Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities was present the 1st of June, 2009 at the inauguration by Cairo University of a new DNA lab to find clues of mummies’ family links.
“It is very important not to use the same lab to analyze the DNA of living and dead people as there may be confusion in the results,” Dr Hawass said. “I used to be against the DNA tests for mummies, because it was done by foreigners, and the mix of DNA of the dead and the alive could lead to inaccurate results” (Chinaview).
An interesting comment, that makes me wonder if Tutankhamun was already sampled before by foreigners, either or not within their own compounds when testing started in 2008, and if the first results were rejected for the reason of an alleged contamination by foreign genes – i.e. western genes. Now the first paleogenetic results come out we should expect that any risk of western contamination is properly dealt with, since the tests were done exclusively by their own people. However, certain irregularities in the divulgation of the results are causing the word to be spread that “western contamination” was possibly meant in the broadest sense, including historical facts. Valuable information is left in the drawer, and this time it ain’t extraterrestrial evidence. Come hither and behold an example of successful Internet espionage.
The 17th of February 2010, The Independent was not the only newspaper to come up with an article on the valuable results that were published by the team of Zahi Hawass to reveal ancestry and pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family:
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today, was carried out by a team of archaeologists led by Dr Zahi Hawass, one of the world’s leading Egyptologists. Its aim was to determine the relationships between 11 royal mummies of the New Kingdom, looking for common features which might have been caused by inherited disorders or infectious diseases.
The genetic investigation was successful in attesting malaria (plasmodium falciparum) by tests on genes STEVOR, AMA1 and MSP1, and also resulted into rejection of some genetic diseases that were previously suspected. Most importantly, genetic testing resulted in the identification of family members of the young pharaoh:
More than 55 bone biopsies were used to elucidate the individual relationships of 18th-dynasty individuals, with the result that several of the anonymous mummies or those with suspected identities are now able to be addressed by name. These include KV35EL, who is Tiye, mother of Akhenaten and grandmother of Tutankhamun, and the KV55 mummy,who is most probably Akhenaten, father of Tutankhamun (Figure 2, eAppendix, and online interactive kinship analysis and pedigree). The latter kinship is supported in that several unique anthropological features are shared by the 2 mummies and that the blood group of both individuals is identical.
Most probably Akhenaten?? To prove KV55 as Akhenaten, they have to claim a much older age for the remains than has been attested in 3 full body examinations (1931, 1966 and 2000) to make the age be old enough. This Hawass pet theory seems to rely upon the idea that his successor Smenkhkare simply didn’t exist, what few experts are ready to accept. It has all appearance Hawass is eager to have his version in Wikipedia as the Mainstream Absolute Truth for Dummies, since this is what he achieved. However, what everybody in the world of genetic genealogy is eager to know, the way how Tutankhamun and the other pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty fit into the human family-tree as a whole, was not revealed. Even though the publication mentioned the investigation of the necessary genetic markers. A short explanation. One popular way to find out about the ethnic and geographic origin of a person is doing a male specific test. Genetic details of the paternal line may include a panel of Short Tandem Repeat, STR, markers retrieved from the male Y-chromosome. Such results commonly serve as a first approximation to a subset of (apparently) underpinning mutations, better known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), that are DNA sequence variations on a certain base pair. Somehow STR testing is considered more accessible, so up to now most genetic comparison involves balanced panels of STR, that produce a genetic signature referred to as “haplotype”. Now, biological clades may be determined by a unique range of SNP or “haplogroup” that is featured by a group of people having at least one common ancestor. It is commonly assumed a haplotype may give a reliable approximation to the haplogroup the tested person belongs to, thus to the genetic clade or even subclade that may reveal the genetic history of the tested person. At least in theory the ethnic and geographic origin of a person may be derived from this information.
The cited paper on Tutankhamun mentioned the investigation of sufficient STR markers to come at a valid approximation of the genetic profile, thus to the genealogic history of his family line. Explicitly mentioned where STR indicated by the following names: DYS456, DYS389I, DYS390, DYS389II, DYS458, DYS19, DYS385, DYS393, DYS391, DYS439, DYS635, DYS392, Y-GATA-H4, DYS437, DYS438 and DYS448. However, the values of only DYS393 and Y-GATA-H4 were published. This already triggered a lot of irritation. Why objective scientists would withhold the world information like this?
