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Friday, September 17, 2021

Lizard Gorge


I was hiking through one of my favorite wilderness areas the other day. I call this place Lizard Gorge because it's full of monitor lizards that strut around like they own it.

Just a few minutes into my hike I noticed some birds going crazy atop a massive, hollow tree. They were calling loudly as if a predator was near, and, sure enough, when I peered into this tree I saw two monitors tearing apart the carcass of a large animal.

It was a gory but fascinating sight. Unfortunately, the stench made it difficult to bear, so I decided to move on.

As I backed away I was attacked by a swarm of insects. Initially, in my panic, I thought they were spiders, but on closer inspection they turned out to be gigantic ants.

I was bitten on the hand, arm and neck. It hurt like hell. The bite on the neck was especially painful. Were these ants venomous? Was I at risk of a dangerous allergic reaction? I didn't know, so I ran, seemingly for my life.

After a few minutes, however, the pain went away. I sat down beside a creek, looked all around for ants, and had a cool drink. Despite my ordeal, it was an awesome hike, and I managed to get some great pics. Enjoy!

See also...

Eagle country

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Yamnaya people drank horse milk (Wilkin et al. 2021)


Over at Nature at this LINK. I'm guessing the claim that Yamnaya pastoralists lived in Scandinavia is a huge typo. Obviously, the authors are referring to the people of the Corded Ware culture (CWC). From the paper:

During the Early Bronze Age, populations of the western Eurasian steppe expanded across an immense area of northern Eurasia. Combined archaeological and genetic evidence supports widespread Early Bronze Age population movements out of the Pontic–Caspian steppe that resulted in gene flow across vast distances, linking populations of Yamnaya pastoralists in Scandinavia with pastoral populations (known as the Afanasievo) far to the east in the Altai Mountains1,2 and Mongolia3. Although some models hold that this expansion was the outcome of a newly mobile pastoral economy characterized by horse traction, bulk wagon transport4,5,6 and regular dietary dependence on meat and milk5, hard evidence for these economic features has not been found. Here we draw on proteomic analysis of dental calculus from individuals from the western Eurasian steppe to demonstrate a major transition in dairying at the start of the Bronze Age. The rapid onset of ubiquitous dairying at a point in time when steppe populations are known to have begun dispersing offers critical insight into a key catalyst of steppe mobility. The identification of horse milk proteins also indicates horse domestication by the Early Bronze Age, which provides support for its role in steppe dispersals. Our results point to a potential epicentre for horse domestication in the Pontic–Caspian steppe by the third millennium bc, and offer strong support for the notion that the novel exploitation of secondary animal products was a key driver of the expansions of Eurasian steppe pastoralists by the Early Bronze Age.

Wilkin, S., Ventresca Miller, A., Fernandes, R. et al. Dairying enabled Early Bronze Age Yamnaya steppe expansions. Nature (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03798-4

See also...

On the origin of the Corded Ware people

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The genomic formation of modern Balkan peoples (Olalde et al. 2021 preprint)


Over at bioRxiv at this LINK. This preprint deals with some very complex issues, so I can't say much about it until I have a good look at the relevant genotype data. However, for now, my impression is that the authors have oversimplified the genetic origins of most Balkan peoples.

For instance, they model the present-day Greek population as a two way mixture between ancient Greeks from a Greek colony in Iberia and present-day Mordovians. The Mordovians are basically a proxy for the Slavs who moved into the Balkans during the Medieval period.

However, the problem is that, strictly speaking, this isn't a historically plausible model, because Mordovians are actually a Uralic-speaking group from the Volga region with significant Siberian ancestry. Needless to say, it's extremely unlikely that anyone like them had an appreciable impact on the present-day Greek gene pool.

So instead I'd like to see the authors try three-way and four-way models with ancients from Mycenae, Anatolia and some places (well to the west of the Volga River) likely to have been inhabited by early Slavs.

Feel free to let me know what you think about this preprint in the comments below. Here's the abstract:

The Roman Empire expanded through the Mediterranean shores and brought human mobility and cosmopolitanism across this inland sea to an unprecedented scale. However, if this was also common at the Empire frontiers remains undetermined. The Balkans and Danube River were of strategic importance for the Romans acting as an East-West connection and as a defense line against “barbarian” tribes. We generated genome-wide data from 70 ancient individuals from present-day Serbia dated to the first millennium CE; including Viminacium, capital of Moesia Superior province. Our analyses reveal large scale-movements from Anatolia during Imperial rule, similar to the pattern observed in Rome, and cases of individual mobility from as far as East Africa. Between ∼250-500 CE, we detect gene-flow from Central/Northern Europe harboring admixtures of Iron Age steppe groups. Tenth-century CE individuals harbored North-Eastern European-related ancestry likely associated to Slavic-speakers, which contributed >20% of the ancestry of today’s Balkan people.

Olalde et al., Cosmopolitanism at the Roman Danubian Frontier, Slavic Migrations, and the Genomic Formation of Modern Balkan Peoples, bioRxiv, posted August 31, 2021, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.30.458211

See also...

A Greek tragedy