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Ideological Agendas and Indo-European Origins: Master Race, Bloodthirsty Kurgans, or Proto-Hippies?

Submitted by on November 6, 2012 – 5:32 pm 81 Comments |  

This final contribution to the Indo-European series turns once again to the potential ideological agendas lurking behind theories of IE origin and expansion. As was noted previously, no other issue in human prehistory has been so ideologically fraught; the original IE speakers have been recruited to serve a variety of fantasies, ranging in temper from naively benign to unimaginably vile. For Nazis and their ilk, the original Indo-Europeans constituted the Aryan super-race whose descendants were destined to rule the world. Followers of a certain feminist school of prehistory, in turn, have turned the “Aryan thesis” on its head, portraying the same people as the bloodthirsty “Kurgans” overrunning the peaceful, matriarchal civilization of “Old Europe” and ushering in a global age of violence and male domination. As was argued in the earlier post, it is understandable that some scholars would want to discredit all such overreaching interpretations based on the crushing might of the horse-empowered original Indo-Europeans. If it could be demonstrated that the IE languages were actually spread by Neolithic farmers slowly pushing into new areas as their numbers increased, all such troublesome theories would be effectively undermined.

Yet it is one thing to hope for such a paradigm switch and another to push it along by a purposeful manipulation of data and analysis. Doing so would be a blatantly ideological act, and hence a betrayal of science and reason. Assessing scholarly motivations, however, is a hopeless task, and we have no way of knowing whether Bouckaert et al. have intentionally selected their data and skewed their model in order to support the Anatolian thesis of IE origins. We do think that it is possible, however, that they have unconsciously let their own ideological commitments guide their research program. Our evidence here comes from two sources. First, as we have demonstrated over the past two months, both the data selection and the model construction are warped to consistently favor the Anatolian hypothesis, most egregiously by ignoring all ancient IE language spoken in the steppe zone and by ruling out advection as a mechanism of language spread. Second, it seems likely from the comments posted on this website that distaste for the idea of violent incursions, often viewed as a necessary feature of the “steppe hypothesis,” colors the authors’ perspective. Quentin Atkinson, the article’s corresponding author, quotes Larry Trask to make this point:

Nevertheless, the vision of fierce IE warriors, riding horses and driving chariots, sweeping down on their neighbours brandishing bloody swords, has proven to be an enduring one, and scholars have found it difficult to dislodge from the popular consciousness the idea of the PIE-speakers as warlike conquerors in chariots.

Although the desire to wish away the “bloody swords” of the human past is understandable, it is also naïve, as violence unfortunately pervades our history. One does not have to embrace the vision of Thomas Hobbes, recently updated and re-theorized by Steven Pinker in his tome, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, to accept that this is indeed the case. I suspect that Pinker exaggerates the bloodiness of hunting-gathering societies, a charge made most forcefully by Christopher Ryan, co-author of the intriguing and controversial Sex at Dawn, yet I also suspect that Ryan descends into hyperbole of his own in emphasizing the peacefulness and sexual license of our Paleolithic ancestors. But when it comes to pre-modern agricultural societies, the evidence is overwhelming: enveloping violence was the norm almost everywhere. If one wants to rule out the possibility of bloody swords and other weapons, one would be advised to examine something other than human history.

But even if armed struggle has been pervasive for most of the past 10,000 years, it does not follow that all non-foraging societies have been equally bloody. As is always the case, different groups vary considerably on this score. If one searches the ethnographic literature, one can find a few documented tribal farming societies that shunned warfare and all of its trappings. Yet the unfortunate truth is that such groups were usually victimized by their more aggressive neighbors, and hence were seldom successful in maintaining their numbers and territories.

One of the most interesting groups of historically peaceful peoples is the Hanunó’o of the Philippines, whose social formation was described by the great American anthropologist Harold Conklin roughly a half century ago. The Hanunó’o constitute a small group (roughly 14,000) of tribal cultivators living in the southern interior portion of the lightly populated island of Mindoro. An encyclopedic treatment of Philippine ethnic groups* frames their peaceable inclinations in concise terms: “Warfare, either actual or traditional, is absent.” But Hanunó’o were able to maintain their irenic way of life only by retreating to rugged and inaccessible areas, and even so they were periodically targeted for centuries by slave raiders from the Sulu Archipelago. Intriguingly, the Hanunó’o seem to be a remnant of what was once a much larger and more sophisticated society, evident by the fact that they have long enjoyed widespread literacy in their own script, an essentially unprecedented phenomenon in a small-scale, tribal society. Conflicts between Spain and the Muslim naval powers of the southern Philippines (the so-called Moros) evidently destroyed the formerly prosperous mercantile centers of Mindoro, after which remnant groups fled the bloody swords of both the Spaniards and the Moros into the inaccessible uplands. There they maintained a generally peaceful way of life, although at a fairly significant cost.

But with the exceptions of some hunter-gatherer bands and a few societies of tribal cultivators, nearly continual violence was the common lot of humanity before the contemporary era. Thus even if Indo-European languages spread into Europe and South Asia through the gradual influx of Neolithic farmers, as Bouckaert et al. argue, the process would have almost certainly been marked by generalized conflict and extensive bloodshed as the Mesolithic indigenes were dispossessed of their lands. By the same token, had the IE languages been spread by horse-riders advancing into the lands of the Neolithic farmers, as most versions of the “steppe hypothesis” contend, violence would also have accompanied the process. But would such a scenario have necessarily entailed substantially greater levels of bloodshed than the majority of such cultural “encounters” experienced over thousands of years across the globe? Equestrian warriors would certainly have had profound military advantages over horseless peoples, but that does not necessarily mean that they would have been any more savage than the human norm. It is also quite possible that IE languages spread mostly through gradual incursions supported in large part by economic or other non-military advantages. Anthropological blogger Al West, for example, surmises that the early Indo-European speakers gained power by selling horses and other goods (see below) to other peoples. Certainly the massive non-IE linguistic substrates found in such IE branches as Greek, Germanic, and Indo-Aryan indicate deep levels of cultural exchange with the indigenous inhabitants of the regions into which the early Indo-European speakers moved.

Portraying the early Indo-Europeans as a uniquely fierce or malevolent people, as some of Marija Gimbitas’s followers were inclined to do, involves more ideological projection as sound appraisal. One can certainly stress the violent nature of their social interactions, but one can just as easily place the emphasis elsewhere. In fact, one can even turn the Gimbutas thesis on its head and portray the steppe-dwelling early Indo-Europeans as gender-egalitarian precursors to the hippies of the late 20th century. Although such a portrayal strays again into the realm of fantasy, it is no less reasonable than either the Herrenvolk (“master race”) or the “demonic Kurgan” theses. As such an inversion of the conventional framing of the original Indo-Europeans makes an interesting thought experiment, and I would ask my readers to indulge me here for a few paragraphs.

The prime evidence for “gender egalitarianism” among early Indo-Europeans derives, ironically, from the realm of war. As was mentioned in an earlier post, the Scythians, an Iranian-speaking group who maintained a largely pastoral way of life in the hypothesized IE steppe homeland, were noted for their female warriors. Herodotus famously wrote of the Amazon fighting women of the region, an observation partially conformed by recent archeological finds; as David Anthony reports, twenty percent of the Scythian/Sarmatian “warrior graves” of the lower Don and Volga river valleys include female remains that had been dressed for battle in identical fashion to the males whose skeletons were found in the same graves. The mere presence of women warriors does not, of course, imply actual gender egalitarianism, nor does it say anything about the social relations of the actual proto-Indo-European speakers, who lived in earlier times. It does, however, indicate a significant extent of female empowerment in an important IE group that maintained an equestrian mode of life on the Pontic Steppes.

Imagining the early Indo-Europeans as proto-hippies is made possible by the group’s close association with marijuana and perhaps other psychoactive plants. Building on the works of archeologists Andrew Sherratt and David Anthony, Al West argues that, “it’s possible that proto-Indo-European speakers became rich and powerful through selling … intoxicants,” further claiming that “Indo-European-speaking people traded THC-laden hemp from the steppes all the way down into the Near Eastern cities, which were naturally a major centre for trade from all over Eurasia. … If this scenario is right, then to the people of Babylon the arrival of Indo-European speakers must have seemed like one crazy dream.”

Although West is probably off-track in suggesting that proto-Indo-European speakers were responsible for the spread of cannabis as a recreational or spiritual drug, such an association is reasonably made for the progenitors of one the main branches of the IE family, the proto-Indo-Iranians. Evidence again comes from both Herodotus, who famously wrote of cannabis ingestion among the Scythians, and from archeological digs; Sherratt discovered charred cannabis residue in a Kurgan site dating back some 3,500 years BCE. Linguistic evidence also plays a role. The hemp plant, which produces valuable fibers and seeds in addition to its mind-altering resin, had been known across much of Eurasia for millennia, and thus had undoubtedly been referred to by many different local names. Cognates linked to the word “cannabis,” however, spread across and beyond the Indo-European-speaking realm in the third millennium BCE, which is believe by some experts to indicate that a new pharmaceutical use for the plant had been discovered and was itself expanding. Although the lines of linguistic descent are not clear, the new term for the plant, which eventually gave rise to the Latin word Cannabis, seems to have been associated with proto-Indo-Iranian steppe dwellers (see the discussions here, here, and here).

Cannabis was probably not the only mind-altering substance used by these people. Perhaps the largest mystery in the history of pharmacology is the identification of soma, the ritual intoxicant of the Rigveda, known as haoma in the Avesta (the sacred text of Zoroastrianism). More than a hundred Vedic hymns extol the unknown substance. Linguistic evidence indicates that soma/haoma was probably not cannabis, although it has been speculated that they were often consumed together. Numerous plants and fungi have been proposed as soma candidates, as spelled out in a detailed Wikipedia article. The primary division in the scholarly literature is between those who think that it was a hallucinogenic substance (such as the mushroom Amanita muscaria) and those who think that it was a stimulant, such as ephedra (also known as má huáng or “Mormon tea”). Recent research seems to be inclining in the direction of ephedra.

Regardless of its true identity, “soma” was ensconced in the Western public imagination by the publication of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in 1932, in which a drug called soma is used as mechanism of social control. More recently, the name has been embraced by the hippie community of northern California. The Wikipedia includes a “soma” article dedicated to a marijuana breeder of that name; the article itself notes that this particular Soma is “internationally known as a ‘Ganja Guru’ after developing award-winning cannabis strains.” I doubt very much, however, that ancient Indo-Iranian folk pharmacologists would have recognized this Soma as a kindred spirit.

The point of this excursion is not to argue that such a deeply anachronistic “proto-hippie thesis” has any merit. It is rather merely to show that making such an argument is possible. All human cultures are complex assemblages of ideas and practices, any number of which can be selected for emphasis. Especially when it comes to poorly understood cultures of the ancient past, we should be wary of any thesis that is based on any kinds of essential traits.

*Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia. Volume 2: Philippines and Formosa. Edited by Frank M. LeBar. 1975. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press. Page 76.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

    All such essentialist stereotypes are just the stuff of nationalism pushed, as nationalists always try to push, into the distant past. As I taught my daughter when she had her first hints of history in pre-school, there are no heroes in history and very few villains, mostly just people.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Well-said, well-said. Though I wouldn’t say that there are no heros and no villaines in history, those that are are people too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

        Well, no heroes in the pre-school history sense. That is why I am dreading the new Lincoln movie. I like hagiography, but only when the hagiographer realizes that is what he is doing.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          I agree.

  • Al West

    This is a great article and a good series. I too found the recent articles in Science on the Anatolian hypothesis disagreeable.

    One of the things that bothers me about the popular view of the steppe hypothesis is precisely this – that it assumes that PIE-speakers rode around on chariots, fighting all the time. It seems as if it’s hard for most people to imagine PIE communities as being full of *people*. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the Anatolian hypothesis as much to do with violence. The origin of the hypothesis was the attempt to link the spread of agriculture with a language family, which sometimes works but usually fails. Agriculture in southeast Asia wasn’t introduced by Austronesian speakers, for instance – the banana was domesticated in New Guinea around 5,000 years before the Austronesian expansion, incredibly – and Uto-Aztecan spread into an area of high agricultural productivity. So, probably, did Indo-European. People pick up languages for lots of reasons, and I don’t think agriculture is the primary one. Either way, that seems to be the standard motive for Anatolia, not violence. On the other hand, that would make some sense of the persistence of the hypothesis in the face of the overwhelming evidence for a steppe Urheimat.

    Honestly, I’m not really drawing on Anthony and Sherratt at all – just paraphrasing the claim for a more general audience. Of course, I don’t expect PIE-speakers to have gone to Babylon, which was a major urban centre only after the dispersal of IE languages. It’s just to give an idea of things using historical landmarks people are relatively familiar with.

    My main focus is southeast Asia, not Indo-European studies (much as I find it interesting), and I’m much more conversant with the history, archaeology, linguistics, genetics, and social structures of speakers of Austronesian languages, and of proto-Austronesian, than Indo-European. I’m certainly not trying to *add* to Indo-European studies, as I’m not qualified to do so.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Al! Austronesian is another fascinating language family — we hope to have more discussion of it some day as well.

    • Al West

      That’s complete nonsense about the banana – sorry. Bananas were domesticated about two thousand years before the Austronesian languages appear to have left Taiwan, not five thousand. I stayed up watching the election last night and I have come down with flu today, so I’ll chalk the mistake up to that!

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Many thanks for your comments — I found your blog posts on the topic fascinating, and I look forward to reading more of your work. I do think that you can add to IE studies mere by coming up with interesting ideas, as you have.

  • Jaska

    Excellent end for an excellent series of articles! Asya and Martin, you have a book there, ready to be published: “A Case Study about the Great Homeland Hoax: What Ever Can Go Wrong When Analyzing the Linguistic Data with Computational Phylogenetics.” :)

    The view about the Proto-Indo-Europeans as ancient drug dealers is just hilarious! And still not any more baseless as many other interpretations…

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks, Jaska! And we are indeed considering the book idea, so stay tuned. Can we steal your title? ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

    Not directly related to the current post, but your whole series devoted to the abuse of linguistics and geography by computational biologists inspired the following (http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/11/out-of-africa-as-ghost-science/). Thanks, Martin and Asya, for staying the course for so long.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for all your contributions to this discussion, German! And for this link, which is fascinating too.

    • Al West

      While abuse of linguistics and geography is clearly not a good thing, you are championing a theory of human origins that proposes that Homo sapiens sapiens originated in the Americas. Do you believe that archaeology is a baseless discipline or a ludicrous exercise? Or that stratigraphy should be ignored? Or that radiometric dating is nonsense? You’d have to believe all three in order to believe that humans originated in the Americas. I realise I won’t convince you out of your position – it appears to be deeply entrenched – but it strikes me as odd to criticise the Anatolian hypothesis (something that at least makes sense, and would at least correlate with what appears to be a migration, visible in the archaeological record, from Anatolia into Europe in the Neolithic) while maintaining that humans originated in the Americas, where they actually appeared as recently as 12,000 BP.

      Again, in order to believe that humans originated in the Americas, you would have to reject not only radiometric dating methods but the entire principle of superposition and the bases of geology and archaeology, because not only have no other hominids been found in the Americas – not even H. erectus – no humans have been found from the early Pleistocene either, nor even evidence of human activities. Nothing in the archaeological record points towards an American origin, and only rejecting the basis of the predictive capabilities of paleontology, evolutionary biology, and physical anthropology – ie, stratigraphy – could allow you to come to the conclusions that you have.

      So I’m a little baffled. You seem like a sensible chap, but here you are railing on against theories that reject entire scientific disciplines, while at the *very same time* supporting a theory of human origins that rejects *all* of the archaeological evidence.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

        I have a blog on which you could leave a comment. This discussion may be perceived by Martin and Asya and off topic because it is.

        I think you’re caught in prejudices and misunderstand the mission and process of science. Your reaction is that of intimidation, not argumentation. I don’t reject archaeology, stratigraphy, radiometric dating and suchlike. And if you study my website you won’t find anything that’s not directly referenced back to well-tested scientific evidence. I do however want all these disciplines and subdisciplines to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive when it comes to the origin of modern humans or the origin of American Indians. Human origins is not experimental science and my out-of-America theory
        repositions it as a historical science, rather than a natural science. An archaeologist is welcome to write that “no secure evidence of human activity has been found prior to 12,000 YBP in the Americas,” but not that “the New World must have been peopled at 12,000 years because there is nothing prior to that in the (or my) archaeological record.” Why? Because the human phenomenon is complex and we need to have different disciplines weigh in on the problem before we arrive a final conclusion. The problem with all the theories of the peopling of the Americas is that they are immediately derived from medieval, pre-scientific cosmologies and these beliefs didn’t require scientific data to spring into existence. It’s a plan historiographic fact. Scientific facts were bolted to what was already a well-established belief. While ostensibly defending science, you in fact perpetuate a pre-scientific worldview.

        ” Nothing in the archaeological record points towards an American origin…”

        Nothing in the archaeological record points to America having been peopled 12,000 years ago. (The oldest pan-American lithic culture, Clovis, has its origins in Texas, not in Alaska or Siberia.) And this is after more than a hundred years of working under an assumption that America was peopled recently. This is the key learning one should derive from the history of American and Siberian archaeology. Your logic implies that archaeological findings are something like God-given indications of the presence of man and if there are no indications there’s no man. That’s the fundamental flaw of all archaeology-inspired thinking about origins.

