Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Estonian Bagpipe, the Torupill

Sandra Sillamaa plays the Torupill with Arno Tamm on guitar
Characteristics of the Estonian Torupill
Bag:  "The bag ("tuulekott", "magu", "kott", "loots", etc.) was usually made of the stomach of a grey seal in the western and northern parts of Estonia and on the islands."   (wiki Link)
Chanter:  "The chanter ("sõrmiline", "putk", "esimik", etc.) was made of juniper, pine, ash or, more seldom, of a tube of cane. It had 5-6 holes. The chanter was single-reeded, generally with a parallel rather than conical bore." (wiki Link)
Drone:  "The drones ("passitoru", "pass", "kai", "tori", "pill", "pulk", "toro") were made of wooden pipes, different in shape and diameter. The number of pipes determined their length. If there is only one, it is quite long, if two, they are both shorter. In some rare cases bagpipes with 3 drones could be found." (wiki Link)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Musical Ethnography and Bagpipe of the Mordvins

Playing the puvama (Mordvin bagpipe)
Types of Mordvinian Instrumental Folk Music
Nicolai Boyarkin. Saransk, Mordovia

"In the above-mentioned prayers the main ritual functions were obligatory, performed, as a rule, by elected persons: the leader of the prayer _ ozksatya (ozks _ 'to pray, to worship'; atya _ 'old man'), or ozksbaba (baba _ `old woman'), who served as an intermediary between the Patron and the people, and was his mouthpiece, heard his `voice'; a beautiful girl (probably personifying the female source of the kin); a sturdy, handsome youth (personifying the male source of the kin), and musicians playing bagpipes and nyudis, as well as performers of protective signals on torama _ natural trumpet or horn.

"Folklorists believe that at community prayers 'music and singing were the most active components' of these dramatised rites (Brizhinsky). The best musicians _ pipers, nyudi-players, violinists, and the best dancers were invited to ozkses.

"Besides, it should be noted that at these ozkses not just song-texts, their choral sounding, tunes, but also timbres of musical instruments (puvama, nyudi) and the instruments proper had ritual meaning. For instance, for performing ritual tunes at ozkses special ritual bagpipes (ozks puvama) existed that differed from other types of bagpipes by their archaic design, and, in some places, the air-bags of such bagpipes were made of bladders of sacrificial animals (there were usually bulls bought for communal money) and their horns that served as resonators for the pipes of bagpipes or nyudis. Often, side by side with ozksatya and ozksbaba, the musicians served as mediums, i.e. intermediaries between the community and its mythological Patrons. The community was to do everything for the voice of the medium (in case of a musician _ the voice of his instrument) to reach the Patron. The musicians were placed on a fold-gate and lifted while playing; thus the distance between the community and its Patron was shortened. (At similar ozkses a Mari musician climbed a tree and played for the Patron on his ritual gusli). To communicate with Patrons ritual bagpipes were necessary, or at least a part of this instrument - nyudi; any other instruments, for example, those used for exorcising evil spirits (toramas, rattles) could not be used.

"V. S. Brizhinsky believes that there was also a practical reason for lifting the playing pipers. 'The custom', he writes, 'had two reasons: first, it was an acknowledgement of the exceptionally honoured status of the musicians, and second, a lifted position is more convenient for directing the choir.'  The second reason, even if it existed, must have appeared in later times, after ozkses had considerably changed and acquired, partially, aesthetic functions of traditional folk theatre. Out of the symbolic programme tunes of the ozkses connected with cults of trees, only those devoted to the birch ('Kelu') and the lime-tree ('Peshenya') have come down to us. Images of these sacred trees (side by side with oak and pine) are widely used in traditional lyrical songs that were intoned in the past of the ozkses. This refers to common mythological roots. These songs reflect most ancient concepts of the Universe. For instance, the image of the sacred birch _ traditionally worshipped by Mordvinians in the past _ is related to the idea of The World Tree, much evident in the poetry of many Finno-Ugric and other peoples."

Bagpipe of the Mari People, the Shuvyr

The Shuvyr bagpipe of the Mari People

Monday, December 29, 2014

Manifestations of the Drone in the Tradition of Lithuanian Polyphonic Singing

Daiva Račiūnaitė-Vyčinienė
(pdf Link)

"We have reason to suppose the roots of collective (ostinato, bourdon) singing are quite deep. Apparently, the aforesaid examples, where [there are] functional chords sound, have been influenced by homophonic polyphonic thinking. The oldness of bourdon singing tradition in Lithuania could be witnessed [demonstrated] by some other facts."

"There was recorded some examples of collective sutartines Buvo du–doj velnias (‘Was a devil in a Bagpipe’) in Švenèionys region (East Lithuania bordering with Byelorussia) which is famous for its preserved particularly old customs, traditions, dialect and folklore. According to a respondent, this sutartinë imitated music of a bagpipe (Raèiunaite.-Vyèiniene. 2000b: 98) and its strange text attracts our attention (Raèiunaite.-Vyèiniene. 2002a: 312; 2000b: 98; 2004: 20–21) (see ex. 8)."

"In the usual variations of this type of sutartines there are texts about ‘a pipe in Vilnius’ or ‘uncle (old woman) in Vilnius’. Apparently, the connections of a bagpipe and a devil (or other unearthly being) are not casual. We are particularly interested in a bass part singing a continuous sound u–-u–-u– as if imitating a devil’s voice. It is worth remembering that once upon a time various nations considered a produced humming sound as an unearthly one, (by the way, it was unimportant how that sound had been made, i. e. by what instrument it was played) (Encyklopedia instrumentow muzycznych…; Klotin,š, Muktupavels 1989; Musikinstrumente der Welt…; Ole² dzki 1978; Sachs 1975; Ñóçóêåé, 1993, etc.) . It might be said, in the past any making of continuous low sounds or their monotonous repetition was conceived as somebody’s (more often as an unearthly being’s) buzzing, droning, murmuring."

Bagpipe-R1b Theory

Marnie Dunsmore

The Bagpipe, strongly differentiated and of ancient origin, most likely originated in SW Asia. It is intimately linked with a pastoral sheep/goat/cattle herding people who also carry an R1b haplogroup signature.

The inseparability of R1b pastoralism and the bagpipe suggest that the instrument fulfilled some essential herding function.

The presence of the bagpipe might be used to narrow in on R1b populations for the purpose of haplogroup evolution testing.

Significantly, the Hausa people of Tropical West Africa play a bagpipe, are a pastoral people and carry the R1b haplogroup in greater than 40% of men.

