Genes responsible for diversity of human skin colors identified

The human race began in Europe, some moved to africa and lost their IQ and turned tar colored

“If you were to shave a chimp, it has light pigmentation,” Tishkoff said, “so it makes sense that skin color in the ancestors of modern humans could have been relatively light. It is likely that when we lost the hair covering our bodies and moved from forests to the open savannah, we needed darker skin.

Date:
October 12, 2017
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
A study of diverse African groups by geneticists has identified new genetic variants associated with skin pigmentation. The findings help explain the vast range of skin color on the African continent, shed light on human evolution and inform an understanding of the genetic risk factors for conditions such as skin cancer.
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FULL STORY

This is a Mursi woman of Nilo-Saharan ancestry. Nilo-Saharan pastoralist populations possess some of the darkest skin in Africa. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found mutations associated with both light and dark pigmentation in a genome-wide association study of diverse African populations.
Credit: Alessia Ranciaro
 

Human populations feature a broad palette of skin tones. But until now, few genes have been shown to contribute to normal variation in skin color, and these had primarily been discovered through studies of European populations.

Now, a study of diverse African groups led by University of Pennsylvania geneticists has identified new genetic variants associated with skin pigmentation. The findings help explain the vast range of skin color on the African continent, shed light on human evolution and inform an understanding of the genetic risk factors for conditions such as skin cancer.

“We have identified new genetic variants that contribute to the genetic basis of one of the most strikingly variable traits in modern humans,” said Sarah Tishkoff, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor and the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology with appointments in the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Arts and Sciences. “When people think of skin color in Africa most would think of darker skin, but we show that within Africa there is a huge amount of variation, ranging from skin as light as some Asians to the darkest skin on a global level and everything in between. We identify genetic variants affecting these traits and show that mutations influencing light and dark skin have been around for a long time, since before the origin of modern humans.”

The findings are published in the journal Science. Tishkoff, senior author, collaborated with first author and lab member Nicholas Crawford, a postdoctoral fellow, and a multi-institutional, international team.

Tishkoff has long studied the genetics of African populations, looking at traits such as height, lactose tolerance, bitter-taste sensitivity and high-altitude adaptation. Skin color emerged as a trait of interest from her experience working on the continent and seeing the diversity present across groups.

“Skin color is a classic variable trait in humans, and it’s thought to be adaptive,” Tishkoff said. “Analysis of the genetic basis of variation in skin color sheds light on how adaptive traits evolve, including those that play a role in disease risk.”

Both light and dark skin pigmentations confer benefits: Darker skin, for example, is believed to help prevent some of the negative impacts of ultraviolet light exposure, while lighter skin is better able to promote synthesis of vitamin D in regions with low ultraviolet light exposure.

To objectively capture the range of skin pigmentation in Africa, Tishkoff and colleagues used a color meter to measure the light reflectance of the skin of more than 2,000 Africans from ethnically and genetically diverse populations. They took the measurement from the inner arm, when sun exposure is minimal. The measurements can be used to infer levels of the skin pigment melanin. They obtained a range of measurements; the darkest skin was observed in Nilo-Saharan pastoralist populations in eastern Africa, and the lightest skin was observed in San hunter-gatherer populations in southern Africa.

The researchers obtained genetic information from nearly 1,600 people, examining more than 4 million single nucleotide polymorphisms across the genome, places where the DNA code may differ by one “letter.” From this dataset the researchers were able to do a genome-wide association study and found four key areas of the genome where variation closely correlated with skin color differences.

The region with the strongest associations was in and around the SLC24A5 gene, one variant of which is known to play a role in light skin color in European and some southern Asian populations and is believed to have arisen more than 30,000 years ago. This variant was common in populations in Ethiopia and Tanzania that were known to have ancestry from southeast Asia and the Middle East, suggesting it was carried into Africa from those regions and, based on its frequency, may have been positively selected.

Another region, which contains the MFSD12 gene, had the second strongest association to skin pigmentation. This gene is expressed at low levels in depigmented skin in individuals with vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses pigment in some areas.

“I still rememeber the ‘ah ha!’ moment when we saw this gene was associated with vitiligo,” said Crawford. “That’s when we knew we’d found something new and exciting.”

The team found that mutations in and around this gene that were associated with dark pigmentation were present at high frequencies in populations of Nilo-Saharan ancestry, who tend to have very dark skin, as well as across sub-Saharan populations, except the San, who tend to have lighter skin. They also identified these variants, as well as others associated with dark skin pigmentation, in South Asian Indian and Australo-Melanesian populations, who tend to have the darkest skin coloration outside of Africa.

“The origin of traits such as hair texture, skin color and stature, which are shared between some indigenous populations in Melanesia and Australia and some sub-Saharan Africans, has long been a mystery.” Tishkoff said. “Some have argued it’s because of convergent evolution, that they independently evolved these mutations, but our study finds that, at genes associated with skin color, they have the identical variants associated with dark skin as Africans.

“Our data are consistent with a proposed early migration event of modern humans out of Africa along the southern coast of Asia and into Australo-Melanesia and a secondary migration event into other regions. However, it is also possible that there was a single African source population that contained genetic variants associated with both light and dark skin and that the variants associated with dark pigmentation were maintained only in South Asians and Australo-Melanesians and lost in other Eurasians due to natural selection.”

Also of interest was that genetic variants at MFSD12, OCA2, and HERC2 associated with light skin pigmentation were at highest frequency in the African San population, which has the oldest genetic lineages in the world, as well as in Europeans.

