the pre-Clovis life-ways contrasts well with an evolution of hunting strategies earlier in the Old World. If we look at migration in reverse, adaptation to a new niche resulting initially from migration through the northern corridor (out the backdoor of the Americas) would archaeologically distinguish the initial evolution of hunting cultures in Alaska of bone (see Richard Morlan; 1980,1983, 1987), from preceding pre-Clovis antecedents? The later onset and development of modern Paleolithic Industries occurs after encounters with Homo erectus and has its earliest accepted dates in Siberia at 43,000 y.b.p (Klein 2006, Leonova 1994, and others).

    The Upper Paleolithic has its own dawn accompanying the advancement of hunting technologies and sapient niche expansion held within time frames associated near the immediate limits of C-14 dating. Animal species extinctions occur earlier in the Old World in association with modern human dispersals, Projectile Point Industries and the use of Fire as a resource management tool. That these developing industries were not deployed by pre-Clovis Amerindians requires that we assess this significant difference in behavior. It should not be used as criteria for not accepting pre-Clovis habitation of the Americas as it long has been. Alternatively, Monte Verde II should be now used as the hallmarkin defining what we should expect from earlier mid-Pleistocene habitations even if less well preserved definitions of habitation defy an equivalent Old World Paleolithic component.

    There are many compatible interpretations from several related fields accommodating German’s OOAm hypothesis. Historical analysis, philosophical interpretations, scientific testing, migration theory, geographic constraints, paleontological concepts, linguistic and genetic correlates, offering an all encompassing evolutionary model are discussed in the first pages of our website,

    Dillehay, Tom D.. 1989. Monty Verde, A late Pleistocene settlement in Chile, Smithsonian Institution Press.

    Dillehay, Tom D.. 1997.Monty Verde, A late Pleistocene settlement in Chile, Vol. 2 Smithsonian Institution Press.

    Klein Richard G., Blake Edgar 2006. The dawn of Human Culture John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York

    Leonova Natalia B. 1994. The Upper Paleolithic of the Russian Steppe Zone. Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 8, No. 2

    Morlan, Richard E. 1970. “Wedge-shaped Core Technology in Northern North America,” Arctic Anthropology, vol. 7, 17-37.
    ——–. 1980. Taphonomy and Archaeology in the Upper Pleistocene of the Northern Yukon Territory: A Glimpse of the Peopling of the New World. National Mus. of Canada, Mercury Series, Arch. Survey of Canada Paper 94.
    ——–. 1983. “Pre-Clovis Occupation North of the Ice Sheets” in Early Man in the New World, edited by R. Shutler, Jr., pp. 47-63. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills.
    ——–. 1987. The Pleistocene Archaeology of Beringia. In The Evolution of Human Hunting, Edited by M.H. Nitecki And D.V. Nitecki, pp.267-307. Plenum Press, New York.

    Parkington, John 1990. A Critique of the Consensus View on the Age of Howieson’s Poort Assemblages in South Africa. in The Emergence of Modern Humans, An Archaeological Perspective. edited by Paul Mellars Cornell University Press, Iyhica, New York pp. 34-55

    Singer, R., Wymer J. 1982. The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  74. While Alhav Hicks contributed some great thoughts on the archaeological situation in the Americas, I’d like to loop back again to Victor.

    I was reading your website and noticed that, in your human musical record, you’re struggling with the the absence of a trail of migration out of Africa along the putative shoreline route. To quote: “The fact that there are no signs of P/B survivals anywhere along the original “Out of Africa” path west of Malaysia, from Yemen through Arabia, Pakistan, India, and Myanmar, including (apparently) the Andaman Islands, yet so many survivals to the east is, as I see it, an especially strong indicator of a bottleneck of some sort, that must have affected the entire Indian Ocean region.” (

    This is exactly the kind of gap geneticists and Greenbergian linguists (aka Merritt Ruhlen) have been trying to fill, for no African-specific mutations have been recorded outside of Africa and this concerns such putative outliers as the Andaman Islanders. I referred to this problem in one of my earlier posts, and I think it’s one of the solid pieces of an anti-OOAf argument. But then your evidence shows “P/B survivals” in Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, which has no parallels in mtDNA. But in Y-DNA YAP+ haplotypes relate Sub-Saharan Africa to India, Andaman Islanders, Tibetans and the Ainu. In view of your evidence (Berezkin could pull up some myths to boslter it on his end; anthropologists, myself included, can talk ad infinitum about similarities between Niger-Congo and Oceanian kinship systems), we may want to take seriously the presence of 9-bp deletion in Sub-Saharan Africa. High frequencies of 9-bp deletion were reported in fact from the Pygmies. Usually it’s being dismissed because this characteristic feature of Pacific Rim populations occurs against a different haplotypic background in Africa, but since the origin of the African genome may not be as simple as people assume common inheritance with recombination may be an alternative to homoplasy.

    I don’t know what to make of the connection between P/B and Russian/East/South European panpipe music. Maybe we could think of a “pre-Indo-European substrate,” for which the linguistic evidence is meager but potentially out there.

  75. I looked into my old files and found an article reporting 9-bp deletion among the Russians (Sokolova et al. 2002. A Russian family of Slavic origin carrying mitochondrial DNA with a 9-bp deletion in region V and a long C-stretch in D-loop. Mitochondrion 1 (6): 479-483). I also know it’s found at low fequencies in India and in Italy but once again is it a relic, or a case of homoplasy?

  76. I very much appreciate your continuing interest in my blog and my ideas, German. As I see it, we can look at the gap between Africa and SE Asia-Oceania in two ways. Either as an insurmountable obstacle that “forces” us to accept an unworkable model (multiregionalism) OR as a priceless clue to the mysteries of human differentiation.

    The two phylogenetic trees I’ve presented represent two very different approaches to human history, as reflected in the musical evidence. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to move on from my early, “multiregional” tree to the newer “OOAf Replacement” one. For one thing, as I contemplate these two efforts, I’m pleased to see that I am not as “polarized” as you earlier accused me of being. I prefer to see myself not as someone with an agenda to defend at all costs, but as someone who follows the evidence wherever it may lead. When I read about the genetic research and began to understand how beautifully the Out of Africa model fit the evidence, I had no problem dropping my old theory and investigating a radically different one, that I would never have arrived at on my own. So I must say that I am feeling pretty good about myself at the moment. :-)

    While the “multiregional” tree may look more like what one might expect from the mapping of an evolutionary process (or processes), the newer tree, for all its oddness (ugliness?) is imo far more sophisticated. I’m not claiming it’s perfect. There are some things I’m not at all sure of and other important things I left out because I couldn’t figure out where to put them. But, unlike most other such trees I’ve seen, this one is not an idealized view of what can be expected from some smoothly functioning systematic process, but an attempt to represent the musical evidence in a manner that best fits the picture of a complex and sometimes discontinuous history that appears to be emerging from the genetic evidence.

    If we accept OOAf (and I admit, that is not yet 100% solid), then the gap represented by the depicted “bottleneck” has really tremendous explanatory value, not only for music but many other aspects of human culture and history. What makes me especially pleased with my tree, flaws and all, is that, unlike the earlier one, it represents a set of testable hypotheses! And the more I delve into all these mysteries of human evolution, the more I realize that the real goal should not be to find “solutions” but to formulate testable hypotheses. Everyone with a theory kids himself into thinking he’s found the ultimate answer. But how many are able to formulate their ideas in such a way that they can be tested? As I see it, this is a far more sensible and meaingful goal and this is what I feel most excited about in my research, that it is moving in this direction.

    Now, as to what I think happened that is reflected in the newer tree. And of course this is very speculative (though ultimately testable, I do believe). I think that some quite small group left Africa for Yemen and points east roughly 80,000 years ago. Judging from the genetic evidence this must have been the only group — or the only lineage that survived the trip. I think that when Toba exploded — or when a Tsunami hit — various colonies were strewn out along the Indian Ocean coast, from Arabia through SE Asia and the coast of Sundaland. This is essentially the picture presented by Steven Oppenheimer and I think it makes a great deal of sense.

    All humans dwelling to the East and north of Toba (in northern Sumatra) would have been far less affected than those to the west and south. But all would have been affected to some extent, which would explain why there are no African specific haplotypes found anywhere outside of Africa today. That would also explain why there aren’t any peoples out of Africa who make music in exactly the same way as any Africans. However, since there ARE peoples to the north and east of Toba who have haplotypes that are close derivatives of African ones, as McCauley et al discovered and as others too have discovered, AND there are peoples in the same region whose music has what I’ve called the “African signature,” we can assume that they were not radically affected by the disaster and did not suffere serious genetic or cultural damage.

    To the west and south of Toba we find a radically different picture, and in this area, all the way back through to Yemen we find essentially NO sign of the African signature musically, and we find a different genetic picture as well. It is in this region that Oppenheimer believes human differentiation (not the same as diversity, by the way) began. This could have been the origin of all peoples with non-African morphology, culture and genes. (We must recall that a Tsunami south of India would have affected roughly the same area as a Toba explosion, so the bottlenecks could have been triggered by either type of event.)

    Since we DO find signs of the African signature, musically and otherwise, in Europe, we can infer that there must have been at least one OOAf group, probably located in west Asia, that escaped the worst of the disaster and gradually migrated to the Caucausus, most likely, and from there to Europe. Possibly one OOAf group made its way up the Indus River, far enough west to escape the worst of Toba or far enough inland to escape a Tsunami.

    In other words what might appear to be “proof” that OOAf can’t be right, can also be regarded as a set of clues telling us what might have actually happened. What’s most important, as I stated above, is the fact that most if not all of these hypotheses are testable. And they ARE being tested as we speak, by literally hundreds of busy geneticists. The value of the musical evidence is that it can be used to pinpoint such tests by pointing the geneticists to very specific populations to be compared.

  77. I realized just after I wrote the above that I wasn’t taking your theory into account, German. I apologize for that. But until I have a clearer idea of exactly how your thinking works, it’s hard for me to consider any scenario based on your contentions. I think the only answer is for me to read your book, which I really hope I can find. I checked two local libraries including the University of Pittsburgh and neither has it to date. I promise to keep looking as your ideas interest me very much.

  78. “I don’t know what to make of the connection between P/B and Russian/East/South European panpipe music. Maybe we could think of a “pre-Indo-European substrate,” for which the linguistic evidence is meager but potentially out there.”

    Exactly. This is what I’m currently writing about in a paper I’m preparing, and what I’ve been covering in my blog posts since January, beginning with post 118. The musical evidence strongly supports something like a “pre-Indo-European substrate,” as you say, very possibly quite close to Gimbutas’s “Old Europe” idea. What makes this especially convincing is what my colleague Joseph Jordania discovered, i.e., a strong correlation in Europe between traditional (i.e., orally transmitted) vocal polyphony and residence in “refuge” areas, notably mountains, islands and dense forests. The polyphonic traditions of this sort closest to P/B stylistically are also the most widely distributed, as I discuss on the blog. As I see it this is powerful evidence in support of this aspect of Gimbutas’ thinking. (As for her “Goddess” theory, that’s a whole other matter.)

  79. Victor,

    (I thought a patron could place an order on a new book at a university library, and the acquisition department would buy it for him.)

    Yes, I’ve been reading your blog and listening to some samples. (The striking similarity between Flathead and Australian music was easy for me to notice because I’d been exposed to quite a bit of Plains and Plateau Indian music.) Your research is extremely interesting and important, it’s your attemps to use OOAf to interpret your data that are somewhat troubling to me.

