Friday, January 31, 2014

Max Born, on receiving the 1954 Nobel Prize for Quantum Mechanics and the statistical interpretation of the Wave Function . . .

Max Born (1882–1970) 
 (Link (wiki))
Max Born reflecting on the philosophical implications of "Quantum Mechanics and the statistical interpretation of the Wave Function" (His Nobel Prize lecture, 1954):
"I believe that ideas such as absolute certitude, absolute exactness, final truth, etc. are figments of the imagination which should not be admissible in any field of science. On the other hand, any assertion of probability is either right or wrong from the standpoint of the theory on which it is based. This loosening of thinking (Lockerung des Denkens) seems to me to be the greatest blessing which modern science has given to us. For the belief in a single truth and in being the possessor thereof is the root cause of all evil in the world."
Related Paper:

Paleoanthropology: Homo erectus and the Limits of a Paleontological Species

Related Posts on this blog:

Fertile Crescent Components Do the Wilson Wakeley Model
Note that in this post "Fertile Crescent Components Do the Wilson . . .", the components are normalized in order to meet the normalization condition of the probability density function.  In order to "operate" on population components, the components must be normalized.

Outmoded Metaphor
In this post, I mention that "To start with, statistically speaking, there will never be a clear horizon for humanness."  I add here that humanness could only ever be formulated in terms of the space-time statistics for multiple hominin characteristics.

Mesolithic Western European Hunter Gatherers Partly Descended
from Upper Paleolithic Reindeer Hunters
In this posts, "West Asian", "Northern European" and "South European" components are arranged by major component.  Because all ten of the components (entire population) are shown in the plots, the components are inherently normalized.  Thus, it is correct to "operate" on the data. 
Several "operations" are interesting:
        1.  Deconvolution of the "West Asian" component from the dataset.
        2.  Deconvolution of the "South European" component from 1.

In "1", the effect is to shift the populations to the west.   In "2", the effect is to shift populations to the north.

Update (February 1, 2014):
This post is a good example of the power of normalization on specific population components in order to focus on specific gene flow processes:
Westward Across the Asian Steppe; Southward Through the Himalayas.
In fact, having now found a good map that shows topology, I would instead name this post something like "North-South Bi-directional Gene Flow by way of Western Afghanistan".  Here's the plot:

                     1:  Chuvash
                     2:  Lezgins
                     3:  Sindhi
                     4:  Adygei
                     5:  Pathan
                     6:  Turks
                     7:  Syrians
                     8:  Romanians
                     9:  Jordanians
                   10:  Ashkenazis
                   11:  Uygurs
                   12:  Burusho
                   13:  North Kannadi
                   14:  Gujarati
The analysis focuses on an apparent pattern presented by two components:  "East Asian" (lime) and "Northeast Asian" (turquoise), shown at the bottom of the plot, above.  These two components are normalized and then arranged in order to show the obviously correlated distributions indicating bi-rectional gene flow between Russia and  India.  These populations also have quite a lot of "Northern European" ancestry.  However, there does not seem to be a correlation of the "Northern European" component distribution with the joint distribution of the other two components.  Therefore, it is not included in the normalization.  The fact that the "Northern European" component distribution is not correlated would indicate that the arrival of the "North European" component post-dates the normalized north-south bidirectional gene flow process occurring through western Afghanistan.
Update (February 2, 2014):  Suggested Reading:
Decoherence and the Transition from Quantum to Classical - Revisited
Wojciech H. Zurek

Joe, now I can get up and have my coffee with a smile on my face

Update:  Joe "not totally willing to blame the reporter here".
Good point, Joe.  Actually, I've been getting "call and hang up" phone calls several times a day on both my cell and home number.  These calls began on about January 23rd or 24th, one or two days after the Paleoanthropology:  Homo erectus and the Limits of a Paleontological Species paper was posted here on this blog.  It's probably unlikely that a Fox News reporter would grasp the significance of such a paper so quickly after it was published.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Day Job

Jonathan Eisen, so nice to know you are a Pete Seeger fan!  I enjoyed your post and the song.  I'm not a huge fan of folk [as you might have guessed!], but Pete Seeger's contribution as a civil rights activist and also as someone who stood up to McCarthy is legendary.  I see the Guardian has a nice piece on him.  My grandmother was a Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson fan in the 30's, 40's and 50's.

You mention women engineers and women in STEM.  I've noticed that many women out there in twitter land are discussing issues such as the difficulty of equal access to conferences, the difficulty of combining young children and tenure, and other challenges.  It's good to see the more open discussion (compared to when I was in school).