MFSD12 is highly expressed in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin. To verify the gene’s role in contributing to skin pigmentation, the researchers blocked expression of the gene in cells in culture and found an increase in production of eumelanin, the pigment type responsible for black and brown skin, hair and eye color. Knocking out the gene in zebrafish caused a loss of cells that produce yellow pigment. And in mice, knocking out the gene changed the color of their coat from agouti, caused by hairs with a red and yellow pigment, to a uniform gray by eliminating production of pheomelanin, a type of pigment also found in humans.

“Apart from one study showing that MFSD12 was associated with vitiligo lesions, we didn’t know much else about it,” said Crawford, “so these functional assays were really crucial.”

“We went beyond most genome-wide association studies to do functional assays,” Tishkoff said, “and found that knocking out MFSD12 dramatically impacted the pigmentation of fish and mice. It’s pointing to this being a very conserved trait across species.

“We don’t know exactly why, but blocking this gene causes a loss of pheomelanin production and an increase in eumelanin production,” Tishkoff added. “We also showed that Africans have a lower level of MFSD12 expression, which makes sense, as low levels of the gene means more eumelanin production.”

A collaborator on the work, Michael Marks, a professor in the departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and of Physiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and at Penn Medicine, demonstrated that the MFSD12 gene influences eumelanin pigmentation in a novel manner. Unlike other pigmentation genes, which are expressed mainly in melanosomes, the organelle where melanin is produced, MFSD12 is expressed in lysosomes, a distinct organelle from the melanosomes that produce eumelanin.

“Our results suggest there must be some kind of as-yet-uncharacterized form of cross-talk between lysosomes and the melanosomes that make eumelanins,” Marks said. “Figuring out how this works might provide new ideas for ways to manipulate skin pigmentation for therapeutic means.

“In addition,” Marks said, “the fact that loss of MFSD12 expression had opposite effects on the two types of melanins, increasing eumelanin production while suppressing pheomelanin, suggests that melanosomes that make pheomelanins might be more related to lysosomes than those that make eumelanin.”

Additional associations with skin color were found in the OCA2 and HERC2 genes, which have been linked with skin, eye and hair color variation in Europeans, though the mutations identified are novel. Mutations in OCA2 also cause a form of albinism that is more common in Africans than in other populations. The researchers observed genetic variants in a neighboring gene, HERC2, which regulates the expression of OCA2. Within OCA2, they identified a variant common in Europeans and San that is associated with a shorter version of the protein, with an altered function. They observed a signal of balancing selection of OCA2, meaning that two different versions of the gene have been maintained, in this case for more than 600,000 years.

“What this tells us,” Tishkoff said, “is there is likely some selective force maintaining these two alleles. It is likely that this gene is playing a role in other aspects of human physiology which are important.”

A final genetic region the researchers found to be associated with skin pigmentation included genes that play a role in ultraviolet light response and melanoma risk. The top candidate gene in the region is DDB1, involved in repairing DNA after exposure to UV light.

“Africans don’t get melanoma very often,” Tishkoff said. “The variants near these genes are highest in populations who live in areas of the highest ultraviolet light intensity, so it makes sense that they may be playing a role in UV protection.”

The mutations identified by the team play a role in regulating expression of DDB1 and other nearby genes.

“Though we don’t yet know the mechanism by which DDB1 is impacting pigmentation, it is of interest to note that this gene, which is highly conserved across species, also plays a role in pigmentation in plants such as tomatoes,” said Tishkoff.

The team saw evidence that this region of the genome has been a strong target of natural selection outside of Africa; mutations associated with light skin color swept to nearly 100 percent frequency in non-Africans, one of few examples of a “selective sweep” in all Eurasians; the age of the selective sweep was estimated to be around 60,000 to 80,000 years old, around the time of migration of modern humans out of Africa.

One additional takeaway from this work is a broader picture of the evolution of skin color in humans. Most of the genetic variants associated with light and dark pigmentation from the study appear to have originated more than 300,000 years ago, and some emerged roughly 1 million years ago, well before the emergence of modern humans. The older version of these variants in many cases was the one associated with lighter skin, suggesting that perhaps the ancestral state of humans was moderately pigmented rather than darkly pigmented skin.

“If you were to shave a chimp, it has light pigmentation,” Tishkoff said, “so it makes sense that skin color in the ancestors of modern humans could have been relatively light. It is likely that when we lost the hair covering our bodies and moved from forests to the open savannah, we needed darker skin. Mutations influencing both light and dark skin have continued to evolve in humans, even within the past few thousand years.”

Tishkoff noted that the work underscores the diversity of African populations and the lack of support for biological notions of race.

“Many of the genes and new genetic variants we identified to be associated with skin color may never have been found outside of Africa, because they are not as highly variable,” Tishkoff said. “There is so much diversity in Africa that’s not often appreciated. There’s no such thing as an African race. We show that skin color is extremely variable on the African continent and that it is still evolving. Further, in most cases the genetic variants associated with light skin arose in Africa.”

Discovery of 9.7m-Year-Old Teeth in Germany Could Rewrite Human History

Discovery of 9.7m-Year-Old Teeth in Germany Could Rewrite Human History
  • Teeth closely resemble those belonging to two ancient human fossils in Africa
  • However, the German teeth are twice as old as both of the African skeletons
  • If the finding is confirmed, the teeth will be the oldest hominin fossils ever found
  • Could change our understanding of human evolution and ‘out of Africa’ theory
  • The teeth are currently being examined in detail by a team of scientists and the first paper to report on the finding will be published next week 

The discovery of a set of 9.7-million-year-old teeth has led archaeologists to raise questions about the commonly believed ‘out-of-Africa’ theory of human origins.

