Saturday, June 11, 2016

Neogene biomarker record of vegetation change in eastern Africa

Kevin T. Uno, Pratigya J. Polissar, Kevin E. Jackson, and Peter B. de Menocal
PNAS
June 9th, 2016
(Link) pdf

The evolution of C4 grassland ecosystems in eastern Africa has been intensely studied because of the potential influence of vegetation on mammalian evolution, including that of our own lineage, hominins. Although a handful of sparse vegetation records exists from middle and early Miocene terrestrial fossil sites, there is no comprehensive record of vegetation through the Neogene. Here we present a vegetation record spanning the Neogene and Quaternary Periods that documents the appearance and subsequent expansion of C4 grasslands in eastern Africa. Carbon isotope ratios from terrestrial plant wax biomarkers deposited in marine sediments indicate constant C3 vegetation from ∼24 Ma to 10 Ma, when C4 grasses first appeared. From this time forward, C4 vegetation increases monotonically to present, with a coherent signal between marine core sites located in the Somali Basin and the Red Sea. The response of mammalian herbivores to the appearance of C4 grasses at 10 Ma is immediate, as evidenced from existing records of mammalian diets from isotopic analyses of tooth enamel. The expansion of C4 vegetation in eastern Africa is broadly mirrored by increasing proportions of C4-based foods in hominin diets, beginning at 3.8 Ma in Australopithecus and, slightly later, Kenyanthropus. This continues into the late Pleistocene in Paranthropus, whereas Homo maintains a flexible diet. The biomarker vegetation record suggests the increase in open, C4 grassland ecosystems over the last 10 Ma may have operated as a selection pressure for traits and behaviors in Homo such as bipedalism, flexible diets, and complex social structure.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Camp of Brings-Down-the-Sun

 Tipi and camp of Brings-Down-the-Sun, 1910, near Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada

The Old North Trail
Walter McClintock
1910

"WE found Brings-down-the-Sun reclining against his lodge-back, waiting our arrival. He directed Onesta, his nephew, to a place on his right, while Kionama and I took seats on a comfortable blanket-bed on his left. A small fire burned in the centre, and, from a hot coal, arose the fragrant smoke of dried sweet grass. Everything inside the lodge was scrupulously neat and clean. The shining cooking utensils were stored in boxes by the door. The provisions and clothing were hidden away behind the beds in bags and painted parfleches, while articles decorated with beads and coloured porcupine quills hung from the lodge poles. After a preliminary smoke and a simple meal of bread, dried meat and tea, Onesta addressed Brings-down-the-Sun: "We have brought this white man, A-pe-ech-eken, the adopted son of Mad Wolf, a long journey under a hot sun to see you. On our way we met Spotted Eagle and Big Smoke. We also visited the lodge of One Spot in the Kainai Camp. I have told them all that we were taking A-pe-ech-eken to the North Piegans, to learn from you about our legends and customs and that you might instruct him concerning the worship of the Sun. You are my uncle, A-pe-ech-eken is my friend, and I ask that you do this."