        “not only have no other hominids been found in the Americas – not even H. erectus”

        Wouldn’t that favor out-of-America? I thought one of the key requirements for speciation is isolation from other species. Under out-of-America II (http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/out-of-america-family-of-hypotheses/), the ultimate source of HSS is an East Eurasian hominin. A subset of that ancestral population migrated to the New World, speciated into “us,” developed our unique features and then migrated back when the glaciers again allowed to replace all the Old World hominins. Something similar, on a smaller scale, happened to woolly mammoths (http://www.academia.edu/223872/Out_of_America_ancient_DNA_evidence_for_a_New_World_origin_of_Late_Quaternary_woolly_mammoths

        This is the issue where out-of-Africa is very weak. Why and where would modern humans speciate if the African niche had already been filled by hominin species?

        “it strikes me as odd to criticise the Anatolian hypothesis (something
        that at least makes sense, and would at least correlate with what
        appears to be a migration, visible in the archaeological record, from
        Anatolia into Europe in the Neolithic) while maintaining that humans
        originated in the Americas, where they actually appeared as recently as 12,000 BP.”

        The Anatolian hypothesis makes sense but in reality it is wrong. Archaeology can support both the Pontic steppe and the Anatolian hypothesis illustrating how malleable archaeological evidence is when it comes to “migrations.” Archaeology can document human presence in the Americas from 12,000 YBP only, although linguistic diversity in the Americas rather unambiguously points to much earlier times, and the earliest Paleoindian culture, Clovis, originated way south of the ice shield and possibly migrated north to Alaska and NE Asia. So, you got yourself a good case against archaeology.

        “You seem like a sensible chap, but here you are railing on against
        theories that reject entire scientific disciplines, while at the *very
        same time* supporting a theory of human origins that rejects *all* of
        the archaeological evidence.”

        I’m sorry, I can’t return the compliment – you don’t sound like a sensible chap. I’ve never rejected all of the archaeological evidence. You also don’t seem to understand that Bronze Age archaeology and Pleistocene archaeology radically differ from each other in their ability to generate testable hypotheses. It’s really no different from the Indo-European level of historical linguistics vs. megalocomparison a la Nostratic, Amerind and proto-World. The former is robust, the latter is highly hypothetical, simply because, with time, the signal progressively decreases, while the noise increases. What betrays your non-scientific approach to these matters is that you believe in archaeology blindly and indiscriminately.

        • Al West

          I don’t believe in archaeology blindly. But here’s the thing: go anywhere in the world and dig down deep. Dig nice and deep, and do it several times, and get lots of helpers. At some point in your digs, you may find human remains. In Britain we’ve got hominid remains from about 700,000 years ago. In Java and China, they go back a million and a half. In Africa, they go back even further – millions of years. Throughout Afro-Eurasia, whether we’re looking in the tropics, deserts, tundra, or temperate forest, we find human or hominid remains going back hundreds of thousands of years.

          In the Americas, we see human occupation beginning about 12,000 years ago. That’s it. No other great apes live there, or have ever lived, according to the finds uncovered by a good two centuries of research. No ancestral humans or different species of human, like H. sapiens idaltu, have been found in the Americas. No H. erectus. No heidelbergensis. Nothing. It is remarkable that we see no human remains, let alone hominid ones, before this point throughout the whole of the Americas, despite the fact that they are regularly found in Afro-Eurasia, with the greatest time-depth in Africa.

          You can invoke the problem of induction all you like – indeed it is true that we cannot necessarily infer that humans were *not* there from the fact that they left no remains. But even if that is so, a) you’re just invoking the problem of induction because you don’t like what the evidence says (for whatever reason), and applying this regularly would make science impossible (as it relies on induction), and b) you’re claiming the precise opposite of what the evidence shows, not just a milder version. You’re not saying, “we don’t know when humans entered the Americas, but it was probably long before 10,000 BCE”. You’re saying that humans *originated* in the Americas, despite having found *no* hominid remains there at all. The fact that you, or anyone else, considers this even remotely plausible is stunning to me, and it makes me depressed – it makes me think that no matter how much evidence scientists compile, people will always find a spurious way of rejecting the most reasonable interpretation of the history of humankind.

          And how amazing your statements are! Isolation is often a requirement of speciation, but what an evasive claim that is! Normally when we investigate speciation, we look in the stratigraphy to see where the earliest finds are – like Neil Shubin looking in the Arctic for Tiktaalik due to the presence of rocks 375 million years old. We don’t say “this is the most isolated example, and so surely the first”. By that logic, Austronesian came from Easter Island. I’m not saying that the centre-of-diversity principle is absolutely watertight – only that its inverse is surely equally suspicious, if not more so, and that the test should be how well the principles fit with the archaeological (and genetic) data.

          You are seeing a conspiracy where there isn’t one. It just seems like a *gigantic* hole in your theory that there’s no archaeological evidence for it whatsoever, and it’s the elephant in the room on your blog, where you don’t address it properly, choosing instead to focus on the centre-of-diversity-as-origin claim.

          Moreover, this is absolutely on topic. This whole series is about th misuse of particular strands of evidence and the deliberate ignorance of entire disciplines in the quest to understand human origins. The fact that you believe kinship terminologies trump archaeological finds when investigating the past is just amazing to me, especially given the ease with which they change over time in response to new social and ecological conditions – and your ignorance of archaeology is just as ridiculous as the Anatolianist’s ignorance of linguistics.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “In Britain we’ve got hominid remains from about 700,000 years ago. In Java and China, they go back a million and a half. In Africa, they go back even further – millions of years.”

            But only those in the past 50K years show signs of modern human behavior, hence are relevant to our search for modern human origins. And there are not too many skulls out there between 50 and 10K to be overexcited. We still have gaps in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Siberia similar to that in the Americas. There are no Khoisanid skulls in South Africa older than 7,000 YBP and Khoisans are supposed to be the earliest offshoot in genetic phylogenies. Up until 25 years ago Australia was though to have been peopled only 10,000 years ago. Up until 2005, we didn’t have any fossil remains of chimpanzees (and what we have now is just a jaw) and we still have nothing for gorillas.

            Again, your approach it to overwhelm me with sweeping statements, which look good only to those who are not familiar with the nature of the paleontological record. One needs to look at the evidence critically and historically. There’s a trend toward finding older fossils and other signs of modern humans on all continents, it’s just Europe and Africa have been accumulating the evidence at a faster pace than the New World, parts of Asia and the Sahul for a simple reason that populations in Africa and Europe were denser and larger since the Lower Pleistocene, while they were more sparse and isolated east of the Movius Line. There’s no reason why all the skulls must be in by the year 2010. Denisova, Floresiensis prove that “eastern” regions can be full of surprises and the populations that we’ve discovered there fit the same pattern we continue to see in the Americas – small, isolated demes. There’s no divine hand feeding archaeologists and paleontologists with the revealing evidence for modern human origins. Why can’t archaeologists settle for the ability to detect areas with larger vs. smaller population size? Why is there such a desire to believe in the ability of the discipline to answer questions about origins and to adjudicate whether humans were in certain places or not? The archaeological data at hand does not favor any specific origins scenarios.

            “You are seeing a conspiracy where there isn’t one.”

            It’s not conspiracy, it’s historiography. All sciences are contextualized within a certain time period, they are never outside of history and culture, and the paradigms change dramatically as time goes by. Knowing the boundaries of what your data can and cannot tell is key to building a true interdisciplinary synthesis.

            “And how amazing your statements are! Isolation is often a requirement of speciation, but what an evasive claim that is! Normally when we investigate speciation, we look in the stratigraphy to see where the earliest finds are – like Neil Shubin looking in the Arctic for Tiktaalik due to the presence of rocks 375 million years old. We don’t say “this is the most isolated example, and so surely the first”. By that logic, Austronesian came from Easter Island. I’m not saying that the centre-of-diversity principle is absolutely watertight – only that its inverse is surely equally suspicious, if not more so, and that the
            test should be how well the principles fit with the archaeological (and genetic) data.”

            Humans are different because we have culture, hence a shovel may be too blunt of a tool to rely on exclusively when it comes to human origins. Isolation is key to speciation, there’s nothing evasive about it. A comparison to Easter island is not appropriate. Instead, you should think about Taiwan as an island from which many scholars believe Austronesian expansion began. And this island has the isolation and the greatest amount of linguistic diversity among Austronesians. We see the same thing in the Americas, but on a global scale. America shows some of the highest levels of linguistic diversity in the world (unlike Africa which is linguistically rather homogeneous) and some of the highest levels of intergroup genetic diversity. We know from genetics that modern humans went through a genetic bottleneck, we have similar evidence that American Indians have suppressed genetic diversity. Hence, the two genetic attributes may be related. This directly translates into the paucity of the archaeological record in the Americas, on the one hand, and the high level of linguistic diversity in the New World, on the other. All seems very logical to me. If you surrender your Indiana Jones ego, you may be able to see the same pattern.

            “The fact that you believe kinship terminologies trump archaeological finds when investigating the past is just amazing to me, especially given the ease with which they change over time in response to new social and ecological conditions – and your ignorance of archaeology is just as ridiculous as the Anatolianist’s ignorance of linguistics.”

            The Anatolian theory of Indo-European origins was advanced by linguists. Their names are Ivanov and Gamkrelidze and their theory of PIE phonology is called “glottalic.” I definitely think that any evidence, including kinship evidence, is stronger than people’s opinions, including archaeologists’ opinions. In terms of archaeological finds per se, there’s nothing in them that contradicts out of America. Moreover, as you may know, the earliest Paleoindian culture, Clovis, seems to have its roots in the Buttermilk complex in Texas, with fluted points appearing at later dates in Alaska (Mesa) and NE Asia (Uptar). This is perfectly consistent with out-of-America III. The rest is simply an archaeological terra incognita.

          • Al West

            On what basis do you make the claim that behavioural modernity began only 50,000 BP? That isn’t the consensus, and is out by at least 20,000 years. Is it possible that you have not kept abreast of developments, and are unaware of such sites as Blombos cave? Why don’t you read a good, modern synthesis, like Chris Stringer’s “The Origin of Our Species”? You appear to be ignorant of the African archaeology as well – yes, there are gaps, but the picture is pretty clear: humans originated in Africa, and most of our Pleistocene relatives have been found there, too. I’d recommend Phillipson’s “African Archaeology” to you, as you appear to be in the dark about the topic, and about behavioural modernity as a whole.

            At the moment, your entire claim rests on the idea that one day, early Pleistocene remains may be found in the Americas – despite the fact that literally 200 years of research has found nothing of the sort, and despite the enormous amount of effort given to research on the Americas in the Pleistocene. You appear to appreciate the fact that none of the existing archaeological evidence supports your claim, and in fact points directly against it. If evidence *is* found, then yes, let’s revisit your claim. Until then, let’s go with what all of the evidence says: that humans originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and colonised the world from there.

            How long do you think it takes to walk from Alaska to Chile, by the way?

            As for the claim that “the rest is simply an archaeological terra incognita”, I’ll recommend another book to you: David Meltzer’s “First Peoples in a New World”. (In a blogpost you wrote critical of John Hawks’ blog, you claimed that Hawks’ list of books, which included Meltzer’s, was outdated. I had no idea that a book published in 2011 could become outdated by 2012 in such a slow-moving field.) The American Pleistocene has been done to death, and nothing has been found before the very late Pleistocene.

            You can claim that low population density is responsible for the absence of remains, but that isn’t thinking like an archaeologist. Humans leave traces of their activities. I’m not expecting thousands of corpses to suddenly appear in the archaeological record. But some indication of human life would be appreciated. That is easily found in Pleistocene Britain, which was incredibly low in population density (as was the Pleistocene everwhere, I’d like to add). Archeologists have found old fireplaces, skeletons, scavenged carcases, tools – you name it, it’s been found in early Pleistocene Afro-Eurasia. The only areas where these things haven’t been found have been difficult to excavate or which are bad for preservation, like tropical forest. In the Americas, even the most hospitable and easily-excavable environments show no evidence of human life until the late Pleistocene. You can’t magic that away with a wave of your ‘science-is-cultural’ hand.

            “America shows some of the highest levels of linguistic diversity in the world (unlike Africa which is linguistically rather homogeneous) and some of the highest levels of intergroup genetic diversity.”

            Why is Africa linguistically homogeneous? For the same reason Europe is: a population of technologically advanced people drove across the continent in the late Holocene. If you believe that Africa’s linguistic homogeneity is evidence for your cause, then you are wrong. All it shows is that Africa has not been preserved in aspic since the Pleistocene.

            It really is bizarre to see you claim that my ego is the problem here. You’re the one claiming that entire scientific orthodoxy is wrong on the basis of a very spurious idea that science is always infected by culture or pre-scientific ideas. This means that you are claiming that you, unlike every other scientist, have managed to see through the cultural murk to uncover the truth. You are claiming that you know better than almost every archaeologist of Africa and the Pleistocene, not to mention all the geneticists, prehistorians, paleontologists, biologists, and other students of the human. You are saying that you alone have found the truth. Ego? Lawd.

            Isolation, by the way, isn’t necessarily key to speciation. There are different mechanisms – I’d recommend reading some Coyne and Orr, “Speciation”, (or just Coyne, “Why Evolution Is True”) to get you on track there. In any case, if you want to make a solid case for the evolution of a species in a particular place, you can’t just say that isolation is key. You have to show a sequence in the strata. In Africa, we see just such a sequence. In America, not only do we not see any sequence of that sort, we see the sudden appearance of humans about 12,000 BP. They just appear there. Not exactly a convince stratigraphic sequence pointing to a speciation event in the Americas. And I realise you’ll just brush it off – you’ve invested a lot in your zany idea – but you must understand: stratigraphy as a whole is against you. And kinship terminology, which varies in response to so many variables, is not going to give you as good a handle on human prehistory as stratigraphy. The fact that you think it is is an absurdity that alone undermines your assertion.

            You are repeating the classic anti-science claims in support of your hypothesis: that science is inherently bounded and infected by ‘culture’, that the problem of induction means that we can never infer anything from archaeological data, etc. It’s just hand-waving. I’d suggest giving up your ludicrous theory – it really isn’t supported by the evidence.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thank you both for a very educational discussion (and for references and links as well). Let me jump in at this late stage.

            First of all, the discussion is not at all off-topic, as this series is indeed on human origins and migrations, as well as on the issue of what evidence can be used to support hypotheses about said migrations and how such evidence should or shouldn’t be used.

            As far as I can tell, both of you agree that there is little evidence of human presence in the Americas prior to around 12,000 years ago, and much evidence to earlier presence of humans in Africa and Eurasia. While I agree that absence of evidence isn’t the same as evidence of absence, it is strongly suggestive of said absence. There are some weaknesses to the out-of-Africa hypothesis and data that has been brought forward to support it, but to get any traction the out-of-Americas theory must be supported by positve evidence in its favor (e.g. archeological finds would be lovely!) rather than by pointing out possible flaws of the out-of-Africa theory.

            Let me just contribute one significant point that seems to have escaped notice in your discussion so far: when it comes to linguistic diversity, it should be used very carefully if one wishes to argue for or against a certain pre-Holocene migrations. First of all, we don’t have a good measure of diversity. You might say that we have more families in the Americas than in Africa, but is it evidence of true diversity or of our poor understanding of how different Native American languages relate to each other? Arguments can be made both ways. Moreover, as I’ve pointed out in an earlier post, current linguistic diversity is more indicative of the forces that obliterate diversity than those that create it. Given even the most conservative estimates of language diversification spread, if no such unifying factors existed, we’d expected the current number of languages just about anywhere to be in millions, not thousands. Therefore, just counting languages, families or phonemes is rather meaningless when it comes to figuring out human migrations.
            http://geocurrents.info/geonotes/linguistic-and-biological-diversity-overlap-but-why

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “Therefore, just counting languages, families or phonemes is rather meaningless when it comes to figuring out human migrations.”

            I agree with this when it comes to phonemes. But language families are genetic/genealogical units and as such represent a process of population divergence. Linguistic diversity can be eliminated by population replacement, but this needs to be demonstrated in every specific case. It is true that Out of America is based on the assumption that language divergence is a null hypothesis but this I believe is perfectly justified considering a long history of thinking about language families as genetic units.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Oh I agree that language families are genetic (in the linguistic sense of the word) units. Still, I don’t think that they flawless indicators of population divergence. Whole language families (on different levels of classification) can be wiped out, just as languages, dialects or subdialects can. For example, the whole Tocharian family was, as was the whole Scythian family or the whole Anatolian family (all of them also branches of the Indo-European family, but in another sense families too). There’s no reason to believe that diversity on the family level is any less affected by the forces of uniformity than diversity on the language level.

          • Al West

            You are labouring under the misapprehension that language families and kinship terminologies don’t change very much, or change at a specific rate, and that they can’t be replaced. There is no reason to believe this. Languages are spoken for many reasons, and they do not necessarily represent the spread or divergence of discrete populations. That is an unwarranted assumption. Comparative linguistics provides no support for any human origin theory.

            Moreover, you are relying on the genetic fallacy. Yes, the idea of indigenous Americans entering the continent via Beringia was suggested by a Jesuit. So what? Does that alone make it suspicious? Of course not. If there were no evidence in its favour and no reason to believe it, then it might be suspicious, but the origin of the idea is not reason enough to be against it.

            As for behavioural modernity, 50,000 BP is an absolute minimum, because that is when Australia was settled – and as the settlement almost certainly required ‘behavioural modernity’ (ie, boat-building) and as indigenous Australians are and always have been behaviourally modern, humans must have been behaviourally modern before then. Long before then.