The teeth, which were discovered in a former bed of the Rhine river, don’t resemble those of any other human species found in Europe or Asia.

The find suggests that contrary to popular belief, Europe may be the cradle of humanity.

The researchers claim they were so baffled by the findings, that it has taken them a year to announce the discovery.

The teeth are currently being examined in detail by a team of scientists and the first paper to report on the finding will be published next week.

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The discovery of a set of 9.7-million-year-old teeth has led archaeologists to raise questions about the commonly believed 'out-of-Africa' theory of human origins

The discovery of a set of 9.7-million-year-old teeth has led archaeologists to raise questions about the commonly believed ‘out-of-Africa’ theory of human origins

KEY FINDINGS

The set of teeth were discovered near the town of Eppelsheim.

The teeth resemble those belonging to Lucy – a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia.

But they don’t look like those of any other species found in Europe or Asia.

This raises questions about whether humans originated in Africa, as is commonly believed.

In September 2016, researchers from the Mainz Natural History Museum in Germany discovered the set of teeth near the town of Eppelsheim.

In their study, published on ResearchGate, the researchers, led by Dr Herbert Lutz, wrote: ‘Both teeth, the crowns of an upper left canine and an upper right first molar, are exceptionally well preserved and obviously come from the same body of unknown sex.’

The molar was found to share characteristics with other species, including Lucy – a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia.

In September 2016, researchers from the Mainz Natural History Museum in Germany discovered the set of teeth near the town of Eppelsheim

In September 2016, researchers from the Mainz Natural History Museum in Germany discovered the set of teeth near the town of Eppelsheim

The teeth, which were discovered in a former bed of the Rhine river near Eppelsheim, don't resemble those of any other human species found in Europe or Asia

The teeth, which were discovered in a former bed of the Rhine river near Eppelsheim, don’t resemble those of any other human species found in Europe or Asia

But the canine revealed potentially hominin qualities, which have never been seen in teeth discovered in Europe or Asia.

This raises questions about whether humans originated in Africa, as is commonly believed.

Speaking to The Merkurist, Dr Lutz said: ‘They are clearly ape teeth.

An analysis of one of the teeth revealed honey-comb-like arranged enamel, which led the researchers to believe it belonged to a hominin species 

An analysis of one of the teeth revealed honey-comb-like arranged enamel, which led the researchers to believe it belonged to a hominin species

The canine revealed potentially hominin qualities, which have never been seen in teeth discovered in Europe or Asia

The canine revealed potentially hominin qualities, which have never been seen in teeth discovered in Europe or Asia

‘Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.

‘This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery.’

The researchers were initially so baffled by the findings, that they took a year to publish them.

Two of the teeth were found embedded in rock, in what was the former bed of the Rhine river in Germany

Two of the teeth were found embedded in rock, in what was the former bed of the Rhine river in Germany

The molar was found to share characteristics with other species, including Lucy ¿ a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia

The molar was found to share characteristics with other species, including Lucy – a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia

At a press conference announcing the discovery, the mayor of Mainz said: ‘I don’t want to over-dramatise it, but I would hypothesise that we shall have to start rewriting the history of mankind after today.’

While the findings have now been published, Dr Lutz said the ‘real work’ had only just begun.

Until now, it was widely believed that modern humans first appeared in east Africa between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, before our species dispersed around the world around 70,000 years ago

Until now, it was widely believed that modern humans first appeared in east Africa between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, before our species dispersed around the world around 70,000 years ago

WHO WAS LUCY?

Lucy’s remains were uncovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia in the 1970s.

Paleontologists believe she is the best preserved example of Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient branch of the human family tree.

The mineralised skeleton is believed to be 3.18 million years old and is the most complete of any upright, walking human ancestor.

Lucy's remains were uncovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia in the 1970s. Paleontologists believe she is the best preserved example of Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient branch of the human family tree

Lucy’s remains were uncovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia in the 1970s. Paleontologists believe she is the best preserved example of Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient branch of the human family tree

Previous studies suggested that Lucy was just 4 ft tall (122 cm) and weighted just 65 lbs (29 kg).

Since her discovery, researchers have debated whether she spent her life in the trees or spent time walking on the plains as well.

Combining the new data paints a picture of an ancestor which may have spent a considerable amount of her time in trees.

Lucy's skeleton, discovered in 1974 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, has been the subject of vigorous debate concerning the role of arborealism in early human evolution

Lucy’s skeleton, discovered in 1974 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, has been the subject of vigorous debate concerning the role of arborealism in early human evolution

There is lots of evidence of great apes roaming Europe millions of years ago, but there is yet to be any confirmed evidence of hominins on the continent at this time.

Until now, it was widely believed that modern humans first appeared in east Africa between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, before our species dispersed around the world around 70,000 years ago.

The human lineage was believed to have split from the chimpanzee lineage in Africa around six to eight million years ago, although fossils from around this time are scarce.

The teeth will now go on display at a state exhibition, before returning to Mainz’s Natural History Museum.