    No matter how much damage a tsunami can inflict on human populations, I can’t accept the suggestion that a bottleneck and/or a tornado erased all the critical evidence to prove a grand theory of human origins. This is teleology. Another teleological argument that lies at the core of OOAf is that the first migrants out of Africa carried with them only the rare and untypical African mutations (M and N); and then the would-be American Indians carried with them from Siberia only rare and untypical European/Middle Eastern/North African (X) and Asian (C and D) mutations. The fact remains that all the haplogroups declared by OOAf the most archaic are African-specific and not found outside of Africa.

    I can’t agree with you on your point that geneticists have been testing aspects of OOAf. I am siding with Templeton, who has claimed that true hypothesis testing is constantly substituted by hypothesis compatibility. (My earlier example is the Hofmeyr skull, which is presented as a piece of evidence compatible with OOAf, but in fact it directly contradicts it.) OOAf can’t be tested directly against MRE because it’s only one single-origin possibility. The current genetic maps do not translate into the current linguistic maps, and if this constitutes a test for OOAf then it has failed it. What you and I are doing now is testing OOAf against another single-origin hypothesis, namely OOAm, and against a whole range of data, from cultural to physical.

    Regarding a possible mtDNA correlate to P/B traces in Europe, I’d like to bring to your attention the phylogenetic ambiguity around the 16223-16278 motif. It the defining motif of X haplogroup (reported at low to moderate frequencies in North Africa, Middle East, Europe and North America), but also of L1, L2 and L3 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Haplotype B belongs to the same macrohaplogroup N as haplogroup X. Geneticists tend to dismiss the fact that the 16223-16278 motif is shared between L and X, saying that “the 16278 mutation in X probably occurred independently on the 16223 ‘out-fo-Africa’ sequence type” (Richards et al. Phylogeography of mitochondrial DNA in Western Europe. Ann Hum Gen 62, 1998, 256). One reason for this is that they thought that X is not found in Africa. Then it was found in some Afroasiatic-speakers such as Tunisians, Lybians and Gurage. Another reason is that X clusters with I and W if a longer sequence is taken into account. But what if this motif represents identity by descent and not homoplasy? This interpretation will make the distribution of X ideal for any out-of-Africa or into-Africa argument, for it connects Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Middle East, Europe and beyond. It’s something of this sort that one would expect to find if any ideas of transcontinental population movements are being entertained. By opting for homoplasy over identity by descent, scholars make the X-L connection look younger that it may be in reality.

  80. German, as I see it OOAf is the opposite of a teleological argument. Toba was a volcanic eruption, by the way, not a tornado. Bottlenecks are absolutely basic features of population genetics. Without them most mutations would get lost in the genetic sea drift. It is only after a bottleneck event, due to a natural disaster, war, or a dispute of some sort, that a “founder effect” can produce a lineage with new characteristics and a new mtDNA or Y or autosome signature. Once a group starts over again with only a small number of people, then their mutations can get passed on to their descendents, forming a new branch on the gene tree. They can’t be dismissed simply because they produce blips on what has traditionally been assumed to be the smooth, gradual progress of evolution.

    Templeton discovered that different phylogenetic trees could be produced when the data was entered differently. Which is consistent with what everyone should already have realized: it’s not really possible to derive a unique tree perfectly consistent with all the data simply by means of an algorithm. All one can do is try to find the simplest tree, ala Occam. Which might or might not be the “real” one. Templeton had a valid point because it’s too easy, when looking at these trees in the literature, to assume that they are a straightforward representation of the facts. They are not, they are a model of a theory.

    Nevertheless, there are a great many real relationships and patterns that have been used to build these hypothetical trees, they don’t come from nowhere. Certain haplotypes and haplogroups are subsets of others, this has been established as clearly as just about anything in science ever gets established. If they can’t always be perfectly arranged to produce a tree free of anomalies that doesn’ t falsify certain basic results that appear to point unequivocally to an Africa-first picture of history.

    As for the difference between hypothesis testing and hypothesis compatibility, all I can say is that the geneticists have been making every effort to test their hypotheses against all sorts of other evidence, archaeological, linguistic, etc. If there have been problems in this regard, that’s most likely due to weaknesses in these other fields rather than problems with the genetics, which is a far more precise and fundamentally objective science. In my view the archaeological evidenc is much too thin to serve as a valid test in many cases and the linguistic evidence far too shaky, especially because languages can change due to contingencies totally different from those that produce either genetic or significant cultural change. IMO the musical evidence is likely to produce much more reliable results and offer better opportunities for testing. That could be true of the kinship evidence as well, which is why I’m interested in what you’ve been doing with it.

    As far as X is concerned, it might interest you to know that I’ve thought for a long time that Eastern Woodlands song style bore a strange resemblance to the European strophic song. It’s possible that there is some sort of connection, but that’s very hard to say. EW music has some features that resemble Europe and that aren’t found among other Amerindian groups, but at the same time it is clearly a part of the Amerindian song style family in all other respects. Go figure!

  81. Victor, there’s no doubt natural disasters and bottlenecks occur, but we’re at will to chose when and where to postulate them, and we usually do so when we need to explain lack of evidence to substantiate our ideas. Why is the Toba explosion invoked? Because geneticists and paleoanthropologists originally looked at the archaeological record, saw that Australia/PNG and Africa show the greatest number of fossils, Africa shows the greatest genetic diversity, so they felt they had to create a shoreline route from Africa to Australia to build a theory. There’s nothing whatsover in their data that warrants a hypothesis of such a shoreline route. Then why do we need it in the first place? Then you bring up the P/B traces in Southeast Asian and PNG music and try to bolster a theory that wasn’t supposed to be created in the first place. Why not think about a general circle of music styles stretching from Europe to PNG to South America to Sub-Saharan Africa representing different pockets of survivals dating back to the Late Pleistocene but having no certain geographical origin and existing next to a different circle (say, “breathless” with a different distribution)?

    Why did American Indians not pick up M lineages from South Siberia? Because there was a bottleneck. But why did they pick probabilistically the least likely lineages? There’s no answer to this. If we look the other way, we don’t have this problem: the least frequent North American lineages such as X and B are mostly absent in Siberia, while the most frequent American Indian lineages (A, C and D) are all over Asia.

    Of course some genetic labs try to combine archaeology and genetics in a serious way (David Smith at UC Davis has done a lot along these lines, and I had great conversations with him regarding Macro-Siouan and Uto-Aztecan). My critique concerns only two junctures in our phylogentic tree, namely between Asia and America and between Africa and the rest of the world. Here kinship evidence shows the opposite from genetics. And these are the most important issues, and also the issues where biases, inertia and untested assumptions are most likely to interfere and blind scholars (myself included). From the get-go, geneticists were eager to offer their solution (no hypothesis testing) to the perennial teaser topic of the social sciences, namely the “peopling of the Americas,” an agenda that made them favor Greenberg’s Amerind classification instead of the traditional one. This century-old bias against America affects science all the way to antagonizing native populations who wouldn’t donate their blood samples to cater to academia’s vain penchant of deriving thousands of distinct populations from a single Siberian source. But may be we should first appreciate the whole range of human cultural and genetic diversity, no matter where it’s found, and then carefully proceed to rejecting a null hypothesis for each of the major world regions. Instead, OOAf theorists prematurely sent an untested theory to production, so that now every respectable scholar is supposed to present his data as “compatible” with it.

    I’m glad we agree on archaeology’s inability to generate testable hypotheses (especially at the temporal depths we’re talking about). This is a consensus I could never reach with Berezkin. But I am a bit befuddled by your distrust for linguistics which has been dealing with the prehistory of living populations the longest and which has a lot of experience building phylogenetic trees, identigying patterns, distinguishing independent innovations, borrowings and common inheritance. I would assume that cultural disciplines (and music is cultural) should be able to develop their own consensus (methodological and empirical) and then try to establish contacts with genetics and archaeology. Linguistics, myths, music and kinship studies have a lot in common (kin terms are part of language, social structure underlies myth motifs and musical performance; a Jivaro shaman uses different polar singing styles such as descrescendo and crescendo depending on what he’s doing, healing or sorcery, and this in turn relates to societal oppositions).

    Kinship systems is the only cultural module that has an immediate, organic connection to the inner workings of population genetics because of social structure, marriage patterns and demographic inferences. (If Amazonian Indians are endogamous, this will affect their level of diversity at least because random sampling cannot elucidate the whole range of alleles hidden within the multiple subpopulations of a consanguineous deme; if Sub-Saharan Africa is all covered by interlocked segmentary lineages and “complex” marriage rules, this will increase gene flow across Africa, and gene flow in turn increases gene diversity, etc.)

    When Berezkin tries to map his myths directly on the archaeological record or when you try to mirror genetic “haplotypes” in music without looping in linguistics and kinship studies first, this looks a little precarious to me. Neither Berezkin, nor you are comfortable with linguistics or kinship studies. Both Berezkin and you are loners trying to revive different branches of comparative folklore and looking for an archaeological or genetic crutch to do so. I am a loner as well, but at the same time I feel myself part of a long tradition of kinship studies, which has been toppled in the 1970s only as a result of anthropology’s institutional and political anxieties, and exploit the in-situ traditions in the study of kinship developed in linguistics, historical demography, etc. (The anthropological crisis is bad for my career at least because there are very few kinship specialists left to be able to evaluate my results, while there’re great developments in the adjacent field that could possibly benefit from my work but may not have enough trust in my inferences.)

  82. Victor, a couple more comments:
    1. In order to establish the reality of a shoreline route in the initial expansion of modern humans out-of-Africa, one has to look at the Pacific Rim situation and understand what the standards of empirical data thickness are. Pacific Rim, also always exposed to a natural catastrophe, is linked into a single ancient cultural area by independent evidence coming from craniology, odontology, linguistics, kinship studies. It depends how we interpret it, but at least it’s unambiguously there. As for the beachcomber route, there’s just nothing in the aforementioned disciplines that could indicate it as a real migration route. I consider it therefore a pure speculation.
    2. The only American Indian haplotype that looks like it’s “nested” in a non-Amerindian clade is haplogroup B (nested in R). All others, namely A, C, D, X (and M* recently found in 5,000 YBP skeletons in Cave Lake, BC), all contain an ancestral allele (timine) in site 16223. This site splits the whole Eurasian phylogeny in half. Only 7% European haplogroups have it (and these include X, W and I), while in Asia the figure is around 80%. The rest of European haplogroups have a C (citozine) in this position. This site is very diagnostic in the assignment of a sequence to either the European or the Asian clade. All African L lineages show T in site 16223 as well, BTW. Haplogroup A that’s not found in Europe but that belongs to the ‘European” macrohaplogroup N nevertheless, is 16223T. Many American Indian tribes harbor all four of those relic lineages from both Eurasian haplogroups. In the Old World, only two ethnic groups in South Siberia (Tuvinians and Altaians) show this retention of ancient variation, but even there haplogroup X may be a recent admixture from Europe. While Africans have avoided the T>C transition that characterizes macrohaplogroup N, their mutations on the 16223C background are too African-specific to suggest antiquity. In addition, a few other sites shared between American Indians, Europeans and Africans, although not known to be hotspots, are suspiciously assigned to different haplogroups in Africa. 16287 is one of those sites.
    3. “Certain haplotypes and haplogroups are subsets of others, this has been established as clearly as just about anything in science ever gets established. If they can’t always be perfectly arranged to produce a tree free of anomalies that doesn’t falsify certain basic results that appear to point unequivocally to an Africa-first picture of history.” This statement seems to be self-contradictory. Only a good phylogeny and an underlying population model can properly establish the antiquity of certain mutations and the populations containing them. If the phylogeny is not perfect (and you seem to acknowledge this) and since only one demographic scenario is being entertained under the single-origin category of theories, then OOAf can’t be unequivocal.

