Daily Data Dump – Wednesday

By Razib Khan | August 18, 2010 2:23 pm

Overweight American Children and Adolescents Becoming Fatter. Reports that the increases in obesity are not equally distributed across socioeconomic segments. So not only is there is a change in the mean, it looks the variance is increasing.

News from the west: Ancient DNA from a French megalithic burial chamber. Another paper which indicates we might need to be really cautious about back-projecting contemporary distributions of genes to the past.

The genetic side to chimpanzee culture. The blank slate presupposition seems to apply to chimpanzee culture too. It may be that culture is heritable through emulation, but it may also be heritable through the passing of genes. The same issue crops up in psychological and social studies which assume that because someone’s parents were abusers that they became abusers because they learned the behavior or were traumatized. It may simply be that there’s a particular set of personality predispositions being passed across the generations.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. The chart is useful, but the piece and its title is meant to push copies of the magazine. Calculators did not result in the death of arithmetic. Calculators built on top of the need and logic of arithmetic. I do not believe that the non-web portions of the internet could flourish without the web as the seedbed and duct-tape of the internet. It’s really the rise of the non-web, and part of a non-zero sum dynamic.

Evolution May Have Pushed Humans Toward Greater Risk for Type 1 Diabetes. Remember my post Disease as a byproduct of adaptation?

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  • John Emerson

    On the French neolithic finds, it’s always been the big vice of archeology and prehistory (and history too) to aggregate the information available at a given moment and then construct theories and narratives consistent with that information, without regard for the near-certainty that key information which would change the story is missing. This article seems to handle the dilemma pretty well.

    There’s sort of art to ruling out what the evidence rules out, accepting what the evidence supports, and then describing the possible scenarios. For a long time people cheated by just reporting facts and refusing to theorize at all, but that’s too cowardly.

    I’ve been interested in prehistory for decades, and the field seems to be in far better shape now than it was even 20 years ago. Partly because of much more data, but also because ways of theorizing are more sophisticated (in a good way). Less determinism, less imaginative poetry, less positivist prissiness, and so on.

  • dan

    ok, that’s 7 bookmarks for later in under 5 minutes. Razib is on fire. i have no idea how i’ll get all this reading done once i have to get a job:(

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Of course we’re getting fatter. The proper diet (paleo diet high in fats, protein, and meat) has been completely stigmatized.

    I always laugh when I see some high carb cereal lauded as healthy because it’s high in starch and low in fat.

  • John Emerson

    The non-fat peoples of the world (which is most of them) do not eat a paleo diet. That’s completely, 100% irrelevant.

  • MNiceLady

    People are getting fatter because of MSG and corn syrup.

    It can also be transmitted to the fetus.
    John Erb submitted documents about how scientists needed fat mice and rats and injected them with MSG to the FDA but they had other priorities.

  • pconroy


    Yeah, I agree, that’s archaeological “curve fitting” – but so long as people realize that such just so stories are just one of multiple possible scenarios, then we’re OK – the problem is that most people don’t?!

    I have been highly interested in Megalithism myself also, particularly in conjunction with Newgrange in Ireland, being so distinctive and at such an early date. All I can conclude is that there have been multiple waves or pulses of peoples emanating from the general Middle East/South Eastern Europe towards North Western Europe over the last 5,000 years and probably long before. Each new group partially displacing the older ones.

    Interestingly, on a related note, there has been much discussion on the origin or R1b1b2 in Western Europe, and if it wasn’t old there, then how it could have gotten to such high frequencies without being at high frequency in Central or Eastern Europe – it’s proposed dispersal route. I postulated that it could have arisen in Armenia/Azerbaijan area and then spread by sea, later I proposed that maybe it actually spread by land, but the route was via the Levant and Egypt, then across the Magreb to Morocco and then Northwards to Iberia and Western Europe. Recent analysis by Dr Anatole klyosov seems to support this latter scenario.