Brings-down-the-Sun gazed keenly into my face and then replied very earnestly: "The white race have always cheated and deceived us. They have deprived us of our country. Now they are trying to take away our religion, by putting a stop to the ceremonial sacred to the Sun. Our religion was given to us by the Sun and Moon, and we will never give it up, while the Sun and Moon last. The white people have given us no good reason why they wish to take away our religion. We do not fight, nor drink whisky at our ceremonials, and there is nothing harmful that can come from them. We have been struggling to keep up our religion, in order that our people may be happy, and that they may lead better lives. When I began preparations for a Sun ceremonial this spring, in accordance with the vow, made by one of our women for the healing of her sick son, the agent shut off our rations. He would not allow my family to receive the food, upon which we are dependent. Because of these things my heart has become bitter, and I have made a vow, that I will have nothing more to do with the white race. It does not now seem to me advisable to talk further about these things, and to explain our religion to a white man. However, Onesta is my kinsman and has brought this white man a long distance. He can remain in my camp for a few days to rest, and, during that time, it is possible that we may grow to know each other better." At this moment Bird, the chief's wife, entered the lodge with her daughter, a very pretty young woman. The mother was small and slender. In her youth she must have been remarkably good looking. She gave me a smile of welcome, and the old chief explained, that the girl was his youngest daughter, and that she was called as "Whistling-all-night," because she was born in January, the moon when the jack rabbit whistles at night, in calling his mate, just as the bull elk is accustomed to do. Brings-down-the-Sun said to Kionama, "I am glad in my heart that you have come to stay in my camp. We pitch our tipis in this grove of cottonwoods every summer, to gather sarvis berries for our use, when the snows are deep. You will find many kinds of berries on all sides. You can eat them now, or gather and dry them for your winter supply, just as we do. I ask, however, that you will be careful not to injure the trees, or break the branches of the berry bushes. I make this request, because I am looking ahead for my tribe. I am anxious to preserve these big trees and the berry bushes for our children. I am accustomed to admonish my people, in this manner, warning them not to be short-sighted like the Bloods. They once had many large trees along their river, but they cut them down for firewood. Now their country is bare and they have few berries. I am continually advising my people not to cut down the trees along the river, but to haul their wood from the forests on the mountains. They have followed my advice and we still have our big leaf trees (cottonwoods). The long leaved trees are the spear-leaf trees (Balsam-Poplar). We also have round-leaf trees (Quaking-Asps) and brush-sticks (Willows). We always speak of large trees as 'The Old Time Trees' and the small ones as 'Young People's Trees.'" When leaving, I presented the chief with a large silk handkerchief, his wife with a blanket, while the daughter, Whistling-all-night, showed great delight, when I gave her a set of pearl buttons.

The first night of our arrival in Brings-down-the-Sun's camp, I spread my blankets beneath a large cottonwood tree. Although I was very tired after our long ride in the hot sun, and from assisting in the laborious work of making a permanent camp, caring for the horses, unloading the wagons, cutting the lodge poles and firewood, pitching the tipis and starting the fires, I was too restless to sleep. The night was unusually warm and sultry. Heavy clouds had gathered over the Rockies and extended over the plains, bursting upon us, during the night, with wind, lightning and crashing peals of thunder.

Next morning, Onesta said that it was the first thunder heard by the Piegans. In Montana it had thundered earlier and the South Piegans had already brought out their Medicine Pipes, but the North Piegans had been waiting, and now they must give the ceremonial of unrolling their Pipes and renewing the tobacco in their sacred bundles. A messenger came into camp, announcing that Running Antelope would open his Medicine Pipe and invited us all to the ceremonial.  Onesta, Nitana, Bird and Long Hair were going, so I accompanied them several miles up the river to Running Antelope's camp.  When we entered the lodge, the ceremonial had already begun. To my surprise, I saw that the leader was Bull Plume, the chief, whom I had met when visiting Mad Wolf.  He was so astonished at my unexpected appearance, that the rattles fell from his hands, and he stopped in the middle of a chant.  When he had recovered himself, he shook my hand, telling the assembled people my Indian name, and explaining that I was the adopted son of Mad Wolf.  Bull Plume then turned to me and said: "I can tell you how many moons have passed, since I last met you in Mad Wolf's lodge, for I have kept count and have marked the moons in my records."  He handed me a pair of rattles, requesting me to join in the chant and take part in the ceremonial.  After a number of dances, followed by a feast, the Medicine Pipe was opened and held up.  Fresh tobacco was also inserted in the Bundle, in place of the old, which was distributed among the people.  When the Medicine Pipe ceremonial was finished, Running Antelope's wife availed herself of the opportunity to open a Medicine Bonnet, in fulfilment of a vow made by her son.  During the winter, when he was very sick, he made a vow to the Sun, that, if he recovered, his mother who had given the Sun-dance and owned a Medicine Bonnet, would give a ceremonial. The boy recovered, and the mother was now fulfilling his promise.

