Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Genetics of the Ancient Romans

As we've noted before, there are a bunch of charlatans in the world of Ancient DNA.  The worst offender, perhaps, is a pseudonymous Belgian named Maciamo Hay, who runs a site called Eupedia.  This uneducated man knows just enough to sound knowledgable, and to delude himself and some of the similarly ignorant.  In the world of Ancient DNA, he is probably the best example of Dunning-Krueger effect out there.

Many of these Ancient DNA practitioners spend their time trying to digest the most recent DNA studies, but don't ever come close to picking up a history book, much less to acquiring the deep, big-picture understanding of ancient history that is needed to explain the population movements that have occurred in places like Rome and Italy over time.

In this post, we go over those population movements, to review claims made by fools like Maciamo on Eupedia.

Let's start with his baldest misstatement: "In all logic, the ancient Romans, from the original founders of Rome to the patricians of the Roman Republic, should have been essentially R1b-U152 people."  This laughable statement was directly pulled from Eupedia on the same day that this post is dated, and as far as I can tell, it's still up.  (I just refuse to link to it, lest any more misinformation be circulated).

As Maciamo's own maps show! -- the distribution of U152 in Italy is centered in the ALPS, and radiates outward to all the parts of Italy that were previously inhabited by CELTS.

So: Where to begin?  How does one even start to explain history to someone so uneducated?

Let's start with something most people know.  The saying, "he's crossed the Rubicon" is a reference to Caesar crossing the Rubicone river.

Why was that so significant?  Because the Rubicon was the traditional BORDER of Italy at that time.  (49 BC.)  In other words, it was an act of war for Caesar to cross that border.  Where is the Rubicone river?  It's just south of modern Ravenna!

For 700 years, the "Italy" of Roman times -- that which was populated by Italians (versus Gauls) -- was the true peninsula parts (sticking out).  Never forget that.  The distribution of U152 clearly corresponds to where the population was Gaulish versus Roman!  U152 is the OPPOSITE of a Roman marker.

Southern Italy, on the other hand, was considered the most desirable real estate for much of the Roman Republic and early empire.  When Cicero listed the most beautiful and prosperous cities in Italy, most were in Southern Italy.  Places like Reggio Calabria and Capua.  When Mark Antony and Augustus' veterans demanded land, they demanded it in Southern Italy.

Furthermore, Rome devastated places like Samnium (modern Molise/Campania) and modern Cosenza, destroying most of the inhabitants, and then seizing the territory for Roman citizens.  Anyone who knows Roman history knows this.

Rome planted dozens (almost a hundred) of colonies (of Roman citizens) in Southern Italy.  Entire towns (like Vibo Valentia) were populated by tens of thousands of transplanted Romans.  These colonies were stocked BEFORE Rome became an empire, i.e., before it became cosmopolitan.  The people who founded these towns were of "pure" Roman stock.

Why does this matter?  Well, this blog is no Southern Italy apologist.  Southern Italy was a backwater for years.  Isolated and insignificant.  But from a genetic standpoint, those qualities ARE significant.

If you wanted to study the genetics of the Romans, would you go to a place where lots of people had passed through?  A place that was a successful and world port in the Middle Ages?  A place where people wanted to move to from elsewhere?  OF COURSE NOT.

You would WANT a backwater; a place unchanged over millennia.  The towns of South Italy (many of which who have never been invaded by anyone, thank you very much), are where you can find the descendants of Romans, unadulterated.

Well before modern genetic studies, very intelligent, very thorough researchers did large-scale demographic studies on Rome.  These folks, mostly British historians from Oxford, scoured records in churches and cemeteries, in abbeys and books -- everywhere, -- to estimate the population demography of Rome.  This much we know: at the dawn of the empire, "Italy" was Italy south of the Rubicon, well south of the Po.  The population was a mix of the local Italic tribes and Roman Latins, placed there as colonies.

Want to know the genetics of the Romans?  Look at which towns started out as Roman (not Gaulish, Maciamo!) and which towns have largely been untouched since.

Professor Chris Wickham produced exhaustive studies of Italy from 400-1000 AD.  He provides real numbers of the "others" in Italy.  He concludes the Goths and Lombards (German tribes who ruled large parts of Italy from 476 AD - c. 1000 AD) never were more than 2%-9% of the Italian population, and he believes aside from pockets in the South, they were clustered mostly in the North.  Again, it's the NORTHERN Italians with the non-Roman influences, not the Southerners.  Again, this skews the DNA of the North.  Don't assume the Southern differences from the North are from Southern exoticness.

