December 30, 2004

Racial clusters

This study is self-explanatory really, but two interesting findings are the emergence of a "Hispanic" racial cluster, which can be explained by the choice of a population sample from a single location, as Hispanics are generally heterogeneous racially, and the near-perfect differentiation of the Japanese from the Chinese in the Mongoloid cluster, suggesting the potential for subracial differentiation in future studies.

The research also confirms that in terms of genetic similarity, the major split of mankind is between the Mongoloids and the rest, a finding similar to Rosenberg et al. (2002) and to craniometric clustering results.

Am. J. Hum. Genet., 76:000, 2005

Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies

Hua Tang et al.

We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population. Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.


December 29, 2004

Romans in China

Text of an article originally posted in the Economist.

mtDNA haplogroup X is not present in extant South American Indians

Haplogroup X originated in the western part of the Old World, and is not shared by most Mongoloids, with the exception of some Siberians and Native Americans. This study failed to discover its presence in South American Indians.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Early View)

Is haplogroup X present in extant South American Indians?

Cláudia L. Dornelles et al.


A total of 1,159 mitochondrial DNA samples from two Mongolian, two Siberian, and 25 South Native American populations was surveyed for the presence of the C16278T mutation, frequently found in haplogroup X. Material from 25 carriers of that mutation was then sequenced for the hypervariable segment I (HVS-I) control region, and those that still were not classifiable in classical Amerindian haplogroups were further studied. The tests involved all the control region, as well as the presence of characteristic mutations in seven coding fragments, totalling 5,760 base pairs. The results indicate that haplogroup X is not present in these samples.


Greek and Chinese mental processing

A very important new article by a group of Greek and Chinese researchers provides the first quantitative assessment of mental processing in two groups of students, aged 8 to 14, belonging to the Caucasoid and Mongoloid races.

It has long been known that many Mongoloid groups generally have higher IQ scores than Caucasoids, but the reasons for this difference have not been explained. As the authors point out "Intelligence is a multidimensional and hierarchical edifice" which involves both "general" processes which co-ordinate information processing across many domains of thought, as well as "specialized" processes which affect only particular mental tasks, involving e.g., verbal, spatial, or quantitative reasoning.

Mental processing is affected by both genes and environment, and these differ between Greeks and Chinese, as well as between most Caucasoids and Mongoloids in general. For example, Chinese words are shorter than those of Indo-European languages spoken by most Caucasoids, whereas Chinese students have to learn a logographic, picture-based writing system. These differences may affect mental processing, e.g., because "shorter" Chinese words may be stored more easily, whereas more space is required to short the more "complex" logograms of the Chinese writing system.

The article provides three important conclusions. First, the architecture of mental processing is the same in both Greeks and Chinese, involving essentially the same mental processes and organization. In other words, Greeks and Chinese think "the same". Second, the Greeks and Chinese show no difference in the general factor of mental processing which is used across different thought domains. Rather, the difference between the two groups is limited to areas requiring visuo/spatial processing:

Thus, we suggest that this advantage is related to the massive visuo/ spatial practice that they receive in learning Chinese writing. This claim is based on three findings. First, this advantage only slightly generalizes to other realms, where there is equivalent practice or minimal visuo/spatial processing. Second, the two cultural groups have about the same number of visualizers until the third grade; with increasing education, which differentiates the two cultures in the mastering of complex visual information more than in any other aspect of the curriculum, visualizers become many more among the Chinese. Third, with time, Greeks, gradually acquire compensating strategies, even if relevant practice is not sufficient to transform them into visualizers. As a result, their differences from the Chinese tend to decrease with increasing age in the visuo/spatial domain and to disappear in some other domains, such as quantitative reasoning.

The idea that the Chinese logographic system (as well as other similar systems used by other Mongoloids, such as the Koreans or Japanese) represents a type of "mental doping", improving visuo/spatial performance at an early age -if it is confirmed- represents an important victory for those who believe in the significant effect that culture has in mental development, and a further nail in the coffin of the theory that human groups differ from each other in mental processing due to innate genetic factors.

PS: The finding that Greeks do not differ from Chinese in g further discredits Richard Lynn's assessment of Greek IQ, which -together with much of the data in his book- is based on massaged data.

Intelligence (Article in Press)

The architecture, dynamics, and development of mental processing: Greek, Chinese, or Universal?

Andreas Demetriou et al.


This study compared Greeks with Chinese, from 8 to 14 years of age, on measures of processing efficiency, working memory, and reasoning. All processes were addressed through three domains of relations: verbal/propositional, quantitative, and visuo/spatial. Structural equations modelling and rating scale analysis showed that the architecture and developmental patterning of the various processes are basically the same in the two ethic groups. The Chinese clearly outperformed the Greeks in all tasks addressing visuo/spatial processing, from processing efficiency through working memory and reasoning, but neither in g nor in processes where the two groups have equivalent experience. This advantage was associated to the massive practice in visuo/spatial processing that is required to learn the Chinese logographic writing system. The implications for general theory of intelligence and intellectual development are discussed.


mtDNA of Sea Island Gullah-speaking African Americans

American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Early View)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes reveal maternal population genetic affinities of Sea Island Gullah-speaking African Americans

David C. McLean Jr. et al.