Differentiation and innovation in bagpipe style, from primitive to finely developed, may also correlate with a westward migration from the cradle of R1b pastoralism.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Marnie Dunsmore. All Rights Reserved.

[Originally posted by Marnie on Dienekes' Anthropology blog and Matilda's Anthropology blog on January 29th, 2010.]

Epirus: The Geography, the Ancient Remains, the History and the Topography of Epirus and Adjacent Areas

Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond

Clarendon Press, 1967

This book is out of print, but if you are interested in the history of Epirus, it's probably worth getting from the library.  It's written by the pre-eminent scholar of Epirus and Macedonia, Nicholas Hammond. 

Nicholas Hammond's obituary (Link)

Prehistoric exploitation of Grevena highland zones: hunters and herders along the Pindus chain of western Macedonia (Greece)

(pdf Link)


The surveys and excavations carried out in the highland zone of the Grevena Pindus Mountains have revealed that the watershed that separates western Macedonia from Epirus was (seasonally)inhabited in different prehistoric times, from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. The highest concentration of ‘sites’ is known from the surroundings of the modern village of Samarina, which is rich in good-quality chert raw material outcrops. This territory is still nowadays heavily exploited by Vlach shepherds who seasonally carry out pastoral activities, moving their flocks from the eastern lowlands up to the high-altitude pastures. The excavations carried out at three different sites, all lying on a flysch substratum, revealed the presence of a redeposited lower sediment, characterized by a polygonal soil caused by ground freezing that was later effected by erosion canals produced by human interference in the landscape. The results so far obtained from a few charcoal radiocarbondates indicate that this fact took place in at least three different periods from the middle Bronze Age to the seventh century AD.

Polyphony in Southern Albania and Greek Epirus

Polyphonia:  "Two shepherds in the Albanian mountains, Arif, a Muslim, and Anastas, an orthodox Christian, have been friends for years in spite of religious barriers."

I first discovered the polyphony of the Southern Balkans at an Orthodox commemoration ceremony for my husband's paternal grandmother in 2003.  Here, the liturgical chant was sung in four voiced polyphony at the small Orthodox Church in the village of Avgerinos, Kozani, Greece.  This village happens to be on the border with the Greek province of Epiros (Epirus).   About a hundred miles south can be found the monasteries of Meteora.

The Kozani liturgical chanting is different from the strongly ison dominated Meteora chanting.  I've unfortunately never found a recording of it.  It is, however, close to four voiced Southern Albanian polyphonic chanting.   The film clip (above) has some short informal non-religious examples of multi voiced polyphony.

The polyphonia of Southern Albania and Greek Epirus have many styles and forms. Perhaps the extreme isolation of this region over the millennia has permitted the survival of this ancient tradition.


Marinela Mahoney, An Investigation of the Polyphonic Music of Southern Albania
(pdf Link)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Georgian and Corsican Polyphony

"kavkasia"  :  "I've studied Georgian ornament extensively for more than 20 years and I know how it works. I've also studied Corsican, and yes, there are similarities - but there are also key differences, like the melodic structure of the ornaments and the protocol for part movement."

Κύριε εκέκραξα (Lord I have Cried) - Plagal 1st Tone (METEORA)

Prof. Gregorios Stathis (Link)
Meteora (UNESCO) (Link)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Freshwater reservoir effect and the radiocarbon chronology of the cemetery in Ząbie, Poland

Łukasz Pospieszny
Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 53, January 2015, Pages 264-276


In the 3rd millennium BC an island on the Łańskie Lake in north-eastern Poland was seasonally settled by a group of people practicing a syncretic burial ritual, exhibiting indigenous and foreign patterns. They left behind a small cemetery consisting of at least six graves. 14C dates made for samples of human bones until 2009 did not coincide with the expected age of the graves. Under a new pilot program in 2010–2013, a series of radiocarbon measurements was made for the human bones and an artefact of red deer antler, along with analyses of the stable isotopes ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in the collagen. The results indicate a significant proportion of freshwater food in the diet, which caused the radiocarbon dates to be too old due to the freshwater reservoir effect (FRE). Based on the dating of the antler, unaffected by FRE, and comparative analysis, the reservoir offset for one of the graves was estimated to 740 radiocarbon years. The results, although limited by a low number of investigated humans and animals, indicate indirectly a specialization in the exploitation of local water resources. Such an economic strategy seems to be characteristic for the societies inhabiting the coasts of the Baltic Sea and littoral zones of large lakes in the Final Neolithic and at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Modern Swedes as an even split between Late Scandinavian hunter-gatherers and Neolithic Scandinavian Farmers

Nice going Skoglund.  For Swedes, looks like a nice even split between Late Scandinavian hunter-gatherers and farmers from the Vasco-Cantabrian region. 

A good paper on the archaeology of the late paleolithic of the Vasco-Cantabrian region: 

Guy Levis Strauss, Recent developments in the study of the Upper Paleolithic of Vasco-Cantabrian Spain (Link)

The Geographic Distribution of "Early European Farmers"

Last year, when the Lazarides paper came out, I wrote a post about how I thought their results related to Admixture results I had seen.  One of the things I wrote is that I thought the Early European Farmers (EEF) "expanded from North Africa during the Last Glacial Maximum".  I now think that is not right.

Depending on how Admixture is set up, it won't necessarily come up with the same component distributions.  In any case, here's the distribution from the Dodecad Ancestry Project for an "Early European Farmer" component (labeled on the graph as South European) in light green.

Early European Farmers (South European light green)

Looking at this distribution, Sardinians have the highest level of "EEF."

Basques have the next highest level.

Then there's a pretty even distribution across Mediterranean populations.

As you venture away from the Mediterranean, "EEF" gradually dissipates.  For instance, Jordanians, Syrians, and Lithuanians have reduced "EEF".  The Chuvash have virtually no "EEF" ancestry.

I've heard some arguments, for instance on the Eurogenes blog, that somehow it is possible to differentiate a hard boundary between "Western Hunter Gatherers" (WHG) and "Early European Farmers" (EEF).  I strongly doubt that.

I don't have any big conclusions here, except to say that it is very likely that the genetic components being labeled Hunter-Gatherer and EEF both reflect European ancestry that have their roots in the Paleolithic of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.  I don't think that the EEF component should be thought of as arriving in Southern Europe from the Middle East only during the Neolithic.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in Northern Europe, the Russian Steppe and Armenia

Figure 13, Hartz paper (pdf link), showing chronology of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga.