            In any case, Blombos on its own is far older than any site in the Americas. It is evidence of human activity, in Africa, at a time when humans had not even seen the Americas. This, and so many other sites – *so* many – show that humans were late arrivals in the Americas. Enough of your hand-waving – you can’t just keep on claiming that archaeology is insufficient or subjective without a reason for believing so. It is remarkable that humans left *no* evidence of activity in the Americas before 12,000 BP. No tools, no fires, no huts, no nothing.

            I’m not trying to wipe away kinship or linguistics. But they can’t support any hypothesis about the Pleistocene anyway! They’re low time-depth tools, and kinship analysis isn’t even a tool, really. I remember Robert Blust making all sorts of assertions about proto-Malayo-Polynesian kinship on the basis of existing kinship terminologies and known social structures, but none of it pointed in any particular direction and there was a considerable degree of divergence from whatever model was proposed. And this is in talking about a migration that occurred in the late Holocene!

            You give no reason for dismissing archaeology. You just dismiss it. That is not reasonable. I can see why you would do that – you know as well as I do that, in the light of archaeology, your assertion looks ridiculous – but it is mad to do so and still claimed to be a scientific thinker and seeker after truth.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “You are labouring under the misapprehension that language families and kinship terminologies don’t change very much, or change at a specific rate, and that they can’t be replaced.”

            No such assumption. It’s the opposite: languages and kinship systems change, and at least for kinship systems I can say that they change predictably because of systemic constraints on what is possible and what is not. With a large database and scrupulous screening (and this work has been done by many scholars over the past 150 years), you can identify pathways of structural change and build “phylogenies.”

            “I remember Robert Blust making all sorts of assertions about
            proto-Malayo-Polynesian kinship on the basis of existing kinship terminologies and known social structures, but none of it pointed in any particular direction and there was a considerable degree of divergence from whatever model was proposed. And this is in talking about a migration that occurred in the late Holocene!”

            This is your Easter island fallacy. You’re learning from wrong examples. Blust, who is not a student of kinship systems, was not using the most stable and predictable markers. Look up Kronenfeld, Marshall, Hage and Harary who reconstructed the evolution of Austronesian sibling terminologies with a high degree of precision. I discuss it in my book, too. Kinship studies is a huge field, you know, you can’t just reference your own impression of one particular stream of work as proof that your opponent is wrong.

            “Comparative linguistics provides no support for any human origin theory.”

            It definitely provides no support for the archaeology-derived dates of 12,000 for the origin of American Indians. Greenberg’s attempt to lump most of American Indian languages into one family Amerind in order to adapt the linguistic situation in the Americas to the 12,000 year timeline was rejected by all experts on American Indian languages. The classification of American Indian languages into 140-150 families is the fruit of some 200 years of work and is the best in class example of the application of comparative method. In Africa, there are only 20 families max. I don’t know what kind of support you’re looking for. And language, mind you, is the defining characteristic of behavioral modernity, and archaeology can’t match it with anything people tend to leave behind in a garbage pit. What is more reliable in the study of origins – inferences made on the basis of what was tossed away or what was passed down from generation to generation?

            “Yes, the idea of indigenous Americans entering the continent via Beringia was suggested by a Jesuit. So what? Does that alone make it suspicious? Of course not. If there were no evidence in its favour and no reason to believe it, then it might be suspicious, but the origin of the idea is not reason enough to be against it.”

            Acosta’s opinion was part of a late medieval and early modern cosmology in which America was a derived continent. Derived from the lost tribes of Israel, Atlantis or Siberia – doesn’t matter. This was set in stone firmly and without any evidence. In the early 20th century, Hrdlicka took on Acosta’s idea (directly citing him) and then vociferously attacked anybody who believed that America was peopled before 5,000 (sic!) years. And of course he was citing all sorts of “evidence.” But then he was disproved and a 10,000 year timeline was established, and people like Meltzer mocked those who believed that there was pre-Clovis. Then Monte Verde, Paisley Caves, Buttermilk came, disproved Clovis I and silenced Meltzer. There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a strong bias against human antiquity in the Americas and this bias has a very clear historiographic trail that takes you to pre-scientific cosmologies. “Hard evidence” is just something 20th century cosmologists have learned to use to their end.

            “when Australia was settled – and as the settlement almost certainly required ‘behavioural modernity’ (ie, boat-building) and as indigenous Australians are and always have been behaviourally modern, humans must have been behaviourally modern before then. Long before then.”

            There are Mousterian stone tools on Crete dated at 130,000. They were made by no modern humans, but those Neandertals who made them must have known how to boat. Archaeology is unrealiable when it comes to identifying specific signatures of modern human behavior. There was convergence going on toward “modern human behavior” among Neandertals, Asian Homo erectus and African archaics. But these individual instances are nothing compared to the systematic symbolic capacities that can only be projected into the Pleistocene from modern populations. These signatures become systematic in the archaeological record after 50K but certain places such as New World and the Sahul don’t show them until much later because of low population size and density. Judging by the fact that genealogical linguistic, kinship, folkloric and other diversities (see my site for details) are depressed in Africa, it’s unlikely that systemic symbolic capacities originated there.

            “You give no reason for dismissing archaeology. You just dismiss it.”

            I don’t dismiss it at all. I just curb the perception that it has some kind of omniscience when it comes to all things human origins. This is a critical distinction, which makes me very confident that I’m not an obscurantist.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “What is more reliable in the study of origins – inferences made on the
            basis of what was tossed away or what was passed down from generation to
            generation?” — Even though I am a linguist, I have to say it’s what was tossed away, exactly because it was tossed away, and so didn’t change. That’s what makes archeological finds far more straightforward evidence of the human past (it still has to be interpreted, but so does lingusitic evidence).

            I guess at least now you can’t call me a “linguistic patriot” ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            There’s no modification without descent. But that’s where analysis comes in. What has been left behind and not passed along, on the other hand, was taken out of the historical process. Archaeological data does not directly describe a descent-with-modification process, hence doesn’t describe evolution. It can illustrate certain aspects of the past better than anything else, but it can’t be used as the main source for species’ evolution. This is basically how biologists (e.g., Eldredge and Gould in their Punctuated Equilibrium paper) few the fossil record: you can’t use it to built theories, only living biota supplies a suitable framework, which is later tested with fossils. The paucity of the pre-Clovis archaeological record coupled with high intergroup genetic diversity, archaic kinship systems and a profusion of language families supplies a framework with which one needs to approach Pleistocene record in the Americas: small, dispersed populations periodically linked through cycles of prescriptive marital exchange were economically scavengers and passive hunters who relied heavily on perishable materials for their tools (which even now constitute 80% of the toolkit in an average modern forager tribe, and Monte Verde confirms that this likely was a pre-Clovis reality). Around 12,000 years ago, these populations underwent a population expansion associated with big game hunting in many but not all areas, as a result of which lithic tools acquired a bigger role in the toolkit and became more visible in the archaeological record. Now, with this picture in mind, archaeologists can go back to the field in the Americas and look not for such features of European UP as debitage, but at more subtle cues of human activity. And it will take time and investment to find them.

          • Jaska

            In Eurasia and Africa huge majority of the areas are covered with the recently expanded language families. In America there seems to be less expansive language families. Therefore the linguistic diversity in the old world does not represent the original linguistic diversity: every widespread language family must have replaced tens or hundreds of more original languages – even some Pygmies speak Bantu languages, which represent the recent expansions.

            Eurasian- and African-like recent “linguistic bottlenecks” have greatly diminished the linguistic diversity in these areas, and therefore the present linguistic diversity has nothing to do with the original linguistic diversity. Thus linguistic diversity cannot be seen as supporting evidence for the Out-of-America- or Out-of-New Guinea-hypotheses.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks for rephrasing some of my arguments, Jaska! I agree that linguistic diversity cannot be seen as supporting the out-of-America theory (or out-of-New-Guinea). But I also think that some of the diversity in the Americas has been reduced, though at a much slower pace.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            I firmly believe it can be seen as supporting evidence for out-of-America. Even assuming your scenario, which is problematic (see below), Africa and Europe were like America and PNG in the past, not the other way around. (The reason this is important is because Holocene population replacement of that magnitude would result in the corresponding increase in genetic diversity, which out-of-Africa theorists tout as sign of the Mid-Pleistocene antiquity of African populations. So your argument may help explain the linguistic conundrum at the cost of depriving out-of-Africa of its key molecular trump card.) And if America is assumed to have been peopled 12,000 years ago, where did all the diversity come from? There’s nothing similar to New World linguistic diversity anywhere in Northeast Asia or Eastern Eurasia. If you exclude PNG language families, New World linguistic diversity is 2/3 of world linguistic diversity, and PNG and NW combined account for 5/6 of world linguistic diversity. The fact that PNG and the New World are so similar in the levels of linguistic diversity (high number of isolates and small families) suggests that we’re dealing here not with some American aberrancy but with a systemic phenomenon contrasted with the systemic phenomenon of low linguistic diversity in Africa and Europe. At least, people don’t doubt that PNG was peopled 40-60,000 years ago, so why would America be different?

            Importantly, we don’t know and will never know the rate of language extinction in the New World. Na-Dene, Uto-Aztecan, Algic, Oto-Manguean, Carib, Quechuan are just a few language families that expanded in the Holocene and must have absorbed pre-existing languages. How is it different from Africa and Europe? The New World has always been less populous than Africa and Europe, and there could have been many more language families and isolates absorbed in the New World that were much less populous than those absorbed in Africa and Europe. Say, Bantu expansion resulted in the loss of 5 distinct language families in Africa, each one of them equal in population size to 10 distinct language families in the New World. The argument of language replacement does not explain the higher levels of linguistic diversity in the New World vs. Africa and Europe.

            Another issue is language extinction in the New World since 1492 which lacks parallels in Africa or Europe. On all counts New World populated with small-scale forager and primitive agriculturalist societies is much more vulnerable to losing language diversity than Africa and Europe.

            “even some Pygmies speak Bantu languages,”

            The issue with Pygmies is that we have too little evidence that they ever spoke anything but Bantu or Ubangian languages. At the same time, we have clear molecular evidence that Pygmies and agriculturalists are genetically related. (And I’m not talking about gene flow.) It’s just geneticists assign ridiculous Mid-Pleistocene dates to the split between Pygmies and agriculturalists, which is almost like dating the emergence of agriculture at 70,000 YBP.

            See here http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/05/the-pygmy-enigma-biology-population-genetics-and-linguistics/

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            German, you seem to contradict yourself here. First of all, if we assume that “Africa and Europe were like America and PNG in the past, not the other way around”, your main argument for the out-of-America, namely the high degree of linguistic diversity in the Americas today (or shall we say before Europeans’ arrival) disappears. Because if you make that assumption, it is perfectly possible that Africa and Eurasia had as much linguistic diversity as the Americas and that this diversity has been greatly reduced. A propos, there are good reasons to believe that this is indeed what happened: if Turkic speakers could spread throughout the steppe region and out of it in historical times, and Indo-Europeans probably did earlier, so could have other groups.

            Second, if you count linguistic diversity by the number of families, and take the most family-rich area to be the origin of modern humans, shouldn’t PNG take the title? It has about the same number of families but if you take the number of families per square km (or whatever other territorial calculation), PNG takes the cake.

            Third, you say “then we’re dealing here not with some American aberrancy but with a systemic
            phenomenon contrasted with the systemic phenomenon of low linguistic
            diversity in Africa and Europe” — YES! And the systematicity of that phenomenon has nothing to do with the origins of modern humans but everything to do with the geographic orientation of Eurasia vs. the Americas (if Diamond’s arguments are to be believed) and the resulting uniformity in the former but not the latter. And even if we don’t buy Diamond’s arguments as to why Eurasia is different from the Americas, there are just too many facts that line up with linguistic diversity contrast (spread of agriculture, diseases, cultural innovations, etc.).

            Forth, why do you assume that Bantu expansion wiped out 5 language families? Why not 50? This estimate seems to be based on the current number of families in sub-Saharan Africa, but we have no evidence of how many languages families were wiped out.

            Fifth, you ask “And if America is assumed to have been peopled 12,000 years ago, where did all the diversity come from?” What model of language diversification do you assume? That is, at what rate do you assume to have new languages arise out of, say, the initial situation of one language? Because all the models I’ve seen, even the most conservative ones, would predict a lot more languages that we find in the Americas or PNG.

            Sixth, you claim that “we have clear molecular evidence that Pygmies and agriculturalists are genetically related” — can you provide some references to support this? Because as far as I can tell, the evidence suggests that Pygmies are very distinct genetically (Y-DNA Haplogroup B, if I am not much mistaken). Apart from Hadza, who are not agriculturalists either, Pygmies are rather genetically unique, and there’s not much evidence of genetic relatedness to Bantus.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “First of all, if we assume that “Africa and Europe were like America and PNG in the past, not the other way around”, your main argument for the out-of-America, namely the high degree of linguistic diversity in the Americas today (or shall we say before Europeans’ arrival) disappears.”

            Regarding this scenario offered by Jaska, I wrote “Even assuming your scenario, which is problematic (see below)…” This means I don’t consider it to be the most credible scenario, so I don’t end up contradicting myself. What is important about this scenario is that out-of-Africa theorists assume a) that the current genetic situation in Africa suggests that humans originated in Africa; b) that languages and genes co-evolve. Hence modern linguistic situation in Africa (a few large families with dozens and hundreds of individual languages in them) must suggest that humans originated in Africa. Jaska’s scenario, which he thought undermined out-of-America, in fact undermines out-of-Africa.

            “if you count linguistic diversity by the number of families, and take the most family-rich area to be the origin of modern humans, shouldn’t PNG take the title? It has about the same number of families but if you take the number of families per square km (or whatever other territorial calculation), PNG takes the cake.”

            No at all. First, by the number of isolates per square km Amazonia exceeds PNG. Second, America has seen mor large-scale population expansions than PNG. In PNG we only have Trans-New Guinean, in America we have many more. They reduced New World diversity counted per square km compared to PNG. Third, if you lump PNG and Australia into the Sahul, the ratio of linguistic family to square km in the Sahul geographic unit drops. There are further adjustments that can be made to make the two areas very similar to each other. One region reinforces the other one, again as a systemic phenomenon, against the Africa-Europe situation, and doesn’t weaken each other.

            “And the systematicity of that phenomenon has nothing to do with the origins of modern humans but everything to do with the geographic orientation of Eurasia vs. the Americas (if Diamond’s arguments are to be believed) and the resulting uniformity in the former but not the latter. And even if we don’t buy Diamond’s arguments as to why Eurasia is different from the Americas, there are just too many facts that line up with linguistic diversity contrast (spread of agriculture, diseases, cultural innovations, etc.).”

            Sure, but all of these processes and phenomena exist as part of history and evolution of the populations and societies involved, and linguistic diversity combined with kinship terminological data are the most accurate depiction of the overall historical process. Alternatively, all those factors affect genetic diversity, too, but geneticists assume that they are secondary to what fundamentally determines human genetic evolution, e.g., population size, admixture, founder effect, etc. And I agree with the premise, but not with the overall conclusion.

            “And if America is assumed to have been peopled 12,000 years ago, where did all the diversity come from?” What model of language diversification do you assume? That is, at what rate do you assume to have new languages arise out of, say, the initial situation of one language? Because all the models I’ve seen, even the most conservative ones, would predict a lot more languages that we find in the Americas or PNG.”

            I don’t know what models you have in mind. It’s well-established that most first-order language families around the world are EACH between 3,000-6,000 years old, with Afroasiatic, Khoisan, Ket-Na-Dene and some others often assessed at much older dates. This is just one more 6,000-year-node away from the presumably
            rock-solid archaeological dates for the peopling of the Americas. A popular interpretation associates Afroasiatic with Natufian archaeological culture dated at 12,000 YBP. If archaeological dates were right, plus there was just one migration to the Americas associated with a bottleneck, as most geneticists have argued, you would have had just one Afroasiatic-like family in the Americas. But in reality you have 140-150 families including isolates.

            “Because as far as I can tell, the evidence suggests that Pygmies are very distinct genetically”

            I discuss it in the blog post I referenced above. E.g., Bakola, Biaka and Mbezele Aka have mtDNA hg L1c, while its sister hg L1b is found among agriculturalists. One paper has it even in the title “Maternal traces of deep common ancestry and asymmetric gene flow between Pygmy hunter–gatherers and Bantu-speaking farmers.” So, Pygmies and Niger-Congo populations are related both genetically and linguistically, which contradicts the theory that there was a language shift in Pygmies. And as the example of Khosian-Bantu exchanges shows forager languages can strongly impact agriculturalist languages (clicks in !Xhosa in others), and again in the case of Pygmies and Bantu we don’t see any foreign influence on Bantu languages that could be attributed to Pygmies. Maybe Pygmies are simply short, hence they’ve conjured up primitive fantasies in geneticists.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “America has seen mor large-scale population expansions than PNG. In PNG
            we only have Trans-New Guinean, in America we have many more” — so you seem to agree that expansion of larger families is more responsible for current linguistic diversity than anything else. So what prevents you from agreeing that all of the facts, the Americas, the PNG, Africa, Eurasia, are explainable through forces that wipe languages out rather than create new ones?

            “if you lump PNG and Australia into the Sahul” — I don’t. And would make me do so? They are different linguistically, genetically, etc. It’s like lumping PNG with NE Siberia — would help reduce the linguistic diversity in PNG as well :)

            “linguistic diversity combined with kinship terminological data are the most accurate depiction of the overall historical process” — I don’t see why they should be more accurate than archeology or genetics, nor do I think that linguistics and kinship terminology (to the extent that it’s a study rather than a subject thereof) necessarily coincide in their conclusions. As far as I understand from your claims about kinship terminology, it supports the out-of-America theory, but linguistics as a whole does not.

            Re: models of language diversification, your calculation only makes sense if we assume that families in the Americas (140-150 that you keep citing though other people give other numbers entirely) are as old as IE, Austronesian etc. I don’t see how we could prove that. As for the model I assume, my favorite is Folley’s. The question is this: start with one language anywhere and predict language diversification (how many languages you get) after X much time. Folley’s estimate is a split into two every 1,000 years, which is rather conservative, given what we know (e.g. East Slavic split into three languages in half that time), and even with that estimate you’d get a much larger number of languages in the Americas in under 12,000 years.

            “Pygmies and Niger-Congo populations are related both genetically and
            linguistically, which contradicts the theory that there was a language
            shift in Pygmies” — actually the language shift theory is not contradicted if the genetic similarity is in the female line. Actually, if anything such evidence supports this theory. There’s a great deal of Finnic female DNA in the gene pool of northern Russians, but that’s becaue Finnic-speaking women massively married (if that’s the right term!) Russian males. They did shift to Russian too. And yes, it is hard to conclusively prove Finnic influences in Russian:

            http://languagesoftheworld.info/russia-ukraine-and-the-caucasus/finnic-traits-in-russian.html

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “you seem to agree that expansion of larger families is more responsible for current linguistic diversity than anything else. So what prevents you from agreeing that all of the facts, the Americas, the PNG, Africa, Eurasia, are explainable through forces that wipe languages out rather than create new ones?”

            Not more responsible than anything else. Just one factor that can’t explain the Africa-New World contrast. It’s appropriate to invoke language replacement in the case of such dramatically different land masses as America and PNG because bigger geographies are prone to greater language expansions. Hence, the absorption of smaller languages. But this argument won’t work for Africa and Europe vs. the New World, as these are comparable land masses.

            “if you lump PNG and Australia into the Sahul” — I don’t. And would make me do so?”

            Because they used to be the same landmass up until 10,000 years ago. http://sahultime.monash.edu.au/explore.html

            ” As far as I understand from your claims about kinship terminology, it supports the out-of-America theory, but linguistics as a whole does not.”

            Both of them do if, again, you’re willing to think in evolutionary terms, at least at the current state of our knowledge of global variation in both. Stanford should have my book The Genius of Kinship, in which you can find more details.

            “I don’t see why they should be more accurate than archeology or genetics,”

            I wasn’t comparing them with genetics or archaeology but rather with a host of other factors of the historical process such as diseases, environment, etc. that you referenced. Linguistics and kinship systems are formal and systematic.

            “actually the language shift theory is not contradicted if the genetic similarity is in the female line. Actually, if anything such evidence supports this theory. There’s a great deal of Finnic female DNA in the gene pool of northern Russians, but that’s becaue Finnic-speaking women massively married (if that’s the right term!) Russian males. They did shift to Russian too.”

            Asya, please read my blog post and the paper, which clearly says even in the title that Pygmies and agriculturalists are related plus there was gene flow between them. Plus agriculturalists are more diverse than Pygmies, although Pygmies are supposedly older than everyone else save the Khoisan. L1b (Bantu) and L1c (Pygmy) are sister clades. You don’t end up with sister clades in a (recent) admixture scenario. That’s why they are called “sister” clades like German and Russian are “sister” languages.

            “Folley’s estimate is a split into two every 1,000 years, which is rather conservative, given what we know (e.g. East Slavic split into three languages in half that time), and even with that estimate you’d get a much larger number of languages in the Americas in under 12,000 years.”

            We’re talking about language families, not individual languages. Folley wasn’t calculating the rate of language family formation. Of course, in large populations such as Austronesian-speaking or Niger-Congo-speaking you can have 1200-1300 languages accruing over the period of 5-6,000 years. But smaller populations have fewer number of languages per family, but it’s still the same 5-6,000 years in many cases.

            “(140-150 that you keep citing though other people give other numbers entirely)”

            There are standard reference sources such as Campbell, Nichols, Handbook and others. I honestly don’t know what you’re reading.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Going back to your point about Pygmy Y-DNA, Asya, hg B is widely distributed among various Niger-Congo (and Afroasiatic) speaking populations, with Pygmies forming a subset of that variation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_B_%28Y-DNA%29. So, again we see consistency with linguistics here, as Pygmy languages are largely a subset of Niger-Congo languages.

            Y-DNA is strange. It’s now fairly well documented (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0049170?imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0049170.g001) that the “earliest branches” on the Y-DNA tree are found in west, central and northern Africa (again, not among Khoisans or Pygmies). Using the current conventions of interpretation of genetic evidence, modern humans originated in northwest Africa, in the opposite corner from where mtDNA places the origins of modern humans.

          • Jaska

            German:”Even assuming your scenario, which is problematic (see below), Africa and Europe were like America and PNG in the past, not the other way around.”

            That is indeed my point.

            German:
            “(The reason this is important is because Holocene population replacement of that magnitude would result in the corresponding increase in genetic diversity, which out-of-Africa theorists tout as sign of the Mid-Pleistocene antiquity of African populations. So your argument may help explain the linguistic conundrum at the cost of depriving out-of-Africa of its key molecular trump card.)”

            How so? Linguistic diversity is not dependent on genetic diversity, or vice versa. Actually they can be inversely correlated: let’s assume populations A and B, which speak languages a and b, respectively. When language a spreads to the area of language b, there is some gene flow from population A to population B –> genetic diversity in population B increases, although the linguistic diversity decreases.

            German:
            “The fact that PNG and the New World are so similar in the levels of linguistic diversity (high number of isolates and small families) suggests that we’re dealing here not with some American aberrancy but with a systemic phenomenon contrasted with the systemic phenomenon of low linguistic diversity in Africa and Europe. At least, people don’t doubt that PNG was peopled 40-60,000 years ago, so why would America be different?”

            Peopling of America seems to be older than 12 000 years, but there is no need to suppose 100 000 years. The model of divergence which Asya mentioned shows that great diversity can be gained in a short time, without the occasional nullifications by some expansive language families.

            German:
            “So, Pygmies and Niger-Congo populations are related both genetically and linguistically, which contradicts the theory that there was a language shift in Pygmies.”

            Actually it doesn’t. Haplogroup L1 (the common ancestor of L1b and L1c) is dated older than 100 000 years! So the relatedness is very remote indeed, and there may have occurred tens (or theoretically even hundreds) of language shifts after that.

            German:
            “It’s appropriate to invoke language replacement in the case of such dramatically different land masses as America and PNG because bigger geographies are prone to greater language expansions. Hence, the absorption of smaller languages. But this argument won’t work for Africa and Europe vs. the New World, as these are comparable land masses.”

            Language expansion is not determined by the land mass alone, but also by social factors, and therefore we cannot predict which language spreads and which not. And then come other expansive languages (like Germanic) and replace the earlier expansive languages (like Celtic), again nullifying the diversity gained during the earlier millennia.

            In Eurasia and Africa we have had so many nullifications in diversity that we have nothing left of the “original” diversity. In America or New Guinea we have more diversity left. We cannot take the present-day diversity as a supporting evidence for any hypothesis, because we know that it is only caused by very recent incidents.

            German:
            “You simply change your expectations as you shift up and down the time scale, but you don’t single out linguistics and kinship studies as too immature to model deep human prehistory, while elevating archaeology as a poster boy.”

            Still it is true that relatedness of languages can hardly be traced after ca. 10 000 years. Basically this is due to the fact that words get replaced by new words, and at some point we have too few words left to prove the affinity. For example the reconstructed vocabulary for Proto-Uralic or Proto-Indo-European consist of only hundreds of words, with PIE closer to 1000 (according to the newer and more critical estimates). Still, those protolanguages must have had much more words, but all the rest of them have disappeared in all or so many branches that we cannot reconstruct them in the protolanguage any more.

            Kinship words may be one of the most stable part of lexis, but even they can hardly be preserved tens of thousands of years. They get replaced by newer words, too.

            The original homeland of Homo sapiens can only be proven by genetics, because linguistics or archaeology cannot directly tell about the descending of people. And here the width of diversity is irrelevant – only the depth of diversity is relevant. This means that where we find the most ancestral forms of Y-chromosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA, there is the cradle of human. Africa seems to be that place – all the lineages in America are higher branches in the phylogenetic tree of human genes.

            German:
            “Using the current conventions of interpretation of genetic evidence, modern humans originated in northwest Africa, in the opposite corner from where mtDNA places the origins of modern humans.”

            Still, both of them point to Africa. Genetic Adam and Eve are not even of the same age! That only tells that there were bottlenecks and stuff among the early Homo sapiens: the earliest ancestor we can reach is the one who has descendants living today. Other old lineages have extincted during some later bottlenecks.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “How so? Linguistic diversity is not dependent on genetic diversity, or vice versa. Actually they can be inversely correlated”

            Well, that was my point. if we assume that the original African linguistic diversity was obliterated as a result of agropastoral expansions, then these very expansions created a wealth of genetic diversity due to population size increase and admixture between the colonizers and the autochthones. The Out-of-Africa model has used greater linguistic diversity in Africa as a sign of antiquity not admixture or effective population size increase.

            You run into several problems here, however: one is the amount of linguistic diversity in the Americas compared to the Old World, which cannot be generated by any known linguistic mechanisms (I don’t know what Asya’s explanation you favor). It’s similar to the amount of diversity attested in PNG, which was peopled 50-60,000 years ago. Postulating dramatic diversity reduction in the Africa and Europe and dramatic diversity increase in the Americas are two very poorly testable hypotheses. Out-of-America explains the pattern very nicely. The second problem is language extinction by means other than agropastoral expansions. Small-scale societies such as many American Indian and Papuan societies are very vulnerable and the rate of extinction in the Americas may have been greater than everywhere else even without the massive population expansions there. Finally the third problem is that there were massive – by New World standards – expansions in the Americas, so apriori America and Africa should be equal in the amount of diversity loss due to language replacement. In Africa big populations were replaced by even bigger ones, while in America small populations replaced even smaller ones. The net-net result is the same – America is more linguistically diverse than Africa for a reason that has nothing to do with replacements.

            “The model of divergence which Asya mentioned shows that great diversity can be gained in a short time, without the occasional nullifications by some expansive language families.”

            I think you mean Asya’s reference to Foley’s simulation. I respond to it elsewhere in this string. I understand it’s hard to keep up with all the exchanges.

            “Language expansion is not determined by the land mass alone, but also by social factors, and therefore we cannot predict which language spreads and which not.”

            Sure, I was just trying to make PNG-New World comparison as much as possible an apple-to-apple comparison.

            “Still it is true that relatedness of languages can hardly be traced after ca. 10 000 years.”

            True, but then levels of linguistic diversity on different continents are dramatically different and can be used to infer population history in the same way as genetic diversities are used. Plus we have a mass of typological data which is geographically patterned now to work with. Plus kinship terminologies as a well-studied part of the vocabulary and grammar, which seem to map nicely on the provinces defined by linguistic diversities and typological clusters. There’s a lot of evidence beyond traditional comparativist studies. And this evidence pertains to the defining feature of our species, hence it’s very important.

            “The original homeland of Homo sapiens can only be proven by genetics, because linguistics or archaeology cannot directly tell about the descending of people. And here the width of diversity is irrelevant – only the depth of diversity is relevant. This means that where we find the most ancestral forms of Y-chromosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA, there is the cradle of human. Africa seems to be that place – all the lineages in America are higher branches in the phylogenetic tree of human genes.”

            I noticed there are two kinds of social scientists – those who trust archaeology and those who trust genetics. But truth be told, the interpretation of genetic data depends on the kind of model of diversity gain and loss one uses. If admixture has been part and parcel of human population history, and we have more and more data to support this, then all the population trees will be biased toward the absorbed lineages. African lineages that appear the oldest may have been picked up from African archaics, while American Indians preserve the “pure” Homo sapiens sequences that got diluted in the Old World as expanding populations absorbed ancient hominins in Eurasia and then Africa. So, the terminal position of American Indian sequences in phylogenetic trees means not recency, but lack of archaic admixture. Language as the defining feature of behavioral modernity shows greatest time depth of diversification precisely where the “purest” modern human genetic make up is encountered.

            “Still, both of them point to Africa.”

            Or to two different places within Africa where modern humans interbred with archaics.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Actually, forces that decrease linguistic diversity are ultimately responsible because they can apply after diversity is created.

            Land size is only one potential factor that affects linguistic diversity. Geographic orientation, topography, climate, carrying capacity (discussed in my post on advection and language spread) — these are just a few more than come to mind.

            I am perfectly willing to think in evolutionary terms, but what you seem to be unwilling to understand is that linguistics can RELIABLY go back only so far. The whole out-of-where debate is on human migrations that are too early for a linguistic reach.

            The problem with calculating the rate of language family formation is that we don’t have a reliable model or an even-semi-reliable one. What proves that the families in the Americas are as old as IE/Austronesian? And not as old as, say, Germanic? Or West Germanic?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “what you seem to be unwilling to understand is that linguistics can RELIABLY go back only so far.”

            No, Asya, what you are missing is that all and any discipline involved in the study of prehistory can reliably go back only so far. Pleistocene archaeology is very different from Bronze Age archaeology in its ability to document human life. You simply change your expectations as you shift up and down the time scale, but you don’t single out linguistics and kinship studies as too immature to model deep human prehistory, while elevating archaeology as a poster boy. Within every discipline there’s a treasure trove of methods and theories to tackle human origins, one just has to study them and then match the results against those of other disciplines.

            “Actually, forces that decrease linguistic diversity are ultimately
            responsible because they can apply after diversity is created.”

            And diversification can happen after language replacement.

            “The problem with calculating the rate of language family formation is that we don’t have a reliable model or an even-semi-reliable one.”

            One can say the same thing about the molecular clock. That’s the nature of historical inquiry.

            “What proves that the families in the Americas are as old as IE/Austronesian?”

            Lexicostatistics and related methodologies have been used to date American Indian families, just like IE, Austronesian and all others. Archaeological cultures have been proposed to pin down the source of some of Amerindian families, just like they were identified for Austronesian and IE. These are the same methods. Are they completely reliable? No. Are they uniform across the globe. Yes.

            “The whole out-of-where debate is on human migrations that are too early for a linguistic reach.”

            This is just agnosticism. You are welcome to entertain it, but in all fairness it needs to be applied across the board, not just to linguistics.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “No, Asya, what you are missing is that all and any discipline involved
            in the study of prehistory can reliably go back only so far” — that’s rather vacuously true. All disciplines can go only so far. The “so far” of linguistics is just much less deep than that of other disciplines. Nor do I think linguistics “immature” for not being able to shed light on the human past further than it can. It’s like saying that a microscope is “immature” for now showing the moon. Just get a telescope. Not a perfect tool, it is still more suitable for looking at other planets. Ditto with archeology or genetics vs. linguistics.

            “And diversification can happen after language replacement.” — yes, but languages cannot disappear before they arise.

            “One can say the same thing about the molecular clock.” — one can say anything, but more often than not it reflects one’s own prejudices.

            “Lexicostatistics have been used to date American Indian families” — you’ll forgive me but I am not a big believer in lexicostatistics. You can read my critical arguments against in the previous posts in this series.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Again I don’t see anything in your argument that’s not plain intimidation and ignorance. You throw in a bunch of textbook truths, which I’m perfectly familiar with, respond to none of my criticisms and substitute a preacher’s zeal for a scientific rigor. You continue to confirm that scientists have not extricated themselves from the pre-scientific worldview when it comes to human origins.

            Again, let’s go argument by argument:

            1.” Is it possible that you have not kept abreast of developments, and are unaware of such sites as Blombos cave?”

            There’s nothing in the symbolic arsenal of Blombos Cave that Neandertals weren’t doing in Europe, and Neandertals are not modern humans. In general, archaeology is very fuzzy on what constitutes behavioral modernity but the consensus is that roughly at 50K or even later there’s a dramatic change in technology, spatial organization, etc. that signifies the emergence of behaviorally modern humans.

            “At the moment, your entire claim rests on the idea that one day, early Pleistocene remains may be found in the Americas – despite the fact that literally 200 years of research has found nothing of the sort, and despite the enormous amount of effort given to research on the Americas in the Pleistocene.”

            Wrong. It’s archaeology’s entire claim that rests on the fact that archaeologists haven’t found much in America earlier than 12,000 years. And it’s a flawed assumption. My claim rests on an interdisciplinary synthesis in which archaeology plays a well-defined and a well-contained role.

            “You’re the one claiming that entire scientific orthodoxy is wrong on the basis of a very spurious idea that science is always infected by culture or pre-scientific ideas.”

            It’s a plain fact that the idea that America was peopled from Siberia relatively recently came from the lips of the Jesuit missionary Jose de Acosta in 16th century. It IS a pre-scientific relic. This has nothing to do with my ego. I understand you want to pit historiography against stratigraphy, but at least you could do some homework.

            “none of the existing archaeological evidence supports your claim, and in fact points directly against it.”

            Wrong. Everything that we learned in the past 10-15 years about human prehistory in the Americas supports my claim. Pre-Clovis is a fact. A back migration to Alaska and Northeast Asia from the southern regions of North America is a very plausible scenario archaeologically. The earliest Paleoindian skulls are not Mongoloid.

            “The only areas where these things haven’t been found have been difficult to excavate or which are bad for preservation, like tropical forest. In the Americas, even the most hospitable and easily-excavable environments show no evidence of human life until the late Pleistocene. You can’t magic that away with a wave of your ‘science-is-cultural’ hand.”

            I totally can. There are certain standards of ascertaining a fact. Unless you conclusively demonstrate archaeologically when and where America was peopled from and then build a theory of how it has accrued 2/3 of world linguistic diversity, you can’t rely on the fact that you haven’t found much in the Americas prior to 12,000 YBP. It’s a subjective problem of archaeology and its ability to detect human presence and not proof that humans were not in the New World prior to 12,000 years.

            Your problem that you use a grandmother’s kitchen logic instead of scientific logic.

            “You can claim that low population density is responsible for the absence of remains, but that isn’t thinking like an archaeologist. Humans leave traces of their activities. I’m not expecting thousands of corpses to suddenly appear in the archaeological record. But some indication of human life would be appreciated. That is easily found in Pleistocene Britain, which was incredibly low in population density (as was the Pleistocene everwhere, I’d like to add). Archeologists have found old fireplaces, skeletons, scavenged carcases, tools – you name it, it’s been found in early Pleistocene Afro-Eurasia.”

            What can Mother England teach us about the New World? It’s a Tea Party time. A better example is this: Denisova hominin is a separate species and it’s attested only as a tooth and as a pinkie. Why did it take so long for archaeologists to find it? And mind you we only know that it’s a separate species because we’ve recently developed methods to retrieve ancient DNA. Archaeology is not a reliable discipline when it comes to prehistory. Get used to it. Things have changed. I know it’s hard for a Brit to swallow.

            “Isolation, by the way, isn’t necessarily key to speciation. There are different mechanisms – I’d recommend reading some Coyne and Orr, “Speciation”, (or just Coyne, “Why Evolution Is True”) to get you on track there.”

            Am very surprised to hear that. All forms of speciation, with the exception of sympatric speciation, involve isolation. Sympatric speciation is being questioned as not a true speciation. Interbreeding always precludes speciation. Humans are morphologically so unique that I doubt that we could evolve right next to archaics.

            “if you want to make a solid case for the evolution of a species in a particular place, you can’t just say that isolation is key. You have to show a sequence in the strata.”

            We have a hominin sequence in East Asia. What we’ve been missing is the information from modern human populations such as linguistics and kinship studies to identify where we may have the strongest signal of behavioral modernity. And I believe it’s in the Americas next door to East Asia. So we have isolation and we have a sequence. Time will fill in the gaps as it has done so many times.

            “stratigraphy as a whole is against you.”

            How is it against me? Buttermilk Creek, Monte Verde, Paisley Caves are all stratigraphic disprovals of Clovis-I? More to come.

            “(In a blogpost you wrote critical of John Hawks’ blog, you claimed that
            Hawks’ list of books, which included Meltzer’s, was outdated. I had no
            idea that a book published in 2011 could become outdated by 2012 in such
            a slow-moving field.)”

            Did Meltzer accept Buttermilk Creek or Paisley Caves? Did he accept the diversity of archaeological cultures contemporaneous with Clovis? Did he accept that Clovis is associated with a back migration out of the Americas?

            “You are repeating the classic anti-science claims in support of your hypothesis: that science is inherently bounded and infected by ‘culture’, that the problem of induction means that we can never infer anything from archaeological data, etc. It’s just hand-waving. I’d suggest giving up your ludicrous theory – it really isn’t supported by the evidence.”

            But it is! How can you deny that? Science is outside of culture? How is it diiferent from Bible studies then? I understand you would like to get rid of history, linguistics, kinship studies, ethnology, anthropology, etc. and leave only stratigraphy but it only betrays your ignorance. You’ve provided me with enough evidence of that. Why would I drop my theory??? Chris Stringer believes in one thing, I disagree, I marshal evidence in favor of a different theory, you disagree, I disagree with you, that’s normal. Why should I drop anything?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Let me jump in again and repeat that you can’t turn to linguistics for proof the out-of-America theory.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Yes, you surely can, provided you believe in linguistic evolution. Synchronic linguists, of course, is the majority out there and they would deny that any evolutionary inferences can be drawn from languages, but to me it’s just a posture belonging with the culture of science. It’s just an agnostic reversal of archaeologists’ belief that archaeology is divinely commissioned to answer origin questions. I prefer not to fall into extremes but select most objective elements of different disciplines to see what those facts can actually teach us.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Weird rhetoric… As a synchronic linguist, I do believe in language evolution (as in “language changes” — and who wouldn’t?!) and in that evolutionary inferences can be drawn from languages. I just don’t think that one can draw the evolutionary inferences that YOU would like us to draw. P.S. I wonder where your animosity towards synchronic linguistics comes from?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Oh, no animosity whatsoever. I just wouldn’t look at issues of human origins and language origins with a synchronist’s assumptions. You seem to be equally opposed to interpreting linguistic evidence from an out-of-Africa angle as well as from an out-of-America angle. So, it’s really not about ME. Unless you favor a multiregionalist solution and see support for it in world languages, I can’t really see how your belief in language evolution manifests itself.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            You must have entirely misunderstood my post on out-of-Africa and phoneme counting. I am opposed to BADLY interpreting BAD linguistic evidence (in many cases, actually, missing the most basic linguistic concepts!). Properly used, linguistic evidence can be used to trace migrations, though much more recent ones than the out-of-X issue. As for the synchrony/diachrony dichotomy, this is just two different perspectives on language, not necessarily contradicting each other. In fact, both approaches can feed and inform each other, as I have shown in my work on Russian nominals. You are welcome to write me privately for files, if you don’t have access to my linguistic work where you are.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “As for the synchrony/diachrony dichotomy, this is just two different perspectives on language, not necessarily contradicting each other.”

            Of course.

            “Properly used, linguistic evidence can be used to trace migrations, though much more recent ones than the out-of-X issue.”

            Increasingly, with the development of population linguistics, which can be linked to kinship studies, all the way to the out-of-X event.

            I’d love to see your published works. Could you send them to me at gdziebel at yahoo? Thanks.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            By linguistic evidence I mean internal properties of languages not peoples who speak them. Since such properties change too fast, I don’t see how we can ever use them for figuring out the out-of-X problem.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “Since such properties change too fast…”

            Why too fast? What’s your benchmark? Some traits change, others remain unchanged, some traits are constrained in the number of states they can assume. You may want to read Nichols’s Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. How does being too fast preclude one from trying to understand the patterns of evolution? mtDNA, for comparison, has a hypervariable segment, which has been used to build phylogenies from the get-go.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            While some linguistic traits may remain unchanged for a while, there is nothing in language that is not subject to change. And while variation and hence change are constrained by certain parameters, it doesn’t mean that languages cannot change back-and-forth or in a cycle with respect to a given property. I known Johanna Nichols’s work very well, and while I think it’s very interesting, I think much is problematic there. As for your question about “fast”, it is basically what makes linguistics a “microscope” compared to mtDNA’s “telescope”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Would love to read your thoughts on the specific aspects of Nichols’s work if you’ve published them. You have my e-mail address.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            No I haven’t. Outside GeoCurrents, I am publishing mostly on my linguistic speciality: synchronic aspects of the syntax and semantics of nominals. Martin and I’ll probably include quite a bit of (critical) discussion of Nichols’s work into our course this coming Winter but I take it you are located too far to attend?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Yes, I’m in NYC but may be coming to the Bay Area for work this winter. Keep me posted, I may be able to swing by. Thanks.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig
          • Al West

            “What we’ve been missing is the information from modern human populations
            such as linguistics and kinship studies to identify where we may have
            the strongest signal of behavioral modernity.”

            That doesn’t even make sense. This is such an incoherent idea that I’m not even sure if there’s any point in discussing it. All modern humans are, well, behaviourally modern. Using languages and kinship terminologies, both of which change in response to many variables and are adopted and discarded for many reasons, is not going to tell you anything about the origins of behavioural modernity. Linguistics can take you back to some point in the Holocene – it seems to me as if 6-7,000 BP is the outer limit. Kinship terminologies can take you back a few years – maybe a few decades, perhaps a few centuries at most. They change a lot. Neither will tell you about the origin of humanity. It is astounding that you think the ‘evidence’ from these lines of inquiry trumps the basis of our knowledge of prehistory: archaeology.

            Linguistics is fantastic, and I have studied kinship intensively (I studied social anthropology, not archaeology). But these are Anthropocene methods. They tell you about what people are doing now, and linguistics can tell you quite a bit about the last 6,000 years or so. They can’t inform the debate on human origins, which occurred an order of magnitude earlier than that.

            And please don’t turn this into a national thing. I am not a patriot or a nationalist, and my country of origin has nothing to do with the view I take – the sensible view that humans originated in Africa, the view that accords with the evidence and doesn’t rely on lines of inquiry that are never themselves justified.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “Using languages and kinship terminologies, both of which change in response to many variables and are adopted and discarded for many reasons, is not going to tell you anything about the origins of behavioural modernity… Linguistics is fantastic, and I have studied kinship intensively (I
            studied social anthropology, not archaeology). But these are
            Anthropocene methods.”

            What planet did you graduate from, Al? There’s a whole tradition of studying human kinship and kin terminologies from an evolutionary perspective. Recently, it was integrated with primatological data by a leading primatologist, Bernard Chapais, in Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society. Now we have a model that traces kinship evolution from apes through hominins to modern humans and then we have a model whereby the earliest form of modern human kinship system (best attested in the Americas and most poorly in Africa) has spawned all the others through progressive changes in marital rules. Kinship studies is strategically positioned between genetics and linguistics and is a principal source of information about modern human social evolution. What is disconcerting about archaeologists is that they claim to know for a fact where humans originated from and where they didn’t but they know nothing about what constitutes humanity. It’s a sad outcome of generations of hyperspecialization in Western academias.

            “And please don’t turn this into a national thing. I am not a patriot or a nationalist, and my country of origin has nothing to do with the view I take.”

            It started off as a joke, but now I’m thinking may be you ARE a patriot, a patriot of archaeology.

            “doesn’t rely on lines of inquiry that are never themselves justified.”

            A multidisciplinary synthesis is the only way to understand human evolution. This is much more justified than relying on such a glorified Victorian passion as archaeology to hold keys to all the mysteries of mankind.

            “the sensible view that humans originated in Africa”

            Yes, Africa, the land where click-speaking bushmen have been isolated from the rest of mankind for 140,000 years, where short-statured foragers split from farmers 70,000 years ago and where farmers have maintained their black skin pigmentation since mankind has lost its bodily hair, has been a colony of Western cosmologists for quite some time now.

          • Al West

            I think – to understate it – that you did not understand Chapais’ book. It isn’t about kinship terminology, but the basis of kinship. Terminology is quite different, as any student of kinship will tell you. I read ‘Primeval Kinship’ at Oxford and waxed lyrical about it, and I have a copy on the shelf above me. It is not a book concerned with terminology, it doesn’t show kinship evolves over time in anything but a biological sense, and it doesn’t fit with your theory. Nor does Chapais’s work base itself on anything remotely like the out-of-America assertion, and it is notable that Chapais relies primarily on primatological work among African apes, not Asian ones (although there is some of that). In fact, the book makes most sense of the idea that kinship terminologies and pre-state social structures will change in unpredictable ways within the confines of the combined descent/alliance system humans have inherited from their African Pleistocene forebears.

            The earliest form of human kinship might have been anything. It almost certainly involved some notion of descent and some notion of allying groups through the establishment of permanent, monogamous relationships between children or siblings. Beyond that it is speculation. Chapais, remember, was concerned with isolating the *paradigmatic* kinship structure, *not* the “earliest” form. Moreover, four-section systems, matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, etc, fit equally well with the descent/alliance combo Chapais isolated, and such systems can be found in Australia (settled 50,000 BP), Indonesia (before 50,000 BP), South America, Africa, India, pre-modern Europe, and southeastern China. You are treating the American kinship systems as if they preserved features inherited directly from the Pleistocene, but, again, you provide no reason for believing this, and you chose the wrong book – ‘Primeval Kinship’ – to try to bolster your claim, because it doesn’t, at all. It doesn’t outline an earliest form of kinship, and it doesn’t say where we might expect to find it, or how it might have evolved over the 100,000 years of human existence.

            And again, you focus on Africa’s linguistic homogeneity. I *sincerely* recommend Phillipson’s “African Archaeology”. It really will clear up any problems you have, from the nonsense about Africa’s linguistic homogeneity (a result of the recent [2000 BP] propagation of Niger-Congo from West Africa) to the idea that low population density in the Pleistocene results in no finds. You really, genuinely, seem to believe that language and kinship – two elements of life whose existence is wholly in human brains and cannot be isolated and investigated at time-depths of more than 6,000 years or so – are so static as to provide a window into the Pleistocene. That makes absolutely no sense.

            And I am not a patriot of anything. I didn’t even study archaeology at university – I just attend(ed) a lot of lectures and read a lot of archaeology. Why? Because it gives the clearest and least ambiguous evidence about the past. It shows us who was living where, when, doing what. It can only reveal the past in the way the fossil record does, but who could ignore the predictive power of stratigraphy, of the fossil record? Who would ignore it in favour of things that, as Asya said, change so readily, like language and kinship?

            Look in the earth and see what you find. If you ever find human remains, of any kind, in America from before 12,000 BP, do let me know.

            Also, Meltzer’s “First Peoples…” is an excellent account not only of the American Pleistocene but also – maybe even primarily – the debate surrounding it. I’m amazed you haven’t read it, as it appears you haven’t.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “I think – to understate it – that you did not understand Chapais’ book. It isn’t about kinship terminology, but the basis of kinship.”

            You impute me what I have never said. Chapais uses the Levi-Straussian model of the earliest modern human kinship as a model toward which he drives his analysis of primatological data because the former must have evolved from an earlier hominin form, which in turn evolved from a primate antecedent.

            “Terminology is quite different, as any student of kinship will tell you.”

            No need to go very far. I wrote a whole book on kinship terminologies. Kinship terminologies are related to social organization and marital rules and there’s voluminous research on what terminological features signal the earliest form of modern human kinship and its derivatives.

            “Nor does Chapais’s work base itself on anything remotely like the out-of-America assertion, and it is notable that Chapais relies primarily on primatological work among African apes, not Asian ones”

            This is an understandable weakness of this book. But it’s a well-know fact in primatologcial circles that human sociality is much more akin to that of New World monkeys than that of African apes. It’s explained as convergence, of course, but it needs to be better accounted for in a book such as Chapais’s.

            “And again, you focus on Africa’s linguistic homogeneity. I *sincerely* recommend Phillipson’s “African Archaeology”. It really will clear up any problems you have, from the nonsense about Africa’s linguistic homogeneity (a result of the recent [2000 BP] propagation of Niger-Congo from West Africa)”

            I read this book. It’s a great book, but you’re using it to a wrong end. How can archaeology prove that Africa used to be more diverse than America linguistically prior to agropastoral expansions?

            “You really, genuinely, seem to believe that language and kinship – two elements of life whose existence is wholly in human brains and cannot be isolated and investigated at time-depths of more than 6,000 years or so – are so static as to provide a window into the Pleistocene.”

            I’ve never said they were static. Not at all. Static features are plesiomorphies that can’t be used for phylogenetic work. Kinship terminologies change predictably because there are only so many logical possibilities for them to change and scholars have been monitoring change patterns for 150 years, across languages and geographies.

            “Look in the earth and see what you find. If you ever find human
            remains, of any kind, in America from before 12,000 BP, do let me know.”

            It will be in the news.

            “Also, Meltzer’s “First Peoples…” is an excellent account not only of the American Pleistocene but also – maybe even primarily – the debate surrounding it. I’m amazed you haven’t read it, as it appears you haven’t.”

            I have. Too bad, it’s already outdated. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21436451. I would rather see Meltzer go into the field and excavate a couple of pre-Clovis sites to his own liking than write another book about other people’s work in this direction. As Niede Guidon who directed the “potential” 40,000 Pedra Furada site once wrote, American archaeologists prefer to publish and not to excavate.

            “I didn’t even study archaeology at university – I just attend(ed) a lot of lectures and read a lot of archaeology.”

            That exactly how myths propagate. I did study archaeology and did go to the field. Maybe that’s why we ended up in two different places on the human origins issue?

          • Al West

            It seems strange that you want proof that African languages were once more diverse. That seems to be the null hypothesis. The linguistics is pretty clear: Niger-Congo originated somewhere in the northwest of Africa, possibly around what is now Nigeria. I don’t think Africa has to be more or less linguistically diverse than the Americas; its orthogonal to the question of human origins. Linguistics can only deal with attested or reconstructed languages, and that can only take us back about 6,000 years. Humans came into existence about 100,000 years ago.

            Language changes a lot, but it’s not necessarily the speed that’s important (that varies a lot, cf. Icelandic). It’s the variables that affect it. Whether you speak one language or another is a choice affected by technology, peer pressure, violence, and any number of other variables. In late-Holocene West Africa, the development of yam agriculture and subsequent high population densities resulted in social innovations that, combined with the introduction of iron from the northeast, allowed for the Niger-Congo language family to spread across tropical Africa (well-attested archaeologically). Whether the people the Niger-Congoans came across spoke one language or fifty or five hundred is almost irrelevant, because even before Niger-Congo spread across the continent, there had been a gap of nearly 100,000 years between the rise of the first human communities, and any number of other things could have affected the linguistic situation of Africa. Linguistics can’t tell you anything of substance about life so long ago.

            Comparative linguistics can only take you so far back, and if you think it’s of any use in telling you about human origins, then I’m not sure you understand the time-depths involved.

            Kinship terminology is usually related to social structure and rules, but it isn’t a necessary connection. It’s easy to find two societies practicing matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, for instance, but which have different terminologies. Terminologies change in response to lots of things, and it is easy for terminologies to be preserved while economic conditions warp the structure of a society, resulting in a disconnect between terminology, formally defined, and social structure. This means that even if you can reconstruct kin terms to a proto-language, you can’t infer that they referred to precisely the same kin as they do today, and you therefore can’t infer the nature of earlier social structure from terminology (without some other kind of support). Kinship isn’t like technology. Until you can show otherwise, we have to assume that kinship terminologies cannot tell us about the Pleistocene.