Chances are, Northern Italian DNA is different because it started with a large dollop of Gaulish (Celtic) genes, and they received a small smattering of Germanic genes.  Southern Italian DNA, for the most part is not different because of subsequent influences.  Southern Italians are generally darker (although not by much) because of the absence of Gaulish and Germanic influences.  But those southerners more closely represent Roman DNA as it was.

Wickham also studied the Byzantine (Eastern Roman empire, Greek-speaking), Norman (French Viking) and Saracen (Arab or North African) occupying forces in Italy, and concluded that for peninsular Italy, these forces were tiny, much less than 1% of the population, and that they left no real  permanent traces.  Again, this is because these were occupying armies not settlers.  Please note contrary to popular belief, much of the towns and villages of Southern Italy were never physically occupied by ANY of these groups, even though suzerainty and tax payments did change hands.  Was Paris after the Nazis any less French?

Folks like Maciamo also greatly UNDERESTIMATE the effect of Roman colonies throughout the Mediterranean.  Rome, through much of its thousand-year history, was a population EXPORTER.  Romans bred like crazy -- there was never enough land to go around -- and they, as the most powerful people of their era, felt it was their prerogative to seize lands of the conquered and place their citizens' families there, to live long and prosper.  It wasn't like now, where middle class families have 2.5 kids.  Then, (aside from the patricians), a family had as many kids as it could afford -- as many kids as it could feed.  Romans had many kids...

A look at the map of Roman colonies shows just how widespread this practice was.   Note the concentration in Italy and Spain, followed by France and Romania.  Yes folks, there's a reason why the Latin language survived in those regions, and why Romance derivatives are still spoken there today.

Despite the Romans exporting so many people, I have never seen one of these modern, unschooled-in -history geneticists raise the question as to whether the similarities between South/Central Italian DNA and that of say, Greece,or North Africa is due to Roman OUTFLOW of genes.  These idiotic (and perhaps racist?) people only repeat the Quentin Tarantino-esque claims that the similarity between such genes must be from exotic INFLOWS into the population of Italy.

It's really idiotic if you think about it.  Rome locates a colony of 25,000 Italian FAMILIES in some town in backwater Greece (or North Africa), and the town prospers for 1000 years and still exists today.  A Byzantine (or Saracen) garrison of 1000 men holds an Italian town for 100 years and then departs.  But many people online ascribe the similarity between Italian and Greek (or North African) genes to the latter?  Incredibly myopic.

Anyway, in conclusion:

Maciamo Hay is an idiot.  He should read some JB Bury, some Ronald Some, and some Chris Wickham.

Geneticists should realize if they want to find Roman genetics, they should try to discern the similarities between backwater (untouched/remote) towns in Southern Italy and Spain, which were settled around the same time with Roman colonists.  There, you can detect and isolate the signal of Roman genetics.

And genetic similarities between Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean could just as easily be due to pre-Roman factors or Roman OUTFLOWS as they are to post-Roman inflows into Italy.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Banned from Anthrogenica, Censored by Eurogenes, Laugh at Eupedia

Several posters at Davidski's Eurogenes blog have noted that they've been banned from Anthrogenica for challenging the Kool-Aid drinking orthodoxy that infects that website.

The pattern almost always goes as follows.  A regular Anthrogenica poster says something like, "Isn't the Kool-Aid grand?"  A newcomer says, "I don't want to drink your Kool-Aid."  The Anthrogenica regular says, "I'm right, you idiot."  And then the newcomer says, "You're the idiot" -- and yep, you guessed it, only one of them gets banned.

It's gotten so bad that some of the best citizen-scientist minds, and almost all contrarian voices, are gone from that website.  In the old days, the orthodoxy sought to excommunicate Galileo from the Catholic faith.  Now they excommunicate posters from the major discussion websites.  No dissent allowed.

With Dienekes inactive, Eurogenes is where many go for discussion.  But Davidski has been very heavy with the censorship button there too.  Post something he disagrees with?  He removes your comment.  It's really sad.

I myself have tried to post my most recent thread, about applying simple demographics to his "Conquest and Warfare" fantasies, and he always removes my comments asap.