If you're back here reading my blog, then welcome back.  (I've been busy with other things in the last six months, and wasn't able to maintain the blog, which is the reason that I turned it off.)

I noticed recently an article by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times that discusses research in David Reich's lab at Harvard.  It proposes that there was a wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" that "moved into Europe after 7,000 years ago."

Needless to say, the idea that a massive wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" arrived from Lake Baikal only starting 7,000 years ago is quite deceptive.

Thinking about the Northern European Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, it's illustrative to look at the record of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga. (See the graph on page 165 of the Hartz paper, referenced below and shown above.)

The Hamburgian-Swiderian-Epi-Gravettian technocomplex extended all the way across Northern Europe (from Scotland to the Russian Steppe).

So, to be blunt, those "Ancient North Eurasians" and "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", who, by the way, were very closely related, were probably in Europe since the Epi-Gravettian . . . and probably since the Gravettian.

Regarding Armenia, where the genetic data is showing some influence from "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", there's preliminary archaeological evidence showing that Armenia has some Epi-Gravettian influence.  (See the reference 6 on Kalavan 1, below).  In fact, there's quite a bit of ethnographic evidence that Armenians maintained diplomatic ties with the Russian Steppe into the Neolithic. The Pazyryk Carpet is a good example (References 5 and 7.)

Let's just say that the process of population exchange between the Russian Steppe, Northern Europe and even Armenia, has very likely been going on long before the Neolithic.

Update December 21st, 2014:  If you're interested in looking at how an admixture run and a PCA plot represent population movements associated with Northern Europe, feel free to have a look at the blog post I wrote up on January 6th of 2014. (Link)  (The Hamburgian is strongly associated with reindeer hunting.)

Please note that I know that many professional population geneticists and evolutionary anthropologists read this blog.  I would love to have joined you professionally in those fields.  But frankly, I'm too highly compensated as a Silicon Valley design engineer to allow me to go back to school and get a PhD in your field.  So, for now, this is an amateur endeavor.  However, do not fool yourself.  I've put thousands of hours into the research behind this blog.  If you do think that you've gained something from reading this material, please be kind enough to cite me.  There is a copyright notice at the bottom of the blog.  If I see a publication that I think uses my work without citation, I will be writing a letter to your institution and to the journal or conference publisher.

I'll comment further on the topic of Northern European genetic prehistory as more ancient DNA data is published.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday.


1.  Hartz et al., New AMS-dates for the Upper Volga Mesolithic and the origin of microblade technology in Europe (pdf link).

 2.  Riede, Felix, "The Resettlement of Northern Europe", in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers, Oxford University Press, 2014.

3.  Ballin, Torben Bjarke, "An Upper Paleolithic assemblage from Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire" (pdf link)

4.  Felix Riede blog post discussing the Hamburgian

5.  Pazyryk Carpet blog post

6.  Montoya, et. al., The Upper Palaeolithic site of Kalavan 1 (Armenia): An Epigravettian settlement in the Lesser Caucasus (link)

7.  Schurmann, Ulrich, The Pazyryk:  a 2500 year old knotted rug found in an ice grave in the Altai, It's User and Origin (link)

8.  This blog (Marnie Dunsmore), Mesolithic Western European Hunter Gatherers Partly Descended from Upper Paleolithic Reindeer Hunters (link)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Colours at Maisto-ghoa (Crowsnest Mountain)

Crowsnest Mountain in Southern Alberta.  (Photo courtesy of Two Travellers.)

A Blackfoot tradition to the naming of the mountain is that their enemy, the Crow, made a legendary last stand in the heights of Crowsnest Mountain.


Adolf Hungrywolf, The Blackfoot Papers, Volume 1, The Good Medicine Foundation, 2006. (Link)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Prehistoric Upland Lithic Procurement and Hunting Strategies in Denali National Park and Preserve, Central Alaska

Brian T. Wygal


The Bull River II site represents an important alpine tool production site in the central Alaska Range south of Broad Pass.  Initial test excavations produced a sizable lithic assemblage and charcoal dated to the Younger Dryas.  A lithic analysis comparing Bull River II and the undated Costello Creek assemblages reveals biface production was the primary activity at both locations.  Discovered at relatively high elevations (>1000 m.a.s.l.), the sites reflect an underrepresented Eastern Beringian site type related to upland resource procurement and offer a basis for testing seasonal land-use models.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Shoreline, 1936.  Emily Carr.  Beach at the foot of Beacon Hill Cliffs with Clover Point in the distance. (McMichael Collection)

"More than ever was I convinced that the old way of seeing was inadequate to express this big country of ours, her depth, her height, her unbounded wideness, silences too strong to be broken - nor could ten million cameras, through their mechanical boxes, ever show real Canada. It had to be sensed, passed through live minds, sensed and loved."1
1 Emily Carr, Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1966) 228.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Bison at Ayer Pond on Orcas Island is archaeological

Quentin Mackie's Blog
April 24, 2010

Evidence of cultural responses to the impact of the Mazama ash fall from deeply stratified archaeological sites in southern Alberta, Canada

Gerald Anthony Oetelaar, Alwynne B. Beaudoin
Quaternary International
Available Online September 1, 2014
In a series of papers, we adopted a regional perspective to explore the short and long-term impacts of the Mount Mazama eruption on the plant and animal communities of the northwestern Plains and later developed a model to explain human responses to this natural disaster. The model assumed the convergence of natural disasters which forced the local bison hunters to abandon the impacted zone and to seek refuge among their distant relatives living beyond the eastern limits of their homeland. Together, the refugees and their hosts intensified their subsistence strategies and adapted or developed new methods of food preparation to accommodate the increased pressure on the local resource base. Throughout their stay, the groups continued to monitor the rebirth of their traditional homeland and eventually returned to the places occupied by their ancestors. Upon their return, the groups continued to hunt bison but adapted the stone boiling technology to produce bone grease and pemmican. This nutritious, storable and transportable food source alleviated the concerns about long-term shortages and became an important product in the regional exchange networks. The primary objective of this paper is to test this model using sedimentary, pedological and archaeological data recovered from two deeply stratified sites with evidence of human occupations before and after the eruption of Mount Mazama.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Eagle's Ribs, Warrior of the Mountain Chief Piegan

Eagle's Ribs, as painted by George Catlin in 1832
Smithsonian American Art Museum (Link)

"His dress is really superb, almost literally covered with scalp-locks, of savage and civil. I have painted him at full length, with a head-dress made entirely of ermine skins and horns of the buffalo. This custom of wearing horns beautifully polished and surmounting the head-dress, is a very curious one, being worn only by the bravest of the brave; by the most extraordinary men in the nation . . . When he stood for his picture, he also held a lance and two ‘medicine-bags’ in his hand." -Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 5, 1841.

