On Mexican Toloquilla Footprints and the “Peopling of the Americas”

This post is intended as a follow-up to Kambiz’s review of the new dates for Toloquilla footprints. Frankly, it’s been very tiring to read and watch all the current and past powwows about the validity and veracity of pre-Clovis sites. Science is currently making a huge methodological mistake by assuming that the early presence of humans in the Americas has to be “proved.” In fact, we need to do the opposite:

  1. let’s assume that all continents (America, Africa, Europe, Asia/Australasia) had modern humans (anatomically AND behaviorally) for at least 40-50,000 years ago;
  2. then let’s try to demonstrate, using geography, archaeology, paleobiology, odontology, craniology, genetics, kinship systems, ethnology and linguistics and simulating different population scenarios, that all but one of these continents were in fact peopled from an adjacent continent earlier than the set date;
  3. whichever continent turns out to be most resistant to this kind of multidisciplinary experiment will be the one from which humans originally radiated to all other places.

Right now, hypothesis 1 cannot be rejected for any of the continents, including America. And it’s not the matter of whether Tom Dillehay mixed up the strata in Monte Verde or Toloquilla footprints may not be 40,000 years old. Clovis-I proponents (as well as the new wave of 16,000-YBP-proponents) should understand that “pre-Clovis” is first of all not found in Siberia/East Asia, and that they need pre-Clovis sites in America in order to make “the peopling of the Americas” empirically demonstrable (Dziebel, G. V. 2000. The Test of a Null Hypothesis for the Origin of American Indians //Current Research in the Pleistocene 17: 125-127. Corvallis, OR: Center for the Study of the First Americans). Once convincing lithic and paleobiologial evidence is presented to show that humans indeed peopled the Americas, then we can move on. As of now, scholars are methodologically confused, hence all the irrational fights around pre-Clovis sites.

It’s true that archaeological finds earlier than 12,000 YBP have been slow in coming in the Americas. Notably, some of the most interesting ones indicate human presence vicariously: scat in Oregon, footprints in Mexico, skin flakes in Pendejo Cave. There are several reasons for this paucity:

  1. Looking for the traces of human activity, we apply the standards of the European Paleolithic, thus assuming ad hoc that these standards are universal and will turn up legitimate finds in Africa, Australia, Asia and America. But what if pre-Clovis in the Americas was an adaptation based mostly on soft, perishable technologies? What if humans didn’t utilize stone tools that much? According to Alan Bryant, only 20% of tools collected from a modern tribe are lithic; the rest is bone, fiber, wood. These tools will never be highly visible in the archaeological record;
  2. Population size and density were very low;
  3. Methodological confusion referred to above regarding what has to be proved and what has to be assumed;
  4. Ongoing biases against America as an old continent and the legacy of the conquest. In Transcaucasia, for example, the Azeris and the Armenians have been having land disputes for centuries; not surprisingly, the scholars on both sides have been trying to justify their respective governments’ current land claims by portraying the other party as a “recent” immigrant into the disputed area. By the same token, the colonization of the Americas naturally led to the suppressed estimates of the native populations’ age. And let’s not forget that we’d decided that America was a “new” world long before scientific method has prevailed in the descriptions of nature and culture. America as the New World, i.e. the world not mentioned in the Bible, is a relic of our pre-scientific worldview, and its short Clovis-I chronology is a local survival of the original world short chronology presented in the Bible. As of now, after decades of search, there’s no scientific evidence that indicates that America is a recently populated continent. Only a perverted logic would require a small group of “dissidents” to prove that America is old.

The new dates for the Toloquilla footprints at 40,000 YBP are fully consistent with the fact that Siberia hasn’t furnished the necessary evidence to demonstrate the origin of the earliest American lithic assemblages outside of the Americas. It means that the roots of Clovis, Nenana and other incipient early American archaeological cultures are in America, all the way back to 40-50,000 YBP, unless convincingly demonstrated otherwise.

34 thoughts on “On Mexican Toloquilla Footprints and the “Peopling of the Americas”

  1. “pre-Clovis” is first of all not found in Siberia/East Asia, and that they need pre-Clovis sites in America in order to make “the peopling of the Americas” empirically demonstrable

    Pre-Solutrean is not found anywhere yet it happened. (And this has nothing to do with the quite weirdo, IMO, Clovis-Solutrean hypothesis but it was rather the best alternative example I could come up with). Suddenly you have a couple of sites, far away from each other and, soon after, the new technology spreads all around. Probably we are mixing something in the genesis but we can’t expect to know every single potential archaeological site. Maybe it was developed in a now submerged area or we just have failed to dig in the correct places (which are the odds to find a very localized transition: 1000 to 1?). We can only know such things when they become common enough, and that surely only happened whe the transition had finished.

    Also recent archaeogenetic studies suggest that the roots of Native Americans are not so directly in East Asia or Siberia but in Beringia itself.

    only 20% of tools collected from a modern tribe are lithic; the rest is bone, fiber, wood. These tools will never be highly visible in the archaeological record;

    Bone has been found in the archaeological record once and again. The defining Aurignacian fossil 8as per Mellars) is a bone spear point. And this is a lot older than Clovis.

    Certainly if they would only use wood for tools and weapons, then we would have a serious problem. But this is extremely unlikely. Also the body remains (bone again) should be there somewhere.

    Population size and density were very low

    That’s a real issue. European archaelogy advanced largely because there was a very dense region at the Pyrenees, where cave habitat was very common. The remains were relatively easy to locate and that may not be the case in other areas, including other European areas.

    The new dates for the Toloquilla footprints at 40,000 YBP are fully consistent with the fact that Siberia hasn’t furnished the necessary evidence to demonstrate the origin of the earliest American lithic assemblages outside of the Americas. It means that the roots of Clovis, Nenana and other incipient early American archaeological cultures are in America, all the way back to 40-50,000 YBP, unless convincingly demonstrated otherwise.

    No, sorry. When you have a skull, some tools… then maybe. The “footprints” look to me like water erosion or something. It’s like watching faces in moist markings on the wall: we want to see footprints and we see it.

    It’s easy to say what you say here but it’s not so easy to persuade the rest to take this unlikely evidence as definitive. In general, isolated, doubtful, elements are disregarded. Nobody, at least nobody that wants to be taken seriously, sustains that Acheulean persisted in Galicia, some 200 km from Magdalenian sites until 12,000 years ago. But there is a datation that suggests that. No serious scholar pretends that Bell Beaker was invented in Early Chalcolithic Soria (Spain again) but there is a single beaker from that place that has a much older datation than any other one. People consider them (quite reasonably) to be errors.

  2. To me the most convincing argument against early human arrival in America is the extinction evidence. The recent work on rats in NZ tends to show that human arrival there coincided with mass extinction of indigenous fauna. Research throughout the Pacific shows the same pattern. In Australia likewise. Europe too. Why would America be so different?

    I also have a problem with the comment: “Population size and density were very low”. Unlikely. All species introduced to an environment so far unoccupied by any ecological competitors expands its population exponentially. Again evidence from NZ shows this happened with human arrival, not to mention many other species. And again why would humans be any different?

  3. All species introduced to an environment so far unoccupied by any ecological competitors expands its population exponentially.

    That’s a good point too. America’s climate and resources should have been good enough for a quick demic expansion. Though maybe the counterpoint of New Zealand, of much later date and technology, is not the best comparison.

  4. The interesting thing about the peopling of the Americas is that it keeps getting more and more interesting. The dates are being pushed back, and old sites that were used to validate a Clovis-First hypothesis are now being redated to show that they are actually early Holocene, not late Pleistocene. Such as the redating of the Sandia Cave evidence. I agree, however, that we need to change our thinking and start with the assumption that people were in the Americas 40,000 ybp, then work back from that. The method we have been using has created a limiting bias in our understanding – one that we need to move beyond.