Regarding the song, to be honest, I have never felt that there was a conflict between being feminine and being an engineer.  Let's just say that I am not sure what feminine is and I don't spend much time thinking about it, but creating a conflict between ones' gender identity and their career prospects is bound to be tiring.

So my "day job" is "mixed signal circuit design engineer."  What that means in real terms is that I put transistors together to do things like amplify, stabilize, acquire lock, detect frequency and phase, reject noise, filter noise, shape signals (in time and frequency), down and up convert (frequency) and convert the analog realm (real world) to and from the digital world (computer world).  These mixed signal circuits are in all communication electronics products including cell phones, laptops, disc drives, routers, modems, wifi, metro networks and long-haul networks. All audio, displays and cameras have them. They are also in virtually all medical equipment and especially in imaging equipment. Even DNA sequencing equipment has some mixed signal circuitry at the front end.

The work encompasses everything from running mundane simulations all the way to fundamental research on understanding issues such as metastability using stochastic techniques. 

I like what I do and I am well paid.

The area is quite theoretical.  As a result, the field seems to attract people who are both technically and intellectually bright.  I work with people from all over the world.

As a women in this field, the biggest challenges are work/family issues, at least in the early years.  Chips (silicon) generally are designed on very demanding schedules.  It is not uncommon to have to put in long hours which are often incompatible with the school schedules of children.  It is hard to take time out.

Women also struggle with risk perception issues.  Chip design research teams and managers are always gauging risk, especially when the cost of a single mask set can easily exceed several million dollars.  A single error can mean months of debug and delay time and mask re-spin costs.  Delay to production translates to lost design wins in a highly competitive market.

Over the years, I've done a lot of reading on the challenges women face in science and technology.  Only a few sources stand out as providing an honest, multifaceted and meaningful discussion on the topic. To my mind, the MIT studies on Women Faculty in the Sciences are good.

One book towers above anything else I've ever read.  The book is The Mind Has No Sex?  Women in the Origins of Modern Science by Londa Schiebinger.

Jonathan, recently I've noticed that you've written several articles on women in science and technology issues.  There's also been some good discussion on C. Titus Brown's blog Living in an Ivory Basement.  It's is a tough topic to discuss, but the effort is appreciated.  I think you're in Davis, but if you're in the city sometime on the weekend and you want to grab a coffee and check out the Mission, my contact info is above.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Clash


Flo, je t'aime

Can't wait to read.  Am scrambling on the way to work now, but these will be a treat to read.  (Did see the tweet about women not getting into conferences.  Ah, some things sadly seem not to have changed in twenty years.  If it matters, suggest polite overt pressure.  Other strategies possible.   -Une Canadienne en Silicon Valley. )

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Outmoded Metaphor

Joe, interesting post:

Y-chromosome "Adam" was not necessarily human.  I (kinda) like the opening:

"Metaphors in science play an important role in communicating results from one field to scientists in other fields and to the general public. In some cases, however, metaphors are so successful and so appealing that they actually obscure rather than enlighten."

It is time for us to entirely retire the "Adam and Eve" metaphor.  I'm telling you that coming from a family who were co-conspirators with John Knox and the Protestant Reformation and leading lights of the Church during the Middle Ages.  We have to ask Adam (and his consort) to kindly stay out of the corridors of Science.


To start with, statistically speaking, there will never be a clear horizon for humanness.

We will never know if "Y-chromosome Adam" and "Mitochondrial Eve" were human or not.  I frankly do not care.

There is also the issue that every time we use this metaphor, it clouds our already vulnerable scientific thinking.

As we study different cultures in the world, we discover that many do not conceive of creation in "Adam and Eve" terms.  You could even say that the creation stories of some indigenous people are closer to the scientific truth than the myth of "Adam and Eve".

As the article that Flo Débarre retweeted yesterday, Martin Nowak, Evolution, and God, only too clearly illustrates, the dollars are following "scientists" that incorporate "Adam and Eve" stories into their research.  I am horrified.  (Thank you, Flo.)

Regarding the use of the Y-chromosome as a measure of human evolution, I am not sure it is a good one.  I haven't fully understood the implication of the Melissa A. Wilson Sayres paper Natural Selection Reduced Diversity on Human Y Chromosomes.

I tire of hearing that the poor, dumb lay public cannot understand evolutionary science without these outmoded metaphors.  Evolutionary scientists and geneticists themselves are falling back on inappropriate metaphor and outmoded classification systems.  They themselves seem confused.  For some outside the field, that is all too clear.

It is time to entirely retire the "Adam and Eve" metaphor when trying to discuss or convey to the public concepts of human evolution.

Have a nice Sunday.  We're headed off to the Exploratorium.