To better understand the population substructure of African Americans living in coastal South Carolina, we used restriction site polymorphisms and an insertion/deletion in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to construct seven-position haplotypes across 1,395 individuals from Sierra Leone, Africa, from U.S. European Americans, and from the New World African-derived populations of Jamaica, Gullah-speaking African Americans of the South Carolina Sea Islands (Gullahs), African Americans living in Charleston, South Carolina, and West Coast African Americans. Analyses showed a high degree of similarity within the New World African-derived populations, where haplotype frequencies and diversities were similar. -statistics indicated that very little genetic differentiation has occurred within New World African-derived populations, but that there has been significant differentiation of these populations from Sierra Leoneans. Genetic distance estimates indicated a close relationship of Gullahs and Jamaicans with Sierra Leoneans, while African Americans living in Charleston and the West Coast were progressively more distantly related to the Sierra Leoneans. We observed low maternal European American admixture in the Jamaican and Gullah samples (m = 0.020 and 0.064, respectively) that increased sharply in a clinal pattern from Charleston African Americans to West Coast African Americans (m = 0.099 and 0.205, respectively). The appreciably reduced maternal European American admixture noted in the Gullah indicates that the Gullah may be uniquely situated to allow genetic epidemiology studies of complex diseases in African Americans with low European American admixture.


Tall men and broad women

A very interesting new article suggests an explanation for pelvic sexual dimorphism in humans and other primates. It is found that species where men are taller than women also have the condition of women having a wide pelvis compared to men. It is suggested that the default condition is the female one; higher testosterone levels lead to increased vertical growth in males, and this extra growth is redirected from the lateral growth of the pelvis.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Early View)

Big-bodied males help us recognize that females have big pelves

Robert G. Tague


Schultz ([1949] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 7:401-424) presented a conundrum: among primates, sexual dimorphism of the pelvis is a developmental adjunct to dimorphism in other aspects of the body, albeit in the converse direction. Among species in which males are larger than females in body size, females are larger than males in some pelvic dimensions; species with little sexual dimorphism in nonpelvic size show little pelvic dimorphism. Obstetrical difficulty does not explain this relationship. The present study addresses this issue, evaluating the relationship between pelvic and femoral sexual dimorphism in 12 anthropoid species. The hypothesis is that species in which males are significantly larger than females in femoral size will have a higher incidence, magnitude, and variability of pelvic sexual dimorphism, with females having relatively larger pelves than males, compared with species monomorphic in femoral size. The results are consistent with the hypothesis. The proposed explanation is that the default pelvic anatomy in adulthood is that of the female; testosterone redirects growth from the default type to that of the male by differentially enhancing and repressing growth among the pelvic dimensions. Testosterone also influences sexual dimorphism of the femur. The magnitude of the pelvic response to testosterone is greater in species that are sexually dimorphic in the femur than in those that are monomorphic.


Major Climate Change Occurred 5,200 Years Ago: Evidence Suggests That History Could Repeat Itself

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson worries that he may have found clues that show history repeating itself, and if he is right, the result could have important implications to modern society.

Thompson has spent his career trekking to the far corners of the world to find remote ice fields and then bring back cores drilled from their centers. Within those cores are the records of ancient climate from across the globe.

From the mountains of data drawn by analyzing countless ice cores, and a meticulous review of sometimes obscure historic records, Thompson and his research team at Ohio State University are convinced that the global climate has changed dramatically.

But more importantly, they believe it has happened at least once before, and the results were nearly catastrophic to emerging cultures at the time. He outlined his interpretations and fears today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Full Story

December 27, 2004

Y chromosomes of Azores Islands

Ann Hum Genet (Online Early)

The Y-chromosomal Heritage of the Azores Islands Population

P. R. Pacheco et al.

The Azores, a Portuguese archipelago located in the north Atlantic Ocean, had no native population when the Portuguese first arrived in the 15th century. The islands were populated mainly by the Portuguese, but Jews, Moorish prisoners, African slaves, Flemish, French and Spaniards also contributed to the initial settlement. To understand the paternal origins and diversity of the extant Azorean population, we typed genomic DNA samples from 172 individuals using a combination of 10 Y-biallelic markers (YAP, SRY-1532, SRY-2627, 92R7, M9, sY81, Tat, SRY-8299, 12f2 and LLY22g) and the following Y-chromosomal STR systems: DYS389I, DYS389II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393 and DYS385. We identified nine different haplogroups, most of which are frequent in Europe. Haplogroup J* is the second most frequent in the Azores (13.4%), but it is modestly represented in mainland Portugal (6.8%). The other non-European haplogroups, N3 and E3a, which are prevalent in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, have been found in the Azores (0.6% and 1.2%, respectively) but not in mainland Portugal. Microsatellite data indicate that the mean gene diversity (D) value for all the loci analysed in our sample set is 0.590, while haplotype diversity is 0.9994. Taken together, our analysis suggests that the current paternal pool of the Azorean population is, to a great extent, of Portuguese descent with significant contributions from people with other genetic backgrounds.


December 23, 2004

The real Santa Claus

Unlike the story about the alleged face of Jesus which used a random 1st century AD Jewish skull, a new forensic reconstruction of Santa Claus uses the actual relics of St. Nicholas to give an idea of what the original Santa Claus (who bears little resemblance to the Santa Claus of popular culture) looked like. It is unfortunate however that St. Nicholas is identified as "Turkish" in the article and other news stories. Tunderscores the difference between the traditional concept of nationality based on blood vs. the modern concept of nationality based on place of birth. Needless to say, "Turks" did not exist in 4th century AD Anatolia.

December 20, 2004

The Warriors of Paros

An excellent article about depictions of early Greek hoplites in vases from Paros (c. 730BC) and how they change our views about the development of Greek hoplite warfare.

December 15, 2004

The rape of Greek terminology

The use of newly-coined terms with Greek roots in many branches of science continues, for three main reasons: (i) the use of words of Greek origin continues the scientific tradition of the past (ii) composites are easily formed in the Greek language unlike many other languages of the word, (iii) the Greek language in its classical form is a timeless medium of communication, and thus avoids potential problems with the evolving semantics of words drawn from vocabularies of living languages.

A post at the Genealogy-DNA list is a great example of the dangers inherent in the demise of classical learning. In ages past, many scientists had a humanistic education or could refer to colleagues who did so, and this accounts for so many of the Greek terms used in modern discourse. Today, this is not the case, leading to many suggestions of words which amount to a rape of terminology.