The Marias Massacre

Source:  Native American Net Roots (Link)
Also Wikipedia (Link)

In the years both before and after the Civil War, many Americans came to Montana seeking wealth either through mining or cattle ranching. Malcolm Clarke was one of those who settled down as a cattle rancher.  Clarke soon married a Blackfoot woman, Kohkokima (Cutting Off Head Woman). Clarke gained the respect of the Blackfoot and was initially given the name White Lodgepole. Later, he was given the name Four Bears after he killed four grizzlies in one day.  In 1867, some Blackfoot relatives of Kohkokima, came to visit the Clarke ranch. In the group were Owl Child (Ne-tus-che-o, Kohkokima’s cousin), his wife, mother, sister, and younger brother. As a result of this visit something went wrong which created bad blood between Owl Child and the Clarke men. One version of the story, told by the Blackfoot, alludes to improper advances made by the rancher to the wife of the Piegan cousin while Horace Clarke and Owl Child were hunting in the nearby mountains. Another version of the story, usually told by non-Indians, says that Owl Child stole some Clarke horses and that Clarke publically beat him.  Two years later, a Blackfoot party led by Owl Child approached the Clarke ranch in a friendly fashion. With Owl Child were Black Weasel, Eagle’s Ribs, Bear Chief, and Black Bear. Owl Child told Clarke that he had come to invite him to Mountain Chief’s village. Black Weasel, who was with the party, was Mountain Chief’s son.  Mountain Chief had disliked Americans since three Americans shot his brother and the authorities had done nothing about it. He banned all Americans from his village, but he stayed friendly with Malcolm Clarke because of his marriage to Kohkokima.    Suddenly, Bear Chief shot one of Clarke’s sons in the head. When Clarke rushed out of the house, he was shot dead by Eagle’s Rib. About 25 warriors then came out of the woods and proceeded to destroy everything in the house.

Initial Response:  The incident at Clarke’s ranch was clearly murder and furthermore the murderers had been identified by the survivors - Kohkokima and other Clarke children. Had the murderers been non-Indians, a posse would probably have been formed to track them down and bring them to justice. But as American Indians have long known, there is usually no concern for justice when Indians are involved.  Since Malcolm Clarke was a prominent rancher, the Montana press clamored for revenge against the Blackfoot, with little concern for the actual killers. However, the military commander at Fort Shaw remained calm. He reported:
“The only Indians within reach are friendly, and nothing could be worse than to chastise them for offenses of which they are not guilty.”
However, General Sheridan, with a reputation as an Indian fighter, was in Chicago and he was hearing from the American settlers in Montana who wanted revenge. He ordered Colonel E. M. Baker to obtain that revenge. It was not about justice: there was little concern for capturing the actual murderers. It was about retaliation: attacking the Blackfoot camps, any Blackfoot camp. Baker was ordered to give the Blackfoot an exhibition of military force to show the Blackfoot that they were not to trifle with the Americans. Baker’s orders from General Sheridan:
“If the lives & property of the citizens of Montana can best be protected by striking Mountain Chief’s band of Piegans, I want them struck.”
The Battle:  It was January of 1870 when the soldiers set out in search of Mountain Chief’s camp. The temperature was well below zero. Riding with the soldiers was Horace Clarke, Malcolm Clarke’s son. On the Marias River, the soldiers encounter a Blackfoot camp. As the army approached the camp, scout Joe Kipp recognized that it is the friendly village of Heavy Runner and informed the commander that this was the wrong village. The officer ordered the soldiers to shoot Kipp if he yelled again. According to Horace Clarke, Colonel Baker was drunk at this time and didn’t know what he was doing.  Heavy Runner was known as a peace chief and his camp was the refuge for many widows and orphans. Heavy Runner’s people were known for their caring and concern for others. Heavy Runner was also one of the Blackfoot chiefs who had signed a treaty with the United States government and, unlike the United States, was determined to uphold the terms of the treaty.  As the soldiers attacked, Heavy Runner ran toward Baker waving his Washington medals and his letters of recommendation showing that he was friendly to the United States. According to the later testimony of Good Bear Woman:
“I noticed Chief Heavy Runner, the leader of the camp, come out of his lodge and go to meet the commanding officer. He handed him some papers, which the commanding officer read, then he tore them up and threw them away. As Heavy Runner turned about face, soldiers fired upon him and killed him.”
After Heavy Runner was killed, Baker ordered his troops to fire. The Indians did not return fire as all of their able-bodied men were on a buffalo hunt. When the firing was over the soldiers simply shot the wounded Indians. They then collected the lodges and property of the Indians in great piles, and set fire to them. The soldiers also looted the dead bodies, removing anything which they thought might be of value.  One hundred and forty women and children were taken prisoner in the attack. After being held for a short time, they were released to face the cold-estimated to be 40 below zero-without blankets, shelter, or food. Many died from exposure.  The first official account of the “incident” claimed that 120 Blackfoot warriors were killed, an interesting statistic since nearly all of the men were out hunting. Later, the official report was modified to indicate that a total of 173 Blackfoot were killed and that 148 of these were women, children, and elders. However, the scout Joe Kipp reported that he personally counted 217 dead. Kipp also reported that the Blackfoot had fired only one shot during the battle. According to Blackfoot oral tradition, only three of those killed were able-bodied warriors. The Indian agent for the Blackfoot reported that only 15 were men of fighting age.  According to Colonel Baker’s official report, he had succeeded in attacking the camp of Bear Chief and Big Horn whom he classified as “hostiles.”