  5. Thank you everybody for your comments. Some further reflections:
    1. Extinctions. Terry makes a great point here, and frankly the fact that America like Australia and Europe had Pleistocene megafauna extinctions, while Africa did not has always made me feel uncomfortable. But then the power of this argument dwindles away as we consider that 1) megafauna extinctions in the Americas are not found in association with man-made weapons; 2) Clovis spanned too short of a period (Waters & Stafford 2007. Redefining the Age of Clovis: Implications for the Peopling of the Americas. Science 315: 1122-1126) to explain the peopling of the Americas, hence we can’t say that Siberian hunters entered a new continent and exterminated 150 genera of large animals, and that’s how the New World was peopled.
    There’s no doubt that humans contributed to the extinction of megafauna in Europe, Australia and America (the last representative of Pleistocene megafauna, the American bison, was almost killed off by the end of the 19th century), but this process is a poor predictor of the time of human arrival to the Americas.
    2. Population expansion as a necessary consequence/corollary of colonization. This is another great point. It’s valid for any late or early scenarios of the peopling of the Americas, but it’s not valid if the out-of-America (OOAm) model is taken into consideration. By the same token, excess in genetic diversity found outside of the Americas (directly related to effective population size and indirectly to demographic population size) is a sign of expansion out of the Americas. This is further consistent with the proliferation of archaeological sites in the Old World and their poor visibility in the Americas.
    3. Soft technologies. I agree with Luis that bone does come up in Late Pleistocene sites (including Old Crow in Alaska at 27,000 YBP), but the fact that our expectations of a valid site revolve mostly around lithics is based on an ad hoc assumption. If early human adaptation hinged on soft technologies, we can’t hope for too much in archaeological research. Archaeology and paleontology have shaped our human origins paradigms for many decades, but these disciplines can’t be considered robust. Only a combination of evidence from both “living” and “dead” populations can allow for a testing of alternative hypotheses.
    4. Ancient remains. Sub-Saharan Africa has very few skulls and bones between 10,000 and 40,000 years (Hofmeyr skull redated a year ago to 36,000 YBP is really the only one). For a long time, Australia didn’t have any evidence of human presence between earlier than 10,000 YBP. But it’s highly interesting that only for the Americas scholars tend to erect theories of early arrival on such a shaky foundation as the random preservations and random finds. We still have thousands of years ahead of us to find what we want. What matters is that Siberia has little to offer in terms of the origin of Paleoindians. And since most Paleoindian skulls are “Australaisian” and not “Mongoloid,” we still have to find those in Siberia. But Siberia has nothing to show for it.
    5. The standards of archaeological rigor are clearly different for the Old World and the New World. When all those Australasian skulls in the Americas were described in the 1990s, did anybody raise his hand to say: “We have to find the same kind of skulls in Siberia in order to make the peopling of the Americas visible in the archaeological record”? No, nobody did. Why? Because people think they know upfront that America was peopled and that it was peopled late, hence the scientific procedure doesn’t need to apply here. The value of Toloquilla footprints is not in whether they can convince each and everyone but that they show what they show: human footprints were found in the Americas 40,000 YBP. I have no way to vouch that this is an uncontroversial find. But we shouldn’t worry about trying to debunk every find suggestive of human antiquity in the Americas. If we believe humans are recent in the New World, let’s follow the scientific procedure to find their ancestors in Siberia. As of now, Siberia offers us nothing definitive or even suggestive.

  6. With regard to the issue of soft technologies, I work in Amazonia, where historically, soft technologies have been the norm. I’m a linguist, not an archeologist, but I have colleagues who are archeologists, and have even had an opportunity to visit one of their digs. The interesting thing about that experience was that there was not a single lithic remain at the entire site, but the archeologists still had *plenty* to work with. A lot of the remains were ceramics, to be sure, but they also showed me how organic baskets leave characteristic traces in the soil, as do houseposts, fires, and agriculture. As I said, I’m not an archeologist, but my very limited experience with Amazonian archeology suggests that invoking ‘soft technology’ only goes so far in terms of explaining the absence of archeological finds that would support the OOAm theory.

    Let me say that I personally have no stake in the OOAm vs OOAf debate, but as someone who is willing to be convinced, I am waiting for more archeological evidence.

  7. That’s very interesting. On the one hand, it supports Alan Bryant’s observation that lithics are not diagnostic of many tribal toolkits. On the other hand, it signals the ability of archaeology to go beyond lithics. Needless to say, the argument of soft technologies is no excuse for no archaeological evidence. But beyond the pottery threshold (roughly 10,000 YBP, is that right?), the chances that wood- and fiber-based artifacts can survive and, most importantly, leave unambiguous traces slim down. The findings of hearths alone in the Americas, as experience shows, have been “unconvincing” to the experts. It doesn’t mean that they don’t exist; they’re just bordering on the traces that a natural fire would leave behind.

    There’re several factors that, I believe, have contributed to the lack of a solid archaeological record in the Americas. Unlike “conservative archaeologists,” I don’t think that there’s one single explanation for this paucity (i.e., lack of human presence), but rather a bundle of reasons, which archaeologists should have addressed in a much more consistent fashion. (Pre-Clovis is less popular than post-Processualism, we have to admit.) But, as a legacy of the 19th century, we tend to dwell too much on archaeology for our answers about “origins,” hence the expectation that “no finds” means “no humans.” We’d better get more focused on what has been passed down to the next generation, and not what was left behind, and here American Indian linguistic diversity may very well be a better indicator of the considerable age of this continental population.

  8. Forgive me if this is too much of a tangent, but how do you think linguistic evidence bears on the validity of the OOAm hypothesis?

  9. … but it’s not valid if the out-of-America (OOAm) model is taken into consideration.

    Oh my! Your model is built in thinner than thin air. It may sound harsh but “wild speculation” is the only valid term that comes to my mind.

    By the same token, excess in genetic diversity found outside of the Americas (directly related to effective population size and indirectly to demographic population size) is a sign of expansion out of the Americas.

    In your dreams! When you show me a single American haplogroup that is upstream of Eurasian, Australian and African ones, then you’ll have something. Clades do not arise from nothing: spontaneous generation was long ago abandoned. There is just no way that Y-DNA A or B, or the various mtDNA L-someting could have arosen from the limited array of Native American clades (or European for the case).

    African clades include (Eurasian clades include (American clades)).

    That’s the set equation and not the other way around. It’s just impossible, sorry.

    When all those Australasian skulls in the Americas were described in the 1990s, did anybody raise his hand to say: “We have to find the same kind of skulls in Siberia in order to make the peopling of the Americas visible in the archaeological record”?

    East Asia is full of those “Australasian” skulls up to almost the Neolithic. Siberia was largely empty in many periods of the UP: it may not have been ice-covered but it was a very unhospitable dry cold habitat.

    The mystery lays in the rise of Mongoloid types in East Asia, not the absence of them.

    _____

    Just to get this focused, the discussion should be:

    1. Is there a pre-Clovis element. AFAIK there is, even if so far datations are not uncontroversial for under 20,000 BP (or something like that).

    2. Does that pre-Clovis element date to some 40 or 50,000 years ago. Seems unlikely but would fit in the OOA model anyhow if it would be the case. It’s in wait of more solid evidence (at least from my perspective).

    There is no room nor need to get into any wildly hypothetical out-of-America scheme.

  10. I am afraid we’re now going to repeat the discussion around my post “The Genius of Kinship: Human Kinship Systems and the Search for Human Origins” (https://anthropology.net/2008/05/12/the-genius-of-kinship-human-kinship-systems-and-the-search-for-human-origins/)
    in which I introduced my book in which, in turn, evidence from my world analysis of kinship systems and terminologies was presented. That discussion is 112-comment-long, and my book is 568p. long. I just have to refer the readers back to these two sources in which my critique of OOAf and a new alternative, namely OOAm, are tentatively outlined.

