new Monte Verde study

A new survey at the Monte Verde site in Chile suggests human habitation 18,000 years ago. Early habitation of the Americas and multiple waves of colonization is a theory I remain sympathetic to, just because I’m a silly bastard who clings to the notion that humans as a whole tend to move around a lot, and if one group finds a path, another group is likely to find it later. John Hawks makes some cool observations on the findings. I completely missed the inspiring detail that this Monte Verde survey was published as open source.

more on Mota Man

By the way, I haven’t questioned the implications of Eurasian admixture in Mota Man.1 I’m down with humans moving around a lot and never swallowed the nonsense that people stayed put for no good reason. The way that trade goods and plants moved around implies a lot of forgotten history. After all, someone carried wild cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) out of South Africa. Yeah, yeah… the research is about the genetic admixture people flowing into Africa. I will nurse my outlandish suspicion of trade routes in the fringe.

This anthropology blog has much more informed, coherent comments on the paper about Mota Man. Fascinating stuff.

  1. I’m just hellbent on evidence turning up of actual agriculture in Africa earlier than what is accepted now. []

80,000 year old Homo spaiens teeth in South Asia

The breathless reporting that these 80,000 year old Homo sapiens teeth from China changing everything was getting on my nerves this week. Fortunately, this Scientific American article puts the news into perspective, noting that Petraglia has been saying the 60k Out of Africa date is obsolete for years, linking several previous stories.

It’s definitely interesting that introgression from Neandertals in western Asia still stands at 60k though. The detail about the cavities in these teeth is intriguing too. What the hell were they eating?

Mota man is from the Land of Punt?

This news of the genetics of Mota man proving that Middle Eastern farmers migrated into Africa 4,500 years ago has me scratching my head. Didn’t we already know that? 4,500 years ago was during the Fourth (!) Dynasty of Egypt. 4,500 years ago is historical times, even if the record is a bit sparser. The Nature article states:

Radiocarbon dating suggested that the man died around 4,500 years ago — before the proposed time of the Eurasian migrations and the advent of agriculture in eastern Africa.

Who proposed that time? Even without Mota man, it sounds weird. Agriculture by their own estimate arose 9,000 years ago (and I’m betting more like 13,000 years ago) and to think that it took several thousand years to reach East Africa from the Middle East, when there clearly was already farming in Egypt 4,500 years ago is peculiar. Pyramids were being built!

Hell, what about Nubia? Kerma culture was flourishing. Sudan is next door to Kenya. They certainly weren’t hunter-gatherers.

Better yet… remember the Land of Punt?! It was to the southeast of Egypt. Its exact location has yet to be nailed down, but obviously it did exist and it wouldn’t be far removed from Mota Cave. When was the first recorded trading expedition between Egypt and Punt? Yep…. 2,500 BC. How on earth would Egyptians be cruising up and down the Red Sea for luxury items trade with Stone Age hunter-gatherers? Agriculture penetrated Africa well before 4,500 years ago.

In stumbling around sites looking for the obvious proof, this article about there being a mega-drought in Egypt 4,200 years ago, which closed the era of the Old Kingdom. It also mentions:

Similarly, pollen and charcoal evidence recorded two other large droughts: one that occurred some 5,000 to 5,500 years ago and another that occurred around 3,000 years ago.

These events are also recorded in human history — the first one started some 5,000 years ago when the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt occurred and the Uruk Kingdom in modern Iraq collapsed. The second event, some 3,000 years ago, took place in the eastern Mediterranean and is associated with the fall of the Ugarit Kingdom and famines in the Babylonian and Syrian Kingdoms.

Those were some pretty good reasons for people to move around a lot. I’m still convinced agriculture already existed in East Africa prior to 4,500 years ago, but perhaps that mega-drought 5,000 years ago is where the admixture from the Middle East came from. There very well could be another mega-drought prior to that one that pressured migrations even earlier.

mega-tsunami 73,000 years ago

A tsunami on Cape Verde 73,000 years ago was allegedly powerful enough to crash a 170 meter wave into a nearby island. That seems like a interesting time and place for a tsunami. I wonder… How’d that affect the western coast of Africa at the time? Maybe even coastal Spain? There’d be humans there, right? Aterian culture spread as far as Morocco. How far west was the range of the ancestors of the people who lived in the Iwo Eleru cave? Hm… Maybe the massive population drop wasn’t solely the Toba explosion in Indonesia?


Basques closer to earliest European agriculturalists

The Basques are the closest genetic relatives to eight human skeletons from El Portalón in Atapuerca, northern Spain dating from 3,500 and 5,500 years ago. Sardinians have similiar genetic makeup, but lack the additional hunter-gatherer contribution from a yet earlier population that the Basques have. Apparently Estonians and Lithuanians have the highest contribution of that hunter-gatherer population, at maximum 30%.