Some examples from the above-linked post:

"anthrogenealogy" instead of "anthropogenealogy"
"genetealogy" for "genetic genealogy"
"begetealogy" allegedly a combination of "beget" and "genealogy" which fails both for being a composit of an English with a Greek word, and for not actually including the second part "genealogy" in the composite word, and for the awful hiatus "ea"
"parentealogy" allegedly a combination of "parent" and "genealogy"

Of course it is understandable that people want to invent new terms to express new ideas. But, one doesn't always need to form a new compound for every new word. If a venerable discipline like "Organic Chemistry" does not need an abbreviation, neither does "Genetic Genealogy".

Moreover, if someone is hell-bent on inventing new terms, they should at least consult an expert.


Yet another "expert" suggests that "genealogy" itself ought to be changed to geneology because allegedly "genealogy" includes "alogy" which means "NOT logical". A knowledgeable reader corrects the continued abuse of the Greek language.

Greece Drops Bar to Turkey's Europe Bid, but Cyprus Picks It Up

Some excellent reporting from the New York Times which captures the reality of the situation almost completely:

Greece Drops Bar to Turkey's Europe Bid, but Cyprus Picks It Up


Published: December 15, 2004

NICOSIA, Cyprus, Dec. 14 - It used to be that European politicians could count on Greece and Cyprus to stand in the way of Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union.

From the time Greece became a member in 1981, it raised the issue of Cyprus, divided into Greek and Turkish sides for more than 30 years, as an obstacle to Turkey's membership. The two countries have also quarreled over a constellation of tiny islands in the Aegean Sea, almost going to war over one deserted rock as recently as 1996.

But now, with much of Europe's populace up in arms over the possibility that Turkey may be invited to begin membership talks, Greece has abandoned its role as spoiler. In a sharp turn, it has become one of Turkey's biggest boosters in the negotiations preceding the European Union summit meeting that begins in Brussels on Thursday.

"I think many of our E.U. partners probably would have liked Greece to do their dirty work, the way it was 20 years ago," said Yannis G. Valinakis, the Greek deputy minister of foreign affairs. "Back then, they would hide behind Greece's back and say: 'Oh, those bloody Greeks. They're blocking us again.' "

As Greece has retreated from the fray, tiny Cyprus, with a population under 800,000, has stepped forward.

Leaders in France, Austria and Denmark, among others, have been trying to come up with a way to invite Turkey to start accession talks while signaling to their constituents, where misgivings about absorbing a Muslim country of 70 million people are rife, that the talks might never bear fruit. Cyprus may prove an ally in that effort.

After years spent in the political shadow of Greece, Cyprus became a member of the European Union in May. Now it has a veto, just like the other 24 members of the union.

Any decision on matters as serious as enlargement must be unanimous, and there is growing speculation, in Cyprus and in Brussels, that Cyprus's president, Tassos Papadopoulos, might use his veto to kill Turkey's hopes of starting accession talks if he does not get what he says Cyprus needs.

"Anyone who suggests that he won't use the veto ever, doesn't know him," said James Ker-Lindsay, a political analyst and director of a Cyprus research company called Civilitas. "He's not afraid to be a pariah."

President Papadopoulos originally laid out six conditions for his support for Turkey, including the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the divided island. Turkey, which sent its troops to Cyprus in 1974 after a coup there aimed at merging the island with Greece, has refused to discuss redeploying its troops except in the context of an overall settlement.

But recently the Cypriot leader's conditions have been distilled into a single demand: that membership talks not start until Turkey officially recognizes the Greek Cypriot government as the government of the entire island, as the European Union has done.

"I think our conditions in the whole setup are the most innocent conditions of those put on Turkey by the E.U.," said Kypros Chrysostomides, the Cypriot government spokesman.

Turkish officials have publicly refused the demand, and privately say they would have a hard time selling such a move to their public unless they first get a firm commitment to begin membership talks.

Yet they have become acutely aware that Cyprus can block a European Union consensus - precisely because, unlike other members, Cyprus has no bridges with Turkey that it fears might be burned.

Left-handers and homicide rate

This exciting new research discovered that the prevalence of left-handedness is correlated with the homicide rate in different human populations. The explanation proposed by the authors is that left-handers have an advantage during a fight, because they can surprise their opponents. This is supported by research in competitive sports where two individuals "fight" each other. However, in the past, fights were often to the death, and hence the advantage of left-handers would be selected, because they could fool their opponents more easily.

But, this ability to "fool" one's opponent is strongest when left-handedness is rare, i.e., when the right-hander doesn't expect it. As the frequency of left-handedness increases, the advantage of left-handers will gradually decrease. The equilibrium point will be different in different human societies depending on how "warlike" they are. In completely peaceful societies, no fights occur and hence left-handers have no advantage. In a very warlike society, left-handers get to kill their unfortunate right-handed opponents more frequently; but the frequency of left-handedness cannot increase unchecked, because its effectiveness diminishes as more and more people are using the "trick" of giving left-handed strikes.

The authors looked at eight traditional societies and discovered that left-handedness and the homicide rate, a measure of violence in a society are correlated. This gives strong support to this theory for the evolution of left-handedness.

Proceedings: Biological Sciences (FirstCite)

Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection

Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond


Humans exhibit hand preference for most manual activities in which they are specialized. Right- and left-handers have coexisted at least since the Upper Palaeolithic, and left-handers are in the minority in all human populations. The persistence of the polymorphism of handedness is a puzzle because this trait is substantially heritable and several fitness costs are associated with left-handedness. Some countervailing benefit is required to maintain the polymorphism. Left-handers may have a frequency-dependent advantage in fights--the advantage being greater when their frequency is lower. Sports data from Western societies are consistent with this prediction. Here, we show that the frequency of left-handers is strongly and positively correlated with the rate of homicides across traditional societies. It ranges from 3% in the most pacifistic societies, to 27% in the most violent and warlike. This finding is consistent with a frequency-dependent selection mechanism maintaining left-handedness in these societies.