    Geneticists are mortal: some of them are very talented and independent, others blindly follow their mentors; some are very well versed in adjacent disciplines, others know only their own loci; some are savvy biologists, others are hotheaded mathematicians.

  83. 4. Also note that, although American Indian haplogroups belong to two different macrohaplogroups M and N, the representatives of these haplogroups in the Americas (A, X from N and C and D from M are closer to each other phylogenetically than any other (non-Amerindian) haplogroups from the M and N clusters (Macaulay et al. 1999, 244). This means that American Indian mtDNA variation forms a tight cluster of great antiquity. Its diversity is less important than its phylogeny, for the reduced levels of diversity are appropriate for a small population size.

    5. Although you dismiss Johnson et al. 1983 as “old” (Luis calls it “jurassic”), there’re no outdated papers in the mtDNA research like Mozart is not an outdated composer. They are like a basal lineage in the history of mtDNA studies. They identified the same tree topology as in all subsequent mtDNA and Y-DNA research and grasped the fundamental problem with the interpretation of world genetic patterns correctly (Amerindians, tribe after tribe, form a tight cluster of related genes, which are otherwise spread differentially between the different parts of the Old World) offering therefore the first and only single-origin alternative to OOAf. When I disovered this paper (and that was pretty late in my work), it fit my kinship data snugly. How ironic: OOAf opened your eyes to your music data, while an alternative to OOAf hit a bull’s eye with my data! But, as you once pointed out, when different methodologies furnish the same result it must mean something.
    6. Macrohaplogroup R is an enigma to me. Most European haplogroups from macrohaplogroup N (J, T, U, H, V) are phylogenetically closer to the Southeast Asian and Australasian R haplogroups. Here’s another mtDNA parallel to the distribution of P/B in music. Since American Indians have no R, and their B’s show a derived state of site 16223, namely C, a coastal migration of B into the Americas would’ve been a plausible scenario, but geneticists don’t entertain this possibility anymore because B coalesces around the same time as the other Amerindian haplogroups. It’s possible, however, that African 9bp deletion, since it’s found in the same stretch of DNA as the B variants, is distantly related to Asian-Amerindian B. This may push B upward phylogenetically, but the T>C transition will still remain unaccounted for.

  84. German:
    “There’s nothing whatsover in their data that warrants a hypothesis of such a shoreline route. Then why do we need it in the first place? Then you bring up the P/B traces in Southeast Asian and PNG music and try to bolster a theory that wasn’t supposed to be created in the first place.”

    The shoreline route is a very reasonable inference, based on the overall picture presented by the data. Oppenheimer’s interpretation of the Toba effect is a similar type of inference. They have enormous potential explanatory power, so they have to be taken seriously. Only time will tell if things actually happened that way. Both are testable hypotheses — and are in fact being rigorously tested in many ways by a great many very smart and informed people.

    Both the Toba idea and the shoreline route hypothesis remind me of the theory in cosmology called “cosmic inflation.” There is no direct evidence of inflation, but it would explain a very puzzling gap between the conditions immediately after the Big Bang and the layout of the Universe that we now see. It’s been criticized as a fudge and it could be. But it is also a brilliant inference that’s consistent with the known facts. Research conducted since the theory was formulated appears to confirm it. But ultimately it could be replaced by a deeper theory. As could the shoreline and Toba hypotheses.

    “Why not think about a general circle of music styles stretching from Europe to PNG to South America to Sub-Saharan Africa representing different pockets of survivals dating back to the Late Pleistocene but having no certain geographical origin and existing next to a different circle (say, “breathless” with a different distribution)?”

    Lomax published a factor analysis from which ten basic style families emerged. It’s in the same paper I alread referenced for you. And his anthropological collaborator Edwin Erickson wrote a Ph. D. dissertation called “The Song Trace,” based on his factor analysis of the Cantometric Amerindian sample. IMO it’s an important work, but has never been published. It should interest you, however, and can be ordered fom the U. of Michigan at the following website:

    Thanks to Lomax and other comparativists such as Bruno Nettl the basic world song style families are more or less known and tend to fit the generally accepted geocultural boundaries — however they are known only to a very small group of people with an interest in that sort of thing. But there are also survivals of older styles that cut across the better known stylistic boundaries, and it is these survivals that interest me the most because they have the potential to tell us so much about Paleolithic history. It’s necessary to dig, because the overall picture is a mix of the old and the new, a palimpsest that can’t be read without considerable help from other disciplines. I guess what I’m saying here is that the difference between a survival and something more recent isn’t always obvious. And even when it might seem obvious to me, it’s not possible to convince others simply on the basis of my own analysis and my own interpretation. Which is why the genetic research especially is so imporant to me.

    “My critique concerns only two junctures in our phylogentic tree, namely between Asia and America and between Africa and the rest of the world. Here kinship evidence shows the opposite from genetics.”

    You mean your interpretation of the kinship evidence is in opposition to the genetics. My interpreation of the musical evidence was also quite different — at first. It’s important that you leave yourself open to new developments in your research and that of others that could change your mind.

    “But I am a bit befuddled by your distrust for linguistics which has been dealing with the prehistory of living populations the longest and which has a lot of experience building phylogenetic trees, identigying patterns, distinguishing independent innovations, borrowings and common inheritance.”

    Well, take Europe as an example. Almost everywhere you go in Europe you find Indo-European languages. But as most historical linguists would agree, this was probably not the indigenous language family of Europe. There is evidence that it was brought to Europe a result of a migration from Asia, possibly the “Kurgan” invasion, possibly not, but something like that.

    Now my colleague Joseph Jordania (whose book may be downloaded from the following website: has determined through a very thorough study of European polyphony, that we find polyphonic vocalizing in the oral tradition almost exclusively in remote “refuge” areas, such as mountains, islands, etc. This is a very wide distribution of a very limited number of styles, with all the earmarks of a very old musical style that must originally have pervaded Europe. But all the people in these regions, with just a few exceptions, have lost their original languages and speak exclusively the Indo-European language of their nation. In other words, the musical picture appears to have preserved the traces of an old layer that the linguistic picture has covered over. If we consider only the linguistic picture, then we lose something essential. And similar histories in other parts of the world have also affected the linguistic picture and distorted the oldest historical layers. As I see it, therefore, the fact that the genetics doesn’t always fit the linguistics is hardly surprising and in fact a good sign.

    And I’m wondering where kinship stands in all this. If your kinship data follows the linguistic evidence and fails to take account of the pockets of traditional suvival in mountains, islands etc. where people may have originally had different languages and still today sing a different music from the mainstream, then how can it be used to penetrate any deeper than the time when mainstream Europe became almost exclusively Indo-European. If as I suspect the oldest kinship systems have been lost along with the oldest language, than how can either kinship or language be used to second guess genetics — or the newest musicological findings?

  85. Thank you, Victor, for a very thoughtful response. Although I can’t accept your criteria for a possible route of migration (geneticists specifically screened Andaman islanders, Orang Asli and Australian aborigines for traces of an early migration out of Africa but didn’t find a thing), I appreciate your strong opinion on the subject. And thank you for more references to music research.

    “You mean your interpretation of the kinship evidence is in opposition to the genetics.”

    Of course, kinship evidence launched the major turnaround in my understanding of human prehistory, but even without it OOAf can be criticized on genetic, archaeological and methodological grounds. I discussed inherent problems with the population scenario underlying OOAf earlier. Methodologically, OOAf is weak because its proponents don’t strive to arrive at cross-disciplinary proofs; they argue out of one vantage point and dismiss everything that doesn’t fit the model. There’re huge gaps in the African archaeological record; skeletal remains are rare (and the Hofmeyr skull is a Caucasoid); Late Stone Age’s lithic technologies furnish no antecedents to Asian or European Upper Paleolithic; no traces of modern human behavior are recorded beyond 38-40,000 years, which is younger than South Siberian sites such as Kara-Bom dated at 43,000; there’re no traces of expansion out-of-Africa; supposedly “anatomically modern humans” from 100,000 YBP are not associated with any unambiguously intelligent activity, hence anatomical similarities with “us” could be result of parallel evolution.) I’ve had a priviledge of looking at the data from two perspectives – from OOAf, with everyone else, and from OOAm. For the most part, scholars who have their hands heavy with data think only one way. MRE has lulled scholars into believing that OOAf is a new synthesis, while in fact OOAf hasn’t been tested against anothe single-origin theory.

    “Well, take Europe as an example. Almost everywhere you go in Europe you find Indo-European languages. But as most historical linguists would agree, this was probably not the indigenous language family of Europe.”

    Great example! Bull’s eye! Linguistics does document the dramatic reduction of diversity and the dilution of ancestral grammatical features in two areas of the world, Europe and Africa, especially if compared with Australasia and the Americas. Nichols’s “Linguistic Diversity in Space in Time” is the best source on this global situation. Alternatively genetics records high levels of molecular diversity in the same parts of the world. This pattern of inverted correlation between genetic and linguistic deiversity has been noticed before. What scholars have failed to see is that both Africa and Europe contain lineages that are restricted to their specific regions: L is African-specific, while U (and all others except for X, I and W) is European and North African-specific. Asian and Amerindian lineages have global distribution suggesting population movements (X which is found in North America, Siberia, Europe and North Africa, M is found in North America, Asia, Australia and North Africa, YAP+ stretches from the Ainu to Sub-Saharan Africa, mtDNA-B is all over the Pacific Rim, etc.). This is another reason to suspect that Africa was peopled, for the same molecular reason as Europe was peopled. European and African lineages are continent-specific, while Amerindian and Asian ones are global.

    Low levels of linguistic diversity in Africa and Europe, therefore, don’t just contrast with high molecular diversity. They correlate with low geographic diversity of genetic lineages. (Templeton’s nested-cladistic analysis takes geographic spread of lineages into consideration.) The two kinds of molecular diversity that we discussed earlier come handy here: American Indian populations are highly different from one another; their continental lineages, however, have less variation than the lineages in the Old World because every randomly sampled individual of American Indian descent is similar to another randomly sampled individual. But on a worldwide scale these lineages have the greatest geographic range. This is fully consistent with linguistics and kinship studies that document thousands of small, isolated, grammatically and lexically distinct ethnolinguistic groups. Traces of American Indian grammatical and kin-terminological structures are found all over the world. In Africa, we have two large and superlarge language families (Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan), in which all individual languages are very similar to each other. Genetically individual African sequences show a lot of mutations, but their lineages have a very narrow geographic distribution on a worldwide scale. This mirrors the linguistic situation pretty well.

    While it’s obvious that someone had been living in Europe before Indo-Europeans showed up, there’re no outlier genetic lineages in Europe that would indicate that Europe used to be peopled by populations with other-than N macrohaplogroup lineages. (X, W, and I are the outliers amounting to 7%, but still they’re part of N, albeit in close phylogenetic proximity to M). Basques, Etruscans, Kartvelians, Afroasiatics and Uralics constitute the only possible relatives/representatives of a pre-IE population. Europe therefore was peopled by multiple waves of genetically essentially the same populations. Originally, Basques were probably quite ditinct genetically and may have come from Central or East Asia.