            You are avoiding the archaeology again. And again you expect us to wait. How long do you think we should wait for your evidence? It’s already been two centuries, and a heck of a lot of both excavation and publication, and nothing has appeared from before 12,000 BP (or so). How long should we wait? In Europe, Africa, and Asia, human remains turn up all the time. The bones from the Neander valley were discovered by accident, even, and such finds happen frequently. In America, two centuries of concerted effort has uncovered nothing of early Pleistocene antiquity. “It will be in the news.” Again with the handwaving.

            You asked which planet I graduated from. But let’s get some perspective here: you are pushing a theory of human origins so lacking in evidence that it doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. It has no archaeological evidence, or even genetic evidence, and the ‘evidence’ you have cobbled together from studies of kinship terminology (inherently spurious) and linguistics (of use only up to the middle Holocene) is not authoritative. In fact, it makes no sense, and you have given no reason why we should take it as anything other than grasping at straws.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “It seems strange that you want proof that African languages were once more diverse. That seems to be the null hypothesis.”

            You stacking up the deck and artificially excluding everything but archaeology from the conversation. No, the null hypothesis is that all continental populations have the same antiquity. Then, we go about looking at different evidence to see for which continent we have special evidence that it was peopled later than others. Linguistic diversity is one factor, genetic diversity is another. If linguistic diversity is low, then the population that founded it likely brought with it a subset of linguistic diversity found in a source area and it has grown in size from a small founder base, while the source area retained small population size. Africa has never recovered from the original linguistic bottleneck, although of course its current linguistic diversity is reduced than it was prior to the expansion of agropastoralists.

            “Humans came into existence about 100,000 years ago.”

            We have secure data for only 50,000. The rest are anatomically modern humans that show little signs of modern human behavior. Not a single living human population is anatomically modern but behaviorally archaic. Most importantly, we don’t have ancient DNA to ascertain if their are our ancestors.

            ” Linguistics can only deal with attested or reconstructed languages, and that can only take us back about 6,000 years.”

            No. Levels of linguistic diversity differ dramatically across continents and correspond well to the molecular genetic picture. One can draw historical inferences from these distributions. Plus we have a growing amount of typological information from the majority of the 6000 languages spoken in the world. They also show geographic clustering. Nothing much different from genetics.

            “because even before Niger-Congo spread across the continent, there had been a gap of nearly 100,000 years between the rise of the first human communities, and any number of other things could have affected the linguistic situation of Africa.”

            Why 100,000 years? As the Hofmeyr skull demonstrates at 36,000 we have people living in Africa who had clear Eurasian affinities. Africa may have been peopled as late as 50,000 years ago and absorbed some pre-existing archaics who were undergoing independent sapientization. Neandertals in Europe show a similar process with blade technologies springing up independently of their invention by Cro-Magnons.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “You are avoiding the archaeology again. And again you expect us to wait. How long do you think we should wait for your evidence? It’s already been two centuries, and a heck of a lot of both excavation and publication, and nothing has appeared from before 12,000 BP (or so). How long should we wait? In Europe, Africa, and Asia, human remains turn up all the time. The bones from the Neander valley were discovered
            by accident, even, and such finds happen frequently. In America, two centuries of concerted effort has uncovered nothing of early Pleistocene antiquity. “It will be in the news.” Again with the handwaving.”

            “In the news” was a joke. On a more serious note, it’s a proven fact that the rate of archaeological recovery on different continents varies. Until some 25 years ago, Australia was thought to have been peopled 10,000 years ago. Now it’s upward of 50,000. Europe, on the other hand, recovered their first Neandertal 150 years ago. What is indeed notable is that every claim for Amerindian recency in the New World has been disproved in the 20th century. I guess the way to speed up archaeological recovery in the New World is remove the biases that people have and pour more funds into pre-Clovis research. Archaeologists in the New World would admit that it’s extremely difficult to obtain funds for pre-Clovis research and it may be career-ending interest in the first place.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “”Look in the earth and see what you find. If you ever find human
            remains, of any kind, in America from before 12,000 BP, do let me know.” It will be in the news.”

            Shall we postpone the continuation of this discussion till then, gentlemen?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            I told you, Asya, from the very beginning, it’s an off topic discussion.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            It’s not off-topic in principle, but it does seem to revolve in circles now, so I am personally learning little new from it. You are welcome to continue, of course, but please keep the rhetoric in check. Some of the name-calling and personal invectives are rather off-putting.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            I’m fine with closing it but will stick around if Al is still interested. Agree on name-calling.

          • Al West

            I agree that a multi-disciplinary synthesis is necessary, by the way, and that is what led me to read archaeological works in the first place, as well as linguistic ones. I’m not saying that archaeology has all the answers. But you’re saying that the *least* stable and least documented of all human phenomena trump finding actual, material, evidence of human activity. You appear to believe that I hate linguistics – in fact, I don’t. I love it. I’m not a professional, but linguistics is, to me, key, and I centre most of my archaeological interests around the correlation with language families, as the synthesis of this data provides the clearest view into prehistory (my latest interest is in Austroasiatic, which correlates well with the archaeological evidence in a Woerter und Sachen sense). I don’t hate linguistics at all, and I’m not placing archaeology on a pedestal. But you *do* seem to hate archaeology. You think it’s a “glorified Victorian passion”, rather than a set of sophisticated methods and theories for investigating the past through human material remains. I have a feeling that despite all of your multi-disciplinary pretensions, you hate the fact that the archaeological evidence is against your claim.

            The archaeological evidence does have precedence. I wanted to avoid saying that, as I know that you hate archaeology, but of course it has precedence – it actually comes from the time under discussion, and it is supported by multiple independent lines of inquiry: not only stratigraphy and seriation, but radiometric dating, tree-rings, written accounts. It is the only stuff that we know comes directly from the Pleistocene – the remains people left behind.

            And your claim that the languages and kinship systems of America have preserved an archaic form is exactly the kind of ethnocentric, pre-scientific nonsense you warn against. It is, indeed, a classic example of the notion that indigenous Americans are people without history, preserving features of life since the Pleistocene.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “And your claim that the languages and kinship systems of America have preserved an archaic form is exactly the kind of ethnocentric, pre-scientific nonsense you warn against. It is, indeed, a classic example of the notion that indigenous Americans are people without history, preserving features of life since the Pleistocene.”

            Yes, agree, this is a constant danger when one uses modern populations to infer the past. Geneticists, for instance, believe that Khoisans have more genetic matches with chimps than other modern human populations and these matches are of course, in their opinion, identity-by-descent and not homoplasies. So, Nelson Mandela is more like a chimp than Tony Blair. On the other hand, we can’t assume, as I think Asya does, that all languages and populations march forward with the same propensity for change constantly obliterating all signs of common descent. American Indians have been in isolation from the rest of human populations for at least 15,000 years, hence one can expect some retentions and some extra diversification. This is precisely what we see in linguistics and kinship systems.

            “You think it’s a “glorified Victorian passion”, rather than a set of
            sophisticated methods and theories for investigating the past through human material remains.”

            Then, how come this “high science” have failed to identify the precise archaeological antecedents for the earliest American Indian cultures and instead has to rely on the no-evidence-for-human-presence-in-the Americas-before-12000-years argument in order to supposedly reconstruct how America was peopled? There’s no string of archaeological cultures connecting Northeast Asia via Alaska with Tierra del Fuego that would illustrate using clear chronology and typological criteria how populations spread across the New World. Instead, we have a string of sites connecting Mesa points in Alaska back to its Clovis antecedents in southern North America. The fluted point from the Uptar site is also younger than Clovis and typologically distinct, outside of fluting and bifacial technology, which is consistent with it being most geographically removed from a potential source of Clovis technology in Southern North America.

            This failure would be an expected outcome if archaeology was a Victorian passion and not a sophisticated science.

            There’s no archaeological evidence for a migration out of Africa either. The simplest explanation for these misses is that archaeology, just like historical linguistics, is robust and sophisticated within a Holocene time horizon. Anything beyond that is still in its infancy. And the infancy of a discipline doesn’t mean the lack of antiquity of populations.

            ” I have a feeling that despite all of your multi-disciplinary
            pretensions, you hate the fact that the archaeological evidence is against your claim.”

            I hate the fact that archaeology has failed to provide any substance to its claim that America was peopled much later than the other continents. And it misguided geneticists at the early stage of their research by making the impression that their evidence is solid. Geneticists always calibrated their out-of-Africa arguments against what they thought was a fact thanks to archaeology – that America was peopled relatively recently. if America is the most recently populated continent and the intragroup genetic diversity is the lowest there, it means Africa must be the oldest continent because intergroup genetic diversity there is the highest.

          • Al West

            You want a string of archaeological cultures going all the way down the Americas? That’s very similar to the creationist claim that the theory of evolution is wrong because the fossil record isn’t perfect. Could you imagine a circumstance under which the archaeological record would not show an orderly progression across the continent? I can: the first humans arrived and spread throughout the Americas quickly, within a thousand years from Alaska to Chile. With a low population density, they left few remains, but enough to give some indication of their presence, absent, of course, in the strata from before they arrived.

            Archaeology is useful all the way through to the origins of the planet, under different guises (paleontology, etc, when not directly discussing humans). It doesn’t have a Holocene time limit – and there’s no reason why it would. Pleistocene sites can be investigated in precisely the same way as any other: by digging deep, identifying the strata, and looking at what is present at different levels. The interpretation may be harder before the Holocene, but that’s not necessarily true. Discover a hoard of thousands of tuna bones and you can infer that deep-sea fishing was going on (as indeed it must have been in the Timor Sea 40,000 years ago). Archaeology doesn’t have a time limit, and it can easily find traces of human activity at enormous time depths. Linguistics and kinship terminologies, however, have certain time limits based on the ability of their methods to provide real evidence. And even if you believe that languages don’t change all the time such that evidence of common descent is obliterated, you have to show why you think this.

            And there’s plenty of evidence of migration out of Africa – in the fact, for instance, that humans appear in the archaeological record there about 100,000 years ago and then appear elsewhere later on. No, there isn’t a single continuous stream of archaeological cultures. I believe that might be expecting too much.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            ” Could you imagine a circumstance under which the archaeological record would not show an orderly progression across the continent? I can…”

            Then we don’t need archaeology at all. Let’s just stay with your imagination.

            “With a low population density, they left few remains, but enough to give some indication of their presence, absent, of course, in the strata from before they arrived.”

            So you accept the low density factor? Good. Regarding the absence of evidence from the deeper strata, we had had people claiming precisely that before Clovis was discovered and before Buttermilk was discovered. They were proven wrong.

            “Linguistics and kinship terminologies, however, have certain time limits based on the ability of their methods to provide real evidence.”

            Sure. Modern humans have time limits, too. We don’t need all of time to Big Bang to think about the power of archaeology in order to solve the problem of modern human origins. We just need to have the right tools from different disciplines.

            “No, there isn’t a single continuous stream of archaeological cultures. I believe that might be expecting too much.”

            This is unbelievable. Archaeology has convinced everybody of a certain cosmology but doesn’t consider it necessary to provide sufficient evidence for its claims. Creationists would indeed laugh outloud. On another note, a string of cultures from Buttermilk to Mesa and Uptar somehow exists but a string of cultures from Alaska to Buttermilk doesn’t. But that’s not evidence of anything because archaeologists give us their word that America was peopled 12,000 years ago.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Bravo!

  • Jaska

    I put my answer as a new comment, hopefully it appears in the end or the beginning of the long thread to be easily found…

    German:
    “You run into several problems here, however: one is the amount of linguistic diversity in the Americas compared to the Old World, which cannot be generated by any known linguistic mechanisms (I don’t know what Asya’s explanation you favor). It’s similar to the amount of diversity attested in PNG, which was peopled 50-60,000 years ago.”

    There is no basis to conclude that the diversity in PNG MUST be that old, because it may well be much younger. There can have occurred multiple nullifying expansions, too, before the present diversity began to appear.

    German:
    “Postulating dramatic diversity reduction in the Africa and Europe and dramatic diversity increase in the Americas are two very poorly testable hypotheses.”

    No, just the opposite: we KNOW that there has occurred a dramatic decrease in diversity in Eurasia and Africa. When we follow back in time the current wide-spread language families, around 5000 BC we are in a situation where there are small islands of known protolanguages scattered in the sea of “emptyness” (= unknown, since lost languages). Roughly estimating the land area, the languages in more than 95 % of all the landmass in Eurasia and Africa have lost their original diversity because of the expansion of the present-day expansive language families.

    So, when considering the diversity as language families per unit of area (= width of diversity), it is a fact that the reduction of diversity in Eurasia and Africa during the last 7 000 years is around 95 % (or at least 90 %, if we allow wider primary homelands).

    What comes to the depth of diversity: there is no need to suppose that the linguistic diversity in PNG reflects a formal pattern where a language splits into two always after 500 years. If we suppose an expansion covering the whole of the island rapidly, we would have a situation where one language (= protolanguage) splits into 50 different languages within 500 years. If there are ca. 10 000 years from this expansion, we probably could no more recognize the languages to be related at all.

    So, a diversity of 50 languages could be due to a slow divergence during the last 50 000 years, but it could equally well be due to a rapid expansion and divergence only within the last 10 000 years. All we can operate with are the language families, and beyond them we have no information about their true relatedness or the true taxonomy of “Proto-Papua-New-Guinean”. Neither model can be excluded, because there can be no evidence preceding the language families supporting or disproving either option.

    German:
    “Small-scale societies such as many American Indian and Papuan societies are very vulnerable and the rate of extinction in the Americas may have been greater than everywhere else even without the massive population expansions there.”

    That may be one reason why we have so many distinct language families in America. Two present-day language families could perhaps be seen to be related, if some of their relative was not lost. For example Samoyedic and Hungarian share the least words with any other Uralic branch due to their lexical innovativeness. After a few millennia from now, we probably could not see their relatedness if all the other Uralic languages were lost. We would need some lexically conservative branch, like Finnic, which shares more words with them both than they do with each other, in order to have a sufficient vocabulary to prove the genealogical affinity.

    The more expansive the language family, the more it has languages and thus the more probable it is that there have survived enough languages to prove the affinity. Thus if there earlier were no expansive enough language families in America and PNG, it could explain the shallow linguistic horizon, so that we can no more prove the relatedness of distinct language families.

    German:
    “The net-net result is the same – America is more linguistically diverse than Africa for a reason that has nothing to do with replacements.”

    How can you exclude the language replacement? There were some expansive language families in America, but in Eurasia and Africa the expansive language families are everywhere.

    German:
    “If admixture has been part and parcel of human population history, and we have more and more data to support this, then all the population trees will be biased toward the absorbed lineages. African lineages that appear the oldest may have been picked up from African archaics, while American Indians preserve the “pure” Homo sapiens sequences that got diluted in the Old World as expanding populations absorbed ancient hominins in Eurasia and then Africa.”

    Still the American lineages are descendants of the Old World lineages, no matter if they come from archaic hominids or not. It means that there is no evidence about the migration from America to the Old World (except to Beringia), but all the migrations went to America.

    Genetic evidence clearly disproves the Out of America -hypothesis.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

      “There were some expansive language families in America, but in Eurasia

      and Africa the expansive language families are everywhere.”

      Wrong. Just as there are many more isolates in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa, there are many more expansive families in the Americas than there are in Eurasia or Africa. Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene, Algic, Uto-Aztecan, Iroquois, Quechuan, Carib, Tupi-Guarani, Oto-Manguean, Arawakan, to name a few. They are all expansive, they are just smaller in terms of underlying population numbers. See, e.g., Roger Blench’s Accounting for the pattern of Amerindian Languages. Plus we have Indo-European that expanded in the Americas from 1492 and replaced
      languages for which we have no record. Nothing of that sort happened in Eurasia or Africa.

      “There is no basis to conclude that the diversity in PNG MUST be that

      old, because it may well be much younger. There can have occurred

      multiple nullifying expansions, too, before the present diversity began

      to appear.”

      You’re postulating a special explanation for which you need special evidence. Occam’s Razor!

      “That may be one reason why we have so many distinct language families in America. Two present-day language families could perhaps be seen to be related, if some of their relative was not lost.”

      That’s an interesting thought. Speculative but interesting. It’s related to the
      absence of ancient languages in the Americas, which are known to increase evidence for genetic relationship between their extant descendants.

      “So, a diversity of 50 languages could be due to a slow divergence during

      the last 50 000 years, but it could equally well be due to a rapid

      expansion and divergence only within the last 10 000 years.”

      Genetics has the same problem. There are three molecular clocks now in
      circulation. I doubt though that rate heterogeneity will be continent-specific.
      We just need to have assumptions that are the same across all language families just like we have the same comparativist assumptions that all languages will exhibit sound correspondences.

      “How can you exclude the language replacement?”

      Because there’s no systematic theory behind language replacement as there’s behind language divergence. And there’s no formal criteria to identify language replacements. Replacements are random, divergences are systematic, just like borrowings are random, while linguistic inheritance is systematic. We classify languages in families and we assume that those families that seem unrelated will turn up evidence of relationship overtime. The fact that there were language families that got replaced doesn’t seem to have any bearing on establishing phylogenies of extant families. Linguistic diversity is a proxy for linguistic phylogeny in the meantime. Plus I can speculatively postulate just as many languages lost in the Americas as a result of replacement as you can for Eurasia or Africa, but you can’t deny the fact that there are more genetic units in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa.