    In my post on May 30, 2008, I wrote:
    “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’s a big problem with the current version of the mtDNA phylogenetic tree: it hinges on one sole mutation 16223T shared between Africa, European, Asian and American Indian sequences. All the rest of the “upstream” mutations supposedly connecting L1-L2 and L3 are not found on the actual sequences both within and outside of Africa. African mtDNA types are African-specific and not found outside of Africa. (Australian aborigines, Orang Asli and Andaman Islanders are all M and N, no L1, L2 or L3.) Hence, they are relatively recent and represent a special evolutionary development within Africa. mtDNA is definitively not proof of a “replacement” out of Africa because African lineages are not found outside of Africa.

    What in fact we find are different diversity levels, with a cline connecting Africa and America. But these diversity levels depend on population size (effective and demographic) and not on age of a population. All American Indian clades are deep-rooting but also shared with Asia, Europe and the Pacific. They don’t have to be diverse to be old, for diversity is a function of effective population size. American Indian populations have been small for a very long time, while outside of America populations expanded and hence the diversity levels went up, with Africa randomly (or geographically) ended up with higher levels of diversity.

    The Americas harbor 2/3 of world linguistic diversity as measured in the number of stocks. Assuming that linguistic diversity expresses age (there’re caveats to that, but kinship systems give this logic an independent support), America is an old continent. Alternatively, Africa has just a handful of families. This replicates the genetic cline pretty well, etc.

    Please read my book and my earlier posts for more information. Also, the idea behind OOAm is not an advocacy but a way to test OOAf against another single-origin alternative. So far, OOAf has been compared to MRE, which is not methodologically rigorous, for such a comparison can allow us to differentiate between a single-origin and a multiregional solutions but not between Africa vs. America vs. Asia vs. Europe. Since America is the exact opposite of Africa on all counts (genetic, odontological, linguistic, kinship, etc.), it’s specific enough to provide a good test.

  11. To LevMichael: Regarding the relevance of linguistic diversity in the Americas to the problem of the peopling of the Americas, I base myself off of Johanna Nichols’s “Linguistic diversity and the first settlement of the New World.” Language 66:3. (1990) as well as her Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time (1992). As measured by the number of independent linguistic stocks, linguistic divergence in the Americas must have taken at least 35,000 years. Of course, this figure cannot be taken literally but there’s a marked contrast between language diversity in the Americas (and in places like Papua New Guinea, with human archaeological record of some 40,000 years) and language diversity in Africa. The distribution of grammatical features (such as head-marking vs. dependent-marking, numeral classifiers, etc.) again shows a cline from America and Australasia to Africa and Europe, and Nichols’s argued that our perspective on an early human language comes from America and Australasia and not Africa and Europe. Kinship systems and terminologies support this distribution, with America being the least transformed from a reconstructed proto-human kinship pattern(s). Kinship evidence is crucial here, for it ties to genetics through marriage practices and demography.

    In a word, there’s an emerging global population model which explains the observed patterns of linguistic, genetic and sociocultural variation as a result of an expansion out of America some 40-50,000 years ago. This model explains the paucity of archaeological finds in the Americas as largely an “observer’s error.”

    I’m aware of Nettle’s attempt to undermine Nichols’s estimates (see Nettle, Daniel. 1999. Linguistic diversity of the Americas can be reconciled with a recent colonization. Proc Nat Acad Sci 96 (6): 3325-3329) as well as R. M. W. Dixon’s speculative observations on the recency of linguistic diversity in Amazonia in “The Rise and Fall of Languages” (1997). Nettle’s mistake is that he ASSUMES that Africa has been peopled for 100,000 years and since it’s linguistic diversity is low, there MUST BE an inverted correlation between linguistic diversity and population age. In doing so, he denies linguistics, with all its massive databases, classification methods and 200 years of phylogeny-building experience, any autonomous contribution to prehistory. Dixon’s “punctuated equilibrium” argument is that languages first rapidly differentiate and then slowly converge. Australia has only 2 language families, but it’s proven record of human occupation is 40,000 years. Amazonia (and America in general) has many different language stocks, hence there was not enough time for them to converge into a fewer number of stocks.

    With all due respect for Dixon and with all my appreciation for convoluted evolution, I just can’t see how this model can be testable. There’s no “iron law” that obliges languages to rapidly diverge and slowly converge. Human dispersal around the globe was spontaneous, and guided by geography and population dynamics. In order to start seeing Dixon’s model as achieving the status of a historical reality, we, in the very least, have to have some kind of anchor in Northeast Siberia, South Siberia, Beringia and East Asia (areas usually presented as a possible homeland for Paleoindians) that would show any special typological (grammatical, phonological, morphosyntactical, etc.) relationship to American Indian languages (regionally or to all of them as a whole). In reality, American Indian grammatical features are spread all over Asia and Australasia with some striking links to Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Caucasus. (Compare: such a prominent feature of some African languages, namely clicks, aren’t found outside of Africa suggesting not great antiquity but African-specific evolution.)

    In my model, American Indian linguistic diversity is a result of long-term isolation and fragmentation. Australia was peopled by a small number of language stocks and, in a geographically constrained environment, these stocks didn’t differentiate any further. The only “iron law” I admit is that of spontaneous differentiation from a parent population, which is not an “iron law” at all.

    A clue to African and European language history is again provided by geography and population dynamics. Geographically, both Africa and Europe (like Australia) are “tucked-away.” European and African populations also show an important commonality in their genetic makeup: both continents are dominated by lineages that are largely specific to these continents (mtDNA L lineages in Africa and mtDNA U lineages in Europe). No matter how internally diverse these lineages are, they are geographically very restricted. (American Indian mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, on the contrary, are found all over Asia, Pacific, Australia, Europe, and North Africa.) Translated into the levels of linguistic diversity, Europe experienced periods of language replacement (now it’s dominated by Indo-European languages) but all these replacements originated from the same genetic pool. In a sense, European linguistic diversity mirrors the geographic spread of European genetic lineages. Both are limited.

    Africa probably absorbed several different genetic streams, but these populations remained confined to Africa with language replacements slowly eating away the original (moderate) language diversity but increasing genetic diversity through recurrent continent-wide gene flow.

    To summarize, linguistic diversity is a good and straightforward predictor of a population’s age if geography is factored in and if it’s checked against the mtDNA and Y-chromosome picture. Linguistic diversity steadily increases with time, unless this process is checked by geography and reversed by population replacements. However the factors of geography and population replacement are subordinate to the factor of spontaneous differentiation because differentiation occurs all the time and everywhere, while geographical constraints and population replacements are accidental events.

  12. I’ll answer a couple of your comments German.

    “while Africa did not has always made me feel uncomfortable”. In a 1971 book “The Age of Mammals” Bjorn Kurten claims there was in fact a mass extinction of megafauna in Africa. Relatively slow but completed by 60,000 years ago. This fite remarkably with currently accepted dates for Y-chromosome Adam, who hadn’t even been thought of when the book was published. The animals he lists include three-toed horses, a giant deer, an antlered giraffe, giant baboons, sabertooth and scimitar-toothed cats, a bear, many types of pig and various types of elephant, hyenas, antelope and buffalo. Quite a list.

    “Australia was peopled by a small number of language stocks and, in a geographically constrained environment, these stocks didn’t differentiate any further”. We don’t know that. In fact it’s generally accepted that one of those language stocks (Pama-Nyungan) has spread in the last say 10,000 years and replaced other families. This may have been caused by massive drought causing human extinctiions, with the Pama-Nyungan languages expanding with the return of more pleasant? conditions. (I know Australia fairly well, hence the question mark!).