    Alternatively Africa was peopled by multiple waves of genetically distinct populations (M, N and R?). Each one of them passed through a series of bottlenecks, lost all their M, N and R lineages and developed L lineages that later spread across Sub-Saharan Africa through gene flow. In both Africa and Europe, these populations ended up “trapped” in their respective regions. They “cannibalized” on their neighbors thus reducing their linguistic diversity. However this original diversity was not nearly as significant as in Australasia and the Americas.

    While you’re absolutely right in cautioning me against using kinship evidence indiscriminately, I am fully aware of the fact that every system of information has its weaknesses. (Archaeologists and geneticists tend to believe in the infallibility of their methods; archaeologists increasingly less so, geneticists increasingly more so.) Where kinship comparative data is weak, genetics picks up and the other way around. Kinship systems spawn various satellite systems such as reincarnation beliefs, naming practices, etc. Interestingly enough, the Balkan area (Greeks and Bulgarians) shows an unusual practice of prescriptive naming of children by specific categories of grandparents. This is very untypical for IE in general (nothing of this sort pops up in ancient sources), and must represent some kind of substratum. External comparison takes us to Uralics, Sub-Saharan Africans, American Indians, Dravidians and Paleoasiatics where these naming practices are more systematic.

  86. I read Jordania’s piece on the worldwide distribution of polyphony. It seems like America turns up both monophonic and polyphonic traditions, while Sub-Saharan Africa is fixated on polyphony, like Polynesians among whom mtDNA-B haplogroup reaches fixation.

    Assuming that monophony and polyphony were present in the human musical repertoire from the very beginning, evidence points to a bottleneck moving into Africa. Later, the depleted monophonic tradition in Africa was replenished with the coming of the Arabs.

    Assuming that polyphony was ancestral, while monophony derived, there’s no need to resort to a recent OOAf origin scenario, for MRE could work just as well. Polyphony could have been carried out of Africa early on with the dispersal of H. erectus. Living human musical traditions would then be differential retentions of ancient polyphony, with Africa simply preserving and developing it better than other continents. Monophony evolved from polyphony in different places independently like writing and agriculture.

    If my blitz analysis makes sense, then music mirrors the current problem with OOAf very well. It’s either OOAf with an MRE chronology, or a recent single-origin outside of Africa.

  87. “geneticists specifically screened Andaman islanders, Orang Asli and Australian aborigines for traces of an early migration out of Africa but didn’t find a thing”

    Not so. A paper dating from 2002 found no trace of African origin among the Andamanese, true. A later paper, “Reconstructing the Origin of Andaman Islanders,” dated 2005, corrected this error: “Our previous work (1) suggested that Andamanese “Negritos” have closer affinities with Asian than with African populations and that the Nicobarese have close genetic affinities to Southeast Asians. . . Our [most recent] data indicate that two ancient maternal lineages, M31 and M32 in the Onge and the Great Andamanese, have evolved in the Andaman Islands independently from other South and Southeast Asian populations. These lineages have likely been isolated since the initial penetration of the northern coastal areas of the Indian Ocean by anatomically modern humans, in their out-of-Africa migration 50 to 70 thousand years ago. In contrast, the Nicobarese show a close genetic relation with populations in Southeast Asia, suggesting their recent arrival from the east during the past 18 thousand years.”

    As far as the Orang Asli and Australians are concerned, there have been several studies attesting to early “Out of Africa” affinities. See for example McCauley et al, “Single, rapid coastal settlement of Asia revealed by analysis of complete mitochondrial genomes,” in Science, 2005: “A recent dispersal of modern humans out of Africa is now widely accepted, but the routes taken across Eurasia are still disputed. We show that mitochondrial DNA variation in isolated “relict” populations in southeast Asia supports the view that there was only a single dispersal from Africa, most likely via a southern coastal route, through India and onward into southeast Asia and Australasia.”

    “Europe therefore was peopled by multiple waves of genetically essentially the same populations. Originally, Basques were probably quite ditinct genetically and may have come from Central or East Asia.”

    This conclusion is premature. European populations are rarely if ever broken down into the kind of segments that might reflect Old European affinities. In most studies, “The French,” “The Italians,” “The Danes,” etc. are simply lumped together. It’s a lot easier to collect DNA in the cities than in isolated mountain villages. So there’s a lot more work to be done in Europe, as elsewhere.

    “I read Jordania’s piece on the worldwide distribution of polyphony. It seems like America turns up both monophonic and polyphonic traditions, while Sub-Saharan Africa is fixated on polyphony, like Polynesians among whom mtDNA-B haplogroup reaches fixation.”

    Jordania is highly authoritative when it comes to Europe, on which he is truly an expert. When he extends his reach to other parts of the world, there are problems, not so much with his observations, but his interpretation of the evidence. Yes, polyphony can be found in the Americas, but not in the Europeanized form that he appears to favor. Polyphony can be found but is extremely rare in N.A. In C. A. and S. A. there are pockets of “canonic-echoic” vocal polyphony plus pockets of panpipe hocketing, both of which appear, as I see it, to have African, not European, roots. Jordania tends to be Eurocentric in his approach, as you are strongly Amerocentric. So both of you, IM(humble)O, need to be taken with a grain of salt. Me too, since I’m Afrocentric. You pays your money and you takes your choice. :-)

    “Assuming that polyphony was ancestral, while monophony derived, there’s no need to resort to a recent OOAf origin scenario, for MRE could work just as well.”

    Exactly. Which is why I made the point earlier that the musical evidence in itself isn’t enough to determine either musical or human origins. Same with the linguistic, archaeological, kinship, etc. evidence. Only the genetic evidence holds the promise of leading us systematically along the long and winding DNA chain, all the way back to the beginning.

  88. Victor,

    This is exactly what I’ve been talking about all along. You referenced two papers on the Andaman islanders and the Orang Asli in which data directly contradicted OOAf (all those indigenous lineages are Asian M or R, but not African L!), but you reiterated an incongruent conclusion by the authors that these isolated lineages are consistent with an expansion out of Africa along the coastal route. Geneticists don’t test out of Africa, they make all the evidence look compatible with it because there’s no other alternative. This is called circular logic. Then, non-geneticists assume that genetics has advanced unequivocal proof that humans originated in Africa and that “only the genetic evidence holds the promise of leading us systematically along the long and winding DNA chain, all the way back to the beginning.” How can we talk about population “replacement” from Africa, if there’re no African lineages outside of Africa? They could’ve at least called it an “African continuity” hypothesis, but this would mean reverting back to MRE. In a word, it’s a stalemate.

    I have to admit that Andaman, Australian and Orang Asli mtDNA doesn’t directly indicate OOAm either. It would’ve been easier for me if they showed A, B, C, D or X lineages, which they don’t. (Y-DNA, however, shows that the Australian aborigines and the Na-Dene populations share different subsets of lineage C.) But at least they all fall into the same macrohaplogroups as American Indian lineages. The only relevance that Andaman, Orang Asli and Australian data has for African genetic variation is that it shows that geographic isolation creates isolated lineages, hence the fact that L is African-specific points to long-term African isolation (until U and M came in) but not African origin. In the same vein, the physical similarity of Andaman Islanders and Southeast Asian “Negritos” to the African Pygmies (short stature) comes from convergence.

    Insufficient sampling is of course a problem, not only for Europe, but for America as well. However, one of the geographic refugia, namely the Caucasus, consistently showed mostly N lineages, with some Asian ones probably coming with the late Turkic expansion.

    Jordania is Eurocentric, you are Afrocentric, I am Amerocentric, Blench is revisionist. These are just labels; may be we can simply say that we all have our specific areas of expertise. Then, there’s a question of scientific methodology that allows us to communicate across our respective areas of expertise. Can you confidently say that monophony evolved from polyphony, which OOAf would require? I understand that in the past musicologists thought that monophony gave rise to polyphony like flute gave rise to panpipe. They don’t think so anymore. What makes you think that the opposite evolutionary process is a distinct possibility?

  89. In your view there is some vast consipiracy among hundreds of geneticists to make all the evidence point to recent African origin. Why would they want to cook the evidence as you claim? As I see it, they are consistently cautious in their writings. They never claim they’ve proven an African origin, only that their results are consistent with that. When just about all the research time after time shows essentially the same degree of consistency and only a few notorious diehards WITH a very clear agenda protest, then I’m sorry but OOAf is looking awfully convincing at the moment. Hundreds of papers finding evidence consistent with OOAf amounts to a huge amount of supporting evidence.

    The intent of the phylogenetic music tree I presented, by the way, was not to bolster OOAf, but to demonstrate that the music too can be seen as consistent with it. The degree of consistency is enhanced by the existence of the same gap in the musical picture that we find in the genetic picture. Is that the only way of looking at the musical picture? No. Which is why I presented my older MRE tree as well. But the coincidence between the gap in the genetics and the gap in the music is far more compelling than the far less interesting continuities I presented in the old tree. Which is one of many reasons I find OOAf convincing. Am I sure it’s right? No. But I do think it important to continue this line of research in both areas.

    Luis explained more than once that non-African lineages are subsets of African lineages, so why do you keep repeating that there are no African lineages outside of Africa?

    “Can you confidently say that monophony evolved from polyphony, which OOAf would require?”

    All the evidence I’ve seen, including some very strong evidence I’ve only come across in the last year or so, which I find extraordinarily compelling, points to P/B style as among the earliest types of human music making. It would almost certainly have been the type of music made by the Out of Africa migrants, assuming OOAf. Since P/B is also by far the most elaborate, intricate and sophisticated type of polyphonic vocalizing among any of the oral traditions anywhere in the world, then I do think it safe to conclude that, yes, polyphony came first. And the various types of monophony and heterophony are in all likelihood the result of population bottlenecks in which the interactive skills necessary to sing spontaneously in this manner were gradually lost. This has nothing to do with musical quality, by the way, as there are many highly sophisticated and indeed very beautiful monophonic and heterophonic traditions, no question.

  90. Victor,

    Luis simplified the picture instead of looking at it objectively. Not being a scientist (that’s what I figured at least by looking at his website), he believes there’s a rock-solid “proof” where in fact there’s none. I launch a critique of OOAf from the point of view of the evidence furnished by kinship and linguistics and my reinterpretation of genetic data. Nothing in genetics is set in stone. (For instance, recent research shows that there’s a radical discrepancy between pedigree mutation rate and phylogenetic mutation rate, which means all our estimates of “coalescence” and “divergence” are 10 times too old.)

    The word “subset” appeared in mtDNA publications when people observed that East Africa has some non-African lineages such as M1 and U6. M1 is closely related to L3a, which was defined by African-specific restriction sites (plus control region mutations). These days geneticists (see, e.g., Olivieri et al. The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Paleolithic in Africa. Science 314, 2006) have figured out that all non-African mtDNA haplogroups found in East Africa are the result of back migration(s). The same concerns Y-DNA, as exemplified by an African subhaplogroup K2 nested within the Asian haplogroup K. This leaves the mtDNA-L clade African-specific in the same way as U is European-specific. It’s just more diverse than other clades. What kind of additional proof of this very simple fact are you asking me to provide?