What does that leave?  Eupedia?  Maciamo is a reductio ad absurdem idiot, who also doesn't hesitate to ban people with any contrarian viewpoint.

So, this is it.  This is your thread.  This thread (and this website) is for anyone Banned From Anthrogenica, or Censored by Eurogenes.

Post away.  You will not be censored here.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

When Is A "Conquest" Not A Conquest?

When Is A Conquest Not A Conquest?

You are a scientist living in the year 4017, specializing in the ancient civilizations that existed between 1492 and 2200 A.D.  Various cultures came and went, but alas, most written records were lost in the intervening centuries.  So you study DNA.

Your fellow scientists know that in many different regions, the DNA record shows profound change over time, both in autosomal percentages and uniparental markers (Y-Chromosome, mtDNA).

Unfortunately, arrogant bloggers still exist in 4017, and three of them, one called Davidski Futurski (who blogs at Eurogenes-ski), a fellow named Maciamo-Futuriamo, and another named Rocca Futura, are examples of "a little knowledge can be dangerous."  

They blindly state that all changes in DNA indicate evidence of conquest by some superior culture of badass men.  (Nevermind that they all believe they descend from the people they assert to be superior; that's irrelevant, we're sure).

Your boss at the university, someone who sees nuance better than the bloggers, asks you to model the record and various types of human interactions, and answer the question:

"When Might A 'Conquest' Not Really Be A Conquest?"  

So you come up with the following four models, and re-create as best as you can some historical examples for the clueless:

1.  Refugees from a war-torn area flood into a nearby land (and even some faraway lands), overwhelming the demographics.  The bloggers post that a people called the Syrians conquered the Lebanese, starting in 2011, but you're not so sure.  Your research finds the opposite: that there was a horrendous war in Syria, causing 11 million people to lose all their belongings and flee.  Therefore, you don't think these people were conquerors, but refugees.  Nevertheless, the stubborn bloggers point out how the record shows a massive DNA shift in Lebanon, where the Syrian markers went from 5% to 25% of the population in just three years.  

"It had to be conquest" they write, of powerful, rich, sophisticated men conquering the weak Lebanese.  

Alas, you tell them: it was the opposite: a beaten-down people streaming into a nearby land (and also places like Sweden), altering the gene pool.  In fact, Lebanon started with 5 million people, and absorbed an influx of 2.5 million refugees.  Thus, the autosomal genetics and uniparental frequencies were both significantly changed.  It's really as simple as that.

2. Disease.  In 1598, slaves from Africa were brought to a place called Puerto Rico.  They brought with them Yellow Fever, something the native American inhabitants did not have exposure or antibodies to.  

Although the natives were, under the caste system at the time, a couple of rungs higher than the African slaves, and although the natives had better sources of food and systems for dealing with the native landscape, they were killed off in the thousands simply because they didn't have antibodies to the new disease.  

But all the bloggers see is that Puerto Rico went from showing Native American DNA patterns to showing African (and European) DNA patterns.  And they cry, their must have been a conquest, led by the African newcomers!  You LOL, pointing out that these newcomers were slaves and vectors.

3.  Economic Opportunity.  The bloggers now discuss Los Angeles.  They point out that the DNA record shows that in the 1950s, Los Angeles was 80% inhabited by an ancient culture called, "whites."  By 2020, it was 60% Hispanic.  The record thus showed profound shifts in autosomal frequencies and Y-chromosome patterns.  

"There must have been a conquest!" the bloggers shout from the rooftops!  War!  Destruction!  A supreme powerful tribe of men, with better tools!  

No, you quietly assert.  Your research shows that poor Hispanic immigrants simply migrated to Los Angeles, looking for better economic opportunities than what existed back home.  Alas, the bloggers still don't grasp this example either.

4.  Simple Cultural Differences in Birthrates.  Palestinian women have vastly greater birthrates than their neighbors.  In the 1960s, it was 8 children per every female.  Even now, it's above 4.0 children for every woman.  The Israeli birthrate, while still relatively high at 3.0, is not as high.  By 2045, Palestinians may outnumber Israelis.  

Our future bloggers, looking at this from the perspective of the year 4017, may try to argue that there was a conquest by the Palestinians.  They must have had superior technology, they claim!  Better weapons!  

But again, your research (and history) shows this NOT to be the case.


Taking these four examples, you explain to the bloggers that many changes in DNA frequency, cannot be explained as "conquest" even though it's tempting for the simple-minded to do so.  