The new Egyptian lab, which cost one million U.S dollars, happened to be sponsored by the American Discovery Channel, on the condition that the channel – according to Hawass – “will shoot what we will be doing.” Thus, once the word of genetic results from the Egyptian tombs spread, the internet community could do some startling investigations of their own, frenetically using screenshots of the free circulating videos already released. First there was some confusion about the use of control sets rather than actual data, but studying the screenshots with even more scrutiny it turned out that the graphs were properly labeled by “filenames” that clearly referred to Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. An unrelated sample was easily recognized. Even though the limited visibility of some of the screenshots may introduce an error, we can conclude that now there is an unauthorized agreement on the results being genuine and not some “sample” or default values. The haplotype can now be queried in Y-Search, a free database on internet for genealogical information.
These values already triggered discussion. The Whit Athey algorithm clearly predicts haplogroup R1b at a probability of 100%. The rare value 10 at DYS439 is definitely an outlier, but in internet fora (DNA-Forums and Rootsweb) experts on the field, not all of them just enthusiastic and highly motivated hobbyists, speculated the haplotype most of all mirrors the Western European R1b-ht15 subclades, commonly defined by a fairly “recent” SNP, labeled P310. The ancestral counterpart of R1b in Africa (that is considered ancestral and in Africa typically identifies with SNP R1b-V88, contender for being a possible Hamitic marker) or the Levant, was readily dismissed for being an unlikely candidate. This means, the Y-DNA profile of Tut’s dynasty presents characteristics that were never typical to Africa, the Levant nor Egypt. Instead, the current low occurrences of Egyptian ht15 are commonly attributed to the classical period and up to modern times, when European influences coerced on Egypt through Rome and other historic entities from that same direction. At least one similar haplogroup was found among Jews, whose corresponding SNPs are labeled U152 and L4 (downstream R1b-ht15), albeit a considerable genetic distance to modal values strongly suggests an origin that is older than the Roman Empire.
How a European haplotype, having possible Jewish connotations, could have entered the Egyptian royal house to begin with? This doesn’t look like an issue an Egyptian team would be eager to investigate: Starting with the political and religious animosities between Israël and Egypt, being nowadays part of the Arab world. The biblical history of the pharaoh who promoted Joseph’s rise to authority (Genesis 41:39-46) and subsequent claims of an important role of the Jewish people in Egypt until Exodus, already kindled debate on the Egyptian influence in the origin of monotheism. The biblical account comes close to a complete takeover. Genesis chapter 47:
1. Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said: ‘My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’ 2. And from among his brethren he took five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren: ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers.’ 4. And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘To sojourn in the land are we come; for there is no pasture for thy servants’ flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.’ 5. And Pharaoh spoke unto Joseph, saying: ‘Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee; 6. the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.’
20. So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s. 21. And as for the people, he removed them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof. 22. Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land.
Note the “land of the priests” should here have included Thebe, the prime powercenter of the 18th Dynasty. We don’t know the historical context of Joseph, though all we can say is that even biblical sources would be rather in agreement with an essentially Egyptian character of the 18th Dynasty! The genes of possible European and Levantine origin could have arrived into the Egyptian royal lineage by mere coincidence, but one important indication remains the same: the European-like Y-chromosome was around.
Akhenaten, confirmed by the genetic investigation as the father of Tutankhamun, was probably the most remarkable pharaoh of the most remarkable dynasty. He patronized the highly appreciated art of his time and display a considerable zeal to establish the god Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt. In his book “Moses and Monotheism”, Sigmund Freud already proposed Akhenaten for being the pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism. The course of events might have been slightly different now Akhenaten appears to be genetically closer to the Jews than he and the people of Moses (“child” in the Egyptian language) to the Egyptians. However, if Akhenaten indeed has an ultimate Hyksos background then his affinity to Canaan as the ultimate source of inspiration to his “monotheistic” ideas would be evident.
Other barriers to a neutral investigation may be found in animosities between the Jewish people and Euro-centrists, what for sure might initiate a new round of false claims and counterclaims concerning the Indo-European issue, especially in relation to Semites. Bottom line, however, is that oriental R1b-ht15 is most likely of European provenance. Even though it might have been around in the Levant for thousands of years, it rather points to European expansions than to that few attested strains of oriental R1b-ht15 being native to the region. If indeed 18th dynasty R1b genes would be confirmed being of the European type, this is bound to support traditional claims that concern a rather Indo-European character of the Hyksos invasions into Egypt. For sure the Hyksos introduced a Semitic element into Egypt, though the ultimate initiators of the most outstanding Hyksos innovations, like the chariot, were always understood as Indo-European.
However, if so, we could find another barrier in the general dislike of Egyptology against the Hyksos, that have a terrible reputation as destroyers of Egyptian culture. Especially the 18th Dynasty, even though firmly rooted in the 17th Dynasty that was contemporaneous to the Hyksos period, had a reputation to uphold as liberators against Hyksos occupation since their rise to fame was closely connected to this nationalistic event. Tuthmose III, the great-great grandfather of Akhenaten, may have approached these former oppressors initially as far as Megiddo, where – suggestively – he already managed to force the Indo-European Hittites into paying tribute. The great-great-grandfather of Thutmose III was Ahmose I, who at the onset of the 18th Dynasty (he himself was a product of the 17th Dynasty, Thebe) made a career out of the subordination of the Hyksos pharaohs in the north. The (Hyksos) Rhind papyrus document, however, still refers to Ahmose by the inferior title of ‘Prince of the South’ rather than king or pharaoh. The 17th Dynasty and Ahmose may already have pertained to the Hyksos world, even though the chose to pursue a different policy, thus it isn’t at all that unlikely their royal lineage derived from the Hyksos, that themselves may relate to neighboring Anatolian or Hittite stock.
In a 1993 article, Helck pointed out that the Hyksos could be part of a sea invasion of Indo-European peoples from mainly Anatolia, bastion of Indo-European “Anatolian” languages like Hittite. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough of the Hyksos period nor the Hittites to confirm a close historic tie between both people on historic grounds.
The relevance of a possible Indo-European heritage, written in genes rather than papyrus, is that foreign influences of the kind may have extended up to the end of the 18th Dynasty. We already know that the Egyptian goddess Anat arrived in Egypt together with the Hyksos, and she was worshiped long after. Then why shouldn’t the same apply for Aten, the new sun god of Akhenaten? The Northwest Semitic Adon or Baäl (both “Lord”) portrayed next to Anat in the Ugarit Baäl cycle as her brother/lover.
Strange enough, the Ugarit Adon-Anat cycle finds a parallel in the biblical Adam and Eve: Adam and Aden are namesakes. Equally, Eve appears to have inherited some of the less admirable traits of Anat in her relation to men, and at least the Canaanite Anat had something with snakes. More importantly, another parallel can be found in the twin children of Zeus and Titan daughter Leto: Apollo and Artemis. Both being “powerful archers”, the question arises how close their cult could have been connected to the archeological remains attested in the eastern Mediterranean (Heyd), that were closely related to Bell Beaker – whatever the cultural interpretation. The Baäl-Anat cult was definitely unique in the Semitic world, a strong indication of foreign contact of a kind, that coerced influence on the borderland between Semitic and Anatolian cultures and along the sea. But were it the Phoenicians that accomplished the Mediterranean integration of mythology and culture, or did they build further on the work already done by others, like Maritime Beaker traders? Especially, when these people from the west, that must have carried R1b-ht15 gene markers, could be identified as the Indo-European avant-garde that had already arrived in the Levant.
The introduction of the snake-cult and the custom of deformed skulls in Malta coincided with the collapse of older Megalithic civilizations, from 2500 BC on, i.e. (Maritime) Beaker time. Popular science, like here Adriano Forgione, already noted that the megalithic temple of Hal Saflieni, Malta, featuring deformed doliocephal skulls of a culture that identified with the snake, could supply an ideal link to the east. The genetic investigation of Hawass proved the exaggerated elongated head in the portrayal of Akhenaten in sculptures and carvings, and also his female appearance, to be fully cultural (one reason why the mummy of Akhenaten was never fully recognized before).
In an Indo-European context, snakes typically relate to the underworld. In this specific form this mythological element didn’t make it to Egypt, but it can be recognized in the Levant. Here the Anet cult is closely associated to Astarte, as though the different goddesses personified a host of contradictory female aspects, united into one single divine principle. In Indo-European mythology this multiple identifications are more common, especially in the reconstructed mother-cult of the triple-goddess. Note that the Celtic goddess Brigit has also been identified as a triple goddess and she was associated with the snake. Possibly the underpinning theme was general and wide-spread in Indo-European cultures. In Greek mythology the snake represented the chthonic power connected with the Goddess of Earth, the animal was sacred to Demeter, was depicted on the shield of the goddess Athena, and Artemis send Admitos snakes to his wedding bed. A Mediterranean Diana cult might have traveled together with the Beaker culture, to leave behind a trail of related cults of goddesses that may all derive from the same stem, including names like the Egyptian Neith, Ankh, the Phoenician Tanat and Anat and the Greek goddess Athena. Conform the current version of the Dutch view concerning Beaker stratification, this Mediterranean Beaker agent, despite of having an originally northern (Corded Ware/TRB horizon) connotation, had direct Iberian (thus most likely R1b-ht15) precedences. Since Beaker cultures in the Mediterranean region seem to correlate in particular to Celto-Italic cultures, this would be the particular Indo-European branch to look for in the Hyksos homelands and the Levant. Also in Greece, where this element could have been part of the substratum.
A Beaker connection would make the association of Baäl to an Apollo like god, i.e. the brother of Artemis/Diana, more likely. Note also that Apollo/Baäl has a Celtic counterpart in Belinus. A semitic etymology of Baäl may ultimately be proven false, or derived. An alternative IE etymology would be “the bright one”. This would be a suitable epitaph to Aten indeed, now this Egyptian god may correlate to the Canaanite god Baäl/Adon.
So now, what we can make of the Indo-European identity of this devine pair Baäl-Anat versus Apollo-Artemis? In an Indo European context, the themes related to the Apollo and Artemis cults are pretty universal. Apollo represents the sun, Artemis the moon. The line between Artemis and the Mother God is often hard to draw, but where the divine female powers of Mother Earth are benign to the snake, the male “Apollo” was not. There is a parallel between snake-mastering myths, like snake Pythus being subdued by Apollo, and dragon slaying myths, like Typhon being battled by Zeus. Those myths seem to derive from the same source and can be recognized as a common Indo European theme in myths like Sigurd killing dragon Fafnir (in the Sigurd stones depicted as a snake), Thor fighting Jormungand, Vritra “the enveloper” or world-snake beaten by Indra (India), In Hittite mythology, Illuyanka was a serpentine dragon slain by Tarhunt. As a salient detail, this kind of mythological snakes or dragons are generally imagined as a source of knowledge and foresight that can be accessed once the monster is slayed. Hence the oracle of Delphi and the revelations to Sigurd. The biblical snake, that thus may be a relict of the Hyksos ancestors that reached the Levant already during an early Indo-European expansion, offered his advice for free, having hostile intentions. The message: divine submission is essential for being trustworthy. The pursuit of Aten was to eradicate all other gods, since none can be trusted. Like JHWH and Allah, Aten was such a god that chose to be intolerant to other gods.
Note that the biblical monster Leviathan was actually a whale, and the Egyptian Seth that killed Osiris was rather a god than a monster and depicted as an animal that seems to unite a host of strange desert creatures (aardvark, donkey, jackal) except snakes. Apparently, the snake-dragon distinguishes the Indo-European mythology from others, and still the biblical theme of Adam-Eve-Snake seems to echo the Indo-European Apollo-Artemis-Pytho theme. The Dutch equivalent of the triple goddess Nehalennia even carried a basket of apples, even though her connotation with the underworld was invariably represented by a dog, no snakes.
The duality between the Indo-European male-female divine powers was clearly mirrored in the brother-sister and lover relation between Baäl and Anat in the Levant, the presumed Hyksos homelands, and possibly even in Genesis’ Adam and Eve. The proposed genetic connection between Hyksos and the 18th Dynasty in Egypt strongly insinuates that much of the Levantine “Hyksos” influence survived until Tutankhamun. Not just the goddess Anat, but also the “monotheistic” god Aten may link the whole Levantine region together, and thus, albeit secondarily, draw the whole Mediterranean into the Indo-European hemisphere. The consanguinity of the divine couple may have inspired the attested brother-sister marriage of Akhnaten and Nefertiti (mummy KV35YL), his parents.
And yes, a European haplotype of Akhenaten could shed light on all of this questions that concern the integration of people and cultures that apparently happened long before and independently from the Phoenicians. The issue is complicated and in need of new perspectives. Are we ready to deal with all available evidence? So far I can only hear silence. Let’s hope Hawass will come up soon with all genetic results that are relevant for history!
- Zahi Hawass et al.- Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family, 2010, link
- Othmar Keel,Christoph Uehlinger – Gods, goddesses, and images of God in ancient Israel, 1992, translated 1998, link
- John T. Koch – Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia, Volumes 1-5, 2006, link
- Helck, W. – Das Hyksos-Problem, Orientalia 62.2 (1993) p. 60 – 66
- Volker Heyd – When the West meets the East: The Eastern Periphery of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon and its Relation with the Aegean Early Bronze Age, 2007
- On the identity of Akhenaten: Kate Phizackerley’s blog
The picture we have of “modern” Neanderthal developments that preceded the arrival of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) evolves further with better dating.
In their announcement of a recent study by João Zilhão et al., BBC evaluates the discovery of Neanderthal make-up as modern human behaviour that preceded the arrival of modern humans:
Until now it had been thought by many researchers that only modern humans wore make-up for decoration and ritual purposes.
There was a time in the Upper Palaeolithic period when Neanderthals and humans may have co-existed. But Professor Zilhao explained that the findings were dated at 10,000 years before this “contact.”
“To me, it’s the smoking gun that kills the argument once and for all,” he told BBC News.
“The association of these findings with Neanderthals is rock-solid and people have to draw the associations and bury this view of Neanderthals as half-wits.”
In the original paper of January 19, 2010, João Zilhão et al. conclude:
“The Iberian finds show that European Neandertals were no different from coeval Africans in this regard, countering genetic/cognitive explanations for the emergence of symbolism and strengthening demographic/social ones.”
In other words, in the course of human evolution something altered in the human being that can’t be defined by mere IQ, and that still is important to the way we behave differently from animals – and even from early humans. Both Neanderthal and Anotomically Modern Humans (AMH) crossed this evolutionary boundary.
Note the evolutionary changes that led to the use of make-up among early men involve aesthetics here, not the capacity or just a way to solve a problem in order to survive. Aesthetics, that stem from the Self and that imply self-reflection, an important “human” criteria. Foucault wrote about the Self as a source of aesthetics, albeit his focus was rather on quite less primitive stylistic technologies of the self:
“I am referring to what can be called the “arts of existence.” What I mean by the phrase are those intentional and voluntary actions by which men not only set themselves rules of conduct, but also seek to transform themselves in their singular being, and to make their life into an oeuvre that carries certain aesthetic values and meets certain stylistic criteria. These “arts of existence,” these “techniques of the self,” no doubt lost some of their importance and autonomy […] Still, I thought that the long history of these aesthetics of existence and these technologies of the self remained to be done, or resumed (UP, 10-11).”
Why African Homo Sapiens would have reached this same evolutionary level about the same time as Neanderthal, and how come the geographic transition to modern humans (that could have been a matter of domestication processes rather than genetic development) is congruent to this change?
In 2008, the Washington University in St. Louis already summarized the implications of a more precise dating of the late Neandertals and Modern Human contact in Southeastern Iberia, where the Protoaurignacian and the Aurignacian I remain unknown:
“The human fossils from the upper levels of the Sima de las Palomas are anatomically clearly Neanderthals, and they are now securely dated to 40,000 years ago. They therefore establish the late persistence of Neanderthals in this southwestern cul-de-sac of Europe. This reinforces the conclusion that the Neanderthals were not merely swept away by advancing modern humans. The behavioral differences between these human groups must have been more subtle than the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic technological contrasts might imply.”
The intermediate position of the local Neanderthal was described thus in the paper referred to (Walker et al., coauthored by Zilhao and Trinkhaus):
“At the same time that the Palomas humans exhibit a suite of derived Neandertal features and archaic Homo configurations long since lost among early modern humans, their morphological variation indicates that they deviate from the expected Neandertal ranges of variation. This pattern may be result of genetic drift in relative isolation, directional change or, perhaps more likely, population contact to the north.”
In a new publication, Zilhao arrives at an extended interpretation of the transition. The time-lines are now defined such that Aurignacien (taken indicative to modern humans) started there only at 37,000 BP. The Neanderthal phenotype that exhibited the above mentioned suite of derived Neanderthal and archaic Homo configurations had already disappeared at the time of the anatomically mixed AMH specimen of Lagar Velho:
“With the last of the region’s Neandertals dating to five millennia before the child was borne, crossbreeding between immediate ancestors (e.g., parents or grandparents) drawn from distinct ‘‘modern’’ and ‘‘Neandertal’’ gene pools is empirically untenable. Therefore, those features must represent evolutionarily significant admixture at the time of contact.”
The Lagar Velho child thus attests Neanderthal admixtures that are considered reminiscent of much earlier contact, since by then the Neanderthal type had already disappeared.
However, the most recent publications of Zilhao don’t answer our curiosity that concern the human phenotype up north across the Pyrenees, that was responsible for the early art at the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany. How did they look like?
A carving found in six fragments depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and large, protruding breasts, that carbon dating suggested to be at least 35,000 years ago.
“It’s the oldest known piece of figurative sculpture in the world,” said Jill Cook, a curator of Paleolithic and Mesolithic material at the British Museum in London in the news. By the way, most likely the contemporaneous women looked quite different.
Another find of the same artistic magnitude, a flute, was found here as well. Conard, 2009:
“Although arguments have been made for Neanderthal musical traditions and the presence of musical instruments in Middle Palaeolithic assemblages, concrete evidence to support these claims is lacking. Here we report the discovery of bone and ivory flutes from the early Aurignacian period of southwestern Germany. These finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe, more than 35,000 calendar years ago.”
It is assumed that these finds are to be associated to anatomically modern humans. Conard:
“It’s 100 percent certain that, by the time we get to 40,000 years ago in Swabia, we’re dealing with people just like you and me.”
However, this seems to be at odds to the investigation results of Finlayson and Carrion (2007):
“Overall, it is clear that diagnostic and well-dated AMH fossils are not found west of the Iron Gates of the Danube before 32 kya, implying a relatively recent entry into western Europe.”
This factual evidence of a late arrival date of anatomically modern humans would also leave the domestication of the dog rather in the hands of (pre-AMH) Neanderthal offspring. Remains of the first dog were found in the Goyet Cave in Belgium and was dated 31,700 BP.
The replacement of Neanderthal in western Europe is still an enigma and strictly spoken the first known figurative sculpture and musical instrument might as well have been manufactured by Neanderthal, or people that featured a similar suite of derived Neanderthal and archaic Homo configurations as their contemporary Neanderthal neighbours found in Palomas. Like the people that domesticated the first dog in Belgium and the chiuld of Lagar Velho, they could also be modern humans that featured evolutionary significant Neanderthal admixtures.
Or does all of this indicate continuity of a magnitude that hitherto remained unrecognized?
Let’s take a look again at the Neanderthal Genome project. Green:
“We tested more than 70 Neanderthal bone and tooth samples from different sites in Europe and western Asia for bio-molecular preservation by removing samples of a few milligrams for amino acid analysis. The vast majority of these samples had low overall contents of amino acids and/or high levels of amino acid racemization, a stereoisomeric structural change that affects amino acids in fossils, indicating that they are unlikely to contain retrievable endogenous DNA. However, some of the samples are better preserved in that they contain high levels of amino acids (more than 20,000 p.p.m.), low levels of racemization of amino acids such as aspartate that racemize rapidly, as well as amino acid compositions that suggest that the majority of the preserved protein stems from collagen.”
Next, Green investigated if the sampled mtDNA was Neanderthal-like or not, taking mtDNA that resembles modern mtDNA as contaminated “Assuming that the ratio of Neanderthal to contaminating modern human DNA is the same for mtDNA as it is for nuclear DNA“.
“Whereas only around 1% of the mtDNA present in three samples from France, Russia and Uzbekistan was Neanderthal-like, one sample from Croatia and one from Spain contained around 5% and 75% Neanderthal-like mtDNA, respectively. One bone (Vi-80) from Vindija Cave, Croatia, stood out in that 99% of the 63-base-pair mtDNA segments and 94% of the 119-base pair segments are of Neanderthal origin.”