Update:  Good, Joe.  ""Adam" confuses everyone."  Am here at the Exploratorium, gazing out at San Francisco Bay.  Am a bit buzzed after a "Seawater" martini.  Daughter wants to know if she can eat the legs on shrimp. Oysters. Yum.  Just realized in my above diatribe that I used the term "scientific truth".  Oops.  Sorry.  Wish we could all just down some "Seawater" martinis, eat oysters, let go of our individualism, and do Science.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Letters from a Birmingham Jail

Martin Luther King Jr., 16 April 1963
"We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair."

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Swimming Reindeer

The Swimming Reindeer is the name given to a 13,000 year old (Magdalenian) sculpture of two swimming reindeer discovered in Bruniquel, France by French engineer, Peccadeau de l’Isle, in 1866.  The pattern of ten regular "ticks" on the back of the female reindeer may indicate counting, as they are only on one side of her back.  (Link)

Comparison of Early European Writing Systems: Irish Ogham, Pictish Ogham, Symbols of the Ancient Balts, Etruscan Script, Vinca Script, Dispilio Tablet

    Irish Ogham (Link)
    Pictish Ogham (Link)
      Symbols, from "Cosmology of the Ancient Balts" (Link)
From "Indo-European Origins:  The Problem of Basque and Etruscan (Link)" 

Vinca/Danube Script (Link)


Dispilio Tablet (Link)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics (SING) 2014 accepting applications

      Further Information at Professor Kim TallBear's page (Link)
      SING Application form (Link)
      Applications accepted until the end of March.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Sky Disc of Nebra

    The Sky Disc of Nebra Deciphered in 2006 (Link) (wiki Link)

The Sun and Moon in Baltic Mythology

The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts
Straižys, V., Klimka, L.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement, Vol. 28

Saulè (the Sun) was imagined as a beautiful goddess of the sky who lives in a palace somewhere away to the east. Every morning she drives across the sky in a brilliant chariot of gold, copper or fire, pulled by two white horses. In the evening the chariot goes down into the Baltic sea and Saulè changes the chariot into a golden boat which takes her across the sea. The boat is steered by the goddess Perkūnèlè who bathes the tired and dusty Saulè and sees her off, the next morning, refreshed and shining for a new journey through the sky.

Mènulis (the Moon
) was a young god, dressed in silver attire, Saulè's husband. He had fertile, vitality-giving functions and was the guardian of night and time. Rich mythological imagery was connected with the four phases of the Moon, as this was considered of vital importance to animals, plants and the weather. One interesting tale tries to explain the solar eclipses: the Sun and the Moon are kissing each other; they cover themselves with a wrap, trying not to be seen by their daughter, the Earth.

Myths speak of Vakarine (the Evening Star) who made the bed for Saulè, and about
Aušrinė (the Morning Star) who burnt the fire for Saulè and made her ready for another day's journey. Aušrinė was a maiden of remarkable beauty with golden hair and an image of the Sun on her crown. She wore a starry mantle with a moon shaped brooch on her shoulder and was often considered to be even more beautiful than the Sun herself.

One of the most important sky gods was the god of thunder and all storms,
Perkūnas (the Thunder), fecundator and cleaner of the earth from the power of evil. He was imagined as a stern, bearded and powerfully-built man who traversed the sky in a fiery chariot, drawn by swift horses or as riding a fiery horse. His head was surrounded by a wreath of flames. In one hand he held lightning bolts and, in the other, a heavy stone axe. Nine festivals dedicated to Perkūnas were celebrated throughout the year, starting in the early spring. Figurines of Perkūnas have been found in the Kernavė settlement, in the so-called Perkūnas house in Kaunas, and elsewhere.

An interesting folk-song involves the Sun, the Moon, their daughter
Aušrinė (the Morning Star) and the god Perkūnas . We present it as written by Balys[1951]. Nowadays the Sun and the Moon, the heavenly couple, are divorced, and they never rise and set together. The cause of their enmity is explained as follows. The Moon married the Sun in the primeval spring. Because the Sun rose early, the Moon separated and walked along. He met the Morning Star and fell in love with her. Then Thundergod Perkunas became angry and punished the Moon by striking him with his sword. The Moon's face, therefore, often appears as cut in two pieces. Perkūnas's sword is probably a comet.

Lithuanian Ethnoastronomy
Jonas Vaiškūnas

Lithuanian riddles and fairy talks often associate the Moon with the Horse. In the riddles it is called "laukų arklys" (horse of the fields), "kumeliuku aukso pasagom" (a foal with the golden shoes), "dievo kumeliukas" (the foal of God), occasionally called "elnias" (a deer), "jautis" (an ox). In the fairytales the Moon turned in the horse rides along the sky and takes the hero to the maiden he is looking for (Greimas 1990, 51-56).

Lithuanian folklore believes that the Moon and the Sun is a wedded pair: the Moon is the husband and the Sun is the wife. In the attempt to explain why they appear in the sky in different periods of the day it is often said that they quarreled and parted. There are two typical explanations of the feud:

1. The Moon and the Sun could not share their daughter, the Earth;

2. The Moon was not loyal to the Sun and started courting the star Aušrinė (Balys 1951,8-9).

In both instances Perkūnas (Thunder) participates in the quarrel between the Sun and the Moon. He separates the quarreled parties or punishes the disloyal Moon by cutting it into two parts. Sometimes it is said that the Sun herself leaves the Moon, hides from it or punishes it by beating or striking (Dundulienė 1988, 70-76).

Analogous relationship between the Sun and the Moon is typical for the Latvian folklore. J. Kletnieks, a Latvian ethnoastronomer, has formed a hypothesis that Latvian song theme where the Sun is striking the Moon with the silver whip may be associated with the appearance of the half Moon in the neighborhood of a bright comet tail. By his calculations the astronomic situation of this character was on 17 May 240 years before Christ when Hale's comet was shining bright in the sky (Kletnieks 1986, 40-47).

In Lithuanian folk songs the Moon is called daddy and the Sun is mummy. It is sung that the Sun is collecting dowry for the girl who marries and the Moon deems her fate or gives her part of his possessions (skiria dalį, dalį turto). It is noteworthy that in Žemaitija one and the same word ‘‘ryžti’‘ means the waning of the Moon and giving part of the possession for the marital girl (LKŽ XI 775).

A. J. Greimas on having analyzed the role of the Moon in the Lithuanian folklore found a lot of data to prove that the Moon could have been one of the sovereign gods in the Lithuanian triad of gods along with Perkūnas and Kalvelis.

Night and Day in Scots Mythology

Wonder tales from Scottish Myth and Legend
Donald Alexander MacKenzie

"This story, which used to be told in Strathspey, is the story of the struggle between darkness and light. The black fairy is night, which begins to make itself invisible at dawn, and the red spot on his left breast is the red light of morning. The golden arrow of the white fairy is the golden shaft of sunlight that darts across the eastern heaven as the sun rises in morning splendour. Face-of-Light is the spirit of the River Spey, which is bright in daytime and lost to sight in the darkness of night. When the story-teller says that Face-of-Light leaves the river, he means that its brightness leaves it when the shadows of night are falling."

There are two mountains that overlook the Spey valley, one to the east and one to the west, and a fairy king dwells on each of them. They are both sons of Beira. One fairy king is white, and has great fame as an archer; he has a silver bow and arrows of gold, and once a day he shoots an arrow across the strath. The other fairy king is black as the raven, and on his left breast there is a red spot. He has no weapon, but is yet terrible in battle, because he can make himself invisible at will. When he does so, nothing remains in sight except the red spot. He has great strength, and when he goes against his enemies he seizes them unawares and throws them to the ground. No matter how well they are armed, his enemies tremble when the invisible fairy comes against them. All they see is a red spot moving about in the air.

Now, the white fairy has a fair bride whose name is Face-of-Light. It is a great joy to her to wander among the mountains where herds of deer crop the green herbage, and through the strath where cornfields rustle in soft winds and fragrant flowers bloom fair to see. The black fairy has no bride, and is jealous of the white fairy because his days are filled with joy by the beauty of Face-of-Light. These two fairies have ever been enemies. The black fairy keeps out of sight of the famous archer, fearing his arrows of gold.

One summer evening when the twilight shadows were lengthening and deepening across the strath, Face-of-Light tripped merrily over the grassy banks, gathering wild flowers. Silence had fallen on the world; no bird sang and no wind whispered, the lochs were asleep, and the shrunken river made scarcely a sound louder than the sigh of a sleeping babe; it was no longer bright when Face-of-Light turned away from it.

The black fairy looked out from his mountain home. He knew that the white fairy had lain down to rest, and he watched Face-of-Light gathering wild flowers. Nearer and nearer she came to his dwelling, and he crept into a deep forest which conceals the entrance to his mountain, and waited to seize her. Face-of-Light, never dreaming of her peril, tripped towards the edge of the forest; and, seeing many flowers growing beneath the trees, went in to pluck them. She made the forest bright with her beauty, and the flowers grew fairer as she drew near them.  Suddenly a great black hand was thrust out from a thick clump of bushes. The hand seized her, and she shrieked in terror and struggled to escape. The white fairy heard her cries, which pierced the air like the keen long whistle of the curlew, leapt up, and looked forth from his mountain top. In a moment he knew what had happened. Face-of-Light had been seized by his enemy, the black fairy, who was dragging her to a dark dungeon in the middle of his mountain. The white fairy was unable to go to her rescue for two reasons. Like his dark enemy, he could not pass the utmost limits of his mountain house, and having already shot a golden arrow that day, he could not shoot another until a new day had dawned.

Night came on, and the black fairy climbed to the top of his mountain, where he danced with joy because be had taken captive the bride of his enemy. The white fairy was stricken with sorrow, and when he heard the cries of Face-of-Light coming from the dungeon, he fell down in a swoon.

All night long Face-of-Light sobbed and wept, while the black fairy danced on the mountain top and sang songs of triumph. He danced so fast that he raised a wind which swept down the strath and shook the trees from sleep, so that they moaned and sighed all night long. The cries of Face-of-Light were heard by human beings, and those who were awakened said one to another: "Listen to the hag of night. How terrible are her cries!"

Not until the dawn began to break did the white fairy recover from his swoon. Just when the first shaft of grey light pierced the eastern sky, he opened his eyes. Then he remembered his sorrow and wept softly. His tears fell as dew on the flowers and the grass.

Weeping, he climbed his mountain, and then wandered round about the crest of it. His heart was heavy for the loss of Face-of-Light, and when he listened he heard her moaning in her dark prison. The black fairy had ceased to dance. He stood upright on the highest point of his mountain house, and shouted to his enemy: "Ha! Face-of-Light is my prisoner." Then suddenly he was silent. He saw the white fairy stringing his silver bow and then drawing from his shining quiver a bright golden arrow.

"Ha!" cried the black fairy, "would you dare shoot at me?"

"Set free Face-of-Light, or I shall shoot," the white fairy made answer. His face was white as snow and hard as ice.

The black fairy laughed, and willed himself to become invisible, and then, just as the white fairy raised his bow to take aim, his enemy vanished from sight. No part of him could be seen but the great red spot on his left breast, which seemed to float in the air.

For a moment the white fairy, gazing eastward, looked with wonder at the red spot which grew brighter and brighter. His bow was bent, and his golden arrow was held ready for flight.

The sound of defiant laughter came down the wind as the black fairy, now invisible, danced with joy on his mountain top.

To and fro swayed the red spot, and the white fairy thought he would shoot at it. His aim was true and his arm was strong. Straight from the bow flew the bright golden arrow. It darted through the air with lightning speed and struck the red spot, which, be it known, was the heart of the black fairy. A shriek rang out across the strath. It was the death shriek of the black fairy, who fell down on the bare rock and died. His life-blood streamed forth, and the whole eastern sky was covered with it. In the midst of the redness gleamed the bright golden arrow of the white fairy.

No sooner was the black fairy slain than Face-of-Light was set free. The doors of her dungeon flew open, and she came forth in all her beauty. When she did so, the mountains and the strath were made bright, the river sparkled in the light, and the lochs flashed like burnished silver. All the land was made glad when Face-of-Light was set free from her dark prison. The slumbering flowers opened their eyes to gaze upon her, and the birds broke forth in merry song, while the white fairy smiled and danced with joy.

The black fairy lay dead and invisible on his mountain top until evening came on. Then Beira came to visit him. When she found that her son had been slain, she took from her wallet a pot of healing balsam and rubbed it on his wound. Then she rubbed the balsam on his eyes and on his lips. When she did this, he came to life, and began once again to plot evil against the white fairy and his beautiful bride.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aberlemno II Pictish Symbol Stone Class II

   Comparison Key:  The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts

Aberlemno III Pictish Symbol Stone Class II

   Comparison Key:  The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts

The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts

The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts
Straižys, V., Klimka, L.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement, Vol. 28, p.S57

"Historical Background"

In the present territories of Lithuania and Latvia archaeologists find habitation sites established eleven or twelve thousand years ago, at the end of a 60,000 year long glacial period during which the Baltic region was under the ice sheet at least for three long periods.  With the recession of the ice, the land gradually turned into tundra with herds of reindeer going further north in the summer.  Reindeer were followed by hunters who left their permanent settlements somewhere in the northern parts of Europe.  These were men of the Paleolithic Swiderian and Magdalenian cultures, armed with spears, bows and flint-head arrows, bone and horn harpoons, and stone slings, and followed by their domesticated dogs.  Art finds that reflect the spiritual world of Paleolithic man are scarce.  However, burial grounds of that period have survived to the present day.  The fact that ancient people were buried together with their clothes, decorations, daily-life utensils, as an extension of the earth, may also appear in the Paleolithic, the starry sky being inhabited by different animals, while the Sun and the Moon were symbolically imagined as deer.
    "In the Mesolithic (7500-3500 B.C.) the Baltic area was gradually covered by forests with abundant fauna.  The people of the Nemunas and Kunda cultures who inhabited these forests lived on hunting, fishing and gathering the food that nature provided.  From that period, a number of artifacts, made of bone and decorated with ornaments demonstrating some king of symbolic script, have survived to our day.  Among them is the symbol of the Sun, a circle, and the symbol of fire, a cross with arms of equal length.  It is quite probable that the myth of European and Asian peoples that explains the world as formed from a duck egg, originated in the Mesolithic, or even earlier . . ."

FIG. 8 Symbolic representation of heavenly bodies and atmospheric phenomena used by the Balts.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Daughter of King Land-Under-Waves

Chris Armstrong’s photorealist ocean painting "Shallows" (Link)

The Daughter of King Land-Under-Waves Legend from the Scottish Highlands is recorded in several versions.

One version was recorded by John Francis Campbell in Popular Tales of the West Highlands in 1860-62.  The wiki page describing how Campbell came to record this legend is here.  The text is widely available and an easy web source is here.

An alternate version was recorded by Donald Alexander MacKenzie, a highlander himself, in his 1917 Wonder tales from Scottish Myth and Legend.  Also widely available, it can be read on the web here.

The two tales are obviously related.  Both tell the story of a princess visiting from a "Land-Under-Waves" which takes variously three or seven years to travel to.  Both stories reference a "Plain of Wonder".

Thursday, January 9, 2014


From "Lindores Abbey and its Burgh of Newburgh:  Their History and Annuls"
Alexander Laing, Edinburgh, Edmonston and Douglas publishers, 1878
Iona (Link)
Currach Boats (Link)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mesolithic Western European Hunter Gatherers Partly Descended from Upper Paleolithic Reindeer Hunters

Figure 1 (From Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans (Link))

This post was updated on 10/4/2015.  See blog note (10/4/2105):

The above figure is taken from the recent Lazaridis et al. paper which discusses European ancient DNA. 

Yesterday, I had a look at an addition to Figure 1(b) that Luis Aldamiz suggested (Link).  Luis had noted that a vector could be drawn through the "Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers"  and another line through the "Western European Hunter-Gatherers".  He then pointed out that by extending these two lines, an "origin" might hypothetically be formed in order to guess at the connection between Scandanavian and Western European Hunter-Gatherers.  I think he is right.

However, thinking about Ice Age Europe, statistically speaking, the nexus of these two groups is probably further north than the Dordogne.

Based on a recent publication, we know that there were reindeer in the Catabria region of the Iberia Peninsula (Gómez‐Olivencia et al), very close to the location of the La Braña Hunter-Gatherers.

It seems apparent that the Loschbour, Luxembourg Hunter-Gatherer was related to the La Braña Hunter-Gatherers.  However, reindeer went extinct in the Northern Europe plain 11,250 years ago and in Scandanavia 10,300 years ago (Link).  Therefore, the Loschbour Man was not a reindeer hunter.  However, based on the evidence of reindeer remains during the Upper Paleolithic in the Paris Basin, the British Isles and Germany, it is very likely that many of Loschbour Man's ancestors were reindeer hunters.

Which brings us back to the curious vector relationship between the Loschbour Man and the La Braña Hunter-Gatherers.  It does suggest rather loudly that there is a reindeer hunter connection between Northern France and Northern Iberia.

In the above Figure, I have transposed the Loschbour Man-La Braña vector (shown in red) so that it is properly positioned to intersect the modern day population of Northern France.  I call this vector "Transposed Western European HGs."

I have similarly transposed the "Scandanavian Hunter-Gatherer" vector (also shown in red) two times, one for "early" and one for "late".  Given the position of glaciers in Europe during the Ice Age, this "early" vector would have been the only possible Ice Age position for "Scandanavian Hunter-Gatherers."  As the ice retreated, the "Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers" would have pushed northward.  I show an approximate "late" transposition as "Transposed Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (late)."

Interestingly enough, the "Transposed Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (early)" and the "Transposed Western European HGs" intersect in Northern France, just where there is plenty of archaeological evidence for Palaeolithic reindeer hunters.

So I think Luis is more than onto something with these vectors.  They show a nexus for these two hunter-gatherer groups.  It is very likely that the nexus is for palaeolithic hunter-gatherer groups that hunted reindeer southward into the Iberian Peninsula, westward even as far as Iceland, and northward to the limit of the Ice Age European glaciers.

Update (Jan 7th, 2014):

Additional references showing Upper Palaeolithic Occupation of the Paris Basin, Jura and Bohemia:

Acquisition and Processing of Reindeer in the Paris Basin
James G. Enloe

Hunting practices targeting large mammal communities in the Paris Basin in the Upper Palaeolithic
Olivier Bignon-Lau

Absolute Dates for the Bohemian Middle Upper Palaeolithic
Alexander Verpoorte

Environmental context of the Magdalenian settlement in the Jura Mountains using stable isotope tracking (13C, 15N, 34S) of bone collagen from reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)
D.G. Drucker, A. Bridault, C. Cupillard
A Last Glacial Maximum pollen record from Bodmin Moor showing a possible cryptic northern refugium in southwest England
A. Kelly, D. J. Charman, R. M. Newnham

Update (January 8th, 2014):

In the interest of further understanding the relative placement of the positions of the ancient DNA discussed in this paper, I decided to sort some whole genome genetic results from the (Dodecad Ancestry Project) in terms of their major components. The following bar plots are sorted ADMIXTURE results for Europe showing component distributions roughly corresponding to the populations "Scandinavian Hunter Gatherers", "Ancient North Eurasians", and "Early European Farmers".  The raw data is taken from the Dodecad Ancestry Project blog post "Admixture Analysis with Dodecad Populations" (Link).

Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherer Distribution
(North European light orange)

Note that no "Scandinavian Hunter Gatherers [North Europeans]" reached Sardinia.  This is likely because the sea depth between Corsica and Sardinia is 100 meters.  Before the Last Glacial Maximum, the only other time that the sea level fell this low was 65,000 years ago, before modern humans reached Europe.  Therefore, Upper Palaeolithic Hunter Gatherers could only have reached Sardinia by boat, which it appears did not happen.  Instead, "Early European Farmers [South Europeans]" reached Sardinia.  A likely time was when the sea level briefly dipped to -120 meters approximately 25,000 years ago.

Also of note in this plot is that the Chuvash population has no "Early European Farmer [South European]" ancestry.   This tells us that at one point, probably before the Last Glacial Maximum, "Scandanavian Hunter Gatherers [North Europeans]" had not yet mixed with "Early European Farmers [South Europeans]".

Ancient North Eurasian Distribution (Northeast Asian dark green)
The population cluster of "Ancient North Eurasians [Northeast Asians]", shown here in dark green, is scattered across the far north of Eurasia.  Reindeer hunter gatherers from Europe, originally with mostly "Scandanavian Hunter Gatherer" ancestry, ranged eastward at least as far as Lake Baikal during the last ice age. They mixed with hunter-gatherers from Northeast Asia as indicated by the ancient DNA from MA1.  As the glaciers melted, some of these populations returned to Europe, pushing northwestward to fill a niche in what is now Finland.

[For an explanation of why some of these North Eurasian populations contain South Asia ancestry, it is simply due to bilateral migrations between the North Eurasian Steppe and South Asia. See here.]

Early European Farmers (South European light green)
The distribution of "Early European Farmers [South Europeans]" strongly indicates that this population expanded from North Africa during the Last Glacial Maximum across Gibraltar, across the Strait of Sicily, into Sardinia and possibly also from the Eastern Mediterranean. It is notable that the Chuvash, who must have left Western Europe before the last ice age, have almost no "Early European Farmer [South European]" ancestry.   [blog note (10/4/2105):  From a number of recent publications, it is clear that "Early European Farmer" or "South European" component that turns up in Admixture runs on Euroean populations is associated and descended from Southern European Epi-Gravettian populations of the Mediterranean.  It may also be associated with North Africa from the time of the Last Glacial Maximum and subsequently, when the sea level was lower.  More studies with ancient DNA from North Africa would be need to confirm this.]

Another observation is that French Basques have more than half "Early European Farmer" ancestry. Like Sardinians, they show no evidence of "West Asian" ancestry.  Looking at the composition of French Basques, and the Figure 1 position of the Loschbour Man and the La Braña samples (rotated downward from the Motala Ancient DNA), it appears that admixture between "Scandinavian Hunter Gatherers" and "Early European Farmers" occurred in the ancestors of the Loschbour Man and the La Braña hunters.

West Asian (light blue)

I've discussed the distribution of the "West Asian" component in an old post.  It is a very broadly distributed component.  However, its relative absence in French Basques, Finns and Sardinians indicates that this component spread into Western Europe sometime after the last ice age.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

L'Homme de Loschbour

If possible, view in high definition Vimeo (Link)

Etude anthropologique du plus "ancien luxembourgeois".
Réalisation: Nic Herber de Anubis Pictures, Luxembourg 2011.
Scénario: Foni Le Brun Ricalens, CNRA, MNHA.
Conseiller scientifique: Dominique Delsate.
Production: Centre National de Recherche Archéologique.
Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art, Ministère de la Culture (Luxembourg).
Anthropological study of the "oldest Luxembourger".
Producer:  Nic Herber of Anubis Pictures, Luxembourg 2011.
Story Line:  Foni Le Brun Ricalens, CNRA, MNHA.
Scientific Consultant:  Dominique Delsate.
The CNRA (Centre National de Recherche Archéologique) national archaeologic research center in Luxembourg presents: "L'HOMME DE LOSCHBOUR" a 3D animation produced by Nic Herber from Anubis Pictures Luxembourg .  This animation shows the site with the mesolithic environment and an anthropologic study from the oldest Luxembourger found in the "Müllerthal" also called "Little Switzerland" in Luxembourg. In 2012 this animation was nominated at the Pech Merle Prehistoric Film Festival in France.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sweeping Cobwebs From the Edges of My Mind


Jebel Irhoud 1 (Link)
Loschbour (Link)
Figure 1: Map of West Eurasian populations and Principal Component Analysis. (b) PCA on all present-day West Eurasians, with the ancient and selected eastern non-Africans projected. European hunter-gatherers fall beyond modern Europe in the direction of European differentiation from the Near East. Stuttgart clusters with other Neolithic Europeans and present-day Sardinians. MA1 falls outside the variation of modern day West Eurasians in the direction of southern-northern differentiation along dimension 2 and between the European and Near Eastern clines along dimension 1. (Link)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How Plants Domesticated Humans

Fatimah Jackson
University of North Carolina affiliation
Video sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History

Humans have domesticated plants and animals for agriculture for thousands of years. What is less well-known is that plants and the chemicals they produce for defense have also had a significant effect on human biology and evolution.

Fatimah Jackson discusses her observations about malaria incidence and sickle cell anemia in Liberia and the fascinating story of co-evolution between plants and humans there.  She then discusses the developing field of epigenetics and discusses how epigentic interactions over time might have altered the course of human history.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sea Level Record, 65 to 35 Thousand Years Ago

FIGURE 1. Comparison of the Red Sea sea level record with Antarctic and Greenland ice-core records and with the timing of both North Atlantic (Heinrich; H) and Southern Ocean (SA) IRD events.

Link to the original figure.

From the paper:

Similar meltwater contributions to glacial sea level changes from Antarctic and northern ice sheets

Eelco J. Rohling, Robert Marsh, Neil C. Wells, Mark Siddall & Neil R. Edwards
Nature 430, 1016-1021(26 August 2004)

Explanation for the above figure:

a. Sea level reconstruction from the Red Sea method (black dots and line) compared with Antarctic ice-core 18O temperature proxy data (grey) from the BYRD-station ice core (80.0° S, 119.5° W). Error bars indicate 1 standard deviation.

b. As a, but for Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2, 72.6° N, 38.5° W) ice-core 18O (grey). Ice-core data as synchronized to the GISP2 timescale using variations in atmospheric methane concentrations10. Red lines represent three-point (about 500-yr) moving averages of the sea level record, which smoothes inter-sample variability within bounds of the 1 interval ( 5.5 m) that applies to the sea level reconstruction13. Red numbers in a indicate magnitudes of increases in sea level according to the smoothed record, whereas black numbers relate to the unsmoothed data. Inverted triangles in b indicate the occurrence of North Atlantic Heinrich Events H4, H5 and tentatively H6, relative to the GISP2 record8. Italic numbers identify main Dansgaard–Oeschger interstadials 8, 12 and 14. Double-headed arrows illustrate dating differences13 between the original correlation of the Red Sea sea level record to BYRD (as in a) and after tuning to a benthic 18O record12.

c. Schematic representation of intervals of IRD, marked by triangles and SA numbers, as well as intervals with negative 18O shifts in planktonic foraminiferal calcite at 41° and 53° S in the South Atlantic sector. These events were placed within our time frame by graphically transferring the positions of the events relative to the GISP2 18O record as originally reported15. Dashed lines indicate possible correlations to the sea level record. A maximum disagreement is suggested of roughly 1,000 yr, which seems reasonable given the inherent uncertainties in both the sea level chronology (b, and ref. 13) and Southern Ocean records. VSMOW, Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water.