  13. Terry,

    We have to double-check African extinctions. The study I have in front of me (Lyons et al. 2004. Of Mice, Mastodons and Men: Human Mediated Extinctions on Four Continents. Evolutionary Ecology Research 6: Fig. 1 and p. 353) explicitly says: “The lack of extinctions in Africa is especially notable given the long history of humans on this continent. The co-evolution of man with the African megafauna may have resulted in the evolution of effective anti-predator behaviors.” The accompanying figure shows little to no extinctions in Africa in the Late Plaistocene. However, interestingly enough, 10 species of elephant-like poboscids went extinct between the Early and Mid-Pleistocene, which coincided with the development of “more complex cultures and societies” by Homo erectus.

    The anthropogenic origin of Pleistocene extinctions is beyond doubt. The peaceful co-evolution of humans and the megafauna is rather naive, unless we can prove that elephants learned how to dodge Pygmies and Pygmies once upon a time agreed to spare the elephants.

    However is it human migrations or changes in human economics and specifically in human hunting practices that bring about megafauna extinctions? The size of the extinct animals is what’s constant across all continents. Larger animals are more likely to go extinct because human hunting habits favor big game.

    Early-to-Mid-Pleistocene African extinctions were not caused by the arrival of H. erectus. Rather, it was an in-situ change in subsistence practices, from passive to active, from small-game to big-game hunting, etc. The depletion of the beaver population in North America was a result of fur trade and trapping and not a migration. In the 19th century, some Shoshone Indian groups hunted bison (the only surviving species of megafauna) on horseback, while others subsisted on fish, bighorn sheep, camas root, grasshoppers and occasionally antelope. Two kinds (and two stages) of subsistence practices were recorded within one single ethnolinguistic entity.

    The same argument can be advanced to explain Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene changes in subsistence practices and hunting habits. This is consistent with the physical size of some of the Clovis points and their progressive diminishing as the big animals were going away. There’s no need to resort to the idea of bands of Siberian hunters with advanced technologies colonizing the Americas in a deadly blitzkrieg. It was an internal Paleoamerican economic transition fueled by climatic change and possibly local migrations and continent-wide technological diffusion.

    The opposite scenario, I suppose, can work for Africa. The arrival of modern humans to Africa was not accompanied by an economic transition to intensive big-game hunting, probably because early Africans were too busy adapting and exploring a new environment and fighting with each other. This is speculative, but as far as I remember African Late Stone Age doesn’t feature long projectile points. In any case, cautious behavior is more appropriate in a new environment than a headlong rush from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego so often attributed to “Clovis hunters.”

    Regarding Australia, my point was only to demonstrate the flaws in Dixon’s false juxtaposition of Australia and America: older archaeological finds are not causally related to reduced linguistic diversity; high levels of linguistic diversity do not mean that not enough time has elapsed since a continent was peopled. Languages differentiate with the passing of time; in geographical pockets such as Australia we can expect this process to be checked by geography. If Pama-Nyungan replaced a bunch of other language stocks (which is very intersting and very true, as far as I can extrapolate from some interesting survivals in the kinship vocabularies of “unclassified” Australian languages that went extinct under the most recent replacement by the English language), it means that 10,000 years ago Australia was more like America and Papua New Guinea linguistically. This is fully consistent with OOAm. Dixon’s logic would want all the old diverse Australian languages to miraculously converge into a “Pama-Nyungan” entity, while in fact there was a simple population replacement like the one caused by the Bantu expansion in Africa, the Indo-European expansion in Europe, the Uto-Aztecan expansion in North America or Quechuan expansion in South America. Of course we don’t know how many language stocks entered Australia originally (I assume not too many because of its geographically marginal position), but Dixon’s logic of using extant Australian linguistic homogeneity as an indicator of the recency of American Indian heterogeneity is simply incongruous. The same holds true for Nettle’s critique of Nichols. Nichols (1990) remains the fair representation of an approximate age of the American Indian population based on linguistic evidence.

  14. I am afraid we’re now going to repeat the discussion around my post “The Genius of Kinship: Human Kinship Systems and the Search for Human Origins”

    No. [b]We[/b] are not. I have sufficiently stated my position here (and more than sufficiently in the other thread). Enough is enough.

    In my post on May 30, 2008, I wrote:
    “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).

    That is not correct. I will try to clarify for the sake of preventing more confusion among possible readers (as I don’t believe I can persuade you).

    All human mitochondrial sequences share a lot of it: they are human mitochodries and not peanuts nor fish, nor even Neanderthal mitochondries (close but not quite). That has to be defined in the genome and in fact it is. Most of the genome is shared by all humans by the simple fact that we are humans, not triceratops nor funghi.

    So the scientific literature will just highlight the differences in that overall so similar code.

    The wider differences (in mtDNA) are between L0 and all the rest. There are 16 mutations separating these two branches, of them, three are believed (based on comparison with Chimpanzee genome, I understand) to be basal mutations leading to L(xL0) and 13 to Lo.

    If we exclude L0 and all what is human that the rest share with them, there are still three mutations that are shared by all L(xLo) clades. At that point L1 branches apart (some call all L(xL0) L1, this may be confusing but it’s just lack of a standard nomenclature). L(xL0,L1) share four more basal mutations, then L5 branches apart. L(xL0,L1,L5) shares 12 mutations, then L2 branches apart (this set is also known globally as L2 by some). L(xL0,L1,L2,L5) shares 1 basal mutation, then L6 branches apart. L(xL0,L1,L2,L5,L6) shares 6 other basal mutations, then L4 and L7 branch apart.

    This remaining set is known as L3 (or L3+M+N, depending on who you read) and shares two common mutations (maybe only one known when you read that). These two mutations are not what joins them with the other L clades (much much more) but what joins them inside the L3 macro-haplogroup specifically.

    Obviously there is a lot of high level diversity in Africa. That’s why it’s overwhelmingly understood as the oldest homeland of humankind. Low diversity would imply a more recent arrival and the subsequent founder effects: a smaller genetic pool to diverge from. The lesser the diversity, specially the high level diversity, the more recent the arrival (unless supermassive bottlenecks are invoked).

    And this is more than enough. Stop misreading respectable authors and sowing confussion, please.

  15. There is evidence that the original OOAf migration proceeded very rapidly across the Indian Ocean coast, possibly using water craft. There is no reason to assume it would have halted or moved inland when reaching the Pacific coast, which for them would have been exactly the same coast as before. It seems likely therefore that the migration would have continued up the coast of East
    Asia until hitting the coast of Beringia. Weather conditions permitting, they could have continued east along the Beringia coast and then south along the western coast of the Americas, also borne by water craft. If they used sailing vessels this expansion could have been very rapid indeed.

    If the original OOAf event took place anywhere from 80,000 to 60,000 years ago, descendants of the original group could easily have been living in Central and South America by 40,000 ya. Which would have placed modern humans all along the American west coast prior to the lgm. As the lg approached m, much if not all of N. America could have been increasingly uninhabitable, causing those groups to head either south or north (to refuge in Beringia).

    This is in essence the scenario painted by Steven Oppenheimer and it makes a great deal of sense. For one thing it would explain the great richness of musical instruments in Central and South America and their extreme paucity in the north (drum, flute and rattle).

    It would also explain the great diversity of language families in the Center and South, since these areas would have been inhabited for at least 40,000 years, with plenty of time for languages to diversify. We see a similar picture in Melanesia, where humans have also been living for tens of thousands of years. Both N. Guinea and S. America contain many groups that have been largely isolated from one another, which would also contribute to the diversity.

    Australia has a very different topography and people have been known to literally walk across large stretches of that continent, so it’s not difficult to see how one or two language could come to dominate under those circumstances.

    As for Africa, the relatively recent Bantu expansion could easily have erased a great many languages and families, thus severely reducing the linguistic diversity there.