December 12, 2004

Face Analyzer

Via NuSapiens a link to a Face Analyzer.

Some results [I cropped some of these images, so you might not get identical results when you try them]:

Pierce Brosnan = 46% Eastern European, 51% Anglo-Saxon, 3% Middle-Eastern
Antonio Banderas = 72% Southern European, 28% Anglo-Saxon
Vladimir Putin = 29% Eastern European, 71% Anglo-Saxon
Al Pacino = 13% Eastern European, 87% Anglo-Saxon
George W. Bush = 13% Eastern European, 52% Southern European, 35% Anglo-Saxon, Intelligence 5.9 (average)
John F. Kerry = 52% Eastern European, 48% Anglo-Saxon, Intelligence 5.9 (average)

Lots of precomputed celebrities

Conclusion: Needs work :)

Why were Minoan palaces abandoned in the Late Minoan period?

Journal of Archaeological Science (In Press)

Abandonment of Minoan palaces on Crete in relation to the earthquake induced changes in groundwater supply

Yuri Gorokhovich


Mysterious abandonment of palaces on Crete during the Late Minoan period was always a challenging problem for archeologists and geologists. Various hypotheses explained this event by effects of tsunamis, earthquakes or climatic changes that were caused by the volcanic eruption of the Santorini volcano. While each of them or their possible combination contributed to the abandonment of palaces and following Late Minoan crisis, there is another possible cause that appeared as a result of studies within the last 20–30 years. This cause is depletion of groundwater supply caused by persistent earthquake activity that took place during the Bronze Age. This explanation is supported by field observations and numerous studies of similar phenomena in other locations.


December 11, 2004

How Many Democrats per Republican at UC-Berkeley and Stanford?

How Many Democrats per Republican at UC-Berkeley and Stanford? Voter Registration Data Across 23 Academic Departments

Daniel B. Klein et al.

Abstract: Using the records of the seven San Francisco Bay Area counties that surround University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, we conducted a systematic and thorough study of the party registration of the Berkeley and Stanford faculty in 23 academic departments. The departments span the social sciences, humanities, hard sciences, math, law, journalism, engineering, medicine, and the business school. Of the total of 1497 individual names on the cumulative list, we obtained readings on 1005, or 67 percent. The findings support the “one-party campus” conjecture. For UC-Berkeley, we found an overall Democrat:Republican ratio of 9.9:1. For Stanford, we found an overall D:R ratio of 7.6:1. Moreover, the breakdown by faculty rank shows that Republicans are an “endangered species” on the two campuses. This article contains a link to the complete data (with individual identities redacted).

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at


December 10, 2004

How polygyny triggers human sexual dimorphism

Journal of Biosocial Science (2004), :1-9 Cambridge University Press



Evolutionary biologists mostly assume that polygyny increases sexual dimorphism in size because, under polygyny, larger males monopolize mating opportunities and pass on their ‘large male’ genes to their sons. Available data on parent–child correlations in height among humans (Homo sapiens) do not support the crucial assumption that height is transmitted along sex lines. This paper instead suggests that human sexual dimorphism in size emerged, not because men got taller, but because women got shorter by undergoing early menarche in response to polygyny. It further speculates that, rather than genetically transmitted, the sexual dimorphism may emerge anew in each generation in response to the degree of polygyny in society. The analysis of comparative data supports the prediction that polygyny reduces women’s height, but has no effect on men’s, and is consistent with the speculation that the origin of human sexual dimorphism in size may be cultural, not genetic.

December 09, 2004

Peruvian mtDNA origins

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2004 Dec 6; [Epub ahead of print]

Land, language, and loci: mtDNA in Native Americans and the genetic history of Peru

Lewis CM Jr et al.

Despite a long history of complex societies and despite extensive present-day linguistic and ethnic diversity, relatively few populations in Peru have been sampled for population genetic investigations. In order to address questions about the relationships between South American populations and about the extent of correlation between genetic distance, language, and geography in the region, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region I sequences and mtDNA haplogroup markers were examined in 33 individuals from the state of Ancash, Peru. These sequences were compared to those from 19 American Indian populations using diversity estimates, AMOVA tests, mismatch distributions, a multidimensional scaling plot, and regressions. The results show correlations between genetics, linguistics, and geographical affinities, with stronger correlations between genetics and language. Additionally, the results suggest a pattern of differential gene flow and drift in western vs. eastern South America, supporting previous mtDNA and Y chromosome investigations.


December 08, 2004

Real-life Amazons?

Woman warrior found in Iranian tomb

TEHRAN, Iran - These days, Iranian women are not even allowed to watch men compete on the soccer field, but 2,000 years ago they could have been carving the boys to pieces on the battlefield.

DNA tests on the 2,000-year-old bones of a sword-wielding Iranian warrior have revealed the broad-framed skeleton belonged to a woman, an archaeologist working in the northwestern city of Tabriz said Saturday.

“Despite earlier comments that the warrior was a man because of the metal sword, DNA tests showed the skeleton inside the tomb belonged to a female warrior,” Alireza Hojabri-Nobari told the Hambastegi newspaper.

He added that the tomb, which had all the trappings of a warrior’s final resting place, was one of 109 and that DNA tests were being carried out on the other skeletons.

Hambastegi said other ancient tombs believed to belong to women warriors have been unearthed close to the Caspian Sea.


Why does lack of sleep lead to weight gain?

According to a new study, lack of sleep is linked to weight gain; the researchers suggest that changes in the levels of two hormones linked to appetite are to blame. Is that the only possible explanation?

An alternative explanation is that people who sleep less are awake more. Since people eat when they are awake, people who are awake more have more opportunity to eat, so it's possible that in fact they do eat more, and the added food intake exceeds the energy needed to spend a few more hours awake. The hormonal changes may be simply adaptations to trigger a modified eating schedule and thus cope with more up-time.