The Aftermath:  At the time of the Heavy Runner massacre (dubbed the Baker Massacre in the eastern press), the U.S. government was debating over whether the Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was to remain in the Department of the Interior or be transferred back to the War Department. The accounts of army brutality in this incident, including Horace Clarke’s testimony about the brutality of the attack against this friendly camp, helped stop the proposal to move Indian Affairs to the War Department. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ely Parker, who was a Seneca Indian, was put in the position of defending the military operation as an effective way of dealing with the Blackfoot.    General Sheridan, who was not known for his concern for Indians, expressed confidence in Colonel Baker’s leadership abilities and was able to stop an official army investigation into the incident. Sheridan insisted that Baker had attacked Mountain Chief’s camp and issued a press release:
“the majority of those killed in Mountain Chief’s camp were warriors, that the firing ceased the moment resistance was at an end, that quarter was given to all who asked for it; and that a hundred women and children were allowed to go free to join the other bands of the same tribe camped nearby, rather than the absurd report that there were only thirteen warriors killed and that all the balance were women and children, more or less afflicted with smallpox.”
Captain Lewis Thompson would later defend the slaughter of women and children:
“The accidental killing of noncombatants during the onslaught was condemned as the deliberate, cruel murder of women and children. By any code which society ever instituted to protect its citizens and punish outlaws, these Indians are guilty of death, as if their crimes were forgotten in the face of their terrible punishment. Punishment, terrible as it was, was not more cruel than the peace role of this government under which the Indians have so long suffered.”
Corporal Dan Starr is reported to have said:
“Baker had made known the paramount feature of his military policy when he announced as a motto, ‘ Nits make lice. ‘ This was the customary way of indicating that children were not to be spared. With this general-extermination idea impressed upon the troops, the camp was quickly surrounded.”
Mountain Chief and his people [including Owl Child, Black Weasel, Eagle’s Ribs, Bear Chief, and Black Bear], upon hearing about the attack on Heavy Runner, avoided the army by crossing the border into Canada.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Upper Paleolithic Notation System in Prehistoric Europe

Simon Holdaway, Susan A. Johnston

"The search for an indigenous writing system among the prehistoric cultures of Temperate Europe has a long history which may in part be motivated by the desire to show that they were not barbaric and culturally backward, but rather possessed one of the hallmarks of "civilization"" (Childe, 1950) . . .

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shattered Glass and Broken Bones: Piikani Domestic Space 1880-1960

Simon Arther Solomon
Simon Fraser University


Reserves have existed in Canada for over 140 years, yet their archaeological correlates are virtually unknown. Historical archaeologists in North America typically focus on sites of European origin, so critical examinations of Indian engagement with Canadian society from an archaeological perspective are lacking. Using a combination of historical documents, oral testimony, archaeological data, I examine the Piikani First Nation‘s transition from tipis to cabins in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. I detail the Piikani adoption of alien vernacular architecture, exploring what elements of tipi spatial organization persisted once they adopted cabins. I document the material culture associated with a sedentary occupation. It has been assumed that, having adopted European housing, Indians lived inside them as White people did. Yet the organization and use of space within the Piikani cabin reflected continuity from their pre-reserve tipi lifeways, even though the associated material culture indicated change.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Piikani Winter Buffalo Hunting at the Porcupine Hills

Bison walking through snow, Tower Junction, Yellowstone.  Photo by Jim Peaco.

Jack W. Brink
Imaging Head-Smashed-In
Athabasca University Press
2008, pages 135-137

"Billy [a Piikani Elder] was in his early seventies when I interviewed him in the mid-1980s.  He had been raised mainly by his grandparents.  They would have lived through the last half of the nineteenth century, the final days of the buffalo hunting culture.  Billy was raised by people who had lived in tipis, travelled by horse, and hunted buffalo.  When I asked questions about the old days, translated into Blackfoot, there might be some general discussion around the room, but someone would say, "Let Billy tell it."  The room would become quiet, and Billy would speak, often at considerable length, telling stories and passing on information just as it had been passed on to him.

"There is a great responsibility that comes with being recognized as one of the precious few who carry the history of a people.  It is imperative to recount what you have learned exactly as it was conveyed to you, without embellishment or change.  That this code was rigidly followed was made clear to me when I compared Billy's words (when translated) to texts of traditional Blackfoot stories written in both Blackfoot and English in the early twentieth century.  Astonishingly, I could follow along with the written text, noting an almost exact word-for-word correspondence with Billy's version (the correspondence was so uncanny that there were fleeting moments where I thought that Billy must have read the same decades-old book, though I assumed this was not possible).  But Billy also told stories that have never appeared in any book.  One of them struck a special chord with me, because it provided insight into rounding up and moving bison towards a kill.

"Billy told how sometimes buffalo jumps were held during winter.  The conditions for the people were much more difficult, and they had to contend with cold, frozen ground, and drive lanes covered with snow.  The people had to resort to other tricks, had to reach deep into their pool of knowledge.  The Porcupine Hills were an excellent wintering place for herds of buffalo, so the animals were often gathered in the hills.  The task was to move them towards the cliff.  Billy told how people knew that bison are attracted to and will follow their own trails, perceiving them as a safe route of travel.  The trick was to create a fake trail, one that bison would perceive as a means of escape but that, in reality, led to death.  Billy recounted how the hunters would first rub their bodies and moccasins with sage so as to hide their human smell.  Then they would take several tanned buffalo hides and head into the gathering basin, collecting all the frozen buffalo chips they could find.  Chips (now freeze-dried and lightweight) were piled on the hides and dragged by the hunters until they reached the place where the drive would begin.  Once in position, hunters walked backwards toward the edge of the cliff, dragging the chip-laden hides behind them.  Billy explained how dragging the hides over the footprints of the people further served to mask the scent of the humans.  As they walked, the hunters tossed out chip after chip, forming a long line of dark circles set against the snow of frozen ground.  They continued this until they reached the edge of the cliff.

"Hunters knew that bison preferred to follow an existing trail.  After all, if the animals had travelled in a certain route many times before, it must lead to safety.  There are several dead giveaways that a trail is old.  One clue is the deep ruts cut by thousands of sharp hoofs.  Another is the ubiquitous dark circles of dung that, in earlier times, surely lined all paths the bison travelled.  Hunters knew that this would be a chosen path of escape and so used dried buffalo chips to create a false trail leading to the cliff edge.  By walking backwards and dragging hides behind them, they covered their own scent with that of the intended prey.  A herd of bison, frightened by hunters circling around them, could see and smell a safe path of escape in the form of a beaten trail marked with a line of chips.  Billy's story made perfect sense.

"I had never seen this trick recorded in any literature, yet armed with a bit of knowledge about the nature of bison, I had no doubts about the authority of the account.  Billy has now passed away, a sad loss for the community and for all who yearn to know the past.  Thankfully, some record of his profound knowledge was made before his passing."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Clovis Complex (in Alberta and Saskatchewan)

David Meyer, Alwynne B. Beaudoin and Leslie J. Amundson
Human Ecology of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone ca. 9000BP: 
     The Paleo-Indian Period
in Human Ecology of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone 11,000 to 300 BP
     edited by B. A. Nicholson
Canadian Plains Research Center Press, 2011, page 10-11.