    It’s a mistake imo to put too much faith in automatic processes that must necessarily produce predictable results. As the geneticists have shown, history is full of contingencies of the sort that can change things drastically. In other words, the best laid schemes developed by mice and anthropologists may indeed go astray.

  16. Victor brings up an interesting point regarding the diversity of musical instruments in South America and their paucity in North America. In South America, the Siberian/North American hand-drum is recorded only among the Mapuche, which does point to a deep southward trickling of populations within the Americas (a northward movement of Clovis-type points into Alaska is also well-attested archaeologically, though).

    As far as Oppenheimer’s beachcombing route, I still need to see a genetic trace of it. The advantage of an OOAm interpretation of mtDNA and Y-DNA maps is that, since American Indians share clade membership with certain populations in the Old World, it’s possible to pinpoint specific/possible routes of migration.

    Luis has turned science into an ideological battle by chopping population genetic theory and evidence into pieces and selecting only OOAf-compatible facts. He understands that a phylogenetic tree represents only unique mutations (there’re a lot of non-polymorphic sites that are not informative), but then he overlooks the fact that 16223C occurs twice on the mtDNA trees, once on L1 and once on L3 (see the tree posted earlier by Victor). Homoplasy is impossible to assume for this site (this admission would result in humans forming several disjointed populations). Then why is it there? Because certain parts of the tree with missing links in the actual sequences are being connected through various statistical resamplings, while the cases of single-site sharing are being reassigned to different haplogroups (under the assumption that a haplogroup cannot be defined by one single mutation). Another case in point is 16287 that defines L2 and European X. This mutation is assumed to have taken place twice, but on what grounds? This is what’s called “noise in the data,” and people who are intimately familiar with population genetic research know that it’s always been a fly in the ointment for OOAf. However, it all depends how much importance you attribute to this noise. In the absence of a single-origin alternative, geneticists thought it was no biggie. But in the light of OOAm this is an important flaw. OOAm allows only unqiue mutations: if a mutation is shared between populations or continents, it’s due to common descent, if it’s unique to a population or a continent, then it’s an innovation.

    Or, Luis may understand that diversity levels are somehow related to bottlenecks, but he doesn’t understand that allele diversity is a function of effective population size. A bottleneck reduces the number of reproductive adults in a population, hence a drop in diversity. But then a population recovers from a bottleneck and replenishes its genetic diversity through population growth and, of necessity, geographic expansion. Human prehistory is an alternation of bottlenecks and expansions, genetic drift and gene flow. Africa ended up having more diversity, but less geographic span for its continental lineages. America belongs to the clades with the highest geographic span, but it has lowest levels of diversity. This startling set of correlations leads to a hypothesis that there was a population process between America and Africa associated with population growth and expansion. Africa and Europe have continent-specific lineages. Africa has a lot of diversity. Consequently these two continents are at end of a trail, not at the beginning. Asia and America have next-to-global lineages, and America shows world-lowest levels of diversity, hence it’s the beginning of a trail.

    Of course, OOAf has a lot of equity in it (such as continuities with the hominids and the apes, which are either common descent or convergence/plesiomorphy), and some scholars like Victor Grauer see a lot of explanatory potential in it for his musical data, but it does have its problems (phylogeny, distribution, population scenario, ad hoc assumptions, monodisciplinarity, etc.) that grow exponentially as another single-origin theory such as OOAm is being developed. Luis’s writing is the example of a scientific hypothesis turned into a dogma due to the absence of timely alternative interpretations of the genetic evidence. And it’s perfectly okay with me if OOAf proves to be correct, but it needs to be defended on scientific and not dogmatic grounds.

  17. There is evidence that the original OOAf migration proceeded very rapidly across the Indian Ocean coast, possibly using water craft. There is no reason to assume it would have halted or moved inland when reaching the Pacific coast, which for them would have been exactly the same coast as before. It seems likely therefore that the migration would have continued up the coast of East
    Asia until hitting the coast of Beringia. Weather conditions permitting, they could have continued east along the Beringia coast and then south along the western coast of the Americas, also borne by water craft. If they used sailing vessels this expansion could have been very rapid indeed.

    If the original OOAf event took place anywhere from 80,000 to 60,000 years ago, descendants of the original group could easily have been living in Central and South America by 40,000 ya.

    It could, certainly. Though I would not argue too strongly to suggest that the move to sub-arctic Beringia had to be very old in any case: climate conditionants against that move were strong. Notice that the permafrost reached as far south as Beijing at the LGM and that the OOA original peoples were logically best fit for tropical and subtropical enviroments, not the far north.

    In any case, if it happened, we should find some good archaeological evidence of it. So far such evidence is lacking or is very controversial.

  18. Luis, Oppenheimer sees Beringia as a refuge area during the lgm. His book is very thoroughly researched, so I suggest you take a look and see if his references make sense.

    It’s true there’s very little direct evidence, but the circumstantial evidence is considerable. Oppenheimer makes the same point as German regarding the great diversity of languages in S. America as opposed to N. Amer. This is not what would be expected from a straightforward migration from Siberia to America via Beringia.

    There is also considerable musical evidence, which Oppenheimer didn’t mention at all but would have strengthened his case. In addition to all the instruments in S. America there is also less musical continuity than would be expected between the Paleosberians, Inuit, and N. Americans. N. American song style, which is very homogenous across that continent (and parts of the south), is not simply a continuation of the song style of the Paleosiberians (though they do seem related). This suggests a long period of time in Beringia where such a style could have developed prior to an expansion south after the lgm. Again this fits very well with Oppenheimer’s take on the ethnographic and linguistic situation.

  19. Victor, what prevents you to interpret the Paleosiberian musical tradition(s) as an offshoot of the North American Indian one(s), with Beringia functioning as a refugium for the former, rather than the latter? There’s strong mtDNA (16111C>T within haplogroup A) and Y-DNA evidence (DYS199 T found only in the Chukchees, Eskimos on both sides of the Beringia and American Indians) that the Chukchees and the Koryaks belong with American Indians.

  20. German. Thanks for your very relevant response to my comments regarding extinctions. I’d agree totally with your comment, “However is it human migrations or changes in human economics and specifically in human hunting practices that bring about megafauna extinctions?” In fact we can assume any change in hunting practices would be associated intimately with the male members of a population. This tends to support my proposal that the extinctions are associated with an expansion of Y-chromosome lines. In other words rather than demonstrating the expansion of a single small group the Y-chromosome distribution represents an expansion of hunting practices through a pre-existing population, confined at the time to south of about 50 degrees north and west of Wallace’s line.

    I would also disagree with your comment, “Dixon’s logic would want all the old diverse Australian languages to miraculously converge into a ‘Pama-Nyungan’ entity”. Not at all. Just one language may have expanded, as is often believed to be the way evolution works anyway.

    Regarding linguistic diversity in America. Let’s suppose for now that Greenburg and Rhulen are correct and the vast majority of Indigenous American languages have a single origin. Their diversification would be at least as ancient as G and R’s Eurasiatic language superfamily. It would be no surprise therefore that the American languages are as different as are Greek, Eskimo, Estonian, Turkic, Ainu and possibly Hebrew.

  21. German:
    “Victor, what prevents you to interpret the Paleosiberian musical tradition(s) as an offshoot of the North American Indian one(s), with Beringia functioning as a refugium for the former, rather than the latter?”

    If you read Oppenheimer, you’ll see that he’s worked out a carefully thought out step by step scenario for the peopling of the world from Africa. This is encapsulated in the interactive map he’s put together, which can be accessed from the Bradshaw Foundation website. The Beringia refuge theory fits quite convincingly into the overall picture he’s painted. If you want to turn that around and move the migration in the opposite direction then you’ll have to work out a broad based scenario of your own that is also convincing — and fit Beringia into that. Perhaps you’ve already done that. And if so I’m certainly interested to see what you’ve worked out.