December 07, 2004

Haplogroup E3b and Ancient Jews

Jews have been widely distributed for thousands of years. Therefore, any single group of Jewish descent cannot in itself tell us much about the genetic composition of Ancient Jews (*)

Previously, I had suggested that the presence of Y-haplogroups Q,R1a in Ashkenazi Jews may have been introduced by a Turkic population in Eastern Europe, and hence was not present in Ancient Jews.

A recent study on Samaritans , a group which split from Jews in BC times, indicates that these belong wholly to haplogroup J, with the exception of the Cohen Samaritans who belong to haplogroup E3b. But, since Cohens in general belong to haplogroup J (which contains the Cohen Modal Haplotype), the E3b Samaritan Cohen is probably the result of some (possibly ancient) admixture event.

The Lemba of Southern Africa are physically Negroid, but the presence in their gene pool of the Cohen Modal Haplotype indicates that they are of Jewish origin. They possess 2.9% of haplogroup E3b, which however may have been introduced by other populations of Africa.

The Bene Israel of India also have traditions of Jewish descent, and they also have a high frequency of the Cohen Modal Haplotype, substantiating these claims. They lack haplogroup E3b, and the authors of the linked study suggest that they split from other Jews before E3b entered the Jewish gene pool.

The Cohens themselves have patrilineal descent, therefore they ought to represent in principle a more "pristine" gene pool of Jewish origin than other Jews who only have (almost always) matrilineal Jewish descent. They only have 1.5% of haplogroup E, in contrast to about 18% in lay Jews.

In conclusion, it's probable that ancestral Jewish groups lacked at some stage haplogroup E3b. If this turns out to be the case, then by additionally subtracting the possible Turkic/Slavic admixture (Q+R1a), as well as other clades of possible (Indo-)European origin, it appears that the ancestral Jews belonged primarily (**) to clades of haplogroup J.

(*) By Ancient Jews, I mean "as ancient as can be determined". Ethnic groups are not static entities, and undergo continuous processes of admixture.
(**) Primarily, or even exclusively at the most ancient stage.

December 05, 2004

Abstracts of Y-user workshop papers

Some interesting tidbits from a collection of interesting abstracts of papers and posters presented at a recently held International Forensic Y–User Workshop (pdf)):

Evaluation of the Ethnic Composition in the Population of Argentine

D Corach et al.

"As depicted in most Latin American countries, there is in Argentina, a clear asymmetry regarding Amerindian matrilineage mestizo (83.3%) when compared with Amerindian patrilineage (16.7%). A clear discrepancy arose in comparison with the
physical anthropological position that claims a minimal aboriginal component in Argentina’s population. This contribution provides additional information that supports a more relevant Amerindian component in a country that claimed to be the most European one of the entire Latin America."

Y-chromosome SNP and STR analysis in a Belgian population sample

R Decorte et al.

"The developed approach has been applied to a Belgian population sample of 98 males
that has been previously typed with the Powerplex Y System (Promega). In total, 6 haplogroups (E3b, G, I, J2, R1a1 and R1b) were observed in more than one individual while 2 haplogroups (A and F*(xG,H,I,J,K) or J*) were each present in a single individual. The two most common haplogroups were R1b (60.6%) and I (13.1%) which is similar to other studies of West-European populations."

Y-STR haplotypes from East Germany – differences between carriers of surnames of Germanic and Slavic origin?

UD Immel et al.

"The goal of the present study was to investigate whether Y-chromosome haplotype analysis is capable to distinguish groups with surnames of different origin. To this end, DNA samples were obtained from 400 males born in the south of Saxony-Anhalt. Samples were divided into three groups namely those with a Germanic surname, those with a Slavic surname and those with mixed origin of the surnames. The minimal Y-STR haplotype of these two groups was analysed by AMOVA. A highly significant difference (p < 0.001,FST = 0.0309) between the Germanic and the Slavic groups was observed. When comparing this to other populations using published data, this difference is similar to that between European populations of large geographical and linguistical
differences (like e.g. between Cologne and Budapest). On the other hand, the group with surnames of the mixed origin were indistinguishable from the Germanic group (FST = 0.0008). Our results reflect that the Y chromosomal lineages of Germans born in southern Saxony-Anhalt differ depending on the ethnic and linguistic origin of their surname."

Genetic differentiation follows political borders in Europe: Y-chromosome variation in Poland and Germany

M Kayser et al.

"To test for human population substructure within Europe we have investigated Y chromosome diversity using seven microsatellites and ten binary markers in samples from eight regionally distributed populations from Poland (n = 913) and eleven from Germany (n = 1215). Based on both marker systems we observed statistically significant genetic differentiation between all Polish and all German regional populations but also genetic homogeneity within each of the two neighboring geographic regions. We suggest that this scenario can be best explained by very recent events in human population history, namely the politically forced human resettlements during and after World War II, rather than more historical population movements. In addition, our findings have important consequences for the use of Y chromosome markers in forensics and strongly argue in favor of regional Y chromosome databases and / or the implementation of population substructure into more global Y chromosome databases."

Y-chromosomal DNA variation in East Asia

Y Xue et al.