    Surely, geneticists are not part of any conspiracy, but we’re all embedded in social structures that impose limitations on the hypotheses we’re willing to entertain. Stephen Gould once said that scientists are prone to “unconscious finagling with the data.” We should all keep this warning in mind.

    On a different note, Hal Fleming, the editor of “Mother Tongue” reportedly would like us to continue this conversation on the pages of his magazine. He’s fascinated with Cantometrics, Lomax, and this unknown/forgotten tradition of comparative musiciology. It could be an article presenting your musical evidence for OOAf (you’ve done this already, though), or a response to my work. If you have a general interest in this kind of thing, I’ll contact him about you directly.

  91. “The word “subset” appeared in mtDNA publications when people observed that East Africa has some non-African lineages such as M1 and U6.”

    As I understand it, both M1 and U6 are understood to already be subsets of the L lineages, so whether or not they appear in Africa is beside the point. L is considered a root, from which M and ultimately U branched. Whether that’s a proven fact or a hypothesis isn’t clear to me at the moment, but there certainly are a great many geneticists who accept it. I’ll concede, however, that I’m not a geneticist, thus not prepared to authoritatively evaluate all the evidence and all the arguments. What counts most for me is 1. the papers I’m reading appear to be written with a reasonable degree of objectivity and make a good deal of sense, as far as I can tell; 2. the OOAf picture appears to coincide quite nicely with the musical picture — as I see it.

    Which does not mean I’m prepared to dismiss your approach, which might go deeper into certain fundamentals than anything I’ve considered thus far. When I get some free time I’ll see if I can persuade my library to get your book or else try to find it on interlibrary loan.

    I’m pleased to learn of Fleming’s interest, that’s great. I’d like very much to continue our conversation in “Mother Tongue.” And you can certainly contact him directly about me. I’m delighted to learn of his interest in Cantometrics.

  92. Victor,

    I know that “a great many geneticists accept” a tree rooted in Africa. I just could never say if this is because it’s really true, or it’s because they simply didn’t test an opposite scenario. There’s a good reason to suspect that American Indians were excluded from a search for modern human origins due to a pre-scientific, pre-population genetic bias against this major continental population. Since genetic theories can’t be tested simply by looking at the data at hand (this data has to be run through various statistical formula), I could never get a geneticist to test OOAm. When Tad Schurr learned about my research, he said: “Well, genetics doesn’t have answers to all the questions.” When I discussed it with Zhivotovsky, he thought that high Fst in the Americas was an important parameter in the testing of OOAm, but it never got any further than that.

    Geography and gene phylogeny are intricately connected. There’s ample evidence to show that the greatest genetic distance is found between Africa and America, the two most geographically separated continents. You can build an abstract tree, and some lineages will of course be above others, but we don’t know if we’re reconstructing a real historical process or simply performing a mental exercise extrapolating back the current levels of diversity. In Indo-European linguistics, a computer-generated tree based on lexical diversity points to Anatolia as a homeland, and to Hittite as the most divergent IE language (Gray and Atkinson. Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin. Nature 426, 2003). This is not something that archaeologists or the majority of IE linguists accept, as you know.

    African L sequences are very specific. You can always recognize them. It’s very easy to detect post-Columbian admixture in Amerindian populations if this admixture is from African slaves. (European admixture is more tricky to detect.) That’s why people are searching for these very distinctive lineages outside of Africa in order to be able to draw routes of migration out of Africa. Andaman, Orang Asli and Australian aboriginal studies showed that these indigenous lineages are closer to other Asian lineages than they are to African L lineages. The only way African lineages could be related to non-African ones in a seamless fashion was through East African M1 and U6 lineages. These two are also African-specific distributionally, but phylogenetically they are Asian and European. They were ideal candidates for a bridge from L3 to M and U. But now it seems to be clear that they arrived into Africa 40-35,000 YBP (molecular clock), and hence we don’t have any attested lineages that derive M and N from L3.

    However I don’t know why there’s such a uniformity of opinion regarding OOAf in the genetic circles. Luis would say this is because OOAf has been “proved.” In my opinion, this is because the science of human prehistory is going through a bottleneck. Certain issues such as “origins” have a lot of emotional value to people. They can’t stay rational, and juggle between different scenarios and different disciplines. They have to give a definitive answer, and then spread this idea across a population.

    A couple of music-related questions:

    “P/B is also by far the most elaborate, intricate and sophisticated type of polyphonic vocalizing among any of the oral traditions anywhere in the world.”

    Where does modern Euro-American music stand here? For me, this is an epitome of intricacy and sophistication. Or, we’re considering only oral traditions. Is modern music outside of evolution?

    Are there any attested cases of transition from polyphony to monophony? Or, this would be too much to ask from musical evidence. In my kinship research, all transitions are either attested, or immediately reconstructible using comparativist methods, with subsequent extrapolation to fill in the gaps.

  93. German, if you really believe you’ve constructed a better means of determining human origins than all the geneticists, archaeologists, paleontologists, linguists and ethnologists combined, then you’ve got your work cut out for you to prove it. While there is considerable disagreement within and among all these groups, the relatively late population of the Americas from Asia is something almost all strongly agree on. You’re not going to make your point by sniping from the sidelines. Unless you know of some truly archaic human remains in the New World you’re going to have to develop a truly compelling argument that you must be right and everyone else wrong.

    I have a feeling that you’ve come up with an important new approach to the comparative study of kinship terminology and it would be useful if you could work to establish the validity of your approach first before trying to change everyone’s mind about OOAf — or MRE, for that matter.

    I’m hoping that this is the point of emphasis in your book. Once people start taking your approach to kinship seriously then you will be able to build on that as the basis for an attack on the status quo. I’m very interested to learn what you have to say about kinship and maybe that will open the door to a change of attitude on my part. Until then, I’m going to stick with what the geneticists are saying, because that’s the most sensible approach I’ve encountered thus far.

    As far as modern Euro-American music is concerned, that is of course far more sophisticated than any oral tradition. However, there is good reason to believe it could have developed from polyphonic oral traditions in Europe. See the latest series of posts on my blog for more of that. And there will be more to come soon.

    As far as the transition from polyphony to monophony, I believe the evidence compiled by Jordania makes the point quite clearly. That too is discussed on my blog.

  94. I had to complete that last comment in a hurry and as a result said some things that require further explanation and correction.

    First, by “modern Euro-American music” I’m assuming you mean the “Western tradition” beginning with the development of plain chant and continuing through medieval polyphony, the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic to Modern and Postmodern. Within that tradition there is, of course, a wide range of “sophistication,” so it’s not really meaningful to characterize it as I did. There are certain oral musical traditions that are highly sophisticated indeed and some that are probably just as or possibly even moreso than the great bulk of Western classical music. There’s also a lot of relatively unsophisticated “classical” music, so a comparison along those lines isn’t really very useful.

    And no this tradition is not “outside of evolution.” IMO it is almost certainly an outgrowth from European oral traditions, both monophonic and polyphonic. As I said, this is an issue I am currently exploring at some length on my blog.

    My response to your last question was also overly simplistic. What Jordania’s research points to are traditions of oral vocal polyphony that appear to have pervaded all of Europe, in one form or the other, for a very long time, prior to a later migration or migrations, from the East, of people with monophonic unison and solo vocal traditions. As a result, the great majority of Europeans appear to have lost their original polyphonic traditions, as they lost their original languages, and transitioned to the monophonic model of their conquerors. The original traditions appear to have remained among those who literally “took to the hills” and were able to live apart from the mainstream.

    As for the monophony practiced by their conquerors, it’s not easy to determine whether or not that tradition was indigenous to them from the beginning or represents a period in the very deep past when they too transitioned to monophony from polyphony.

    The original model espoused by Lomax and myself was an origin for monophonic vocalizing among the ancestors of the Paleosiberians. Which implies an independent origin of music from them and possibly also an independent evolution to “modern” human status, ala the original MRE model. There are problems with this model, however, as discussed on my blog.

    The model I prefer is the one you’re familiar with, but of course that is a very long story and not the sort of example you were asking for.

    Perhaps the clearest example of that sort can be inferred by the fact that polyphonic singing is the norm in Western Polynesia, but is not found in Eastern Polynesia. Since the population of Eastern Polynesia is thought to have originated in the West, we can infer that polyphony was lost in that process, most likely due to a population bottleneck.

    Another example would be the British Isles. According to historical reports, polyphonic singing was widespread in parts of the English and Welsh countryside during the Middle Ages, but has now all but vanished — in the oral traditions, of course.

  95. Victor,

    You construct the situation in a way that’s apriori unfavorable to me. I didn’t write my book because I thought “geneticists, archaeologists, paleontologists, linguists and ethnologists combined” are wrong, while I’m right, and my righteousness comes from the study of kinship systems. (Linguists and ethnologists have largely remained silent on the matter of origins, to be exact.) No single system of information is powerful enough to be able to withstand such a responsibility. But taking on an “exotic” perspective on things allows me to do construct arguments in a much more explicit and testable way than what I read from other scholars dealing with the peopling of the Americas and OOAf. When I read, “archaeology and genetics have established that America was peopled from Siberia or East Asia, but the routes of migration and the exact place of origin of Amerindian population in Siberia remain a mystery” (and this is a very common phrasing found on the pages of AJHG, AJPhA, etc.), I instantly red-flag it as self-falsifying (or self-fulfilling).
    How do we know that America was peopled without knowing where and when and how it was peopled? Similarities between shamanism on both sides of Bering Strait have been automatically interpreted as evidence of American Indians coming from Siberia, but similarities, by themselves, say nothing about the directionality of migration. When first mtDNA studies were published, the fact that American Indians have “rare” Asian markers at high frequencies was automatically interpereted as “proof” that American Indians came from Siberia. People dismissed the fact that the levels of diversity and hence coalescence times for each haplogroup shared between Siberia and America are higher in America than in Siberia. (When in 1999, Schurr was asked this during his presentation at the Clovis and Beyond conference, he said it was because of the sampling but no proof was presented.) Only now there was a recent article that cautiously suggested that the fact that American A, B, C, D and X lineages are more diverse than their Siberian counterparts means Siberia was re-peopled from South Siberia or East Asia after America had been peopled. It takes science decades to cautiously present a data-sensitive argument. Geneticists obviously needed to “prove” what people were prepared to accept, namely that “American Indians came from Siberia.” A hypothesis of the re-peopling of Siberia would cast light on the cut-off between Siberia and America that you observed in your music data, and on the fact that Siberia is mostly blood group B, while America is mostly blood group O. And on tons of other pieces of evidence. But geneticists were hell-bent to prove that America was peopled from Siberia, instead of focusing on a more manageable problem of the peopling of Siberia. Hence, no interdisciplinary synthesis couldn’t be achieved.

    “The Genius of Kinship” is a critique of such kind of approach to science. It’s not designed to prove that humans came from America. It’s last chapter is meant to put this possibility on the table, so that scholars hopefully stop assuming what needs to be proved, stop calling “proof” what in fact is evidence dismissal, etc.
    Science needs to be able to publish arguments that “make sense” across interdisciplinary data and to build theories that makes sense not just genetically but sociologically, culturally and linguistically as well.
    When you pit me against an army of scientists, you overlook the fact that I target my argument not at science but against the assumptions that we didn’t derive from the data, but inherited ultimately from a pre-scentific picture of the world in which the “Old” and the “New” worlds were apriori defined. And then spread it from one discipline to another.

    Even in our ongoing conversation, you manage to hold on to OOAf at the cost of dismissing that 1) no African lineages are found outside of Africa (supported by the same regularity in the distribution of the Bushmen canine and click languages); this is a mirror-image of the “peopling of the Americas” fallacy: how do we know that humans came out of Africa if we haven’t identified a single trace of a route out of Africa?; 2) Africa isn’t diverse enough linguistically; 3) the Hofmeyr skull is Caucasoid and biologically the Khoisans have clear “Mongoloid” affinities (while Asians have no African traits); 4) that genetically the Pygmies share ancestry with the Niger-Congo populations but not with the Khoisans; 5) that there’re no traces of Pygmy languages or substratum words pertaining to hunting and gathering. And this list of facts that blatantly contradict OOAf (and deprive your musical data of a safe haven in the “hard” sciences) can be continued.

    And I am very far from trying to win you over. Just preparing to write a book on kinship and human origins. And regreting that I’m still too ignorant to be able to evaluate your comparative musical data. It clearly deserves it.

  96. Also, take a look at a recent X chromosome paper that brings up the point about the absence of typical African lineages outside of Africa: “Most striking from our data is the observation that the only two African lineages that seem to be part of of the out-of-African expansion belong to the X2Y branch. This is surprising because… the older X0Y branch and its derived non-X2Y chromosomes did not migrate out of Africa. It is somewhat unexpected that none of the X0Y chromosomes that currently represent almost half of all African chromosomes…did not move out of Africa” (Yotova et al. 2007. Tracing genetic history of modern humans using X-chromosome lineages. Hum Genet 122: 441.) The tree that this team constructed is a perfect replica of Johnson et al’s tree for mtDNA (so much for the latter being “jurassic”), in which American Indians have the highest worldwide frequencies of the most common human haplotypes, while Africa shows aberrant haplotypes at high frequencies. One single revision to their analysis (instead of assuming GTGT > ATGT, let’s assume ATGT> GTGT) would mean a totally different scenario of human evolution. They did root X0Y in primate sequences (the same was done for Y-DNA and mtDNA), but down the road this human-primate “continuity” approach creates unresolvable problems for both the idea of a “recent replacement” and for the derivation of non-Africans from Africans. Since this stretch of DNA is hypervariable only among humans, and since any human popultion is closer to another human population than both of them to a primate population, any rooting may need to be based on internal human patterning (such as pan-human generality), and not on primate sequences. Of course, we’re somehow related to the primates (hence, I formulate the problem as a “controversy” in the data, and not as an advocacy for OOAm), but it’s risky to use a 5-10 million year-old connection to sharpshoot what happened in the last 100,000 years, especially since it creates noise in the data.

  97. All I can say, German, is that I believe you are being unfair to the many very diligent, intelligent and highly trained people who’ve come to the conclusion that the Americas were populated from Asia rather than the other way ’round. I see no sign that this is based on an assumption. To date, the evidence just seems to point pretty strongly in that direction. If you have new evidence to present that could overthrow the prevailing view, then you have every right to present it and be given a fair hearing. You mention that your theories are testable, by the way, and I’m wondering what sort of tests you have in mind.

    There is a long history of “maverick” theories regarding the peopling of the Americas and all sorts of “assumptions” have been tested in the past and found wanting. The most notorious, I suppose, was Heyerdahl’s theory that Polynesia was populated from South America. While many dismissed his ideas, many others took them seriously enough to put them to the test. And he was apparently proven wrong. (You might not agree.)

    There have been other efforts, some of them very strenuous indeed, to connect Ancient Egypt with the Americas based on the similarity of pyramid construction. And others to demonstrate that S. America must have been populated from Melanesia via a trans-Pacific connection.

    In every instance, there was something about the accepted models that didn’t seem to make sense, and that is still the case. The strange links between Peru and Polynesia remain. The very odd connections between Egypt and Meso- and S. America remain. The very interesting connections between Melanesia and certain S. American peoples remain. But in order to come up with a simple and “logical” explanation of all three mysteries, you need to come up with three very different historical models. And in every case, the new models would not be able to account for mounds of contradictory evidence that would also not go away. Sure, the sweet potato can be found in Polynesia. But all the other domesticated plants come from SE Asia. Sure, we have very similar types of music and musical instruments in Melanesia and S. America. But there is no evidence of the sort of very early migration across the Pacific that would be required to explain that on the basis of a Transpacific connection.

    There will always be things about any scientific theory or model that don’t seem to fit. I already gave the example of the perihelion of Mercury, which could only be explained on the basis of General Relativity. Or what about the extremely complex and sophisticated design of the eye, which has been offered as “proof” that Darwin was wrong?

    So again I urge you to be patient. And keep an open mind. You could be right. But you could also be just as wrong as Heyerdahl et al. If your theory is testable then by all means test it — but remember, your test won’t count until it is independently verified.

    “A hypothesis of the re-peopling of Siberia would cast light on the cut-off between Siberia and America that you observed in your music data”

    I don’t see how it would. But I’m pleased that you noticed that point I made, which doesn’t seem to bother most Americanists. If the Americas were populated via a simple continuity between Siberia and N. A., we’d expect to find a straightforward cultural continuity today between the Paleosiberians and the Amerindians. We don’t — and that is made especially clear when we compare their music. There are links with the Inuit (and possibly the Hupa), but not with any other American groups. That would be a problem for the OOAm model as well, I should think. The model suggested by Oppenheimer, of a long period of isolation in Beringia during the last glacial maximum, is the only explanation I’ve ever seen that could account for that discrepancy.

    “Even in our ongoing conversation, you manage to hold on to OOAf at the cost of dismissing that 1) no African lineages are found outside of Africa . . .” etc.

    In every case your objections appear to be based on unwarranted assumptions, oversimplifications and serious misunderstandings, but there’s no point in hashing over all this endlessly.

    As far as the X chromosome paper is concerned, this is what they wrote in their abstract: “This suggests a complex demographic history and genetic structure of the African melting pot that led to the emergence of modern humans and their out-of-Africa migration.”

    You prefer to ignore the interpretation offered by the authors of this paper in favor of your own interpretation of their results. Yes, it’s always possible to find things that don’t seem to fit a certain model, but I can assure you that any model you come up with will also contain things that don’t fit. As I’ve said, sniping from the sidelines is not going to get you anywhere. You need to establish your own counterproposals as viable, and the best way to do that is to propose tests, carry them out and have them independently verified.

  98. One more point, German, and please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s true that the L haplogroups are as you say found only in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, as I understand it, certain markers (i.e., mutations) that define these groups are in fact found everywhere, among all humans tested to date. On the other hand, there are a great many other markers, the ones used to define M and N, for instance, found very commonly outside of SSAfrica, but only very rarely if at all IN SSAfrica. This looks to me like proof positive of OOAf, because the non-African mutations could only have occurred after humans left Africa — with a few exceptions that can easily be explained as resulting from back-migration. I’ll agree that the grouping into haplogroups and superhaplogroups could possibly be based on a biased interpretation of the evidence. But the distribution of all these mutations, with some found everywhere and others found only outside of Africa, is not an interpretation, it’s direct evidence.

    Interestingly, I found something very similar in the musical evidence, because there are many musical styles that are also not found in Africa, whereas we find survivals of every type of P/B outside of Africa — though largely in remote “refuge” areas. Thus the musical style I’ve called P/B functions very much like the L haplogroups, in that variants of it are found all over the world, and certain other important styles are analogous to M and N since they are not found, or only rarely found, in Africa.

    If you check out my “Phylogenetic Tree” (which can be accessed from my Blog at,
    you’ll see that all the A “haplogroups” are found both in and out of SSAfrica, but all the B “haplogroups” are found only outside of SSAfrica. There are probably some exceptions, the tree is far from perfect, but it does IMO provide us with a fairly good picture of an important distinction that seems to parallel the genetic pattern.

  99. Victor,

    For some reason, we diverge significantly in research methodology and the definitions of a/the scientific method.

    If my ideas are based “on unwarranted assumptions, oversimplifications and serious misunderstandings,” how come I haven’t heard any refutations on your part. This should be easy to do. For every statement of mind, whether it’s linguistics, physical anthropology or genetics, there’s a foundation in the data. You can present a cunterargument and at least venture an explanation of my piece of evidence, but just saying that I oversimplify and misunderstand things is not enough. (The X chromosome paper is an independent source to illustrate my point that the absence of typical African lineages outside of Africa is an objective problem, and not my invention. I may place too much weight on it, but this is justified since linguistics and kinship systems don’t point to Africa as a homeland.)

    “Many very diligent, intelligent and highly trained people came to the conclusion that the Americas were populated from Asia rather than the other way ’round.” Please show me at least one single paper or a conference abstract in which a geneticist or an archaeologist actually entertained the possibility of a reverse migration out of America. Without having this possibility on the table and looking at your data from two different perspectives for a long period of time, you can’t adjudicate between the two. The science of human origins is a data-driven enterprise; we can’t experimentally test our theories. Hence, unless you have a theory at hand to look at your data, you won’t be able to decide whether it’s in your data or not. Usually a single person, but not a group, initiate a new thinking, then the group tests it against the data. Geneticists based their interpretation of the initial findings on the existing convention. Historiography helps us track this convention of thinking back to the 16th century. Just open the first paper by Schurr et al. “American mitochondrial DNAs have Asian mutations at high frequencies” (1990) and see for yourself. It begins by saying: “The nature and timing of the colonization of the New World by Asiatic peoples has been much debated.” It’s obvious that “colonization” itself has never been problematized.

    I think I’ve abundantly discussed the predictions OOAn generates. They concern levels of diversity, population scenario, etc. It’s the matter of a scientific procedure to sit down and look at your data from an OOAm perspective. It takes analyzing South American music, North American music, tribe by tribe, typing the styles, looking at diversity levels, doing the normal stuff (like I did for kinship systems digging into every paper I could find in America, Africa, Oceania and Europe). Then present North and South American data in comparison to the rest of the world. I predict you’ll find high levels of tribal diversity and all possible kinds of musical styles. This is just because I know what’s going on in myths and linguistic structures. Show me why music would be different. And show me why music is resistant to borrowing. Our recent history shows that music is especially prone to borrowing, and the same standards of complexity can be established within a century everywhere from Russia to California.

    Once you mentioned that it’s my responsibility to prove OOAm. Sure thing. But then you’re telling me that I should follow what specialists in the field are themselves saying. Gregory Bateson called it “a double bind.” A scientific procedure places some responsibility on the specialists in their respective fields to look at the data from both OOAm and OOAf.
    If they don’t do that, then we never gonna make a progress or achieve a consensus.

    I know that there’re wacky theories out there. One of them was the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, the immediate ancestor of the Siberian theory of the origin of American Indians. (Ten Lost Tribes of Siberia, so to say.) Wacky ideas are different: some of them spawn “scientific” theories, others are placed outside science. All the archaeologists I talked to in Russia and the U.S. admit that, strictly speaking, there’s no evidence that America was ever peopled from Siberia. Dennis Stanford thinks Clovis came from Europe. He’s a respectable scientist. Is it a wacky theory, or an attempt to explain what has been swept under the carpet? We’re still grappling with the discovery of America, and I wish we could just get rid of pre-scientific assumptions and simply trust that the work we’re doing will generate a theory which will be fully scientific.

  100. Just now saw your other post. Although there’re hundreds of sites that are the same across all continents, only polymorphic sites (those that show at least two character states in the sample) are informative. African L lineages are defined by several restriction sites (stretches of DNA recognizable by certain enzymes such as Bam, Hinc, Dde, etc.) plus control region mutations. These mutations are unique; it means they are not shared with non-African populations. The only CR position in which L, on the one hand, and M and N, on the other hand, converge, is site 16223. There’s another site 16287T, which is found in association with 16223T in haplogroup X (part of N) and in L1, L2, L3. Torroni et al. (2000) mtDNA haplogroups and frequency patterns in Europe. Am J Hum Gen 66: 1175, address this situation and caution colleagues against assuming that this coincidence means L is related to X. In fact, they claim, a haplotype should be defined by more than 2 shared mutations. But then we have to assume that certain shared mutations are the result of convergence. In this case, 16287T in X has to be interpreted as emerging independently from L’s 16287T. Site 16223 remains the only site shared between M/N and L. It’s ancestral state is 16223T (M and L), while N shows the derived state 16223C.

    I think now I understand why you’ve resisted my argument of no African lineages outside of Africa for so long. Like I said, in the late 1990s people thought that M1 and U6 provide a smooth transition from L3 to M and N. That’s when the word “subset” was used. But now all the representatives of M and N in Africa are seen as the result of a back migration. Hence, African variation is not a superset, but a different set loosely connected to non-African variation but exceeding it in the number of mutations within the L lineages.

    In a word, the way I understand mtDNA is the opposite from the picture you have: Africa has a lot of mutations that are not found outside of Africa (hence, their lineages on the phylogenetic trees are superlong), while non-African population have fewer unique mutations, with American Indians being the most “neutral,” having very few continent-specific mutations and sharing the majority of their mutations with Asia and Europe. (If you dig into individual pedigrees, you’ll find a lot of so-called “private polymorphisms,” which sometimes increase American Indian diversity to the level of a European population but it’s hard to track those.)

    How else would you explain the fact that geneticists have this idea of a series of bottlenecks that marked human dispersals: non-Africans lost all the African-specific (and most common in Africa) mutations, while American Indians lost all the Asian-specific (and most common in Asia) mutations? A bottleneck results when a migrant population carries with it only a subset of lineages from its parent population, hence it was assumed that American Indians perchance didn’t take M lineages, while non-Africans perchance didn’t take L lineages. But a more logical expectation entails non-Africans carrying with them a subset of L lineages and developing more mutations in these sequences (Africans themselves have been doing this all along, with their L1a, L5b, etc.), and American Indians carrying with them a subset of M lineages and developing new mutations (in the same way as Andaman islanders or Australian aborigines did).

    This is the root of the problem. We gotta solve it one way or the other before we continue any further.

  101. Yes, I do think we’ve arrived at a crucial point in our discussion. I must admit that you do seem to know what you’re talking about. And since I’m not a geneticist, I’m not sure that I do. On the other hand, the whole point of a phylogenetic tree is that the branches are assumed to contain the same mutations as the root. If M and N are rooted in some L lineage, then by definition they share that lineage’s mutations, no?

    Certainly there are African haplotypes that are not shared by non-Africans, since there would have been many mutations in Africa after the OOAf migration. But the mutations that define the root of the L lineages ought to be found everywhere or the whole thing just breaks down as far as I can see. I’m going to reserve judgment on this until I have a chance to dig a bit deeper into the theory behind it.

    Meanwhile, thanks for making the effort to inform me on the niceties of all this that I could be missing. At the moment I am scratching my head.

  102. OK, let’s try this again, because I really do need help understanding you, German. Here’s a “Phylogenetic Tree of Global mtDNA”:

    Let’s not worry about how accurate or up-to-date it is. I’m just trying to understand what it is supposed to stand for.

    Now it seems as though L0 is separated from everything else on the tree, so I guess that’s what you meant by the L0 mutations not being found outside Africa. But what about all the rest? As it looks to me, L1, L2 and L3, all of which are also found exclusively in Africa, as I understand it, are rooted in the following mutations: 1048, 4312, 6185, 9755, 11914 and 12007. And that implies, does it not, that all lineages not covered under L0 share that basic set of mutations — because the rest of the tree branches from that point. And since M and N are farther down on the tree, all people with the mutations defined by them (such as for example 263 and 489 (for M) and 263 and 8701 (for N) would also have mutations 1048, etc., as above, the mutations that are at the root of the whole tree except for L0.

    What am I missing here?

  103. The trees are getting more and more complicated, as labs sequence more and more DNA. I was looking at the same diagram a few days ago looking for that site 16278 in Africa but couldn’t find it. Also this tree rarely shows the state of a site (A, C, T, or G). Polymorphic position 16223 which is right above L3 is the site in which M, L3 and N converge (see my earlier post). All the mutations listed in this diagram are supposed to be unique (with a few exceptions where hot spots were detected).

    Now, all the mutations above L3 that connect them to L1, L2, L0 are not actually present in L3, M or N sequences. Quote: “African L3 haplotypes are characterized by the absence of L1/L2-specific polymorphisms at nucleotide positions 769, 1018, 3594, 4104, 7256, 7521, and 13650” (Herrnstadt et al. 2002. Reduced-Median-Network Analysis of Complete Mitochondrial DNA Coding-Region Sequences for the Major African, Asian, and European Haplogroups. Am J Hum Gen 2002 70 (5)). This means that 16223 is the only site shared between Africa, Asia, Europe and America. The rest of L1/L2/L0 mutations are not found on the sequences sampled outside of Africa (or on L3 within Africa).

    On the American end, site 3010 within haplogroup D is listed as leading to D4 (Asian-specific subclade) from which D1 (American-specific) is derived. But in (Starikovskaya et al. 2005. Mitochondrial DNA diversity in indigenous populations of the southern extent of Siberia, and the origins of Native American haplogroups. Ann Hum Gen 69) this mutation is shown as shared between D1 and D4 which makes D1 into a sister clade of D4.

    There’re all these things in the phylogenies that make me uncomfortable. And I do think sometimes that ad hoc assumptions of who is to be derived from whom influence genetic inferences. (I also think maybe I am simply ignorant, but this thought is less frequent than the first one.) I wish I had a bandwidth to re-draw an mtDNA phylogeny in which American Indian haplogroups would be shown to form relic branches from a few pan-human polymorphic nodes (D1 is not attested in Siberia, X2a is also unique to the Americas, C1 may be present in a couple of Siberian individuals, etc.)

    But I wish geneticists started off by having at least 2 single-origin alternatives on their table, with two different population scenarios (effective population size, lineage retention, gene flow, bottlenecks, etc.), so that we didn’t have to ponder whether my vision is statistically and phylogenetically possible.

  104. “Now, all the mutations above L3 that connect them to L1, L2, L0 are not actually present in L3, M or N sequences. Quote: “African L3 haplotypes are characterized by the absence of L1/L2-specific polymorphisms at nucleotide positions 769, 1018, 3594, 4104, 7256, 7521, and 13650″”

    But 769 and 1018 are specifically referenced at the root of L3 in the map I referred you to. And the others are listed immediately above. If they aren’t found beyond that point, then why are they listed? Without them there is no basis for the link connecting L2 and L3. So why is it there? Are we dealing with an error that was later corrected? Is there some other explanation? Is this simply carelessness on the part of the person who designed the map? Do later maps show the same mutations in the same places and if so why?

    “This means that 16223 is the only site shared between Africa, Asia, Europe and America. The rest of L1/L2/L0 mutations are not found on the sequences sampled outside of Africa (or on L3 within Africa).”

    But isn’t that enough? Here we have a mutation that supposedly is found everywhere outside Africa, and in some African populations as well. But not found in other African populations. This strongly suggests that the mutation must have arisen in Africa, no? Is there any other mutation like it that could be interpreted as having originated elsewhere?

  105. Victor,

    Now I think you got a sense of the problems with OOAf on the population genetics side. (BTW, 16223 is found on L1 and L2 sequences: look right above the L1 node for one of those; for some reason, L2 doesn’t show it, like it doesn’t show 16287.)

    Mutations at sites 769, 1018, 3594, 4104, 7256, 7521, and 13650 are nowhere to be found outside of Africa and outside of L1 and L2 in Africa. They were put into the phylogeny as a statistically possible resolution (“boostrapping”) of a gap in attested African sequences. (“unconscious finagling with the data”?, no other theoretical alternatives? who knows why) Had L1 and L2 been found in the Andaman Islanders, Orang Asli or Australian aborigines, this would’ve indicated that the missing sequences may have been lost in Africa but at least they are distributionally ancient and global. But since these outliers have only Eurasian sequences, there’s no way L1/L2 can be “above” L3, M and N in the phylogeny.

    A truly ancestral sequence would contain 16223C (also note that this site is polymorphic outside of Africa, for N/R are 16223T), but also a few others that I believe are to be found in the Americas. American genetic variation shows exactly what one would expect to find in a homeland: all its haplogroups are shared with Asia and Australasia, but within each of them American Indians occupy a specific clade largely unattested outside of the Americas. Trans-Beringian sharing of haplogroups, with some clades restricted to the homeland, and some restricted to the adjacent areas not connected to the homeland through recurrent gene flow, is precisely that kind of dense molecular interface one would expect to find at an epicenter of a population dispersal. Away from the American-Australasian interface, the ancient signal was getting slowly lost, with Africans preserving only one single 16223C (also possibly 16287T) but adding a whole bunch of new mutations.

    Johnson et al. 1983 identified this ancestral sequence (found at 100% of sampled American Indians, 75% of Asians, 50% of Europeans and 25% of Africans) in terms of restriction sites (CR wasn’t sequenced at that time). The core set of restriction sites has since then remained the same, but a few were added such as Dde (part of haplogroup X).

    This genetic picture would be fully consistent with linguistics (e.g., click languages are as African-specific as L lineages; linguistic diversity in the Americas, which is 2/3 of world linguistic diversity, correctly predicts the fission of populations in the homeland) and kinship. From this persepctive, P/B music style is seen as a Pygmy/Niger-Congo contribution to Africa spread to the Khoisans (possibly replacing their original monophony) via early diffusion somewhere in East Africa. East Africa is the source of the differentiation and mutual influence of African populations, since all African language families are represented there.

  106. Well, German, you clearly have a far better grasp of the genetic picture, and its problems, than I. All I can say on this matter at this point is that the genetics researchers seem to know what they are doing and tend to be upfront about all the many procedural issues, including the problematic aspects you’ve mentioned, along with many others. This is usually the kind of thing I find myself skipping over when I read their work, because I just don’t know enough to understand. I get the feeling that they are very professional in their approach, which is to say that I trust them.

    Additionally, it seems to me that if they were completely on the wrong track, i.e., if the sort of heavily reticulated picture being promoted by the MRE’s, or the OOAm picture that you see, were closest to the truth, then it would be really difficult if not impossible to construct the phylogenetic maps they’ve been coming up with. They’d simply be riddled with holes and the weaknesses would be obvious.

    If you can construct a phylogenetic tree from the same datasets that reflects the OOAm viewpoint, and can demonstrate that this has fewer problems than anything they’ve come up with, then that could make a real difference. So I guess my next question is: have you attempted this? Is this something you are now working on? And if so, how is it going? :-)

    My feelings about the MRE people are similar. If they can come up with a treatment of the same datasets that works better than the maps produced by the OOAf proponents, then that would go a long way toward promoting their model. So far the ones that have done the most with the data and appear to be making real progress with it are the ones who keep finding consistencies with OOAf. The only way to counter that trend is to come up with an alternative approach that is at least equally convincing.

    “This genetic picture would be fully consistent with linguistics (e.g., click languages are as African-specific as L lineages; linguistic diversity in the Americas, which is 2/3 of world linguistic diversity, correctly predicts the fission of populations in the homeland) and kinship.”

    The linguistic evidence is highly problematic — which is why I think the musical evidence is so important. The relatively recent Bantu expansion appears to have obliterated most traces of linguistic diversity that could have preceded it. Khoisan could represent a survival from a period when a great many other click languages and language families could have existed.

    We must also consider the possibility that the Pygmies and possibly some other h/g groups could have diverged from the ancestral population prior to the full development of language. I discuss this possibility on my blog, in post 98:

    The fact that literally all Pygmy groups (and some other so-called “Dorobo” peoples) now speak the languages of their farmer neighbors could be a significant clue. It’s hard to believe that the same process of language replacement would have recurred in each and every case. There is also evidence you may not know about, of a hunting vocabulary apparently shared among some Pygmy groups in different regions. There is apparently no evidence of any common syntax, however, suggesting that the founding pygmy group may have broken off from the ancestral population prior to the development of syntactic speech.

    Since the pygmies themselves appear to constitute a founding group, it’s possible that large segments of the population of Africa lacked fully developed languages for a very long time. If the Pygmies first learned language from their “Bantu” neighbors, that means that this huge non-“Bantu” population would have been without it until the Bantu expansion, only about 3 to 4 thousand years ago. That would certainly have seriously limited the diversity of African languages.

    “From this persepctive, P/B music style is seen as a Pygmy/Niger-Congo contribution to Africa spread to the Khoisans (possibly replacing their original monophony) via early diffusion somewhere in East Africa. East Africa is the source of the differentiation and mutual influence of African populations, since all African language families are represented there.”

    This is exactly the type of discussion I’ve been hoping to see as a result of my “Echoes” paper and blog. So far the ethnomusicologists have remained silent, neither supporting nor attacking me, which is a real disappointment. I think my research will be of greater value for anthropologists, linguists, geneticists, etc. because of its potential to illuminate certain issues that are becoming increasingly important in these fields. My principal goal is to stimulate discussion along these lines rather than defend my own position at all costs.

    You make an interesting point, which may be stronger than you think, since SW Ethiopia is home to several very interesting non-Pygmy groups who also sing and play in a close variant of P/B (though most don’t appear to yodel). Nevertheless if you look carefully at my “Echoes” essay and blog you’ll find a great deal of evidence pointing strongly to P/B as a practice that could be very close to the origin of music and closely linked with certain primate vocal practices as well. But your suggestion is well worth considering and there is certainly room for debate.

  107. Victor,

    Looks like we’ve reached a promising middle ground. Rewriting the phylogeny is something I’ve been working on and off for a while now. It’s just one side of things; the other is a novel population scenario built around the idea of mutation accumulation and retention, rather than bottlenecking and lineage loss. One of the reasons geneticists sweep under the carpet the problems with the phylogeny is because of the neutrality postulate. If selection was an allowed hypothesis, then African variation from the very start wouldn’t look that formidable. However a combination of population forces of drift, gene flow, bottlenecks, effective population size, geographic expansion can produce a simulacrum of selective pressure in the phylogeny.

    Presenting kinship evidence, doing Indo-European reconstructions, observing the developments in paleoanthropology, etc. has been a priority in the last couple of years, though. I’m still hoping to secure a geneticist to run the whole gamut of statistical and phylogenetic tests. That’s why “The Genius of Kinship” is only a prelude to a book on a multidisciplinary approach to human origins and dispersals, but I thought OOAm has to be layed out for people to look at already now. Although it looks counter-OOAf, in fact it may end up being a theory that will salvage the single-origin-and-replacement idea from the various hybridization interpretations.

    I don’t know what the linguists’ responses are to Bahuchet’s list of substratum words related to hunting. If you have a reference, would much appreciate. And learning more about ethnomusicology and cantometrics is now on my agenda as well.

  108. “Looks like we’ve reached a promising middle ground.”

    Yes. Good! And I think I understand better what your problems are with the prevailing paradigm, which still has holes in it, for sure. I’m hopeful, as I am for the musical research as well, because the sample sizes can only get larger, and also hopefully more representative — and also more discriminating. One problem I often have is when we see samples labeled simply “Melanesia” or “New Guinea” or “The Balkans” or “Italy,” etc., which as far as I’m concerned mean nothing. If the geneticists are able to pinpoint very specific groups, with the aid of very precise ethnographies, folkore studies, musicological findings, etc., they’ll be in a much better position to test their hypotheses. It’s one thing to make vague generalizations about “Spain” or “East Africa” or “Ethiopia,” it’s another to dig into the details of very specific populations with very specific identities and histories. It’s on that level, I think, that the ultimate tests of these methodologies, “bootstrapping” and all, will come. And if they fail the test, it’s nice to know that you’ll be waiting in the wings with a fresh approach. Actually it’s a good idea to have a fresh approach in any case — so long as one does not develop an inordinate, adolescent crush on ones own favorite bright idea. :-)

    To answer your question on Bahuchet’s list, yes, there is a very interesting Master’s Thesis, AKA AS A CONTACT LANGUAGE: SOCIOLINGUISTIC AND GRAMMATICAL EVIDENCE, by Daniel Joseph Duke:

    As I recall, he, like Bahuchet, found traces of an ancestral “Pygmy language,” but this was essentially in the form of a shared vocabulary and morphology, lacking much if any trace of an associated syntax. He found that the Aka now tend to speak in a mixed language, made up of several uniquely “Pygmy” words, but organized in terms of Bantu syntax. All of this as I see it points toward the distinct possibility that all they ever had was an asyntactic or loosely organized shared vocabulary, long on denotation, but short on any other attributes of language.

    One more thing on the topic of language. Languages, lineages, music, etc., each evolve in distinctly different ways. For example, a severe population bottleneck will drastically reduce genetic diversity, but will probably have little to no effect on language, because the same language will most likely be spoken before and after the bottleneck event. Pronunciation may change, vocabulary may increase or decrease, but the fundamentals of the language will remain the same, because all members of a society speak the same language (duh!). Musical practices, on the other hand, may or may not change, depending on the individual talents and interests of the bottleneck survivors. Since music, unlike language, is not something participated in equally by all members of a given group, and always requires certain minimal levels of ability and talent, there is always a good chance that a severe bottleneck may result in the loss of musical complexity, sophistication, nuance, etc. And once this loss takes place, then the new “founding” group and its descendents will have lost it for good, no matter how talented the descendents might be. Because there will be no one to pass on certain traditions that have been lost. So there is a good chance that language will survive certain events that alter the genetic and possibly also the musical picture.

    On the other hand, language has certain built-in tendencies to gradually shift certain parameters over time and can also be suddenly replaced when a new population overwhelms the old one and forces it to speak its language. In such cases language can change while genetic diversity and the musical traditions remain the same. For such reasons, it seems unreasonable to expect the evolution of language and genetics to reflect one another. Because music may well change when the genetic picture changes due to a bottleneck, and because it will tend to remain the same when language either drifts or drastically changes due to outside pressures, it seems to me that it’s the musical traditions that will usually reflect the genetic patterns more faithfully.

  109. Victor,

    I’ve been relocating to Boston, and couldn’t reply right away. Thanks for the reference to the thesis on Aka.

    I can see how myths and music, linguistics, kinship and population genetics, craniology and odontology, archaeology and paleobiology form layers of content related to the study of human origins and dispersals. The students of kinship are slowly entering the scene (Anthropological Forum in Australia will publish Pat McConvell’s review of my book and of Early Kinship, which doesn’t deal with OOAf, later this year).

    Thank you for all your thoughts. They allowed me to see where I stand in relationship to other disciplines.


  110. Victor,

    I’ve just retrieved a very well-written odontological paper by Irish (one-time student of Christie Turner) and Guateli-Steinberg “Ancient Teeth and Modern Human Origins” (J Hum Evol 45 (2003): 113-144). The evolution of dentition is controlled by genetics. The authors lean on the OOAf side, but they admit that the evidence (a worldwide cline from Africa to America) can be read in the opposite direction since African teeth may be too specific and plesiomorphic to be considered ancestral to non-African teeth. (This has always been Christie Turner’s position as well as Turner’s friend, Alexander Kozintsev’s, my professor of physical anthropology in the early 1990s at the University of St. Petersburg) I think their evidence mirrors kinship, linguistics and genetics very well (the question is directionality). They also talk about the hominid and primate connections of the Sub-Saharan dental pattern, which is in line of what you observe in music. A test of the OOAf model of dental evolution predicts that the frequencies of African traits in the ancient dental samples outside of Africa will increase over time. I am afraid this is not the case, though.

  111. I enjoyed reading your post. The post were informative and above all thought provoking. Thanks

  112. the easiest way to explain the hofmeyr skull is to set the time sequence for the divergence of all the strains of homo erectus[including us] back another bunch of thousands of years.there is lots of evidence that there is something much too recent about our dates ,recent looking skeletons in the wrong level at koobi fora, recognizably human tools under ancient overburdens in Califoria and that sort of thing. to me Hofmeyr proves diversity in antiquity as modern skulls like pintaubo prove diversity in the present.

  113. as to the wackiness of the ten lost tribes of israel theory it wasnt so wacky for its day that when copper plates inscribed with phoenician were found in some of the hopewell cultures mounds and taken to be hebrew they looked to the bible for a dispersion of semitic peoples. They were mostly wrong in attributing the voyages to a recent people they knew of[ Israelites] rather than one they had never heard of [ phoenician except possibly when reading in the bible about the black ships of tier or sidon . Rather than attributing the many similarities between the nahuatal et al and the semites to the wandeirng of the jews Cyrus Gordon at Brandeis [well worth reading] attributes it to a common bronze age milieu.

  114. I am reading this exchange belatedly, but in reference to Dziebel’s claim ” Africa is completely lacking Dravidian/Amazonian systems”, please refer to Per Hage’s paper “Dravidian kinship systems in Africa” in L’Homme No. 177-178 2006/1-2.


  115. Although the Yao kinship terminology does show some of the features of “Dravidian” kinship, it’s lacking others. For instance, cross-cousins and spouses are not identified (akamwini H vs. asiwani FZC, MBC) and father’s sister’s husband is merged with father and not with parent-in-law. In addition, Yao are matrilineal (all Dravidian systems are found in bilateral societies), with corresponding “Crow” features in their kin terminology. All these facts are documented in Mitchell’s monograph The Yao Village. Cross-cousin marriage can be a derived custom, as several cases in North America and Oceania show (see The Genius of Kinship). Per Hage did a great job of retrieving data collected before “Dravidian” theory was advanced, but there’re few, if any reasons, to argue that an archaic kinship pattern survived in an ethnic group that emerged as a result of a relatively recent agricultural expansion. Such African languages as Uduk, Laal, !Kung indeed show survivals of ancient kinship structures predating the peopling of Africa, but Bantu kinship is derived in many respects. To be true, there’re ambiguities around which kinship pattern is the world oldest (“Dravidian/Amazonian” or “Australian/North American”) but Africa doesn’t show much antiquity in either direction.

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