Clovis Complex

Clovis is the first widely recognized archaeological complex of North America south of the Laurentide ice sheet, including the northern plains, and has been dated to ca. 11,300-10,900 BP (Holliday 2000: 265).  Using AMS dates on highly purified materials, Waters and Stafford (2007) propose that Clovis spans a much shorter interval, ca. 11,050 to 10,800 BP.  (but see Haynes et al. 2007: 320).  Clovis across North America is distinguished by well-crafted fluted or basally-thinned projectile points.  This technology is also known for the presence of bone or ivory rods (Lahren and Bonnichsen 1974; Stanford 1990, 1996).  These rods are believed to have formed part of the foreshafts of spears or, more likely, atlatl darts (Hutchings 1997; Dixon 1999: 153).  In some parts of North America, people of Clovis culture also produced blades, which were struck from prepared cylindrical cores (Beck and Jones 2010: 88-93; Green 1963; LeBlanc and Wright 1990).  A number of tools were made on these blades.  On the American plains it is now known that these people "had a generalized foraging economy that utilized a wide variety of resources" (Stanford 1999: 326), including large, late Pleistocene fauna (see also, Grayson and Meltzer 2002: 349). Presumably, the same subsistence economy was present in the Canadian Prairie Ecozone.

It is apparent that by 11,200 BP the newly established plant and animal communities of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone had become sufficiently productive to support human hunters and gatherers - peoples of the Clovis culture (see also Beaudoin and Oetelaar 2003: 199).  Several surface-collected Clovis points have been found in Alberta (e.g. Gillespie 2002; Gryba 1985, 1988, 2001; Ives 2006), Saskatchewan (e.g. Kehoe 1966, Dyck 1983; Hall 2009; Pendree 1981; Pettipas 1975), and Manitoba (e.g. Pettipas 1969, 1970; Buchner and Pettipas 1990: 54).  As well, a bone rod similar to those known from Clovis assemblages has been found near Grenfell, in southeastern Saskatchewan (Wilmeth 1968).

In situ Clovis occupations have not been encountered on the Canadian Plains (but see Kooyman et al. 2006).  This is probably because of a sparse population, which produced a limited archaeological signature, and because the landscape was still in flux, given the lingering presence of buried ice blocks and slowly thawing permafrost (Mandryk 1996; Yansa 2006).  This likely led to the disturbance of many Clovis occupations and, in some cases, deep burial (Ives 2006: 25; Wilson and Burns 1999: 234, in Gillespie 2002: 158).  Given the very different landscape configuration at that time, we can expect Clovis (and other Llano) sites to have a different landscape signature and distribution to those of the Middle and Late Prehistoric, further reducing the likelihood of site discovery.

Anderson and Gillam (2000) have argued that Clovis populations were involved in rapid expansion across the continent, leapfrogging over some regions.  Given Anderson and Gillam's (2000) model, Ives (2006: 19, 27) has suggested that Clovis occupations of Alberta may have "leapfrogged" into this part of North America and become relatively isolated from people to the south - considering the few Clovis points found in adjacent Montana and the fact that the points in Alberta tend to be made of local materials.  The Saskatchewan population may well have been part of this relatively isolated northern group.

During Clovis times, most of the Greater Forks region was inundated by an early stage of Glacial Lake Saskatchewan and the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers formed a large delta that extended into the western end of the lake (Christiansen et al. 1995: 346).  For over half a century, the possibility of Clovis occupations in the lands bordering the southern shore of Glacial Lake Saskatchewan has been of intense interest to Thomas Smith (1964, 1967, 1972), an accomplished avocational archaeologist and resident of the region.  However, with two possible exceptions (Wilson and Smith sites, see below), Clovis points have not been found in the Great Forks region [of central Saskatchewan].

Presumably, the landscape was still in the early stages of recovery following deglaciation, and animals populations were not large enough to attract much human attention.  Indeed, given the proximity of a large, cold glacial lake and cold katabatic winds blowing off the ice sheet immediately to the north, the environment may have been dominated by caribou, with some muskoxen - perhaps not of great interest to hunters accustomed to hunting Late Pleistocene species of the more productive steppe lands to the immediate south.

[Blog update, 2015:  Since this publication, the find of horse and camel bones, attributed to the Clovis Culture, at St. Mary's Reservoir in Southern Alberta, has lent further evidence to an early presence in Southern Alberta of the Clovis Culture.  See:  Horse and camel hunting by prehistoric humans in North America, Vol. 18 Spring 2015, Popular Archaeology (Link)]

Sunday, August 10, 2014

North American - Siberian Connections: Regional Rock Art Patterning Using Multivariate Statistics

Alice Tratebas
Chapter 9 in A Companion to Rock Art, edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth, 2012
(Link) Amazon


Rock art can sometimes provide better data for defining cultural entities than other archaeological data.  Multivariate statistical analysis of rock art data can help us define rock art traditions and distinguish between traditions.  Statistical methods can show change through time within a tradition.  Choosing the right statistical technique and careful selection of variables and attributes are vital for good results.  Learning how to interpret the numerical and graphical data generated by statistical techniques is also necessary for a meaningful application of statistics to rock art analysis.  This chapter uses multivariate methods to define and compare rock art traditions from the North American Plains and South Siberia.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blackfoot Winter Count of Manistokos (1810-1889)

Manistokos (Father of Many Children)
   also known as Parkapotokan (Bad Head)
Recorded: in symbolic pictographs on tanned skin
In:  The R.N. Wilson papers, vol. 2, pages 367-377. -- [ca. 1890-1897].
Archives of the Glenbow Museum, Alberta

1810 - The Kainai see for the first time the horses with cropped tails of the American soldiers.

1811 - Crying Bear has been destroyed.

1812 - The Gambler has been killed by the Flathead.

1813 - Many went on the war path.

1814 - Top Knot has been killed.

1815 - Had Children destroyed by the Crees on the Belly River.

1816 - Kainai Extending His Paw killed by another Kainai.

1817 - Buffalo Paunch killed by his brother.

1818 - Kainai have their Sun Dance in the Winter time.

1819 - Coughing epidemic.

1820 - Four Horns killed by a Pend'oreille.

1821 - Great Chief No Top Knot dies.