"East Asia has been inhabited by modern humans for > 50,000 years and now holds more than one quarter of the world population. Genetic analysis using classical markers identified a major north-south distinction (Cavalli- Sforza et al. 1994), which may reflect separate origins of northern and southern populations from different migrations out of Africa. The Y chromosome provides high-resolution male haplotypes and thus an opportunity to investigate male-specific history. We have typed 1012 individuals from 28 populations in China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan with 45 binary markers (mostly SNPs) and 16 microsatellites from the Y chromosome. SAMOVA analysis of Y-SNPs was used to identify the geographical divisions that apportion the maximum amount of genetic variation between groups (Dupanloup et al. 2002). It did not show the traditional north-south division, but identified small groups of distinct populations, mainly in the south. Why should Y-chromosomal variation show a different structure from that of the rest of the genome? We have investigated the distribution and time- depth of individual haplogroups. For example, haplogroup O is
largely confined to East Asia and one of its subdivisions, O3, is widespread and common in China. A subset of these chromosomes, O3/-d, is concentrated in southern China, particularly in the two Yao populations which formed one of the major SAMOVA divisions. The time depth of the O3/-d lineage was estimated at approximately 5,900 (4,500 - 8,200) years from its microsatellite variation using the program BATWING
(Wilson and Balding 1998), so must have spread after this date. A second common haplogroup is C, and C3c chromosomes are concentrated in northeastern China where they are present at highest frequency in the Oroqen population, another of the major SAMOVA divisions. A substantial subset of them appear to have expanded very recently, < 900 years ago. These results suggest that East Asian Y-chromosomal variation has been substantially reshaped by recent events within Neolithic and historical times."

Y-STR differentiation and substructuring in Pyrenean populations.

E Arroyo-Pardo et al.

"The Pyrenees are a mountain range which spans 430 km from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean shore. Its widest section (160 km) lies in the central part and contains also the highest peaks, most over 3,000 meters. Though the Pyrenees have been populated since Paleolithic times, they present a very difficult geography
that produces some degree of isolation of populations. Due to this orography, Pyrenees were perhaps a marginal area for the advance of the farming wave during Neolithic (Arias Cabal, 1991) and could be less affected by the farming spred than the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. We studied the 9 loci comprised within the minimal haplotype of the Y-STR Haplotype Reference Database ( in the autochtonous populations from East Pyrenees – Cerdanya (n = 42) and Urgell (n=34) – Central Pyrenees – Aran (n=30) –, andWest-Pyrenees – Jacetania (n=28) and Lesaca (n=42). Nine other Iberian populations from Spain and Portugal were used for comparison. Two Basque samples were also introduced in order to comprise the Basque- speaking region within the study. Genetic diversity parameters, AMOVA and mismatch distributions reveal substructuring of Pyrenean populations according to a East-West gradient. Results also point out a certain degree of differentiation between Pyreneans and the rest of Iberian samples. The genetic landscape produced may well support the isolation of the Pyrenean populations during the Neolithic diffusion due to the geography of the region."

A study on Y-STR haplotypes in the Saxon population from Transylvania – is there evidence for a German origin?

L Barbarii et al.

"Y chromosome markers are increasingly used to investigate human population histories, being considered to be sensitive systems for detecting the population movements. In this study we present Y-STR data for Transylvanian Saxons in comparison with Y-haplotypes from Romanians and other European populations.
The Transylvanian Saxons, called like that since medieval times, are representing a Romanian minority population with assumed German origin. They have settled in the Arch of Romanian Carpathian Mountains in the earliest of the 12th century. Historical and dialectal studies strongly suggest that they do not originate from Saxony, but more probably from the Mosel riversides (Rhine affluent) and also from the Eifel Mountains Valley (present territory of Luxembourg). Living protected by fortified cities in compact communities, they still represent a quite distinct population in Transylvania. Males selected for this study had all Saxon surnames and were classified by the birthplace of the paternal grandfather. The typing results
reflect high Saxon population haplotype diversity. Furthermore, we present data on the haplotype sharing of the Saxon population with other European populations, especially with Germans as well as with Romanians and Transylvanian Hungarians."

Phylogenetic studies of Swedish males by Pyrosequencing of Y-chromosome SNP markers

A Karlsson et al.

"Analysis of Y-chromosomal biallelic markers has become important because of their usefulness in forensics and archaeology. Therefore we have, together with our previous study, designed and established a Pyrosequencing (Biotage, Sweden) methodology for studying 17 biallelic Y-chromosome markers (SRY1532, YAP, SRY4064, M35, M78, M89, M201, M170, M26, M223, M253, 12f2, M9, Tat, 92R7, M17 and M269).
PCR was designed to produce amplicons around 100 bp, suitable for analysis of highly degraded DNA. We also present a population study on 305 Swedish males living in seven different regions. Genomic DNA from the males was typed for the 17 markers mentioned above. The population could thus be divided into 16 different haplogroups. Together with results from minimal haplotype Y-STR-analysis population parameters
will be calculated, for example FST statistics, diversities and others. According to preliminary data, Västerbotten significantly differs from other regions which is also shown by Roewer et al (Hum Genet in press)."

Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes in Sicily

C Robino et al.

"The reconstruction of the genetic history of Sicily is extremely difficult, because of the complexity of human movements and settlements that interested this area of the Mediterranean Sea in prehistorical and historical times. Previous studies, based on classical and DNA markers (autosomal STRs and mtDNA), are discordant regarding the presence of genetic heterogeneity within the island, some of them suggesting a geographical pattern of differentiation following a longitudinal (East- West) axis. Analysis of Y-chromosome biallelic polymorphisms showed a haplogroup frequency distribution similar to Southern Italy and Greece. In this study, Y-STRs currently used to define the minimal haplotype employed in the “Y-STR haplotype reference
database” (DYS19, DYS389I-II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393, and DYS385) were typed in 215 unrelated males from Sicily. Individuals represented in the population sample were chosen from both geographically and historically distinct areas of the island: Trapani, Santa Ninfa, Alcamo (Western Sicily); Sciacca, Caccamo, Mazzara del Vallo (Central Sicily); Troina, Ragusa, Piazza Armerina (Eastern Sicily). Comparison of haplotype distributions was carried out between different sampling regions and with neighbouring Mediterranean populations."

Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes in Macedonian population samples

M Spiroski et al.