There are even examples of multiple of the above factors explaining demographic shifts.  For example, the Catholic Irish replacement of Anglo Saxons in many East Coast cities in the 1800s.  That was due to the Irish being refugees, seeking greater economic opportunity en masse, and having higher birthrates.  

Somewhere in the future, the intellectual heirs of Maciamo, Davidski, and many on Anthrogenica, are arguing that the Irish immigrants of the 1800s were in fact a technologically and militarily superior, overwhelming force of wealthy males who clearly conquered the British Americans of the time.

And you, and anyone with any degree of a nuances understanding of history, is still LOL'ing.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

On the Need for More Interdisciplinariness in "Interdisciplinary" Studies

Ah, if they were all as good as Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.  The pioneer of interdisciplinary studies, and a Renaissance man, he would thoroughly immerse himself in genetics, demography, history, archaeology, and linguistics -- or find collaborators who could augment his knowledge.  Thus, his work SAW THE BIG PICTURE. 

A new paper out shows that modern "interdisciplinary" studies aren't so interdisciplinary at all.

It's called Mapping European Population Movement through Genomic Research by Patrick J. Geary and Krishna Veeramah.  You can read it by clicking here.

The authors show that many geneticists writing about history simply pick up some bogus two-bit history book.  That is why you get so much pseudo-science out there.

I once talked to a guy, a fairly educated scientist from another discipline, who felt he saw some marker in European genes.  So he did some google searches as to which tribe had ever moved in the rough place where he found the markers.  He then published a paper claiming he found a Cimbri-specific marker.  But he didn't read the rest of the history; had he done so, he would have grasped perhaps that that tribe was wiped out by Gaius Marius in the first century BC....

The paper also points out that there isn't enough precision in genetics, because geneticists don't bother to understand that different regions have different histories.  What good is knowing some person was French, without logging if that person is Provencal or Norman?  Very little....

Best quote from the paper: "The Ralph and Coop study, while highly rigorous at the level of the population genetic analysis, included no historians or archaeologists, and the only historical literature cited, presumably to »identify« the Hunnic contribution to European population, was a general history of Europe, a survey of Slavic history, and two articles in the New Cambridge Medieval History. The Busby et al. study also included no historians or archaeologists on its team, and the only historical literature cited was a Penguin History of the World, Peter Heather’s survey of the Early Middle Ages, and a survey of Muslims in Italy. Unlike these studies, designed and executed  exclusively by geneticists who then look through a few general historical handbooks to try to find stories that might explain their data..."

In other words, many scientific papers suffer from the same thing that plagues the Anthrogenica or even worse, Maciamo's horrifically bad Eupedia: "a LITTLE knowledge is dangerous."  They don't bother grasping the big picture in genetics, demography, history, archaeology, and linguistics...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

We Are Our Brother's Keeper: Are All Men Cousins? And Is This The Root Of Prejudice?

Many of you already know the following concepts.  Humans intuit a sense of community and family with those with whom they are related.  This has been confirmed in study after study, on child abuse, on ingroup-outgroup dynamics, and on racial prejudices.

The percentages of relatedness to trigger that feeling of kinship need not be large.  As the following chart shows, many of us have folks over to Thanksgiving dinner with whom we only have 1-3% of identical DNA with.  But that identical DNA is hugely significant.  It's identical.  And that of course makes one much more "related" than this "we share most DNA with all humans and even chimpanzees."  Indeed, it's the margins that seem to count.  And again, studies on stepfathers in particular, have confirmed this time and time again.

Parent / Child
Full Sibling       50%



Grandparent / Grandchild
Aunt / Uncle
Niece / Nephew
Half Sibling
25%

1st Cousin 12.5%
1st Cousin once removed 6.25%
2nd Cousin 3.13%
2nd Cousin once removed 1.5%
3rd Cousin 0.78%

The weird quality of the Y-Chromosome makes what I am about to post intriguing:

A human genome, including the X and Y chromosomes, is about 3771 cM long.

The Y Chromosome makes up about 2% of that, by length, and about 1% by SNPs. 

Because men in certain haplogroups have IDENTICAL Y-Chromosomes (except for tiny combining parts), and because unlike the rest of DNA, those genes are passed on IDENTICALLY, then all men in the same haplogroup share as much DNA as, say, 2nd Cousins Once Removed.