COMPLEX EVOLUTION OF MAN

55 million years ago – First primitive primates evolve

15 million years ago – Hominidae (great apes) evolve from the ancestors of the gibbon

8 million years ago – First gorillas evolve. Later, chimp and human lineages diverge

5.5 million years ago – Ardipithecus, early ‘proto-human’ shares traits with chimps and gorillas

4 million years ago – Ape like early humans, the Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no larger than a chimpanzee’s but other more human like features

3.9-2.9 million years ago – Australoipithecus afarensis lived in Africa.  

2.7 million years ago – Paranthropus, lived in woods and had massive jaws for chewing

2.3 million years ago – Homo habalis first thought to have appeared in Africa

1.85 million years ago – First ‘modern’ hand emerges

1.8 million years ago – Homo ergaster begins to appear in fossil record

1.6 million years ago – Hand axes become the first major technological innovation

800,000 years ago – Early humans control fire and create hearths. Brain size increases rapidly

400,000 years ago – Neanderthals first begin to appear and spread across Europe and Asia

200,000 years ago – Homo sapiens – modern humans – appear in Africa

40,000 years ago – Modern humans reach Europe

Ethnography of Civilization Collapse – DNA discovery reveals genetic history of ancient Egyptians

Tendentious bashers such as myself have a habit of reminding you that history runs in cycles, and if a civilization does not restart its cycle by restoring traditional society, it goes off into third world style subsistence living because of a lack of social order, and ends up a mixed-race shadow of its former self.

The “mixed-race” part is crucial because, throughout history, bad leaders have used diversity as a means of shoring up their own power. When they need support, they can count on those people who depend on them, namely the various different types of minorities who are allied against the majority, whose interest does not reflect their own.

When you encounter a failed civilization, you will find shorter and weaker people, generally without much intelligence but weighted toward the verbal and not the spatial, with mystical traditions based on primitive symbols, who are fundamentally comfortable living in a society where corruption takes a third off every deal and nothing ever gets done, or done right.

Third world people are individualists, and to them, the burden of struggling to have social order is too much relative to how they want to enjoy life, which is just not worrying too much. Very carefree individuals in these parts, and they seem very happy, but they never produce anything of greatness. Their society demands little of them, so they spend most of their time on themselves.

We can tell that this is the case by looking at a civilization that faded away long ago:

Researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, both in Germany, have decoded the genome of ancient Egyptians for the first time, with unexpected results.

Publishing its findings in Nature Communications, the study concluded that preserved remains found in Abusir-el Meleq, Middle Egypt, were closest genetic relatives of Neolithic and Bronze Age populations from the Near East, Anatolia and Eastern Mediterranean Europeans.

Modern Egyptians, by comparison, share much more DNA with sub-Saharan populations.

In other words, ancient remains showed genetic consistency; modern genetics show the influence of diversity. This society became more diverse as it failed, and it does not necessarily matter what the diversity was, only that the genetic consistency of a network of traits was broken up and replaced by a more chaotic, less competent biological compromise.

This applies to ethnic groups as well. Mixed-ethnic states, especially those with hybridization, even trace hybridization, tend to perform less well than homogeneous nations. Most likely, when places like Egypt become diverse, it is through trace admixture; few people will marry and mate with the Other, but someone who is only an eighth other they can accept, until those are the only option and the original ethnic group is long gone.

When people talk about diversity, they often attempt to discuss it through “problems”: how to manage crime, how to indoctrinate the newcomers in our Constitution, how to assimilate them, why to make them equally accepted so they will not riot. But there is only one real problem, which is the replacement of the founding ethnic group and, with it, a loss of whatever traits it had that allowed the society to succeed in the first place.

DNA discovery reveals genetic history of ancient Egyptians

Story highlights

  • Mummy genome data have been extracted for the first time
  • The mummies’ closest ancient relatives were found in the Near East and Europe
  • Modern Egyptians have developed a greater amount of sub-Saharan DNA

(CNN)Ancient Egyptians and their modern counterparts share less in common than you might think. That is, at least genetically, a team of scientists have found.

Researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, both in Germany, have decoded the genome of ancient Egyptians for the first time, with unexpected results.
Publishing its findings in Nature Communications, the study concluded that preserved remains found in Abusir-el Meleq, Middle Egypt, were closest genetic relatives of Neolithic and Bronze Age populations from the Near East, Anatolia and Eastern Mediterranean Europeans.
Modern Egyptians, by comparison, share much more DNA with sub-Saharan populations.
The findings have turned years of theory on its head, causing Egyptologists to re-evaluate the region’s history while unlocking new tools for scientists working in the field.

Correcting past errors

Depending on which way you see it, ancient Egyptians have the privilege or ignominy of being one of the most investigated peoples of antiquity. Scientists have virtually undressed mummies, diagnosed from beyond the grave, and exposed miscarriages and 3,000-year-old scams.
Extracting genome data is a new frontier for Egyptologists, however.
Scientists took 166 bone samples from 151 mummies, dating from approximately 1400 B.C. to A.D. 400, extracting DNA from 90 individuals and mapping the full genome in three cases.

A scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History looks at a jaw bone. Bone, soft tissue and teeth were all studied as part of the research.