1822 - A white man named by the Kainai Short Man takes a place at the confluence of the Musselshell and Missouri Rivers.

1823 - Long Hair dies.

1824 - The Kainai drove away the Crows.

1825 - The Kainai, Gros-Ventres, Flat Heads, Koutenais, and Nez-perces make a peace treaty.

1826 - The Kainai stole many horses from the Crows at a place called "Goose Neck" Butte.

1827 - Many died.

1828 - A chief named Crowfoot was killed by the Crow.

1829 - Seven Crow are destroyed on the American border.

1830 - Very severe Winter.  Many go on the war path and are frozen to death.

1831 - A white man named Kipp establishes a post at the confluence of the Bear and Missouri Rivers.

1832 - An American winters at a place called the Strait (narrows) on the Milk River.

1833 - Very remarkable meteor shower.  The Kainai were camped near High River.

1834 - The Kainai help themselves to the horses of the Crows.

1835 - Two Blackfoot Piegan jump in the Bears River and are killed.

1836 - Epidemic of constipation amongst the children.

1837 - Small pox.

1838 - People recover from the disease.

1839 - Chief White Calf  killed by a white man at Fort Benton (Montana).

1840 - An old Kainai woman named Potsiw was killed, the killer remaining unknown.

1841 - Another woman, Hind Face, was killed by a Kainai.

1842 - Going Crow killed by a party of Crow.

1843 - A large number of lodges camp near the Porcupine Hills at a place called "Woman Pound".

1844 - A white man named Running Wolf fires a cannon at Fort Benton (Montana) and kills thirteen Blackfoot.

1845 - The Kainai separate into two parties for the purpose of trading, one going to Fort Benton (Montana) and the other going to Rocky Mountain House (Alberta).

1846 - Kainai Going With The Sun hides himself from the Crees and escapes.

1847 - The Crows come into the camp to steal horses.

1848 - Not cared for child killed by the Crees on the Teton River.

1849 - Manistokos (author), with a large band of Kainai, moves camp during the Winter to go to Fort Benton (Montana).

1850 - Fifty Crees are killed by the Milk River on this side of the boundary.

1851 - Eagle White Calf killed by a Cree near the Sweet Grass Hills.

1852 - Plenty of snow and the weather becoming mild.  A freshet occurred in the Wintertime.  The Kainai fought the Snake Indians.

1853 - Manistokos (author) winters this side of the boundary line.

1854 - The Crees coming after the Kainai make a shelter of branches in the newly abandoned camp.

1855 - The Kainai are starving and eat their dogs.

1856 - The Indians of different tribes receive a large distribution of goods from the American soldiers whose commanding officer Short Man (Stephens) is very much renowned amongst them.  [Refers to the treaty of October 17th, 1855, enacted with Isaac I. Stevens at the mouth of the Judith River with "the Blackfoot Nation".]

1857 - The ground is very slippery on account of glassy frost.

1858 - Prairie Man kills a Pend'oreille.

1859 - The Kainai make a large sweat bath.

1860 - Two Kainai, Hind Bull and Fish Child, kill each other.

1861 - The Crees steal horses from the Pend'oreille near the Sweet Grass Hills.

1862 - Visit of Medicine Pheasant, great chief of the Crows.  (He was half Blackfoot Piegan and half Crow.)

1863 - Kainai Tartowa gets mad and fires through the camp.  He is killed by his two brothers.

1864 - Four lodges of Gros Ventres, whose chief was Orkotok (Stone), were destroyed by the Blackfoot Piegan on the Belly River.

1865 - Black smallpox.

1866 - The Kainai are kept waiting a long time for the trader.

1867 - A Kainai war party falls among the Crees, and they fight hand to hand.

1868 - The Kainai have plenty of furs and make a big trade.

1869 - Joining the Bear, being drunk, rushes through the camp and kills many.

1870 - Smallpox.

1871 - Great battle with the Crees on the Belly River near Coal Bank - 200 to 250 Crees are killed.

1872 - Some white men settle on High River.

1873 - They winter there again.

1874 - Calf Shirt is killed.

1875 - The Mounted Police are at Fort MacLeod.

1876 - Whiskey trading is stopped [by the Mounted Police.]

1877 - Plenty of buffaloes.  [No mention is made of the signing of Treaty No. 7.]

1878 - The Spring is very late.  The Kainai lose many of their horses.

1879 - Very mild winter.

1880 - The buffalo are no more.

1881 - All of the Blackfoot leave the territory of the United States and come to this side of the boundary.

1882 - Visit of the Marquis of Lorne, son-in-law of the Queen [and Governor General of Canada, who made this tour across Canada in 1881.]

1883 - The Crees steal the horses of [Chief] Red Crow.

1884 - The railway is built across the country. [The C.P.R.]

1885 - Epidemic of Erysipelas.

1886 - Many cattle died.

1887 - The chiefs of the Blackfoot are taken [by train] to visit Ottawa [the capital of Canada.]

1888 - Chief Crowfoot visits the Gros Ventres and is knocked down by a drunken Gros Ventre.

1889 - Epidemic of Influenza.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stomi'ksaosa'k (Buffalo Bull Back Fat)

    Stomi'ksaosa'k (Bull Back Fat) as painted by George Catlin in 1832

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Stomi'ksaosa'k appears again in history as an attendee to the Treaty No 7 negotiations with the Canadian government and is mentioned in the book The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty Seven.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Buffalo Pony

                        "Buffalo Chase, A Single Death",
          as painted by George Catlin, Upper Missouri, 1832

“In the chase of the buffalo, or other animal, the Indian generally ‘strips’ himself and his horse, by throwing off his shield and quiver, and every part of his dress, which might be an encumbrance to him in running; grasping his bow in his left hand, with five or six arrows drawn from his quiver, and ready for instant use . . . These horses are so trained, that the Indian has little use for the rein, which hangs on the neck, whilst the horse approaches the animal on the right side, giving his rider the chance to throw his arrow to the left; which he does at the instant when the horse is passing---bringing him opposite to the heart, which receives the deadly weapon ‘to the feather’ . . . I have fairly represented the mode of approaching, at the instant the arrow is to be thrown; and the striking disparity between the size of a huge bull of 2000 pounds weight, and the Indian horse, which, it will be borne in mind, is but a pony.” (George Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Smoking the Shield

Smoking the Shield, as painted by George Catlin, 1837-39

“The Sioux shield [is] made of the skin of the buffalo's neck, hardened with the glue extracted from the hoofs and joints of the same animal . . . This skin is at first, twice as large as the size of the required shield; but having got his particular and best friends (who are invited on the occasion) into a ring, to dance and sing around it, and solicit the Great Spirit to instill into it the power to protect him harmless against his enemies, [the young man] spreads over it the glue, which is rubbed and dried in, as the skin is heated; and a second busily drives other and other pegs, inside of those in the ground, as they are gradually giving way and being pulled up by the contraction of the skin. By this curious process, which is most dexterously done, the skin is kept tight whilst it contracts to one-half of its size, taking up the glue and increasing in thickness until it is rendered as thick and hard as required.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 30, 1841; reprint 1973)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kotz-a-tó-ah, Smoked Shield, Distinguished Warrior

   Kotz-a-tó-ah, Smoked Shield, a Distinguished Warrior
   Painting of George Catlin, painted 1834
" . . . another of the extraordinary men of this tribe [Kiowa], near seven feet in stature, and distinguished, not only as one of the greatest warriors, but the swiftest on foot, in the nation. This man, it is said, runs down a buffalo on foot, and slays it with his knife or his lance, as he runs by its side!” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 43, 1841, reprint 1973; Gurney and Heyman, eds., George Catlin and His Indian Gallery, 2002)
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Friday, July 25, 2014

Comparative Performance of Two Whole Genome Capture Methodologies on Ancient DNA Illumina Libraries

, , , , , , , ,

(Link) open access


1. The application of whole genome capture (WGC) methods to ancient DNA (aDNA) promises to increase the efficiency of ancient genome sequencing.

2. We compared the performance of two recently developed WGC methods in enriching human aDNA within Illumina libraries built using both double-stranded (DSL) and single-stranded (SSL) build protocols. Although both methods effectively enriched aDNA, one consistently produced marginally better results, giving us the opportunity to further explore the parameters influencing WGC experiments.

3. Our results suggest that bait length has an important influence on library enrichment. Moreover, we show that WGC biases against the shorter molecules that are enriched in SSL preparation protocols. Therefore application of WGC to such samples is not recommended without future optimization. Lastly, we document the effect of WGC on other features including clonality, GC composition and repetitive DNA content of captured libraries.

4. Our findings provide insights for researchers planning to perform WGC on aDNA, and suggest future tests and optimization to improve WGC efficiency.

Fig. 1. WGC preferentially retrieves longer fragments in sequencing libraries. The read length distribution of pre-capture and post-capture libraries is shown for (a) double-stranded libraries (DSL) and (b) single-stranded-libraries. In (a) the x axis is split in <90 bp and >90 bp to adjust the scale and better illustrate the higher concentration of short reads in the pre-capture libraries (pink line) and the bias observed against these in capture experiments (green and blue lines) where longer fragments are preferentially retrieved. (b) Illustrates that the relative gain of shorter fragments obtained by building a SSL, is lost by capturing these types of libraries. The plot shown in (c) depicts the bioanalyzer profile of the bait libraries revealing that for WISC a wider tail is observed for longer baits, which might explain the stronger bias in favor of longer fragments by this particular method.


By comparing the performance of WISC and MYbaits in enriching for endogenous human DNA in ancient DNA extracts, we have been able to pinpoint potential factors influencing the dynamics of WGC experiments. The assessment of the subtle differences between both approaches to in-WGC enables us to draw insights on two variables that may the affect capture efficiency – bait length distribution and hybridization time. Our data furthermore provides insights into the effect of blocking agents, and first insights into the performance of whole-genome enrichment methods on SSL.

Although the experimental design and parameters used in this study seem to suggest an apparent benefit of one of the methods over the other, we strongly caution that batch effects could be playing an important role under these settings, hence discourage such interpretation from our results. Likewise, it is worth considering that even though there is a certain convenience in using a pre-made kit (MYbaits), our observations point to specific factors that can be optimized in the in house method (WISC) namely bait length distribution and hybridization parameters. Knowing the relevance of such parameters in WGC, gives users the flexibility of customizing their capture experiment to match the particularities of each aDNA library (see below).

Role of bait length distribution on the efficiency of WGC

Bait length distributions (Fig. 1c) differ mainly in that WISC shows a wider range and longer bait lengths. This in principle could account for the marked retrieval of longer reads in the WISC compared with the MYbaits experiments (Figs. 1a-b).  Following this rationale, the higher success of the latter could be explained by its ability to better access a fraction of the sequencing library, specifically that with the smaller fragments, while this fraction remains inaccessible due to the higher concentration of longer baits used in WISC. An important consequence of this feature was the poor and even unsuccessful outcome of capturing SSL, which include a higher fraction of short fragments, with either method. At the same time, this limitation reveals an important area for future development in the context of WGC experiments.

Although there was a small, yet consistent, benefit in the MYbaits over the WISC, it would be rash to conclude that the MYbaits method always outperforms WISC.  These results were generated using a single batch of WISC bait versus a single batch of MYbaits. Given that (i) bait lengths will likely vary between batches as a result of initial template DNA fragmentation, and (ii) our hypothesis that bait length may play a key role in retaining shorter DNA fragments, we believe it is more than likely our results simply reflect the fact that in these batches tested the WISC bait were slightly longer than the MYbaits. Future studies that examine the role of bait length in capture success will be needed to further examine this hypothesis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Resettlement of Northern Europe

Felix Riede
The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers
Edited by Vicki Cummings, Peter Jordan and Marek Zvelebil
Print Publication Date: April 2014


As the climate began to ameliorate after the last Ice Age, pioneer plants, animals, and people began to resettle northern Europe. The recolonization of the North European Plain and the maritime and mountainous landscapes of Scandinavia is associated with variants of the Magdalenian techno-complex. Structured by the successive maturation of landforms as well as by a number of catastrophic environmental changes, this process took the form of a series of colonization pulses followed by contractions and renewed colonization efforts. With the introduction of important new technologies such as the bow and arrow, watercraft, and fishing technology as well as domesticated dogs, this demographically and environmentally dynamic period saw the expansion of the geographic as well the behavioural dimensions of the hunter-gatherer niche. Underwritten by extensive mobility, trade, and exchange networks, these forager populations were able to explore and settle even the most remote parts of Arctic northern Europe early during the Holocene.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dusk at a small lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Dusk at a small lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Nurse's Song

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.

‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.’

‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover'd with sheep.’

‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd, and shoutèd, and laugh'd
And all the hills echoed.