Thus, having samples rejected when apparent Neanderthal mtDNA resembles modern human mtDNA, then of course the result will be that “all Neanderthals sequenced to date differ from all contemporary humans“. If mtDNA is accepted when different for 99%, then why amino acids having low levels of racemization shouldn’t be investigated too since this is what Green did. However, Wall and Kim suggested a new contamination criteria departing from the positive correlation of nuclear DNA, and took degraded DNA as indicative to the differences between Neanderthal and modern humans. The circular interpretation of the results should be obvious, and may even extend to the current measurements of Neanderthal mtDNA.
In my opinion the apparent lack of evidence for gross admixture in human DNA either indicates the extinction of the Neanderthal offspring, or otherwise – intriguingly -the full scale integration of Neanderthal DNA into the modern human gene-pool.
Assuming the extinction of Neanderthal offspring is not so hard to do, even though this would complicate the previous extinction scenarios that concerned a whole would-be species rather than a hybrid lineage. However thus, talking about circular thought, the assumption of extinction seems to derive from meeting the preposition rather than independent investigation. To say it can’t so it isn’t, rather than it could but it isn’t, invites to the kind of circular thought we should try to avoid.
Moreover, “extinction” is a way to deal with Neanderthal traits of archaic AMH that does not even occur to the writers of a new article about the child of Lagar Velho, Priscilla Bayle et al. (2010). This article reminds us about the evolutionary changes of modern humans since 40 kya, that involve characteristics that can also be found among Neanderthal.
Therefore, a simple Neandertal versus modern human dichotomy is inadequate to accommodate the morphostructural and developmental variation represented by Middle Paleolithic and earlier Upper Paleolithic populations. These data reinforce the complex nature of Neandertal-modern human similarities and differences, and document ongoing human evolution after the global establishment of modern human morphology.
It will be hard to sustain that Neanderthal were not involved as ancestors of the modern humans only because Neanderthal traits were simply lost in the course of evolution. Then, considering full scale integration instead as the only other possible option, how could it be? How could we even imagine the integration of Neanderthal DNA within the modern human species to this extend, in such a way that not any sign of significant hybridization can be discerned within the modern gene-pool?
Genes that for sure crossed the phenotype boundaries have already been identified, and a mixture between archaic Asiatic types (divergence time 2 million years) and African types for certain genes is already generally accepted. There is still discussion on how this mixture stabilized (eg. Diffusion wave hypothesis). An overview:
– Some genes have very deep, non-African branches: the RRM2P4 pseudogene has a MRCA of ~2 MYA in East Asia (Garrigan et al., 2005); PDHA1 locus is another ~2 mya example supporting multireginality
– Microcephalin entered the modern human genepool at 37 kya, since older type has MRCA at 1.7 mya
– Disequilibrium at locus Xp21.1 (MRCA 1.9 myr old) points to admixture
– Gutiérrez, Sánchez & Marín (2002) show ancient mtDNA is very sensitive to phylogenetic methods, diagenetic modifications have altered the sequences, and conclude that Neanderthal and modern mtDNA may overlap.
– FOXP2 in Neanderthal is a potential argument for being of the same species as modern humans, to the point of being identical.
Moreover, by examining the mutations in DNA near Alu insertions in two completely sequenced modern human genomes, Huff et al.(2010) could calculate a significant bottleneck at 1.2 million years ago. This is in agreement to the assumed split time of African Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal. The average age of human DNA is about one million years, and some genes are even estimated at two million years. From this perspective Neanderthal DNA should indeed be consistent to modern DNA.
The solution to this problem may be all but genetic. The flexibility of human phenotypes may rather suggest a good deal of non-genetic differences between Neanderthal and modern humans. Still other differences correlate with current typological differences, such as the “occipital bun” that has also been documented among Europeans.
As for now, there is no knowledge of genes that unequivocally account for robust “Neanderthal” morphological features, such as those that involve a lower and larger cranium, a larger browridge, a larger nose, larger shoulder joints, a larger and broader rib cage, larger elbow joints, broader hips, shorter forearms, larger hip joints, larger and thicker patellae, shorter and more flattened tibiae and larger ankle joints. All these features may stem fully or partially from epigenetic, environmental interaction.
There is no reason to assume the disappearance of once outspoken Neanderthal features would to be due to evolutionary developments that are essentially different from domestication-like processes. Anatomically Modern Humans only look different.
The Neanderthals are us.
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