Previous DNA analysis of mummies has been treated with a necessary dose of skepticism, explains professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute.
“When you touch a bone, you probably leave more DNA on the bone than is inside (it),” he argued. “Contamination is a big issue. … Only in the last five or six years has it become possible to actually study DNA from ancient humans, because we can now show whether DNA is ancient or not by (its) chemical properties.”
Heat and high humidity in tombs, paired with some of the chemicals involved in mummification, all contribute to DNA degradation, the paper adds, but it describes its findings as “the first reliable data set obtained from ancient Egyptians.”
Analyzing samples spanning over a millennium, researchers looked for genetic differences compared with Egyptians today. They found that the sample set showed a strong connection with a cluster of ancient non-African populations based east of the Mediterranean Sea.
Krause describes the far-reaching data set gained from looking at mitochondrial genomes: “This is not just the DNA of one person. It’s the DNA of the parents, grandparents, grandparents’ parents, grand-grand-grandparents’ parents and so forth.
“So if we don’t find sub-Saharan African ancestry in those people, that is pretty representative, at least for Middle Egypt.”
Krause hypothesizes that ancient Northern Egypt would be much the same, if not more, linked to the Near East. Ancient Southern Egypt might be a different matter, however, where populations lived closer to Nubia, home of the “Black Pharaohs” in what is now Sudan.

Historical conquests

One of the mummies analyzed as part of the study. The human remains were discovered in the 1920s by a historian studying papyrus writings, says Krause.

“The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year timespan we studied,” said Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute.
This period covered the rule of Alexander the Great (332-323 B.C.), the Ptolemaic dynasty (323-30 B.C.) and part of Roman rule (30 B.C.-A.D. 641). Strict social structures and legal incentives to marry along ethnic lines within these communities may have played a part in the Egyptians’ genetic stasis, the paper speculates.
“A lot of people has assumed foreign invaders … brought a lot of genetic ancestry into the region,” Krause said. “People expected that through time, Egypt would become more European, but we see the exact opposite.”
Modern Egyptians were found to “inherit 8% more ancestry from African ancestors” than the mummies studied. The paper cites increased mobility along the Nile, increased long-distance commerce and the era of the trans-Saharan slave trade as potential reasons why.
The team’s findings do come with one obvious caveat: “All our genetic data (was) obtained from a single site in Middle Egypt and may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt,” the paper concedes.
While the study might be limited in scope, the team believes it has made some technical breakthroughs.
“I expect there will be a ton of ancient Egyptian mummy genomes (mapped) in the next couple of years,” Krause said, adding that “multiple groups” are following his team’s lead.
“There’s always more research we can do. This is not the end. It’s just the beginning.”

Inside an Ancient Pagan Ritual that Makes Men Become Monsters

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com

An ancient ceremony in the heart of a wild country celebrates the rebirth of spring.

A mysterious, ancient tradition takes place each year in Mamoiada, a small village tucked into the middle of wild and mountainous Sardinia. On the day of Saint Anthony, the saint protector of animals and fire, the men of the village transform to become Mamuthones and Issohadores. Complementing one another like yin is to yang, mamuthones echo the darkness, while issohadores rope in the light.

Bonfires roar across not only the village, but all of Sardinia in observance of the holiday. One of the most popular festival days in the country, the occasion is meant to banish the cold chill of winter in exchange for the sweeter invitation of spring. It is on that day that the villagers of Mamoiada share their uniquely haunting procession of song, dance, and solemnity.

The stars of the show, the Mamuthones, represent the inhabitants of the kingdom of the dead, as well as the shepherd’s strong connection between man and his beasts. They don anthropomorphic, grotesque masks created by local artisans—accentuated by jutting features and slick black paint. Heavy copper cowbells sewn onto thick straps of leather hang tightly from their backs like tortoise shells, threatening to drag their bodies to the ground. Thin hoods of fabric drape over their heads, and darkly colored sheep pelts hide their shoulders, backs, and torsos.

In contrast, Issohadores parade around in red tunics and black bandoliers, a bell-adorned sash hanging across their bodies.

The procession begins in front of the largest church in the village. Led by an Issohadore, twelve Mamuthones begin their solemn, rhythmic pace forward. Lurching under the weight of up to 60 pounds of copper bells, they do not pay the public any attention. Lively issohadores twirl thin reed ropes, catching young women in the crowd. They continue like this from early afternoon until late evening, until each of the bonfires in the village have been reached.

Dating back over two thousand years, the true origin of the pre-Christian tradition is heavily disputed by scholars. Some argue that it dates back to the indigenous Nuragic civilization and was originally intended as a gesture of reverence for animals, and to serve as protection from evil spirits.

Filmmaker Andrea Pecora feels a deep connection to these traditions thanks to Sardinian ancestry on his mother’s side. He hopes to share Sardinian culture with the world and says experiencing the tradition of the mamuthones was especially meaningful.

“The tension was clearly visible in the men’s eyes, and the creeping fire and holy atmosphere was something magical,” says Pecora. “I hope I’ve captured all of this into my work.”

Another Myth Dies: American Indians Were Not Given Smallpox-Infected Blankets

As part of the construction of the New American Identity in the years following WW2, it was decided to demonize the Western European population and praise the Siberian immigrants who had come before them. As a means to this end, the noble savage myth was created, along with the notion that the poor Amerinds were victims of genocide when Europeans gave them smallpox-infected blankets.

This too turns out to be false because no documented evidence of smallpox blanket distribution exists except for a suggestion in a letter, but we know they got smallpox after attacking a hospital:

But the chain of events behind the one authentic case of deliberate smallpox contamination began in 1757 at the siege of Fort William Henry (in present-day upstate New York), when Indians allied with the French ignored the terms of a surrender worked out between the British and the French, broke into the garrison hospital and killed and scalped a number of patients, some of them suffering from smallpox. The blankets and clothing the Indians looted from the patients in the hospital and corpses in the cemetery, carried back to their villages, reportedly touched off a smallpox epidemic.