      “Still the American lineages are descendants of the Old World lineages, no
      matter if they come from archaic hominids or not.”

      Let’s take Austronesians. Polynesian Y-DNA is almost 90% hg C2, which is a very upstream node. Taiwanese Y-DNA are predominantly hg O which is downstream from hg C. But this doesn’t mean that Taiwan was peopled from Polynesia. The opposite is true. Why? Because Polynesians picked up C2 from a “Papuan” substrate in Indonesia and drove it to fixation. You can
      call it “gene shift” to match the concept of “language shift.” This is a very clear example that disproves your belief in genetics as a pure science of descent. It’s often the science of admixture. The pattern of genetic variation between the Old World and the New world fits the Austronesian gene shift model. Every time a population absorbs an older substrate, the lineages of the latter become a superset to the lineages of the former.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

        Oh, and forgot to add: linguistics gives a more accurate picture of the directionality of the Austronesian expansion because all the primary branches of the Austronesian family are in Taiwan, with progressive decline of linguistic diversity as Austronesians expanded eastward into Polynesia. At the same time, the number of languages and the population size of the speaker communities are of course greater outside of Taiwan.

        “Actually it doesn’t. Haplogroup L1 (the common ancestor of L1b and L1c) is dated older than 100 000 years! So the relatedness is very remote indeed, and there may have occurred tens (or theoretically even hundreds) of language shifts after that.”

        Sorry, missed that one. It doesn’t make much sense that Pygmies would split from Bantu 100,000 years ago, as Bantu didn’t exist prior to the invention of agriculture. I’d rather doubt the date of 100,000 (which is derived from an assumption that African L lineages are closer to the chimp sequence than non-African lineages and this similarity doesn’t come from homoplasy or archaic admixture) and go with the fact that Pygmies and Bantu show both genetic and linguistic signs of relatedness and since linguistic relatedness is of Neolithic age, so must be the genetic age of these two populations (or roughly that). It’s rather unlikely that 20 Pygmy populations all independently shifted to Bantu and Ubangian languages, lost their languages virtually without a trace, didn’t leave any impact on farmers’ languages (unlike Khoisan, who maintained their languages and influenced farmers’ languages) but maintained their forager lifestyle. It’s like imagining American Indians still hunting buffaloes but speaking an Indo-European language related to American English.

        • Jaska

          German:
          “Wrong. Just as there are many more isolates in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa, there are many more expansive families in the Americas than there are in Eurasia or Africa.”

          All that matters in diversity, is the total percentage of area covered by the expansive language families versus the number of “original” language isolates. In America there is greater diversity per area unit = lower percentage of expansive language families per area unit.

          German:
          “Nothing of that sort happened in Eurasia or Africa.”

          What do you mean? Almost all the modern language families in Eurasia are expansive language families.

          German:
          “You’re postulating a special explanation for which you need special evidence. Occam’s Razor!”

          I’m telling you that it is an ad hoc assumption to claim that the diversity in PNG must be 50 000 years old. Of course it must not; it can equally well be much younger. Occam cannot make any certain age for the diversity any probable.

          German:
          “Genetics has the same problem. There are three molecular clocks now in circulation. I doubt though that rate heterogeneity will be continent-specific. We just need to have assumptions that are the same across all language families just like we have the same comparativist assumptions that all languages will exhibit sound correspondences.”

          In genetics we don’t need clocks in this topic: we have the phylogenetic trees, and they show indisputably that in Africa there are ancestral haplogroups and in America there are only derived haplogroups. You cannot derive the Eurasian and African haplogroups from the American haplogroups.

          German:
          “Because there’s no systematic theory behind language replacement as there’s behind language divergence. And there’s no formal criteria to identify language replacements. Replacements are random, divergences are systematic, just like borrowings are random, while linguistic inheritance is systematic. We classify languages in families and we assume that those families that seem unrelated will turn up evidence of relationship overtime. The fact that there were language families that got replaced doesn’t seem to have any bearing on establishing phylogenies of extant families. Linguistic diversity is a proxy for linguistic phylogeny in the meantime. Plus I can speculatively postulate just as many languages lost in the Americas as a result of replacement as you can for Eurasia or Africa, but you can’t deny the fact that there are more genetic units in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa.”

          I’m not denying the number of genetic units in America. I’m only telling you that most of the Eurasian and African language families are expansive. This means that when we follow them back to their respective protolanguages, we reach a situation where only 5 % of Eurasia and Africa are covered with these protolanguages. That means that we have lost 95 % of the diversity preceding the expansion of the current wide-spread language families. And this 95 % loss only occurred within the last 7 000 years.

          Therefore all we can say about the American linguistic diversity is that it must be older than, say, 10 000 years. Only if the current diversity in Eurasia and Africa was born 20 000 years ago (which we certainly know is not the case), we could say that the diversity in America had to be older than that.

          German:
          “This is a very clear example that disproves your belief in genetics as a pure science of descent. It’s often the science of admixture. The pattern of genetic variation between the Old World and the New world fits the Austronesian gene shift model. Every time a population absorbs an older substrate, the lineages of the latter become a superset to the lineages of the former.”

          Of course. But that cannot change the fact that all the basal haplogroups are found only in Africa. Admixture is irrelevant, because you cannot prove it unless you have the same haplogroups in the donator population. And there are no basal haplogroups in America, so you cannot suppose that they arrived in Africa via admixing with Americans.

          German:
          “It doesn’t make much sense that Pygmies would split from Bantu 100,000 years ago, as Bantu didn’t exist prior to the invention of agriculture. “

          Of course they were not Bantu speakers but their genetic ancestors. It still shows that the populations diverged very long time ago.

          German:
          “Pygmies and Bantu show both genetic and linguistic signs of relatedness and since linguistic relatedness is of Neolithic age, so must be the genetic age of these two populations (or roughly that).”

          What are you talking about? There is no dependence between the genes and the language! There is no contradiction: genes show that the populations diverged long time ago, and linguistic shows that languages have spread later. Linguistics cannot tell about population, and genetics cannot tell about languages.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “All that matters in diversity, is the total percentage of area covered by the expansive language families versus the number of “original” language isolates. In America there is greater diversity per area unit lower percentage of expansive language families per area unit.”

            Why? There are more expansive families in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa. It means it’s more diverse even on the level of “replacers,” not just “replacees.” The geographic size of the territory doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of geography, not linguistics, and geography doesn’t tell us anything about history.

            “What do you mean? Almost all the modern language families in Eurasia are expansive language families.”

            I meant the expansion of Indo-European languages in the Americas post-1492.

            “I’m telling you that it is an ad hoc assumption to claim that the diversity in PNG must be 50 000 years old.”

            It’s an assumption that holds unless you can show otherwise. Unless we believe that languages just emerge eh nihilo. It’s true that some of that diversity may have come to PNG in several waves, which means that some language families may be closer related to languages outside of PNG than to their PNG neighbors, but apart from that just like individual extant languages such as Slavic and Germanic, or Finnish and Mordvinians are related, so do protolanguages. We just don’t know how in the case of PNG language families. And with every node in the reconstruction the time frame deepens. What you’re saying is tantamount to arguing that Mordvindian doesn’t go back to proto-West Finnic, but is instead an artificial language that replaced a real Mordvidnian that got lost 1000 years ago.

            “In genetics we don’t need clocks in this topic: we have the phylogenetic trees, and they show indisputably that in Africa there are ancestral haplogroups and in America there are only derived haplogroups. You cannot derive the Eurasian and African haplogroups from the American haplogroups.”

            In the case of X chromosome, this is exactly the case. Lineage B0006 and related lineages are found at highest frequencies in Amerindians, are attested in Neandertals and constitute basal clades to all Old World lineages. http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/03/american-indians-neanderthals-and-denisovans-pca-views/

            “Therefore all we can say about the American linguistic diversity is that it must be older than, say, 10 000 years. Only if the current diversity in Eurasia and Africa was born 20 000 years ago (which we certainly know is not the case), we could say that the diversity in America had to be older than that.”

            You just said that the diversity in PNG going back 60,000 years is an ad hoc assumption, but this is exactly the kind of criterion you’re now using to test the antiquity of American Indian diversity. Judging by the fact that New World is at least as diverse as PNG and PNG was not affected by the kind of expansions you postulate for Eurasia and Africa, your latest criterion is fully satisfied. The best you can do with your logic is to argue that at 60,000 years all continents, including New World, were equally diverse linguistically. This in and of itself will be revolutionary. But then you will still be left with the painful task of proving that the rate of extinction in New World was much smaller than in Africa and Eurasia, which is far from obvious. Out-of-America solves all the issues without generating untestable hypotheses.

            “There is no dependence between the genes and the language! There is no contradiction: genes show that the populations diverged long time ago, and linguistic shows that languages
            have spread later. Linguistics cannot tell about population, and
            genetics cannot tell about languages.”

            In fact correlations between genetics and linguistics are rather strong for such radically different sources of information as genes and languages (sometimes they come with an opposite sign, as in the case of Polynesian and Taiwanese Y-DNA and Austronesian languages), both on the measure of common descent and borrowing/admixture. Genealogical kinship between languages implies some form of kinship between underlying language communities.

            “Of course they were not Bantu speakers but their genetic ancestors. It still shows that the populations diverged very long time ago.”

            The 2 branches of L1, L1a and L1b, are uniquely shared by Pygmies vs. Bantu. It’s unlikely that the very same populations first diverged 100,000 YA and then mixed 5,000 YA.

          • Jaska

            German:
            “Why? There are more expansive families in the Americas than in Eurasia and Africa. It means it’s more diverse even on the level of “replacers,” not just “replacees.” The geographic size of the territory doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of geography, not linguistics, and geography doesn’t tell us anything about history.”

            But you cannot see beyond the language families, right? Therefore the diversity is based on language families. And we know that the present-day language families in Eurasia and Africa represent only languages covering around 5 % of the land mass at 5 000 BC. That is the only way to count the ancient diversity, as far as I can see.

            Now, if the secondarily expansive language families in America cover “only” 90 % of the land mass (versus 95 % in Eurasia and Africa), that alone is enough to make the diversity in America higher. But because the huge majority of the Old World diversity is no more than 7 000 years old, there is no need for the American diversity to be much older than that. A few millennia more are enough.

            German:
            “It’s an assumption that holds unless you can show otherwise. Unless we believe that languages just emerge eh nihilo. It’s true that some of that diversity may have come to PNG in several waves, which means that some language families may be closer related to languages outside of PNG than to their PNG neighbors, but apart from that just like individual extant languages such as Slavic and Germanic, or Finnish and Mordvinians are related, so do protolanguages.”

            Of course. My example wasn’t related on the external language families: even when we play with only the “original” language stock of PNG, it would be very improbable that the linguistic diversity would only have increased during all the decade-thousands, without any linguistic expansions levelling down the differences and reducing the diversity. We know that there is no other place in the world totally without linguistic expansions, so it would be against Occam’s razor to believe that PNG would be such an exceptional area.

            So, just like the current language situation in Eurasia and Africa is a result of the last 7 millennia, it may well be that the current linguistic diversity in PNG and America is a result of the last 12–15 000 years.

            German:
            “In the case of X chromosome, this is exactly the case. Lineage B0006 and related lineages are found at highest frequencies in Amerindians, are attested in Neandertals and constitute basal clades to all Old World lineages.”

            This is very interesting!

            But here we can apply your own counter-argument: the high diversity of B006 in America can be explained by the Neanderthal admixture. In the article of Zietkiewicz et al. 2003 we see that most of the basal haplotypes are found in Asia, not in America. And Yotova et al. 2011 tell us that B006 is inherited from the Neanderthals outside Africa! So it seems to be a result of admixing with archaic hominids and therefore cannot tell anything about the homeland of Homo sapiens.

            German:
            “You just said that the diversity in PNG going back 60,000 years is an ad hoc assumption, but this is exactly the kind of criterion you’re now using to test the antiquity of American Indian diversity.”

            No. I took the known situation (= diversity in the Old World has for the huge part occurred only during the last 7 000 years) as an anchor: a diversity lower than there should be a result of younger incidents, a diversity higher than there should be a result of older incidents.

            German:
            “But then you will still be left with the painful task of proving that the rate of extinction in New World was much smaller than in Africa and Eurasia, which is far from obvious. Out-of-America solves all the issues without generating untestable hypotheses.”

            We already know that the reduction in diversity was smaller, or at least earlier, in America – otherwise it would not have higher diversity now.

            Out-of-America to me doesn’t seem to solve anything which couldn’t be solved in other ways. Besides, there are neither archaeological evidence nor genetic evidence supporting it: oldest “sapientic” archaeological findings are in the Old World, and oldest paternal and maternal haplogroups are in Africa. And unlike the X-chromosomal haplotypes, neither Y-chromosomal DNA nor mitochondrial DNA haplogroups seem to be inherited from archaic hominids: for example the Neanderthal mtDNA clearly differs from all Homo sapiens lineages (Behar et al. 2012: A ‘‘Copernican’’ Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root)

            German:
            “In fact correlations between genetics and linguistics are rather strong for such radically different sources of information as genes and languages (sometimes they come with an opposite sign, as in the case of Polynesian and Taiwanese Y-DNA and Austronesian languages), both on the measure of common descent and borrowing/admixture. Genealogical kinship between languages implies some form of kinship between underlying language communities.”

            Yes, there are correlations: a genetic correlate can be found for every language family. I agree with the “some form of kinship”: certainly there are lineages which have spread from the “original” Bantu speakers to Pygmies. But these recent gene flows cannot change the fact that these populations have originally diverged much longer ago than the current languages.

            German:
            “The 2 branches of L1, L1a and L1b, are uniquely shared by Pygmies vs. Bantu. It’s unlikely that the very same populations first diverged 100,000 YA and then mixed 5,000 YA.”

            Why? It is very likely that after the original divergence of the lineages there have been contacts and gene flow later, probably many times. And one of these later gene flows can be connected to the spread of Bantu language.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “And we know that the present-day language families in Eurasia and Africa represent only languages covering around 5 % of the land mass at 5 000 BC. That is the only way to count the ancient diversity, as far as I can see.

            Now, if the secondarily expansive language families in America cover “only” 90 % of the land mass (versus 95 % in Eurasia and Africa), that alone is enough to make the diversity in America higher. But because the huge majority of the Old World diversity is no more than 7 000 years old, there is no need for the American diversity to be much older than that. A few millennia more are enough.”

            I think population size is a critical component here. If, using your logic, current families in Eurasia and Africa cover only 5% of the Early Holocene landmass, this doesn’t tell us what % of the landmass was covered in the Late Pleistocene because it would depend on population size of the speech communities in question. I don’t think there was a dramatic drop from agropastoral population sizes in the Holocene of the Old World to New World-PNG population sizes prior to that. I think population growth was more stepwise and we have genetic evidence confirming that agropastoral expansions were only the peak of the population size increase that started at some 20,000 because of LGM recolonizations. This would mean that in the Late Pleistocene of Eurasia and Africa we would have, say, 20% of the pre-LGM landmass covered by language families. Etc. The New World and PNG stayed in isolation and didn’t experience these waves of population growth in the Old World. Ultimately, we would end up with Old World populations expanding from a source of small families and isolates such as New World or Papua New Guinea, or from the Circumpacific region either on this or on the other side of Bering Strait. This is exactly what out-of-America predicts: Old World populations took a subset of the original linguistic diversity comprised of small families and isolates and progressively spread this diversity across the vast expanses of the Old World through several waves of population size increase. The pressure for population growth in the Old World has always been higher than in the New World or PNG because, first, they had a huge landmass to conquer, then post-LGM expansions became possible, and finally food producing technologies kicked in.

            “So, just like the current language situation in Eurasia and Africa is a result of the last 7 millennia, it may well be that the current
            linguistic diversity in PNG and America is a result of the last 12–15 000 years.”

            This is non-sequitur from your previous paragraph. How can the possibility of replacements in PNG make its linguistic diversity a product of the past 15,000 years?

            “But here we can apply your own counter-argument: the high diversity of B006 in America can be explained by the Neanderthal admixture. In the article of Zietkiewicz et al. 2003 we see that most of the basal haplotypes are found in Asia, not in America. And Yotova et al. 2011 tell us that B006 is inherited from the Neanderthals outside Africa! So it seems to be a result of admixing with archaic hominids and therefore cannot tell anything about the homeland of Homo sapiens.”

            Out-of-America (or more specifically out-of-America II) presupposes an archaic hominin source in the eastern parts of the Old World. But for the new species to emerge isolation was critical. So this archaic hominin population related to Neandertals went through a bottleneck (well-attested genetically), migrated to the New World, speciated into “us” and then migrated back. This is exactly what seems to have happened to woolly mammoths (see link above in one of my responses to Al West). So, some of that “archaic admixture” may in fact to common descent. The phylogeny that I referenced (http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/03/american-indians-neanderthals-and-denisovans-pca-views/) is from Zietkiewicz, and it also shows that both of the next-basal lineages B052, B064 are again attested in the Americas, while Europe and Asia have one of each.

            “No. I took the known situation (= diversity in the Old World has for the huge part occurred only during the last 7 000 years) as an anchor: a diversity lower than there should be a result of younger incidents, a diversity higher than there should be a result of older incidents.”

            Again, am not sure what you mean here. We have three Old World benchmarks for linguistic diversity in the New World: one is West Eurasia and Africa with lower levels of diversity, the other one East Eurasia and SE Asia with moderate levels of diversity and PNG with much higher levels of diversity. America meets and beats the oldest Old World benchmark.

            “We already know that the reduction in diversity was smaller, or at least earlier, in America – otherwise it would not have higher diversity now.”

            America could have been even more diverse in the Late Pleistocene if population size was even smaller. I can easily imagine a situation when none of those expansive families existed and the New World was covered with very small famileis and isolates. Genetically, as comparison between ancient Denisova and modern Karitiana shows, Karitiana is much more diverse than Denisova (although not as diverse as Africans of course), which suggests that it had expanded in size past the Denisova bottomline.

            “Out-of-America to me doesn’t seem to solve anything which couldn’t be solved in other ways.”

            It satisfies all the requirements for a theory of speciation: proximity to a hominin source, isolation, diversity in the key element of modern behavior, namely language, low population size in the Americas consistent with Middle-Pleistocene demography, elementary kinship structures appropriate for that small-scale demography. Correspondingly, we see the paucity of traces of human activity in the archaeological record (although not non-existent, just poorly visible, hence controversial).

            “And unlike the X-chromosomal haplotypes, neither Y-chromosomal DNA nor mitochondrial DNA haplogroups seem to be inherited from archaic hominids: for example the Neanderthal mtDNA clearly differs from all Homo sapiens lineages”

            yes, but mtDNA and Y-DNA are highly mutable haploid systems, with low effective population size, hence signs of Neandertal DNA may have drifted out in modern humans, and only a large-scale genomic analysis can detect them. Someone made an observation that mtDNA hg X (found in the Americas and then suddenly in Europe and the Middle East) shares a string of mutations with Neandertals. So who knows, we shall see…

            “Why? It is very likely that after the original divergence of the
            lineages there have been contacts and gene flow later, probably many times. And one of these later gene flows can be connected to the spread of Bantu language.”

            But why go into the realm of such convoluted and unprovable scenarios if it’s much simpler to imagine proto-Niger-Congo spoken by populations with a mixed forager and agricultural economy? As this population began expanding south and east, foragers entered the tropical forest, maintained their economy and their low population size and became short, while agriculturalists diverged economically but not phenotypically and grew in numbers. Both groups retained both linguistic and genetic traces of common descent plus have been engaged in the alternating cycles of mutual isolation and gene flow. It’s possible that Pygmies absorbed earlier populations related to South Khoisan, Hadza and Sandawe, which were the true tropical outliers. This all happened in the Holocene. Remember, we don’t have any evidence for Pygmy stature in ancient remains, neither in the Holocene nor in Mid-Plesitocene where the 100,000 years date suggested by geneticists takes us. All of Pygmy specificity thus quickly evaporates the deeper in time we go. The only thing that remains is their foraging lifestyle, but all Niger-Congo had been foragers before they became agriculturalists. In fact the Pygmy case study casts doubt on the astronomical dates obtained by geneticists for African populations. There are other potential Pleistocene relics in Africa (such as Laal in West Africa), but Pygmies due to their exotic looks hijacked everybody’s attention. Andaman islanders that were believed to be the same kind of “living fossils” for many decades and, in the early stages of out-of-Africa thinking, the remnants of the coastal expansion out of Africa, are now believed to be of Early Holocene age and even a genealogical connection between Ongan and Austronesian has been proposed (see Blevins’s work).

            See, linguists work downwards in time by reconstructing proto-languages behind living languages. They don’t resort to any purportedly original language (well, in the Middle Ages there were people who thought all languages derive from Hebrew), but reconstruct intermediate stages. Geneticists believe that they can take a chimp sequence and root a human sequence with it forgetting that millions of years elapses since the divergence of chimps and ancient humans and multiple hotspot mutations may have occurred since then. As a result, Bushmen and Pygmies end up (looking) closer to chimps than the rest of humans and of course the divergence dates become astronomical. But if we look at the Pygmy problem with a linguist’s eye, we will see a completely different picture. A much more believable picture, I think.

          • Jaska

            German:
            “This would mean that in the Late Pleistocene of Eurasia and Africa we would have, say, 20% of the pre-LGM landmass covered by language families.”

            Sorry, I don’t get your point. Which language families are you talking about? The expansive ones?

            German:
            “Ultimately, we would end up with Old World populations expanding from a source of small families and isolates such as New World or Papua New Guinea, or from the Circumpacific region either on this or on the other side of Bering Strait. This is exactly what out-of-America predicts: Old World populations took a subset of the original linguistic diversity comprised of small families and isolates and progressively spread this diversity across the vast expanses of the Old World through several waves of population size increase.”

            I fail to see the logic here, too…

            Why the Old World diversity should be a subset of the New World diversity? There is no evidence, and the situation is easy to explain without Out-of-America hypothesis.

            German:
            “The pressure for population growth in the Old World has always been higher than in the New World or PNG because, first, they had a huge landmass to conquer, then post-LGM expansions became possible, and finally food producing technologies kicked in.”

            These conditions are indeed the ones to produce expansive language families and thus reduce the linguistic diversity.

            German:
            “This is non-sequitur from your previous paragraph. How can the possibility of replacements in PNG make its linguistic diversity a product of the past 15,000 years?”

            No argumentation errors here. As I said, it is enough to suppose a 15 000 years development to explain the PNG diversity, because we only compare it to the diversity in continental Eurasia and Africa, which have occurred within the last 7 000 years. We don’t need 50 000 years development to explain the diversity in PNG, so it is against Occam’s razor to suppose so long development.

            German:
            “The phylogeny that I referenced (http://anthropogenesis.kinship… is from Zietkiewicz, and it also shows that both of the next-basal lineages B052, B064 are again attested in the Americas, while Europe and Asia have one of each.”

            True, but couldn’t this situation be also inherited already from the archaic hominids? So, it could be the Out-of-America migration of archaic hominids, or it could be a bottleneck in the archaic hominids of the Old World. I don’t see how this could decisively support the Out-of-America migration for Homo sapiens.

            German:
            “Again, am not sure what you mean here. We have three Old World benchmarks for linguistic diversity in the New World: one is West Eurasia and Africa with lower levels of diversity, the other one East Eurasia and SE Asia with moderate levels of diversity and PNG with much higher levels of diversity. America meets and beats the oldest Old World benchmark.”

            My point is only that because we know how young the diversity is in the continental Eurasia and Africa, we don’t need huge time depths to explain the diversity in PNG and America. There is nothing to require that the diversity in PNG and America should be tens of thousands of years old; it is a mere ad hoc assumption.

            German:
            “It satisfies all the requirements for a theory of speciation: proximity to a hominin source, isolation, diversity in the key element of modern behavior, namely language, low population size in the Americas consistent with Middle-Pleistocene demography, elementary kinship structures appropriate for that small-scale demography.”

            As we have both the genetic lineages and archaeological record supporting the Out-of-Africa theory, I wonder could there ever be evidence to decisively support the Out-of-America hypothesis. Even if there occurred a closer affinity of Homo sapiens to some New World apes, compared to the Old World apes, it would only tell something about the Homo family as a whole, and not about Homo sapiens especially.

            German:
            “But why go into the realm of such convoluted and unprovable scenarios if it’s much simpler to imagine proto-Niger-Congo spoken by populations with a mixed forager and agricultural economy? As this population began expanding south and east, foragers entered the tropical forest, maintained their economy and their low population size and became short, while agriculturalists diverged economically but not phenotypically and grew in numbers. Both groups retained both linguistic and genetic traces of common descent plus have been engaged in the alternating cycles of mutual isolation and gene flow.”

            At the moment we have no certain answer. I’m only saying that linguistic expansions are very late, but the genetic divergence between the L1-lineages is very old.

            German:
            “As a result, Bushmen and Pygmies end up (looking) closer to chimps than the rest of humans and of course the divergence dates become astronomical. But if we look at the Pygmy problem with a linguist’s eye, we will see a completely different picture. A much more believable picture, I think.”

            Still, language and genes are not interdependent levels. Pygmies have both very old and more recent genetic lineages, and the answer depends on which root of theirs we concentrate on. I find it possible that the long ago diverged lineage already was “Pygmy”, but it is equally possible that it is some archaic admixture and the “Pygminess” only appeared later.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “Which language families are you talking about? The expansive ones?”

            The one that were replaced by your Holocene expansive families. they were likely smaller than IE, Niger-Congo and Austronesian but still not as small as New World and PNG families.

            “These conditions are indeed the ones to produce expansive language families and thus reduce the linguistic diversity.”

            That’s exactly right, but the colonization of the Old World was the first massive population expansion and it “reduced” linguistic diversity compared to New World and PNG, or, using my language, Old World populations expanded from a subset of small languages and isolates from the New World or the Pacific Rim where this kind of linguistic picture is still attested. Under a single-origin scenario, this means out-of-America, out-of-PNG or out-of-Pacific Rim, but I prefer the former. At some point, all languages need to converge into a hypothetical single one and hence human evolution is about progressive population size growth, areas with small languages and isolates are likely to be the closest to the homeland of modern humans.

            “We don’t need 50 000 years development to explain the diversity in PNG, so it is against Occam’s razor to suppose so long development.”
            No. Linguistic diversity in PNG is larger than that of the rest of the Old World, including areas not affected by the expansive language families derived from agropastoral expansions. There are hunter-gatherer languages outside of PNG and the New World.

            “True, but couldn’t this situation be also inherited already from the
            archaic hominids? So, it could be the Out-of-America migration of
            archaic hominids, or it could be a bottleneck in the archaic hominids of
            the Old World. I don’t see how this could decisively support the
            Out-of-America migration for Homo sapiens.”

            I would never claim that something decisively supports out-of-America. Unlike out-of-Africanists I respect the fact that time changes science. As we have more data, we’ll see which way the data is trending. But as an interesting side note, the two Neandertal individuals screened for blood groups turned up as blood group O (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/8/342), which is exactly the type found at near fixation levels in the New World. And blood group O is very rare in Siberia and East Asia, and blood group B which is frequent in Asians is almost non-existent in the Americas and wasn’t detected in the two Neandertals. The situation is parallel to the B0006 situation.

            “My point is only that because we know how young the diversity is in the
            continental Eurasia and Africa, we don’t need huge time depths to
            explain the diversity in PNG and America. There is nothing to require
            that the diversity in PNG and America should be tens of thousands of
            years old; it is a mere ad hoc assumption.”

            See above. PNG and New World have higher levels of linguistic diversity than all of the Old World, including the areas not affected by agropastoral expansions. It’s an empirical observation not an ad hoc assumption.

            “As we have both the genetic lineages and archaeological record supporting the Out-of-Africa theory…”

            But this record is based on untested standards. We don’t have any ancient DNA from Africa (and likely not going to have it any time soon), so we don’t know if the so-called “anatomically modern humans” are our ancestors (if they are, why they didn’t show signs of modern human behavior, while all living humans are both anatomically and behaviorally modern) and if the divergent African lineages are not products of archaic admixture. And if out-of-Africa to be true linguistically requires the postulation of the complete annihilation of 90% of original African linguistic diversity, then we’re signing up for no empirical evidence for human linguistic evolution either. I don’t know what is the practical value of having out-of-Africa around. A theory needs to intrigue and provoke thinking, not just check the boxes. The advantage of out-of-America is that we’ll have rich data to reconstruct human linguistic evolution and hence we’ll have the tools to understand the origin of the human symbolic capacity, we’ll have sharpen our archaeological methodology to be able to document the pattern of adaptation based on low population size, perishable toolkits and dwellings, passive scavenging and hunting, and we’ll be working with a wider range of genetic models that includes admixture vs. isolation as a key dimension of human population history.

            “Even if there occurred a closer affinity of Homo sapiens to some New
            World apes, compared to the Old World apes, it would only tell something
            about the Homo family as a whole, and not about Homo sapiens
            especially.”

            I know too little about primatology to actively support out-of-America I, but the fact that modern humans match New World monkeys on such unique traits as cooperative breeding, pair bonding, linguistic communication, reduced sexual dimorphism, etc., which define our evolutionary advantage and which are utterly missing from chimps, is pretty fascinating, I think. The African origin of Homo is again something that has been contested (in mainstream journals), so there’s something here that’s a bigger puzzle than Homo sapiens origins, I agree. It’s possible that only Australopithecines are of African chimp origin, while the whole genus Homo has an extra-African origin. But I never thought I would need to dig that deep, otherwise I would’ve become an evolutionary biologist.

            “find it possible that the long ago diverged lineage already was “Pygmy”,
            but it is equally possible that it is some archaic admixture and the
            “Pygminess” only appeared later.”

            yes, archaic admixture would resolve the discrepancy between linguistic and genetic dates for the Pygmies.

          • Jaska

            German:
            “…areas with small languages and isolates are likely to be the closest to the homeland of modern humans.”

            No, there is no support for such assumption. The size does not matter here, only phylogeny. And we have no reliable method to reach the affinities beyond the well-known protolanguages – so far the results are contradictory: one believes in Indo-Uralic, another in Uralo-Altaic affinity. Therefore linguistics cannot give any help in this question.

            German:
            “PNG and New World have higher levels of linguistic diversity than all of the Old World, including the areas not affected by agropastoral expansions. It’s an empirical observation not an ad hoc assumption.”

            I wrote: “There is nothing to require that the diversity in PNG and America should be tens of thousands of years old; it is a mere ad hoc assumption.” Because there is no evidence that the diversity should be very old. It must not be old, because it is enough that it is older than in the continental Eurasia – that is: older than 7 000 years.

            German:
            “But this record is based on untested standards.”

            The evidence supporting the Out-of-America is still much weaker.

            I see that we are going around the same circle here, so we may leave the subject until something new evidence appears. :)

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Indeed this discussion has been going rather in circles (hence I didn’t add much recently), so perhaps it’s time to turn our collective attention to other matters?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Thanks everybody for a productive discussion!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Fresh off the grill: mtDNA C1 (a typical American Indian lineage) has been reported from a 7,500 year-old site in Karelia. (http://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/74221). I left a more extended note about this on Dienekes. In combination with the whole-genome signal of Amerindian admixture in Europe (http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/09/how-europeans-got-to-be-10-american-indians/), this finding suggests that what got replaced in northern Eurasia in the past 7,000 years is an Amerindian-like substrate.

  • Jaska

    German:
    “You run into several problems here, however: one is the amount of linguistic diversity in the Americas compared to the Old World, which cannot be generated by any known linguistic mechanisms (I don’t know what Asya’s explanation you favor). It’s similar to the amount of diversity attested in PNG, which was peopled 50-60,000 years ago.”

    There is no basis to conclude that the diversity in PNG MUST be that old, because it may well be much younger. There can have occurred multiple nullifying expansions, too, before the present diversity began to appear.

    German:
    “Postulating dramatic diversity reduction in the Africa and Europe and dramatic diversity increase in the Americas are two very poorly testable hypotheses.”

    No, just the opposite: we KNOW that there has occurred a dramatic decrease in diversity in Eurasia and Africa. When we follow back in time the current wide-spread language families, around 5000 BC we are in a situation where there are small islands of known protolanguages scattered in the sea of “emptyness” (= unknown, since lost languages). Roughly estimating the land area, the languages in more than 95 % of all the landmass in Eurasia and Africa have lost their original diversity because of the expansion of the present-day expansive language families.

    So, when considering the diversity as language families per unit of area (= width of diversity), it is a fact that the reduction of diversity in Eurasia and Africa during the last 7 000 years is around 95 % (or at least 90 %, if we allow wider primary homelands).

    What comes to the depth of diversity: there is no need to suppose that the linguistic diversity in PNG reflects a formal pattern where a language splits into two always after 500 years. If we suppose an expansion covering the whole of the island rapidly, we would have a situation where one language (= protolanguage) splits into 50 different languages within 500 years. If there are ca. 10 000 years from this expansion, we probably could no more recognize the languages to be related at all.

    So, a diversity of 50 languages could be due to a slow divergence during the last 50 000 years, but it could equally well be due to a rapid expansion and divergence only within the last 10 000 years. All we can operate with are the language families, and beyond them we have no information about their true relatedness or the true taxonomy of “Proto-Papua-New-Guinean”. Neither model can be excluded, because there can be no evidence preceding the language families supporting or disproving either option.

    German:
    “Small-scale societies such as many American Indian and Papuan societies are very vulnerable and the rate of extinction in the Americas may have been greater than everywhere else even without the massive population expansions there.”

    That may be one reason why we have so many distinct language families in America. Two present-day language families could perhaps be seen to be related, if some of their relative was not lost. For example Samoyedic and Hungarian share the least words with any other Uralic branch due to their lexical innovativeness. After a few millennia from now, we probably could not see their relatedness if all the other Uralic languages were lost. We would need some lexically conservative branch, like Finnic, which shares more words with them both than they do with each other, in order to have a sufficient vocabulary to prove the genealogical affinity.

    The more expansive the language family, the more it has languages and thus the more probable it is that there have survived enough languages to prove the affinity. Thus if there earlier were no expansive enough language families in America and PNG, it could explain the shallow linguistic horizon, so that we can no more prove the relatedness of distinct language families.

    German:
    “The net-net result is the same – America is more linguistically diverse than Africa for a reason that has nothing to do with replacements.”

    How can you exclude the language replacement? There were some expansive language families in America, but in Eurasia and Africa the expansive language families are everywhere.

    German:
    “If admixture has been part and parcel of human population history, and we have more and more data to support this, then all the population trees will be biased toward the absorbed lineages. African lineages that appear the oldest may have been picked up from African archaics, while American Indians preserve the “pure” Homo sapiens sequences that got diluted in the Old World as expanding populations absorbed ancient hominins in Eurasia and then Africa.”

    Still the American lineages are descendants of the Old World lineages, no matter if they come from archaic hominids or not. It means that there is no evidence about the migration from America to the Old World (except to Beringia), but all the migrations went to America. Genetic evidence clearly disproves the Out of America -hypothesis.