    His Beringia scenario is convincing in large part because it fits so well with his overall picture of everything that happened prior to the Beringia refuge episode.

    There are at least two major musical styles in the Americas, one found throughout the North and parts of the Cent and South, and the other scattered in various parts of Central and S. Amer. The second style has features that put it very close to Melanesia and indigenous SE Asia. O.’s scenario accounts for that, despite the fact that he never covers music at all. I find that impressive and convincing.

    For you to move things in the opposite direction you’d have to come up with a scenario that accounts for these differences — and the Melanesia connections — in an equally convincing manner.

    “There’s strong mtDNA (16111C>T within haplogroup A) and Y-DNA evidence (DYS199 T found only in the Chukchees, Eskimos on both sides of the Beringia and American Indians) that the Chukchees and the Koryaks belong with American Indians.”

    Which American Indians? That’s the crux of the matter.

  22. Victor, at this point I was just trying to pick your brain on the music-specific connections between Paleosiberia and North America. I thought your evidence indicates that North American musical style(s) can be derived from Paleosiberian ones because of this and that. But now I am hearing that you are simply mapping music onto Oppenheimer’s scenario following his logic of who is derived from whom. But Oppenheimer simply painted a possible picture of ancient human dispersals, and in doing so he didn’t consider the scenario under which America’s a long-term isolate possibly contributing back-migrations into Siberia at the end of the Ice Age.
    Like a lot of what we do, Oppenheimer’s picture is speculative and selective, and I am curious if an expert in a concrete dataset, namely music, can test his idea of using Beringia as a refugium for all American Indians (and Paleoasiatic peoples as a outgroup for all South and North American Indians) against my idea of using Beringia as a refugium for a limited set of populations (Paloasiatic, Na-Dene, Eska-Aleuts, etc.).

    Myths show a wide sharing of motifs (especially, the Raven cycle) between Paleoasiatic peoples and Eskimo-Aleuts and Na-Dene, with very few specific links between Paleoasiatic peoples and North American Indians beyond Na-Dene.

    mtDNA shows that the Chukchees, Siberian Eskimos and the Koryaks belong with North American Indian versions of haplogroup A (this haplogroup shows growing frequencies from south to north in North America and trickles into Northeast Asia). Y-DNA shows that the same Northeast Asian groups share with American Indians their most specific and lineage Q. Q is found all over America (including Eskimo-Aleuts), unlike, say, P (defined by M45 mutation) that connects America with Europe and that’s largely restricted to North America.

    Taken together, all these pieces of evidence allow us to consider the possibility that Paleoasiatic peoples, with their myths and music, represent an offshoot of North American Indians.

  23. Terry,

    If we assume that Greenberg and Ruhlen were right about Amerind, we should then assume they were also right about the “proto-World” (see Ruhlen’s worldwide cognate lists). Their methodology doesn’t allow to distinguish between different degrees of linguistic kinship. They can only say that in a certain pool of data (worldwide, all American Indian languages but Na-Dene, all Eurasiatic languages) there’re similarities in the sound and meaning of words. These pools of data are largely suggested by geography. Most linguists dismiss these similairities as accidents (the connection between sound and meaning is inherently arbitrary, hence phonemes, morphemes and lexemes are mental not physical objects) or borrowings. Look-alikes are widely attested in every language. There’s no way to test if, say, *pul- ‘hand, arm, etc’ found in Kelabit, Yamana, !Kung and Saami is the same word. The only way to do it would be to work out sound correspondences that always require large samples of data (but also peter away with time) and/or unique semantic patterning underlying the putative cognate (say, ‘shoulder’ and ‘thigh’ may be expressed in the same word reflecting a more systematic tendency on the part of ancient languages to group body parts on the basis of polarity and homology and not proximity unlike more recent languages that tend to call ‘shoulder’ and ‘forearm’ by the same term). In “The Genius of Kinship” I used kinship terminologies as an example of getting into ancient linguistic relationships by means of tracking down unique grammatical and semantic patterns associated with a closet set of lexical items.

    But even if we assume that Greenberg’s and Ruhlen’s look-alikes are in fact cognates, we can’t really determine the degree of internal differentiation within a superphylum (proto-World, Amerind, Eurasiatic or else) apart from the conventional first-order language families that comprise them. Hence, the fact that Greenberg and Ruhlen declared Amerind to be a “family” and Eurasiatic to be a “family” doesn’t mean that these two “families” are identical or comparable in the degree of internal differentiation. We have to go back to the conventional classification of Eurasian and American Indian languages to get at the diversity levels.

    Greenberg himself was fully aware of this, for he thought of his method as yielding only top level groupings from which future research will work forward in time to arrive at intermediary groupings. He also made a caveat that Amerind represents a 12,000-year-old clade only assuming that Clovis-I is right. The discovery of older sites in the Americas would automatically push back the age of Amerind.

  24. Victor,

    I am sure you know the old review by Herzog of Izikowitz’s “Musical and Other Sound Instruments of the South American Indians” in which he contributed a rather long list of instruments found in North America and not cited by Izikowitz. I was wondering if there are any subsequenty studies around the comparison of North American to South American instrumental diversity. Are their any worldwide maps/analyses of distribution, etc.? For instance, panpipe is found in Amazonia and Melanesia but not in Sub-Saharan Africa, etc.

    From my kinship data it appears that North America has pockets of similarities with South America (such Southwest, Southeast [Muskogean], California, Siouan, Caddoan) but overall North America is rather different from South America.

  25. I don’t know of Herzog’s review, but I studied with his student, David McAllester, who affirmed the drum, rattle and flute picture. McAllester emphasized the great variety of different types of drum and rattle, as a way of affirming that there was considerable “diversity” after all. He had also found an “Apache fiddle,” that may or may not have been an independent invention.

    There are exceptions, however, and the Northwest Coast Indians seem to have had a greater variety of different types, including trumpets, than most other N.American tribes. And Nettl has emphasized the fact that so much of importance in these societies has been lost due to drastic effects of colonialism.

    I don’t know of any comparative study of the type you mention, though such studies might exist. Panpipes have not found been among living peoples north of Mexico, but they have been found in Mound Builder sites — along with other artifacts thought to have originated in Mexico.

    Panpipes are definitely a part of the African musical picture, along with many similarly organized types of “hocketed” ensemble, such as free pipes, whistles, horns, and trumpets. Free pipes and panpipes are very close, since it’s easy for someone to grab two or more free pipes and start playing them as panpipes and it is only one small step to binding these pipes together.

    Pipes and panpipes are commonly found in Africa, SE Asia, Melanesia, and have even been reported for Polynesia. I’m not sure about Indonesia, though. As for N. America (north of Mexico) there is very little to no evidence aside from the Mound Builder sites.

    Oppenheimer’s model goes a long way toward explaining this distribution, but it’s hard for me to understand how an OoAm model could. Unless the world was settled by a group from S. America that island hopped across the S. Pacific all the way to Melanesia. Have you ever considered that type of scenario? (If they hugged the coast of all these islands, there’d be no record of their presence, ala the OoAf picture.)

  26. Hi Vic,

    you let this open on my computer…so i guess i have entered the blogesphere? Your beautiful sister. Hello all others.

    R

  27. Victor, German has asked me to post this comment of his on his behalf. We’re having problems with his comments going thru and are troubleshooting the issue at the moment.

    Herzog’s review can be found in American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 42, No. 2, Part 1 (Apr. – Jun., 1940), pp. 338-341.