"Eleven Y-chromosomal short tandem repeats (STRs), DYS19, DYS389I, DYS389II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393, DYS385, DYS437, DYS438, DYS439 were typed in DNA samples from Macedonian population (n = 150). The Macedonian population sample has two dominant minimal haplotypes with frequencies > 5% (13,13,30,24,10,11,13,16-18 and 16,13,31,24,11,11,13,14-15). By haplotype extension (DYS437, DYS438, DYS439) both of these minimal haplotypes can be further split up into 4 different, 1-allele step deviant chromosomes, respectively. The frequencies of the 20 most frequent minimal haplotypes in the Macedonian population have been compared with those from populations inhabiting 4 neighbouring geographic regions sampled for the YHRD, i.e. Albania (n = 101), Bulgaria (n = 122), Croatia (n = 150) and Greece (n = 101). The analysis revealed the most pronounced similarities in the minimal haplotype frequency with the Croatian and Albanian samples. The gene diversity for the minimal haplotype was 0.9838, for the 11-locus haplotype 0.9889. One haplotype analysed in this study includes a duplication of the locus DYS19 (alleles 15,16), a type of mutation which has been observed so far with a frequency of about 0.05% in 21,546 individuals in the YHRD (release 10 from February 26, 2004)."

Genetic diversity of three Singapore populations using Y-Short Tandem Repeat and mitochondrial D-loop loci

RYY Yong et al.

"Genetic distances comparison between populations using both Y-STR and mtDNA markers indicated Chinese-Malay are the most related, while Chinese-Indian are the furthest apart genetically. To our knowledge, this study represents the most comprehensive report of Y-STR and mtDNA haplotype distribution in Singapore to date."

Elgin Marbles Dispute Takes New Twist

Dec. 3, 2004 — One of the oldest international cultural disputes, the battle over the Elgin Marbles, has taken another turn as a distinguished Cambridge scholar says the sculptures would have been just fine if Lord Elgin had left them in Athens.

Following a sophisticated 11-year conservation program in Athens, the 14 slabs that Lord Elgin did not manage to remove are now showing surprisingly bright original details.

"They are in better shape than anything in London. We now know exactly what Lord Elgin 'saved' them from: one has only to go to Athens and see for oneself," Anthony Snodgrass, professor emeritus of classical archaeology at Cambridge University, told Discovery News.

Indeed, the 17 figures and 56 panels chiseled off in 1801 by Lord Elgin from a giant frieze that once decorated ancient Athens' most sacred shrine, the Parthenon, bear dramatic signs of the British Museum's heavy-handed cleaning scandal in the 1930s.

The fearless horsemen, sprightly youths, lounging deities, belligerent centaurs and expressive horses were cruelly scraped and scrubbed with chisels and wire brushes in an attempt to make them whiter than white, an aesthetic admired by museumgoers.

Despite the 1930s cleaning, the British Museum has always maintained that the museum is the best possible place for the marbles to be on display.

"The British Museum is a truly universal museum of humanity, accessible to five million visitors from around the world every year entirely free of entry charge.

"The Parthenon Marbles have been central to the museum's collections, and to its purpose, for almost two hundred years. Only here can the worldwide significance of the sculptures be fully grasped," Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, said in a statement.

He added that centuries of damage have meant that "the Parthenon is a ruin" and that only 50 percent of the original sculptures survive today.

"They can now only be an incomplete collection of fragments," MacGregor said.

Until now, no one had been able to have a close view of the slabs Lord Elgin did not remove as they were too high up on the Parthenon. When they were taken down in 1993, a thick layer of soot made it almost impossible to distinguish anything.

Now, after undergoing a double-laser cleaning program, the marble pieces show an abundance of details, such as chisel marks and veins on the horses bellies.

According to Snodgrass, who has chaired the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles since 2002, the difference between British museum's marbles and the Greek ones is clear to anyone who compares them.

"The Athens pieces have more detail preserved, and are more like what their makers intended," Snodgrass said.

He noted that the much-debated natural-stained patina is still present in the newly restored Greek marbles, while it is totally gone in the British museum's pieces.

Carved by Phidias in the 5th century B.C., the Parthenon sculptures are scattered throughout several European museums, including the Louvre in Paris.

But the bulk of the marbles are kept in London's British Museum. Greece contends they were stolen in 1801 by Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Britain claims that Lord Elgin had permission from the ruling Turkish authorities to take them.

Greece has been demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles since the country's independence from Turkey in 1829.

It is now building an Acropolis Museum which is due to be completed by 2006. The museum will include a Parthenon Hall which will remain empty until the marbles have been returned.


December 02, 2004

Dissection of Y-chromosome haplogroups N and Q

Y-chromosome haplogroups N and Q are both very frequent in northern Eurasia. To get a better understanding of the correlation between these haplogroups and physical types, I have gathered frequency data from Am. J. Hum. Genet. 74:661–682, 2004 and anthropological descriptions from The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire. I list all Siberian populations which have frequency greater than 50% for one of these haplogroups.

Khants (N=76.6%):
Anthropologically, the Khants are representatives of the Uralic race. Over half of their racial characteristics are predominantly Mongoloid (particularly in the Beryozovo region). They are short (the average height for men is 158 cm and for women 146 cm), and their broad-shouldered stocky trunk has a characteristic convexity. They have narrow eyes and high cheek-bones and their eyes and hair are dark.

Nganasans (N=92.1%):
Anthropologically, the Nganasans are representatives of the Uralic race in which Mongoloid and Arctic traits dominate European. Due to their relative isolation they have scarcely mixed with other peoples, (this situation has changed in more recent times with incursions by the Dolgans and Russians). Nganasans are a short (men up to 160 cm), stocky people. They have a broad face with high cheekbones, a flat nose and the epicanthic fold. Hair and eyes are dark but the skin is relatively fair.

Nenets (N=97.3%):
Anthropologically, the Nenets are representatives of the Uralic race with stronger than average Mongoloid characteristics. They are commonly of short stature (the average male height is 158 cm) and a stocky build. The face is broad and flat, with a short and somewhat protruding nose. While hair is straight and thick, beard growth is poor. Eyelids commonly exhibit epicanthic folds. Due to dark pigmentation, hair and eyes are black or brown and the skin is swarthy. In appearance the Nenets resemble most the Ostyaks, displaying, however, more Mongoloid characteristics. The Nenets of the Arkhangelsk region exhibit a somewhat stronger European strain.

Selkups (Q=66.4%):
Anthropologically, the Selkups are representatives of the Uralic race, being rather similar to the Ob-Ugrians. They are of small stature (men below 160 cm) and have a short skull. The hair and eyes are dark. Mongoloid traits are less conspicuous than in the Northern Samoyeds, the colour of the skin is fairer. The Selkups are unique among the Samoyeds as they are bearded.

Kets (Q=93.7%):
Anthropologically the Ket belong to the Mongoloid North-Asian race, although some features of the Uralic race are also observable. Compared to Mongoloid people, the colour of their skin and eyes is lighter, but in comparison with the Uralic people their skin is darker, their nose is more protrusive and their beard growth poorer. Their face is broad and flat, with high cheekbones. They are short and stout. In 1843 A. Th. von Middendorff gave the following description: "the Kets are plump with thin legs and a staggering walk, flitting eyes and a jerky talk. In spite of their Mongoloid features they look quite alike the Finns".

Yakuts (N=88.4%):

Some observations: it seems that haplogroup N implies presence of the Uralic race, as I have noted elsewhere. Haplogroup Q, which is also strongly represented in the American Mongoloids, is present in two of the Siberian groups, one of them identified as Mongoloid (Kets) in the Red Book, while the other (Selkups) identified as Uralic.

The Uralic race has been thought to be either the result of admixture of Caucasoids with Mongoloids, or a race of its own which has also undergone admixture with the two major Eurasian races. The discovery of haplogroup N and the study of its distribution strongly suggests that the Uralic race has an independent origin, even though it seems to be related to the Mongoloid race.

In the case of haplogroup Q, its Mongoloid association seems unassailable, especially since it is found in the Americas. Therefore, the identification of the Selkups as "Uralic" requires an explanation. The Selkups have a frequency of Caucasoid haplogroups (R1b+R1a=25.2%) plus 6.9% of haplogroup N. Therefore in their case, their "Uralic"-type of appearance is probably the result of admixture between Caucasoids, a hint of "real" Uralics, and Q-haplogroup Mongoloids.

In conclusion, the genetic data seems to support the multidimensional craniometric view of Uralics as a race of their own which also shows signs of hybridization with Caucasoids and Mongoloids on a West-East axis.

Greece well below EU AIDS mean

According to EU-wide statistics for 2002 — when the Union still consisted of 15 states — the overall average figure for new AIDS sufferers was 24.8 per million. In Greece, the corresponding figure was just 8.7 per million of the population. For the same year, the EU average figure for new HIV infections was 76.7 per million, and 38 per million in Greece.

Link (Kathimerini)

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Link (Europa)

Clear thinking about group differences

Any two human groups will almost certainly have different distributions for any particular trait. The distributions may have different shapes, means, standard deviations, and may differ significantly, as in facial flatness between Europeans and East Asians, or only a little, as in IQ between Germans and Danes.

In some traits one group will have a "better" distribution than another -- if the trait has a positive or negative value, e.g., the incidence of some disease, or IQ. In other traits it will have a "worse" distribution. There will also be some traits, e.g., the incidence of shovel-shaped incisors where differences can't be interpreted as either "positive" or "negative".

These are just the facts about group differences. People have different ways of approaching these facts, and I distinguish four basic attitudes:

  • Pure Racists claim that group A is better than group B without qualification. Racism can be summarized as the belief in the essential superior value of one group over another.
  • Selective Racists claim that group A is better than group B for a particular set of traits. Selective racists may be justified in claiming group differences in value, however they exhibit bias in their subjective choice of traits. If for example group A is taller and smarter (on average) than group B, but also fatter and more prone to cancer, then a selective racist who belongs to group A may assert the value of A based on height and intelligence, subjectively preferring these traits over fatness and tendency to cancer.
  • Realists acknowledge group differences equally and do not bias their thinking in favor of a set of traits in which their group seems to do better than other human groups.
  • Selective Egalitarians acknowledge group differences over a particular set of traits, especially those that do not have an obvious value, such as curly hair or shovel-shaped incisors, but refuse to acknowledge such differences over other traits, especially ones with a clear value, such as intelligence.
  • Pure Egalitarians refuse to accept any differences, or to talk about differences, or even -in extreme cases- to acknowledge the very existence of separate human groups.

December 01, 2004

DNA Tests to Detect Iron Age Dwellers' Race, Skin Color

A group Iranian heritage and academic experts plan to conduct DNA tests on bones of people dating back to the Iron Age to discern their race, complexion color and endemic diseases at that time, in the most daunting project for local archeology in recent memory.

Studies show the Iron Age people used to dwell in Persia from 2,500 BC to 500 BC, leaving behind a telltale sign in the form of grey potteries. The funerary artifacts unearthed in Iran's ancient cemeteries indicated those people took pride in their multifaceted and diversified culture and religious beliefs, though the dearth of knowledge on their settlements has frustrated archeologists.

A relatively young scientific approach among local archeologists, DNA tests would hopefully unravel mysteries of one the most intriguing epoch of human history.
Now a team archeologists in Tarbiat Modarres University (TMU) in Tehran and Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) plan to embark on a fact-finding mission, on the orders of CHTO's president Hussein Marashi.

Dr. Alireza Hozhabri Nobari, an archeologist in TMU who pioneered DNA tests on skeletons dug out from graves in the northwestern city of Tabriz, believes the approach could lead to solving some Iron Age mysteries.