On this same day, Brings-down-the-Sun drove thirty miles across the plains, under a burning sun, that he might secure, from the nearest trading store, provisions for his visitors. He took with him Mysterious Woman, his young daughter-in-law, and Sinopa, the daughter of Menake. When they returned, Brings-down-the-Sun carried all of his purchases (five loaves of bread and some fresh meat) to our camp, at the same time offering apologies that he had so little to offer. He said: "Some people may think me foolish for taking two young women with me, but I thought they would be pleased at seeing the strange sights of the town."  Sinopa afterwards told her mother that, when they reached town (Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada) the old chief took them to a restaurant and ordered a fine turkey dinner for them.  While they were eating, he visited the bakers to buy bread, and hunted for a good store to secure the best meat.  Before they started home he gave Mysterious Woman five cents with which to buy candy, remarking that "it was not well to spend more for sweet stuff."

When I walked through the wood to explore the trails, I noticed groups of children slyly peeping through the trees to get a look at the "strange white man."  They had been taught from infancy that white men are dangerous monsters, for whenever I came near, they quickly disappeared like frightened deer, but I gradually overcame their instinctive dread; at first by seeming to ignore their presence, and finally gaining their confidence, by small presents and bribes of candy.  I investigated the spring pointed out by Brings-down-the-Sun for our water supply. It proved to be the still-water of a very beautiful stream. Along its shady banks, I found delicious wild strawberries, choke cherries and sarvis berry bushes, growing high above my head and laden down with ripe fruit.  In the wood, were great numbers of beautiful song birds. I recognized the yellowthroat, cat bird, whitethroat, goldfinch, white crowned sparrow and many varieties of warblers.  In a grove of cottonwoods, beside the river, I discovered the fresh tracks of a family of beavers. There were tiny footprints of the children in the soft mud and the large tracks of old beavers. I saw their recent cuttings and also weather-beaten stumps of trees felled by them, many years ago. When I spoke to Onesta of my find, he said; "Some beavers, like many people, never seem to be satisfied and are continually travelling, but this family, you speak of, have lived here undisturbed for many years. They have a sandy beach and a mud bottom, with plenty of food, and are contented with their home."

Following a trail, leading past Brings-down-the-Sun's tipi, and crossing the stream near the deep pool, where every day the old chief and his entire family took their early morning plunge, I met Long Hair coming from the stream with a bucket of water. Nitana sat nearby upon a grassy bank washing Yellow Mink.  It was a beautiful spot.  In the mirror-like stillwater were perfect reflections of the arching trees, the tipis close to the shore, and the blue smoke floating from their tops.  The children and young people had congregated along the banks, to wade and swim and play their games.  I saw a young girl poling a raft.  She looked very picturesque in her squaw dress, with hair hanging in long braids over her shoulders.  She wore white shell earrings, a braided health-charm fastened in her front hair, and a long necklace of dried sarvis berries.  When the craft finally grounded upon a large rock in midstream, I felt like going to her assistance but, realising that it would only subject her to the gossip of the camp, I remained at a distance, and contented myself with taking her picture.

In an open glade was a miniature encampment, where a group of little girls were playing. They had men and women-dolls dressed in buck-skin, and cloth costumes, with real human hair and leggings and beaded belts and moccasins.  There were gopher skins for robes, little knife-sheaths, tanning-tools and baby-cases.  In the centre of the camp circle of miniature tipis, they had the largest tipi with long poles, for the head chief, also small lodge backs, painted parfleches and a diminutive medicine case, hanging from a tripod.

A boisterous game was being played by lively boys and girls. The game was similar to our 'catcher,' in which all endeavoured to avoid the touch of one of their number, at whom they sang derisively, "Ape-koi-ya-soma-tia-kake-kina" (You are a mangey old skunk with no hair along your backbone).

The young girls played a game called, "Throwing willow arrows."  They used a large arrow with a string of plaited horse-hair attached to one end.  The first in turn threw it into a bush.  If the second thrower could hit the larger arrow with a smaller one, or even touch the horse hair, she won an arrow from the first player.  But, if she missed, and the first player in turn threw a small arrow touching the second arrow, the latter became the winner.  The girls also had a game of "hiding bones," made of antelope bones, beautifully carved and decorated.  The boys had another curious and amusing game. They sat in two long rows.  One of the players, with his eyes closed, walked back and forth between them, each side trying to confuse him, by calling to him to go this way, or that.  If he came too close and touched one of the players with his foot, that boy jumped up, and taking him upon his back, held him by the legs with his head hanging down.  All then rose and, taking hold, swung him round and round.  If he called out the name of a girl, saying: "She is my sweetheart," they stopped, but, if he was ashamed to do so, they kept swinging him until they were tired out.  If the boy lacked nerve to endure the swinging, he acknowledged it by spitting and they dropped him at once.

The boys had a bow-and-arrow game. A stake arrow was driven into the ground and they shot in turn, each trying to hit the stake, or come as near as possible.  If the first player shot so close, that the second in turn thought he would have difficulty in beating it, he walked up to the stake arrow and danced beside it, to secure "power" for shooting, beating time with an arrow upon his bow while singing, "I am going to hit it first."  If the second player shot well also, the third danced, seeking for even greater skill, singing, "No, I am the one, who will hit the stake arrow first."

There was also the "wheel and arrow," a gambling game played by men with arrows and a small wheel with beaded spokes.  The wheel was rolled over a smooth and level course, each player throwing an arrow at it.  The points were counted according to the position of the arrows when the wheel stopped. Its origin is very ancient and it is often mentioned in old stories and legends. Its use as a gambling game was very general among the plains-tribes.

Passing from these interesting scenes of camp life, I climbed the steep ascent of "Lookout Butte," which Onesta told me had been used for many generations by Brings-down-the-Sun and his ancestors, as a place of meditation and prayer. A wonderful prospect was spread out in every direction. By the winding course of green cottonwood trees, I could trace the beautiful valley of the Crow Lodge River westward to its very source among the snow-crowned summits of the Rocky Mountains, and then follow it eastward like a shining silver band, far out upon the prairies.  A rainbow from a straggling storm appeared in mid air, hanging over the river.  As the sun was sinking behind the mountains, the clouds became suffused with red up to the zenith.  At the foot of the butte, and among the trees below, lay the picturesque Indian camp, with its white lodges and brightly blazing outside fires. The continuous beating of drums came from our South Piegan camp, where Onesta was making preparations for his Crow Beaver ceremonial, to be held on the following day.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Treaty Oration Speech of Chief Si'ahl (Seattle), 1854



Chief Si'ahl (Seattle) (photographer unknown)

(The first transcribed version of the speech by Chief Si'ahl (Seattle) appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887, in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith who was a witness to the original speech in 1854.)

The speech:

"Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

"There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

"Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and paint their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.

"Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

"To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

"Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.

"Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

"It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

"A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.

"We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

"Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ihkitsikammiksi


Ihkitsikammiksi (The Seven Stars) as told by Irene Day Rider
Blackfoot Digital Library

Story of the Seven Stars, told by Irene Day Rider, dramatized by Faye Heavy Shields, Dr. Lena Russell, Julius Delaney, James Medicine Crane, Tyler Swag, Jarrid Richards and Marley Heavy Shields. The story was originally recorded in 2007 at Red Crow College as part of the Legends Project and broadcast on CBC Radio One.

Ritualistic Archaeo-astronomy: The Rock Art of India

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Social memory inscribed in rock art: Bear Restoration Complex in Pleistocene-Holocene Transition Siberia and North America

Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs

Lynda D. McNeil
L’art pléistocène dans le monde / Pleistocene art of the world / Arte pleistoceno en el mundo
September 2010
(Link) pdf

Blog comment on this paper:  I am reluctantly putting this paper on my blog.  I do agree with the author that there is a connection between Siberian and Legend Rock (Wyoming) petroglyphs.  However, the paper focuses on the notion of a Bear Restoration Complex and under emphasizes the obvious swan-elk-hunter/birdman theme evident in the Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs and its probable connection with star constellations on the Milky Way/Path of Birds/Path of Souls/Path of Wolves.  The paper is also problematic in the suggestion of a simplistic one-directional migration from Siberia to North America at the Late Pleistocene/Holocene transition.  In fact, most Native Americans from North America object to this simplistic theory.  An increasing body of evidence shows that the ancestors of Native Americans reached the Americas before and during the last Ice Age, and that there continued to be travel back and forth between North America and Siberia until the flooding of Beringia.  In any case, the comparison between Siberian and Wyoming Rock Art is fascinating.

The paper (introduction):

"Using a poststructural practice approach to rock art interpretation,1 this paper seeks to reconstruct an understanding of the social and cognitive processes involved in the transmission of an ancient Angara rock art style from central Siberia to North America. As I argued in a previous paper (McNeil 2005), Tungusic Manchu-speaking Evenki in Siberia produced rock art at ceremonial sites and inscribed images (Connerton 1989) intended to communicate a regional Bear Restoration Complex and bear-human ancestry religious beliefs. The ancestral Evenki clans’ shared practical and discursive knowledge (Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1987, 1984) was grounded in hunter-gatherer lifeways, bolstered by bear restoration cycle beliefs and ritual practices. A similar style with probable connections to this ideology appears to have been replicated in North America (Wyoming) during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition (PHT) or Early Holocene."

"Both Siberian and Wyoming (USA) rock art data sets are based upon a combination of personal observation in the field and published photographs. The Siberian data set for this analysis is based upon personal field observation of rock art on the Middle Yenisey River (Minusinsk Basin) in the Soviet Republic of Khakassia, Siberia (July to August 2002), in addition to over one hundred published photographs from the following Middle Yenisey rock art sites: Oglakhty I-II, Tepsej I-II, Ust’-Tuba II-III, and Shalabolino (Francfort & Sher 1995; Martynov 1991; Pyatkin 1998; Pyatkin & Martynov 1985; Sher et al. 1994). The Wyoming data set is based upon field observation of the Archaic Hunting style rock art at Legend Rock and of photographs taken by archaeologist Richard Wheeler in 1950 of the relevant rock art panel (48FR99) at the Boysen Reservoir site prior to the panel’s inundation."

"The paper addresses the following research question: what social and cognitive processes could account for the reproduction of PHT Siberian Angara rock art style and bear restoration themes in North American (Wyoming)? Based upon a theory of structuration and materiality (idea-embodying style), I argue that the rock art’s emplacement and inscription both in central Siberian (Middle Yenisey) and in Wyoming (Wind River/Big Horn Basins) functioned to preserve and transmit collective social memories integral to the Bear Restoration Complex (cosmology, beliefs, and ritual practices) and their bear-human ancestry and identity."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wapiti Migration, Montana


Writing-On-Stone

 
    Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (Link)

Karagem Valley: A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai

      Old style deer image of Karagem Valley, Altai.

Karagem Valley:  A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai
EVA ČERMÁKOVÁ
(Link) pdf

"In this paper I would like to present a piece of Altaic prehistory which has left its traces in the rocks of the wild landscape of the southern Siberian Mountains.

"The starting point will be a rock art location in the Karagem valley. Its carvings and possible meaning will be studied in detail. Next I am trying to discuss the place from a landscape perspective. This study is a result from the expedition “Altai 2003”, organized by the University of Tomáš Baťa in Zlín (Department of Palaeoecology), which took place in June and July 2003. The rock art investigation was just one of several tasks of the expedition, since the main focus was rather ecological, botanical and geological investigation of the south Altai region.

1. Geographical context

"Altai, the highest mountain range in Siberia, extends over the territory of four states: Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Its elevation reaches up to 4000 m (the highest point being Belukha at 4506 m). The mountain area can be divided into vast steppes, alpine meadows, tundra and areas with glaciers. The south-eastern regions are appropriate for year-round cattle pasturing, because of a thin snow cover (BOKOVENKO 1995). Climatic conditions are sharply continental and demanding for human survival, even today.

2. A brief outline of Altaic prehistory and history

"The Altai seems to be a unique chronicle of the past. Several cultures and ethnic groups have engraved their specific “signature” here during the past in the form of graveyards, rock carvings, but also in the present day traditional craft and magical perception of the world. This extraordinary landscape, cruel and amazing, has also formed the people, leaving traces in their mentality, and, in my opinion, an extremely high “energetic potential” of it. Scythic culture has influenced the distant peoples in Europe (TALBOT RICE 1957, 178–196).

"The very first evidence of human presence in the Altai area coincides with the Stone Age. Several rock carvings of Palaeolithic age were found for instance on the Ukok Plateau – at a location called Kalgutinskij rudnik (MOLODOV 1997, 39). During the Neolithic period, certain relations to the area surrounding Lake Baikal and the Angara River seem to have emerged, which is suggested by carvings of female elks in Altai. It became the most characteristic animal in the rock art of the region (OKLADNIKOV 1966; KŠICA 1973, 145; JACOBSON 1993, 91).

(read more) pdf

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Ballad of Crowfoot (Issapóómahksika)

The Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn, National Film Board of Canada

Distribution of Cervus Canadensis (Wapiti)














Light green:  Former recent distribution
Dark green:  Current distribution
Beringian Ice Age distribution not shown

Distribution
(Link) wiki

"Modern subspecies are descended from elk that once inhabited Beringia, a steppe region between Asia and North America that connected the two continents during the Pleistocene. Beringia provided a migratory route for numerous mammal species, including brown bear, camel, horse, caribou, and moose, as well as humans.[58] As the Pleistocene came to an end, ocean levels began to rise; elk migrated southwards into Asia and North America. In North America they adapted to almost all ecosystems except for tundra, true deserts, and the gulf coast of the U.S. The elk of southern Siberia and central Asia were once more widespread but today are restricted to the mountain ranges west of Lake Baikal including the Sayan and Altai Mountains of Mongolia and the Tianshan region that borders Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China's Xinjiang Province.[59] The habitat of Siberian elk in Asia is similar to that of the Rocky Mountain subspecies in North America."

"Throughout their range, they live in forest and in forest edge habitat, similar to other deer species. In mountainous regions, they often dwell at higher elevations in summer, migrating down slope for winter. The highly adaptable elk also inhabit semi-deserts in North America, such as the Great Basin. Manchurian and Alashan wapiti are primarily forest dwellers and their smaller antler size is a likely adaptation to a forest environment."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faunal record identifies Bering isthmus conditions as constraint to end-Pleistocene migration to the New World

Meirav Meiri, Adrian M. Lister, Matthew J. Collins, Noreen Tuross, Ted Goebel, Simon Blockley, Grant D. Zazula, Nienke van Doorn, R. Dale Guthrie, Gennady G. Boeskorov, Gennady F. Baryshnikov, Andrei Sher, Ian Barnes
Proceedings of the Royal Society B:  Biological Sciences
11 December 2013
(Link)



















Figure 2:  Map showing approximate locations of ancient Cervus remains sampled in this study. Colours correspond to geographical locations: purple, North America; blue, northeast Siberia; green, central Asia; red, east China; black, samples that did not yield DNA.

Blog comment:  the paper concludes that Cervus canadensis (wapiti) entered North America from Siberia/Beringia in large numbers approximately 15 thousand years ago.  However, I would note that the paper does not sample ancient DNA from any part of North America for wapiti that would have been south of Last Glacial Maximum glaciers.  It therefore does not seem clear to me as to how the paper came to the conclusion that wapiti in North American today are mostly from Siberian/Beringian wapiti introduced since the last ice age.