    My answer to Oppenheimer’s dispersal model would be the following: there’s a Pacific Coast route that can connect South America to California, the Northwest in North America and then to Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Then there’s a “Dravidian-Munda” pocket in India (identified by the co-presence and proliferation of mtDNA M and N plus Y-DNA YAP+ lineages, as well as by close similarities to America in kinship systems) which can be connected to South Siberia going northeast and with Africa going southwest. mtDNA X lineages connect North America with South Siberia with Europe and North Africa. Third, there’s a circumpolar route that connects North America, Beringia and Scandinavia (North American kinship systems and myths seem to have a strong association with “northern” regions in Eurasia.) As discussed before, the “Circumpolar route” has some weird continuation in the Khoisans (with their Mongoloid epicanthus) and possibly Australia. Y-DNA identifies Australians as sharing the same clade C with Na-Dene, Australian kinship systems share a lot with North America, including Na-Dene, and at the very same time Northern Australians have versions of the Cosmic Hunt mythological motif otherwise restricted to North America and Siberia, see http://www.folklore.ee/Folklore/vol31/berezkin.pdf)

    Beringia, South Siberia, India and possibly the Caucasus appear to be hubs in my global dispersal model. I could add here Scandinavia and Papua New Guinea as other refugia preserving a sample of past distribution of genes, languages and cultural traits, but they are of more local significance.

    At the end of the day, all the routes work both ways, hence I can still make use of Oppenheimer for general structure but then reverse the directionality of his migrations. The question is how Oppenheimer can substantiate his directionality by reference to the genetics, languages and cultures (and archaeology, Luis would add) of the peoples found along his routes. But, as I’ve already argued several times, how can we demonstrate an out of Africa migration along a coastal (or any other route), if we don’t have African genetic lineages anywhere outside of Africa?

    From the mtDNA perspective, it seems worthwhile to pay attention to the so-called 9pb deletion. This length polymorphism is found in western America from south to north (high frequencies in the Andes), Ainu, South Siberia, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, coastal PNG, India AND in Sub-Saharan Africa among the Pygmies and Bantu. Geneticists would argue that 9bp deletion occurred several times in human evolution (because 9bp deletion is associated with different SNPs in Asia/America and in Africa, hence it falls into different clades – B in Asia/America and L0 in Africa). However this mutation is absolutely identical in Asia/America and in Africa (the same one copy of the same 9 positions locked between the very same two genes), hence it’s unlikely to have happened several times (geneticists are forced to claim that even in Africa in otherwise-closely related populations it occurred at least 2 times). If we assume for a second that 9bp deletion is a unique mutational event that connects Pygmies and Bantu (mind you, it’s not found in the Khoisans) with India, South Siberia, Ainu, Southeast Asia, Oceania and America, then we have a possible route for the spread of the cultural features such as your musical styles.

    The 9bp deletion situation is part of a bigger problem with the proliferation of hypervariable sites in human mtDNA (hence, many trees are statistically possible). Geneticists have to resolve internally whether it’s possible for certain mutations such as 9bp deletion to represent common inheritance later obfuscated by recombination, gene flow and the hypervariability of other sites. But a comparison with Y-DNA (YAP+ lineages that account for more than 50% of African lineages are connected to Ainu via Indian and Tibetan variants) suggests that African populations must be related to non-Africans in more straighforward ways than suggested by the current phylogenies of mtDNA.

    A good paper to read about the phylogenetic problems in mtDNA reasearch is Hagelberg E. (2003) Implications of mitochondrial DNA recombination for human evolution. Trends in Genetics, 19: 84-90.

    German

  28. Lev Michael has just posted a lengthy comment on the OOAm hypothesis from a linguistic point of view on his Greater Blogazonia website (http://anthroling.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/evaluating-the-linguistic-evidence-for-an-out-of-america-hypothesis/#respond):
    Here’s what I wrote back to him:

    This is a premature assessment. I’d like you to read Nichols 1992 and Dziebel 2007. “Nichols’s argued that our perspective on an early human language comes from America and Australasia and not Africa and Europe” refers to Nichols 1992. The exact quote is in Dziebel 2007.

    Nichols has no affinity to the OOAm hypothesis. She was just trying to work out the best possible stance traditional historical linguistics could take regarding the “peopling of the Americas” after mtDNA genetics had challenged the then-accepted late (Clovis-I) entry into the Americas suggested by archaeology. She also tried to create an alternative to Greenberg’s Amerind hypothesis. The latter was an attempt to make American Indian linguistic diversity compatible with Clovis-I, but Greenberg’s American Indian classification faced a unanimous rebuttal from the specialists in Native American languages, thus opening the doors for a different assessment of linguistic diversity in the Americas and its implications for the timing of the “peopling of the Americas.”

    OOAm has been independently developed by me, on the basis of a global analysis of kinship systems and terminologies and the reinterpretation of population genetics, from 1994, and by Alvah Hicks (www.humanoriginsolved.com) on the basis of archaeology and the reinterpretation of genetic data from the late 1980s. I know Nichols personally (Stanford and Berkeley are close by), but she has nothing to do with OOAm.

    In Nichols 1990, 1992 she was working under the traditional assumption that New World (America and Australasia in her usage) was peopled from the Old World (Asia, Africa and Europe). That’s why she interpreted high levels of linguistic diversity as indicator of a refugium, and low levels of linguistic diversity as indicator of a spread zone with language replacement. Under the pressure from kinship terminological evidence and the “noise” in the current mtDNA phylogenies, I allowed myself the liberty to remove the assumption that the New World was peopled from the Old World, and allow an infinitely possible number of back migrations including the original OOAm migration to colonize the Old World.

    If my opinion, if linguistic diversity levels are taken at face value, then the most parsimonious explanation is the accrual of stock diversity in the homeland and the lack of sufficient time for this accrual in the colonized areas. Language replacements and language loss can occur with equal probability on all continents (agricultural and other expansions are attested in both America and Europe and Africa), while diversity levels are clearly different between Europe/Africa and America/Australasia. Hence, these two factors are of unequal value, and the latter supercedes the former, unless specifically proven otherwise.

    Nichols was criticized by Nettle and Dixon, but I think their arguments are invalid because they are based on an ad hoc assumption of who came from where. Nettle shot himself in the foot by admitting that American Indian linguistic diversity is compatible with any time depth, all the way to 100,000 YBP. More about it on anthropology.net.

    Another factor is geography: grammatical features studied by Nichols again show unequal and non-random distribution, as you correctly deduced from my anthropology.net posts. Interestingly enough, the geographic range of head-marking (assuming it’s ancestral) is wider than dependent-marking (assuming it’s derived). HM languages are found all over Asia, Australasia and America, while dependent marking languages are largely confined to Africa and Europe. This indicates the transition from HM to DM going into Africa and Europe. I need to double-check it again, though. (mtDNA shows a similar pattern with all African lineages being African-specific and 90% of European lineages being Europe-specific, while Asian and American lineages are found globally.)

    While your general caveat that linguistic diversity doesn’t directly resolve a continental population’s age is valid, the same concerns population genetics where America is interpreted as a recently colonized continent because it’s less diverse than others, while Africa harbors the greatest diversity. In reality, genetic diversity is a function of population size. American Indians are less diverse simply because their long-term population size was smaller than the Old World population size. In addition, African genetic lineages are not found outside of Africa, which contradicts the hypothesis of population replacement outside of Africa by Africans.

    OOAm is based on the alignment of interdisciplinary data. I understand all the diffuculties with OOAm and with OOAf. I juxtapose them as two theoretically possible variants of a single-origin hypothesis to be able to test one against the other. Since both genetically and linguistically Africans and Amerindians are the exact polar opposites of each other, they are specific enough to warrant such a test and make OOAm or OOAf falsifiable.