The French lost the war and left their Indian allies holding the bag, and in 1763 Chief Pontiac and his colleagues sparked an uprising against English settlers in the Great Lakes region that had Lord Jeffery Amherst and the British forces close to despair. The Indians destroyed several of the smaller British forts, but Fort Pitt (present-day Pittsburgh, Pa.) held out under the command of Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a 22-year veteran Swiss mercenary in the British service. Ecuyer, whose native language was French, also spoke German, the predominant language of his native Switzerland; the British had retained him because many settlers in Pennsylvania also spoke German. Smallpox had broken out among the British garrison, and during a parley on June 24, 1763, Ecuyer gave besieging Lenape warriors several items taken from smallpox patients. “We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital,” Captain William Trent of the garrison militia wrote in his journal. “I hope it will have the desired effect.”

Smallpox did break out among the Indian tribes whose warriors were besieging the fort—19th-century historian Francis Parkman estimated that 60 to 80 Indians in the Ohio Valley died in a localized epidemic. But no one is sure whether the smallpox was carried by Ecuyer’s infected blankets or by the clothing Indian warriors had stolen from the estimated 2,000 outlying settlers they had killed or abducted.

On one hand, we have evidence that they acquired smallpox from their own war crimes; on the other, only the usual conjecture based on casual and possibly non-serious conversation. As always, never trust the Leftist version of history because it is far more Leftist than history.

“Native Americans” Do Not Exist

When Christopher Columbus came to the New World, your teacher says in hushed and disapproving tones, he encountered the equal people there and called them “Indians” because he thought he had reached India. She rolls her eyes to show you how Columbus was stupid, and he was stupid because he was evil, not realizing that these people were equal to him in every way.

In reality, Columbus called the inhabitants of these places “Indians” because he correctly noted two aspects of their physiognomy: they were at least predominantly Asian in descent, and they were brown and not “yellow,” which by the calculus of human races meant that they were ethnically something like Indians.

As it turns out, they were a different type of Asian entirely and lacked the paternal European line that runs through India, but they were Asian immigrants just the same, only ones who had arrived over ten thousand years earlier via a Bering land-bridge along with other groups who subsequently were absorbed or exterminated.

In fact, Asian immigration to the new world took place in several waves, with caste variations intact. The leaders of the Inca, Aztec and Maya did not resemble the 90% of their population who were essentially serfs, but were taller, thinner and more intelligent. In the same way, whoever built the ancient civilization of Cahokia was likely more intelligent than their servants, but the servants lived on after that civilization collapsed, just like how Mexico today is mostly populated by the descendants of the serfs of the Maya, whose civilization was in decline before Europeans arrived, and Aztec, whose empire had surrounded itself with enemies who welcomed the Spanish conquest as a chance for revenge. Although the groups which arrived from Siberia were mixed in caste, they shared a similar origin and spread out across the Americas, differentiating themselves in the process.

We can see this through an analysis of the genetic origin of Amerinds (full paper)

These data suggest that Native American male lineages were derived from two major Siberian migrations. The first migration originated in southern Middle Siberia with the founding haplotype M45a (10-11-11-10). In Beringia, this gave rise to the predominant Native American lineage, M3 (10-11-11-10), which crossed into the New World. A later migration came from the Lower Amur/Sea of Okhkotsk region, bringing haplogroup RPS4Y-T and subhaplogroup M45b, with its associated M173 variant. This migration event contributed to the modern genetic pool of the Na-Dene and Amerinds of North and Central America.

All sources agree that the majority of Amerind genetics comes from a group that was at least living in Siberia, Mongolia or Manchuria which then moved into Siberia and across the Bering Strait, which at that time was either a land bridge or small continent called “Beringia.” This group may have acted like a genetic snowball, picking up other groups along the way, suggesting that the Amerind migration consisted of multiple groups crossing the Bering Strait:

They concluded that all Native Americans, ancient and modern, stem from a single source population in Siberia that split from other Asians around 23,000 years ago and moved into the now-drowned land of Beringia. After up to 8000 years in Beringia—a slightly shorter stop than some researchers have suggested (Science, 28 February 2014, p. 961)—they spread in a single wave into the Americas and then split into northern and southern branches about 13,000 years ago.

…But the Science team also found a surprising dash of Australo-Melanesian DNA in some living Native Americans, including those of the Aleutian Islands and the Surui people of Amazonian Brazil. Some anthropologists had previously suggested an Australo-Melanesian link. They noted that certain populations of extinct Native Americans had long, narrow skulls, resembling those of some Australo-Melanesians, and distinct from the round, broad skulls of most Native Americans.

They picked up some additional groups along the way, although these were a minority of the genetic material:

Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.

…DNA from the remains revealed genes found today in western Eurasians in the Middle East and Europe, as well as other aspects unique to Native Americans, but no evidence of any relation to modern East Asians.

…While the land bridge still formed the gateway to America, the study now portrays Native Americans as a group derived from the meeting of two different populations, one ancestral to East Asians and the other related to western Eurasians.

This makes for a changing summary of the genetic data which stays true to its roots — a Bering Strait migration by Asiatic people — but adds depth as a good history would have:

On the other hand, genetic data have demonstrated a close resemblance between the aboriginal Siberian tribes living east of the Yenisey River and northern Mongoloid populations, and similarities among populations dwelling to the west of the Yenisey River and European populations.