    1. You say R1b1b2 moved along through North Africa to Iberia. Was that M269 or was it already P310?

    I do not have a P310 dataset, hence, cannot tell. Very likely, it was M269/L23/P310 along with R1b1a when they departed from the Middle East around 5500-5000 ybp. R1b12 split from the North African route and headed South. Its TMRCA in Cameroon/Chad is around 4400 ybp. Furthermore, Cruciani et al (2010) has identified a trail of their haplotypes from North Africa in the Southern direction, to Cameroon and Chad. Timewise, it fits to the migration pattern described above. M269-L23 have a common ancestor (w/DYS393=12) 6000 ybp in the Caucasus, 5500-5200 ybp in Lebanon (also with a good deal of DYS393=12). R1b1b2 were in Egypt in that timeframe, they are in Algeria, and cattle moved to Iberia through Gibraltar. These are all fragments of my optimization. And then, as we have discussed, the Bell Beaker path from Iberia to the continent in 4800-4500 through 3300 ybp. It fits as well. I do not see P310 before Iberia. Maybe it will be found in Egypt around 5000 ybp, then I will gladly adapt my optimization. We are not there yet.

    Also, while most of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe had mtDNA haplogroups U4/U5 prior to the Neolithic, only Iberia had mostly mtDNA H – so it would seem that incoming R1b1b2 men mated with mtDNA H women and spread from there North towards Ireland and North East towards Central Europe.

    Of course such a scenario of ancient ancestors of the Celtic peoples having a sojurn in Egypt would coincide nicely with the Irish Lebor Gabala Erenn?!

  • isamu

    LOL at obesity conspiracy theorists.

    People are getting fat because they can afford to eat enough calories to get fat and the lack of social pressure to maintain a healthy weight. Its really that simple. As soon as we start sliding down the backslope of peak oil, we’ll all get thin again.

  • John Emerson

    Obesity is an effect, and an effect with multiple causes. (Contrast smallpox). Even an individual case of overweight may be hard to find a causal explanation for, except for a generic “too much input” / “too little output” explanation. If you aggregate three hundred million individual cases of obesity and non-obesity, coming up with the cause for all of the obesity cases will be even trickier (i.e., impossible). You might be able to find out something interesting, and you might not.

    Another point: “why obesity has increased” is one question, “who specifically is getting obese” is a different question, albeit closely related.

    The social pressure lacking is probably the social pressure against gluttony rather than obesity. Another factor is the relative difficulty of all-day snacking, which in some cultures is both discouraged and hard to do.

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  • onur

    Conroy, the Middle Eastern stuff in Lebor Gabala Erenn is almost certainly an attempt to connect the Irish and Ireland to the Biblical stories, so Christian fabrications. How, when, from where and through which routes “the ancestors” of the modern Irish came to NW Iberia were all concocted based on and/or from Biblical stories and, to a lesser extent, the ancient Greco-Roman historiography (which was already an integral part of the Medieval Christian historiography), so they are all Christian fabrications. I think only from the part beginning from the NW Iberian “homeland of the proto-Irish” some pre-Christian Irish traditional (we don’t know how far back these traditions went) material begins to appear in Lebor Gabala Erenn.

  • pconroy


    I’m perfectly aware of the marrying of Judeo-Christian and Irish legend, and I mention it above ironically 😉

    BTW, I don’t think the Celts have much to do with NW Iberia, those in Galicia who view themselves as Celtic are almost certainly the result of Britons migrating TO that area, as a result of depredations of the Irish and Germanic barbarians in the 5th century.

    That being said, a Caucasus/West Asian route via North Africa, then Iberia would solve almost all of the mystery of R1b1b2 and mtDNA H in Western Europe, and dovetail nicely with R1b clades in Africa and among Jews.

    Also, a certain archaic form of singing found in the West and South of Ireland called
    Sean-nós sounds very close to traditional singing in Morocco and to a lesser extent the style found in Sufi singing from Pakistan, especially that of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, so there could be a common thread there also.

    Not to mention that bagpipes seem to have originated in Syria IIRC.

  • naughtius Maximus

    pconroy; Do you use the celtic label as a cultural/language label or more of an ethnic/genetic/tribal one?
    So going by Dienekes blog and an older post of Razibs I take it the recent R1b analysis is up in the air due to mutation rates?

  • John Emerson

    Some of the Norse claimed Trojan descent, which was not unusual in Europe (via Vergil, etc.), but one saga author (the Njal Saga, I think) also called the Trojans Turks. The Goths and Huns remained important in Germanic lore long after they’d disappeared.

  • onur

    I’m perfectly aware of the marrying of Judeo-Christian and Irish legend, and I mention it above ironically 😉

    So you were just mocking when writing “Of course such a scenario of ancient ancestors of the Celtic peoples having a sojurn in Egypt would coincide nicely with the Irish Lebor Gabala Erenn?!” as the Egyptian sojourn of the Irish in Lebor Gabala Erenn is nothing but a copy of the Biblical Egyptian sojourn of the Hebrews, eh?

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    His singing style in his song “Sweet Pain” is especially amazing.

  • onur

    Some of the Norse claimed Trojan descent, which was not unusual in Europe (via Vergil, etc.), but one saga author (the Njal Saga, I think) also called the Trojans Turks.

    Did the Norse concoct their stories about the Trojans before Christianization or after? If before, they must have been influenced by the Greco-Roman culture not just in minor things like the alphabet, but also in deeper aspects of it.

    The Goths and Huns remained important in Germanic lore long after they’d disappeared.

    Also do you know how much of the Germanic lore about the Goths and Huns is independent from the Christian lore and the ancient Greco-Roman lore?

  • John Emerson

    Onur, those questions are almost impossible to answer because the first surviving Germanic manuscript of any length was Beowulf, but no one can date Beowulf. The sagas all were written down in the Christian era regardless of how much ancient lore they included, and the Njal saga wasn’t ancient lore but contemporary. In addition, the Goths themselves were Christian (or many were) fairly early, and other Teutons could be Christian all along too. “Christianization” refers to a social event, the establishment of a Christian state and establishment of diplomatic ties with other Christian states, and wasn’t usually preceded by an era of enforced paganism.

    In a way, that is an answer. The pre-Christian level is almost impossible to find, in the sense of “untouched by Christianity”. But the people passing on Christian lore wouldn’t have to be Christians themselves, and they were free to adapt.

    I have a reference but it’s unavailable.

  • onur

    A minor point: I’ve searched for the words “Trojan”, “Turk” and “Troy” in the English translation of Njal’s Saga, but found none of them. So I guess you confused Njal’s Saga with some other source.

  • pconroy

    Naughtius Maximus,

    Well when I talk about Celtic culture facets like singing styles and instruments types, I’m talking culture – and being Irish, I’m specifically thinking of Celts in Ireland.

    Genetically, Irish people are overwhelmingly R-L21, which has virtually no matches in Northern Iberia, rather it points to the Low countries and Northern France as the source. However there is new evidence – last few months – showing some R-L21 in South Western Iberia – right about the ruins of Tartessos, whose language has recently linked to Q-Celtic. So if SW Iberians were R-L21, then spread North and NE, it would provide a clue as to how Celtiberian is a Q-Celtic language and so is Irish Gaelic, while Continental Celts became P-Celtic. The latest theory is that Etruscans/Villanovans were intrusive into the Celtic speaking areas, and split it into Q and P, with P North of the Alps, and from there it swept West with Hallstatt and La Tene, but only got as far as Britain. Though again there is evidence that Northern Ireland may have been P-Celtic (Cruitin), but were driven back by the Connachta and their descendants, the Ui Neill…

  • John Emerson

    It was Snorri Sturluson.

    Wayback machine had my Source (written by me, I hasten to add; it’s a fuller statement of my point of view, but not independent confirmation).

    Real connections going back at least to 400 A.D. between the Germanic world and the steppe world left a permanent mark on the Germanic traditions. Attila appears as Atli in the Norse tradition (even in Greenland) and as Etzel in the German Nibelungenlied, and Eormanric (a Goth defeated by the Huns) is referred to in Beowulf. Wolfram 5 has described the Ostrogoths of the period following Eormanric as “Scythized” (i.e. steppified), and when the Rus descended the Vistula from Scandinavia and reached Constantinople, the Byzantines spoke of their leader as a “chaganus” or Khagan.6 Indeed, when Snorri (identifying Hec-tor as Thor!) derives the Germans from the Trojans in order to root them in the classical tradition — as was very common from the Roman period on — he also describes the Trojans as Turks.7 But the most amazing Germanic attempt to root themselves in the classical world is probably that of Jordanes, a Goth writing in Latin ca. 550 A.D. Jordanes affiliates the Goths with the legendary Scythian Amazons and with Tomyris the Scythian Queen who killed Cyrus, and even declares the Huns to have been descended from outlawed Gothic witches who had mated with evil spirits.8

    In Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied, and the sagas can be found a continuous oral historical tradition beginning with Eormanric and continuing through Theodoric, Attila, and Hengist and Horsa (the legendary Anglo-Saxon conquerors of Britain) at least up to the time of Beowulf, whose patron Hygelac raided the Merovingeans early in the sixth century. Even as late as 1200 A.D., the Germanic peoples seemed aware of their own otherness to the classical world and the Empire, even to the point of identifying themselves with the Amazons, the Scythians and the Turks.



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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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