  29. General Comment on OOAm
    A major reservation of those contributing to the discussion of Dr. Dziebel’s recent publication “the Genius of Kinship” and his OOAm replacement theory is the theoretical implications a potential great antiquity for Native Americans holds. His effort presents fresh insights into the seemingly unending controversy overshadowing the prospects of scientists ever finding a resolution to our human past’s evolutionary wellspring. I would like to address some of the doubts expressed in those insightful comments as we have both personally debated the implications for several years now.
    Out of the Americas (OOAm) counters that isolation from the Old World is compatible with separate homelands for Homo sapiens and Homo erectus. OOAm seems the only option proponents of “Sudden Replacement” have yet to address while it would offer a compatible alternative, nigh neutralizing, “Multi-regional evolution” by isolating our species “in only one area of the World” before contact near the dawn of the last Ice Age 45,000 ybp.
    “In contrast, multiregional evolution can easily be disproved if it can be shown that all of the ancestors of living humans at some discrete time in the Middle or Late Pleistocene lived in only one area of the world. If this were the case, then we should be able to trace the ancestry of every human genetic locus to a single population existing at some time in the past million years.” (Milford Wolpoff et al. pg.131 Multiregional, Not Multiple Origins, in AJPA 112:129-136 (2000) (emphasis added)
    OOAm not only challenges the idea of a genetic link between the Neandertal and the first true modern humans of Europe, the Cro-Magnons, but a genetic/kinship based relationship to any Old World Homo erectus population. The present situation mirrors the long-standing exclusion of the American Indian from evolutionary discussions while “replacement” and a “Peopling event” of the Old World offers investigators a compatible explanation for the recent arrival for the Cro-Magnons into Europe or Howieson Poort Man into southern Africa. Alfred Russell Wallace and others, including Sir Arthur Keith, believed that the Neandertals were so far removed from our physical form (that is anatomically modern Homo sapiens), that they could never have been our ancestors. The Neandertals were for them, and many researchers today, “a dead-end”, a separate species who inhabited Europe only to be replaced by our modern Cro-Magnon ancestors. We ask could the Cro-Magnon ancestors have come from the Americas.
    OOAm offers an untested alternative for the origins of the first Americans by including them in the search for the ancestors of Homo sapiens. This does not tie us to Homo erectus but rather bridges our understanding of “boldly going where no Man had gone before”. The encounters between once isolated species and understanding the evolutionary advancements drawn from the journey should help us comprehend why our pre-Clovis Amerindian ancestors lived in a pre-projectile horizon. Clovis was not First while continuing to disregard a long standing pre-Clovis habitation only perpetuates past mistakes. For example, the problems scientists had in proving that the Mound Builders were indeed Indians is demonstrative of the mood of 19th Century Americanists. It was a given, then, to dismiss the Americas as a place to start our human journey and, from this time, this idea remains inadequately attended. Those suggesting that the human form is unrelated to the Neandertal have their own troubles in finding the source for our genesis when examining the Old World evidence from, once contemporary, Homo erectus populations. By example, it is difficult for scientists to demonstrate, with fossil evidence, that the modern human form predates the European Neandertal. Yet, European directives and anthropological science have left us to explore the origins of modern man from what many have concluded as a separate species; Homo erectus. Anthropologists have still to test the America’s as an alternative sapient wellspring precipitating our recent modern peopling of Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Could the famous Cro-Magnon People, who left the profound historical interpretations of life in Ice Age Europe, have been American Indians exploring for the first time the European Continent? Our work brings a new exploration into this long dismissed alternative. Our quest is a search for our roots in the Americas, beyond a time transcending every Old World Heritage.

    “There is now a near consensus among students of human evolutionary biology that the origins of our own species, Homo sapiens, is somehow intimately linked with the first intercontinental ancient hominid, Homo erectus. However, neither the transformation of erectus to sapiens nor the transformation of ancient (archaic) populations of Homo sapiens to their anatomically modern successors (H s sapiens) are matters of agreement in this scientific fraternity. Undoubtedly, there are many factors that make this the case, and any reader of this volume will discern some of those that are most obvious. In fact, there is no consensus among the authors represented in this volume, although the major issues are generally well delineated, and the limitations of the diverse and often disparate lines of evidence are usually apparent (p. xiii.).”
    Howell, F.C., 1984, “Preface” to The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence, Eds. Smith FH, F. Spencer, New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc. 1984

    This excerpt from the definitive study of its time pre-dates the OOAf replacement model and demonstrates the lack of consensus for any given model for an evolution from H erectus. Another reference is offered here from 1995.

    “Despite the considerable efforts of many well-informed investigators, however, no resolution of the controversy is in sight. We think that the slow progress to resolution of the debate can be attributed to differences in metaphysical paradigms of modern origins researchers that in turn result in a biased selection of specimens and/or variables used in analysis.
    How selectively biased are researchers? An extensive literature review of published multivariate data invoked in support of “continuity” and “replacement” positions produced some dramatic results (Willamette, 1993, 1994). A total of 680 data points were collected, representing 61 variables on 55 fossils. Of these, only 72 variables on 11 fossils, or 11% of the reported database, were common to both paradigms This means that in the sample, 89% of the data collected were used by members of only one paradigm (p. 488).”

    “Given the construal of the paradigm just outlined, theories (more accurately the hypotheses deduced from them), can only be confirmed or discomfirmed according to the tenets of the metaphysic (the construal of “reality” defined by the biases and preconceptions of the paradigm). Outside a particular paradigm, its constituent theories (“hypotheses”) might appear nonsensical.
    Despite assertions to the contrary (e.g. Klein, 1989), the venerable history of the debate suggests that simply acquiring more data will not help us choose between opposing paradigms. The reason is that data have no meaning or existence independent of a paradigm that defines and contextualizes them. In light of the plethora of articles and books that have appeared in the last 10 years, it is worth asking ourselves whether we are any closer to solving the question of our origins than we were a century ago. If there is a lesson to be learned from the debate, it is that students of human evolution must begin to confront the inferential basis for their knowledge claims. So far, they have not been much concerned to do so. The result is an interminable debate, now well into its second century, with no resolution in sight (p. 489-490).”

    Willarmet, C. M., and G. A. Clark. Paradigm crisis in modern human origins research Journal of Human Evolution (1995) 29, 487-490. 1995

    A vast compilation of reference quotes, many gathered before the dawn of blogging, can be found at http://www.humanoriginsolved.com .
    OOAm has a potential to unite new data with an old untested idea by consolidating insights gained in the last century and a half of anthropological research. It addresses the long dismissed hypothesis that the American Indian originated in the Western Hemisphere by suggesting that the human species “Homo sapiens (sapiens)” can be traced back into the Americas. OOAm draws attention to the untested nature of this idea; that humankind evolved in the Americas and entered the Eastern Hemisphere only recently, that is, some 45,000- 50,000 years ago. Given the wide range of anthropological tools available today it is time to re-examine the viable alternatives and the potential resolution to the human origins debate an inclusion of the Americas offers human evolutionary science.

  30. What exactly is “opticially stimulated luminescence”? This is the first time I’ve heard of it. Has it been used to date volcanic rock before?

  31. NP,

    I defined optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) in my post on this subject, so check it out if this definition doesn’t do it for you:

    “a method that requires sampling deep within the tuff and in complete darkness. The samples are then irradiated with an atomic reactor and when ultraviolet light is shone onto the irradiated samples, the resulting fluorescence reveals how long it has been since the rock was last exposed to sunlight—or volcanic heat.

    OSL can be applied on all sediments and soils, so long as there was adequate daylight exposure to the mineral grains before they were buried. So it assumes light conditions have remained consistent.

    Kambiz

  32. Thanks for that, Kambiz. What I find interesting is that John Renne’s lab used two independent dating methods – radiometric and paleomagnetic – and got an age of over a million years, whereas the British group has used carbon dating and OSL to get an entirely different age. I’m a complete novice when it comes to understanding these various dating methods, but I’m curious to know what happens in a situation like this. Are certain dating methods more reliable than others? Would one have to use another independent dating method? Or would most anthropologists consider this pretty much a settled issue with the latest data? It appears that some are still not convinced that these are in fact human footprints.

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