…Although there is general agreement among scholars that the first human inhabitants of the Americas came from Asia, the exact geographic source, number of migrations, and timing of these population movements remain controversial. The evidence in support of an Asian origin of New World populations is based on anatomical resemblance in contemporary populations, craniometric affinities, cultural similarities, and genetic similarities.

…In contrast, studies of maternally-inherited mtDNA have presented a variety of competing scenarios ranging from one to six separate waves of Asian migrants starting as long ago as 30,000 BP. Furthermore, there are different proposals for which “source” populations in Asia gave rise to New World populations: Viral distribution data implicate Mongolia/Manchuria and/or extreme southeastern Siberia as the ancestral homeland of the Amerinds; whereas, mtDNA data point to Mongolia, North China, Tibet, and/or Korea as the candidate source regions in Asia.

This includes the possibility of multiple migrations from multiple sources, potentially by boat as well as by land, over the course of ten thousand years:

There is also a controversial variant of the coastal migration model, put forward by archaeologists Dennis Stanford at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and Bruce Bradley at the University of Exeter, UK. Called the Solutrean hypothesis, it suggests that coastal migration from Asia could have been supplemented by parallel migrations across the Atlantic, bringing stone-tool technologies from present-day Spain and southern Europe to eastern North America.

The Asiatic appearance with some additional details suggests ancient admixture into the mostly-Siberian group:

Before 24,000 years ago, the ancestors of Native Americans and the ancestors of today’s East Asians split into distinct groups. The Mal’ta child represents a population of Native American ancestors who moved into Siberia, probably from Europe or west Asia. Then, sometime after the Mal’ta boy died, this population mixed with East Asians. The new, admixed population eventually made its way to the Americas. Exactly when and where the admixture happened is not clear, Willerslev said. But the deep roots in Europe or west Asia could help explain features of some Paleoamerican skeletons and of Native American DNA today. “The west Eurasian [genetic] signatures that we very often find in today’s Native Americans don’t all come from postcolonial admixture,” Willerslev said in his talk. “Some of them are ancient.”

In other words, Amerinds are Siberian immigrants, and in addition to making local species extinct, they likely absorbed other tribes and created a new culture out of this racially-mixed group, which in part explains the relatively few successes of the New World, mainly because admixed populations lose the strengths of the original groups because traits are created by many genes, and not all of these are passed on, causing mixed-race people to have partial versions of the traits that were fully expressed in the unmixed group.

Vikings in Ancient Mexico? The Story of Votan

by
Votan

VotanWingedHelmetAncient contact between the Old World and the New World – Eurasia and Africa with the Americas – has always been a difficult road to go down.  As soon as Europeans made contact with the peoples in the Western Hemisphere, questions arose not only about the nature of the people the Europeans encountered, as in, whether or not they had a soul or were really completely human, questions arose as to the origins of these people.  As ruins were uncovered of civilizations more ancient than the ones initially contacted, the questions about Native American origins intensified.  People began looking for similarities between the Old World and the New, theories arose, and confirmation bias set in.  According to Wikipedia, confirmation bias is defined as “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.”  Cognitive bias plays an important role in the topic of today’s episode, the mysterious and oft-maligned character from ancient Mexican myths and legends called Votan.  He has been plugged in to many different researchers’ theories and speculations about what happened in the New World during times before the European conquest.  On this episode of “Mexico Unexplained” we will ask the question, “Who was Votan?” and will explore some of the major theories out there and how they relate to original sources.

votan2Within the first decade of the Spanish conquest of the New World, members of the clergy and royal officials began the task of writing down everything they could about the newly conquered populations.  This served several purposes.  The main reason why there was such a push to document everything Native – especially ruling structures and religion – was so that the Spanish could better understand how to subjugate completely their newly conquered populations.  Many of the early Spanish chroniclers had a very poor understanding of local languages and customs, and some interpretations of local histories and local belief systems are “off” as a result.  The Spanish, who encountered living civilizations, some of which had formal written languages and complex social structures, are often the best sources from which to base further research.  However, since the Conquest these often fragmented and incomplete writings have been augmented by modern scientific research, with specific emphasis on the science of archaeology to help piece together an accurate picture of life in the Americas before the Europeans.  We will look at firsthand chronicles of the Votan story, examine any archaeological or scientific evidence for Votan and look at some modern interpretations.

The first documented account of the Votan legend comes from the Bishop of Chiapas, a man named Francisco Nuñez de la Vega.  Bishop Nuñez’ 1702 work titled Constituciones diocesanas del obispado de Chiappa, Votan was based on information taken from original indigenous written texts and calendars from the area of the modern Mexican state of Chiapas.  We find that the person of Votan lived in a great stone structure, which he had been ordered to build by his uncle.  The building was near the banks of the Usumacinta River in the kingdom of MayaScribe2Na Chan, which was founded by Votan.  The kingdom’s territory eventually extended across the mountains and jungles of Chiapas and to the Pacific Ocean.  The gods commanded Votan to divide up the lands among the people.  Votan is also noted in the 1702 Nuñez work as to have been the one to give the ancient civilizations of Mexico written language.  Further, Nuñez states that Votan, as the founder of the royal house of Cham or Snake, had many descendants in Chiapas and some still living at the time of his writing.  Votan here also sounds more like a real historical person instead of a supernatural being.  The bishop also made mention that the current Chiapans were now all faithful Christians and after having studied the Gospels for many years had claimed to be the sons of Noah of the biblical flood story.  The Nuñez chronicle does not mention any physical characteristics of Votan or where he supposedly came from.  Those and other pieces of information would be fleshed out by future researchers and those putting forth alternative hypotheses.