Could this be the explanation why, for example, Western European males, which do not have much Y-chromosome diversity, exhibit a powerful ingroup dynamic with each other?

Fascinating, to be sure.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How DNA Ancestry Testing Works and How Can I Know It's Accurate

When a commercial DNA testing site like Ancestry.com or 23andme or FTDNA tests your DNA, they do not know which snippet came from which of your parents.

For example, if at a given point (a gene, in popular parlance), you have a "C" from your dad and a "T" from you mom (meaning you have brown eyes, but carry the blue-eyes gene), the testing service doesn't know which "letter" came from which parent.

What they then do is try to guess, stringing your DNA out into small chunks or strings of letters.

They then compare these to DNA in their reference database.  23andme's reference database, which is one of the best, if not the best in the world, only has about 11,000 samples in it.  To represent the whole world!


So if you have ancestry from a big country (like France or Germany) or a country that has pockets of deep isolation (like Italy), the odds -- that they have someone from your corner of the country, or your little isolated craggy valley in some mountain chain -- are small.

They then compare the little strings of letters and come up with a likelihood that you have ancestry from one of those reference populations.

23andme has the most scientific test in the business, but it gets French/German/Belgian/Dutch/Swiss/Austrian/Luxembourgisch ancestry wrong 92% of the time.  It most often shows up as "generic Northwest European."  Similarly, 23andme -- the best in the business -- can't identify Italian ancestry 50% of the time.  It often shows up incorrectly as Middle Eastern or Generic Southern European.

The moral of this story is to be patient with the science.  It's not 100% there yet.

If you have documented ancestry from one region, trust your documents.

If you don't have any cousins from a pool you were identified as, then chances are it was a miscall.  (For example, if you have documented Italian ancestry, but it says you are 1/8 Middle Eastern or 1/8 Spanish), then unless you have a known great-grandparent that is 100% such, it's probably a miscall.  (This would mean your parent would test as 1/4, by the way).

Finally, there is a series problem with testing sites, particularly FTDNA's, with the issue of timing.  If you go back far enough, we are ALL Africans, right?  Yet a DNA test telling you that you were African would not be too useful.  Do they mean recently or in the past?

Similarly, as has been well-documented, most European ancestry can be broken down into 3 big chunks: ancient hunter gatherers (Ancient Western Europeans, most similar modern population = Lithuanians); ancient farmers (Ancient Near Easterners, most similar modern populations include Greeks, Sardinians, others); and ancient pastoralists/horse rearers (Ancient Eurasian Steppe Dwellers, most similar modern populations include Ukrainians). But the migrations were really, truly all over the place.

Ancient Near Easterners are NOT modern Near Easterners.  Ancient hunter gatherers in France are NOT the modern French, etc.

If a test tells you that you have some Near Eastern blood, it often is sensing this ancient signal.

It doesn't do you much good for them to say that 6000 years ago, you had some ancestry in the Near East.  Everyone did.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Neandertals Never Died; Just Their Direct Sirelines and Matrilines

From a piece by Faye Flam in none other than Bloomberg, comes this wonderfully succinct nugget that expresses something that readers of this blog know I ascribe to:

"Scientists have also revised their view of Neanderthal extinction – long attributed to some deficit on their part.  Maybe nothing dramatic happened at all, said Hawks. They would have made up a small fraction of the world’s population, and when larger groups of modern humans joined them in Europe they might have simply been absorbed."

(emphasis added)

This is what I coined the "Demography not Drama" explanation.

It is likely the Neandertal population was tiny, and when modern humans entered Europe, they simply absorbed them, perhaps even absorbed multiple sub-populations (which the genetics data now supports too).

With each generation, there is a great chance that a male line or a female line will disappear.  All it takes is for a man to have only daughters, or a woman to have only sons.  Older lines (which have been around for more generations) face longer odds of appearing to have survived, because each generation increases the chances a line will appear to have died out.  The patrilines and matrilines from a group starting with a smaller population size will also appear to have died out over time.

We have seen this occur in the modern world, both in the example of surnames on isolated islands (the families didn't die out, but the surnames eventually greatly reduced in numbers because of the randomness of males having male children) and with thoroughbreds (the original thoroughbred founding population included 30+ male horses, but only 3 sirelines (akin to surnames or Y-chromosome haplogroups) have survived.

This doesn't mean the others "died out."  Like Neandertals, their genes live on among us.