Votan next makes his appearance in the Spanish written record in a 1786 publication by a man named Antonio del Río.  He took Bishop Nuñez’ writings and added to them, throwing in his own speculations and theories.  Del Río wrote about Votan’s travels in the Old World and his possible connection to the ancient Middle East.  He speculated that Votan had come to Mexico after the destruction of the Tower of Babel and had also connected Votan to Noah, much as the native Chiapans themselves did 80 years before.  Del Río’s speculations may have come from hazy reports from local Indians who had by then been many generations removed from the Conquest and out of touch with their own pre-Hispanic legends and histories, or they may have been part of a fanciful embellishment on the part of del Río.  During del Río’s time, a few decades before Mexican independence, the ancient cultures of Mexico still had been poorly understood and there were many theories of the origins of the Native cultures at that time.  During del Río’s era similar information about VonHumboldtVotan was coming from a Spanish priest named Ramón de Ordoñez y Aguilar, who was assigned to the Maya villages around the ruins of Palenque in Chiapas near the border with Guatemala.  He wrote a book titled Probanza de Votan based on accounts of the locals, with some information supposedly coming from actual descendants of Votan.  In the book it details Votan’s 4 voyages back and forth between the Old World and the New World.

In modern archaeology, Votan has been associated with the Maya “God D” also known as Itzamná – “Reptile House” – among certain Maya groups.  He looks like an old man with sunken cheeks and flowing robes as a scribe would wear.  He is tall sometimes he is associated with wings on his head along with a flat obsidian disk in the middle of his forehead.  The ancient Maya prayed to him as a granter of k’uhul, a sacred life force energy used for healing.  Votan is seen as a god of kings and a patron of noble houses and is associated with the third day of the week on the Maya calendar.  In the Maya creation story he also placed the 3rd stone on the Cosmic Hearth from whence all warmth generates.  In newly translated Classical Maya writings this hearth stone is also called the Waterlily Throne Stone.

fingerprints-review-for-webIt was the Berlin-born Alexander von Humboldt who first made the connection between Votan and the northern European myths and legends in the early 19th Century.  Von Humboldt was first struck by the similarities between the name Votan and Woden, the Anglo-Saxon/Germanic version of the Viking god Odin.  Name coincidences happen throughout the world and across many languages, but looking at the Odin/Woden connection to Votan, we see some similarities that may go beyond coincidence.  Votan is credited with giving writing to the Mesoamericans.  Odin gave runic writing to the Norse.  Odin is pictured with wings on his head and wearing robes.   Woden or Odin as one of the main gods of the ancient European legends was also known as a patron and helper of the ruling elite, much like the Mexican Votan.  The proto-Germanic word, from which Woden originates is wodaz which means “prophet.”  One of Odin’s other names in the Norse sagas is Valtam, which means “The Warrior.”  Perhaps the most curious coincidence, which even links the Votan/Woden story to the modern age is that the Mayan Votan was associated with the third day on the Maya calendar.  Our third day of the week, Wednesday, in Old English, Wodensday, was named for the old European god Woden.  Is our modern “hump day” named for same person as this mysterious Maya god, or is it all just a coincidence?

When serious scholarly researchers attached to universities began exploring the connections between the Old World and the New, the various theories and apparent connections between the two areas of the world were slowly discounted, overturned, ignored by the establishment or dismissed as racism.  The racist shut-down of much of the scholarly interest in the Old and New World connections picked up intensity in the 1960s and almost became a kind of dogma by the 1970s.  The view was that it was racist to assume that the civilizations of the Americas were seeded or even influenced fingerprints-review-for-webby outside forces because it negated Native genius and assumed that the ancient Americas could not have possibly given rise to complex civilizations independently.  It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when alternative or “fringe” theories began to emerge and the pulp press was full of books on explanations for the ancient civilizations of the Americas as products of Old World contact, the lost continent of Atlantis or even extraterrestrials.  The prolific British writer, Graham Hancock, who has written on a variety of topics including the mysteries of the Great Sphinx, the connection of Mars to primitive earth and the lost continent of Atlantis, mentions Votan in his 1995 work The Fingerprints of the Gods.  According to Hancock, Votan came to Mexico from the East on a ship with an entourage.  Votan is described as a bearded Nordic-looking man dressed in flowing robes, remarkably resembling the Viking god Odin.  Many people have discredited this work and the dozen or so other books by Hancock as pseudoarchaeology and severely lacking in any sort of scientific merit even though his books have sold well into the millions.

As the pendulum swings, more academic publications are opening up to more scholarly research about Old World and New World contact.  Where this topic was completely off limits a mere 20 years ago, investigators are making some headway in the major journals and other “publications of merit.”  Perhaps one day we will be able to come to conclusions about whether Votan was a real Viking who made his way to ancient Mexico or if this story will be relegated to the heap of pulp paperbacks touting pseudoscience and wishful thinking.

REFERENCES (Not a formal bibliography

Fair Gods and Stone Faces:  Ancient Seafarers and the New World’s Most Intriguing Riddle by Constance Irwin

“The Marvelous Odyssey of Votan, a Bronze Age Seafarer” as found on the website Cogniarchae

Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered Near Palenque in the Kingdom of Guatemala by Antonio del Rio

Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock