Monday, September 1, 2008

Crania: Behind the "Generalized Modern human pattern" ...

Within 'Medi-centrist' circles, ideologues have sought psychological refuge in this anthropological catchword, in relation to cranial morphology; however, what is this term really a code word for? Well, let's examine from the language of a few anthropological publications, what this really boils down to...

The reactionary and outdated anthropological work of Colin Groves naturally comes to mind immediately:

...The implications of the Herto find for modern human origins are clear. Here were H. sapiens, more primitive than anyone now living but recognizably members of our own species, living in north-eastern Africa at a time when the Neanderthal people were in sole occupation of Europe. Even later than Herto, the only people for whom we have evidence were still non-modern - an enigmatic Neanderthal-like skull from Maba in China, and late H. erectus in Java. Just as predicted by the Out-of-Africa model, modern humans appear in Africa long before they are known from anywhere else.

There are implications for the origins of modern races, too. Herto (and Jebel Irhoud) are H. sapiens, but with primitive features. They are not, racially speaking, Africans. The later Omo and Klasies remains are more modern, but they too are archaic, and certainly show no traces of the features that characterize any modern races. Only Qafzeh and Skhul seem to lack these primitive features, and rate as “generalised modern humans”.

Our species seems to have existed as an entity long, long before it began to spread outside Africa or the Middle East, let alone split into geographic races.

When, then, did H. sapiens begin to split into races? The evidence indicates that modern racial features developed only gradually in each geographic area. The earliest H. sapiens specimen outside the Africa/Levant region is from Liujiang in China, whose dating was recently confirmed at 67,000 BP by a group led by Guanjun Shen of Nanjing Normal University. Like Qafzeh and Skhul, Liujiang is a “generalized modern”; it has no Mongoloid features.

The East Asian fossil record is not good enough to show when Mongoloid features began to develop. All we can say is that they must have developed before the end of the Pleistocene (12,000 BP) because this is when people began to cross what is now the Bering Strait (which was then a land-bridge); and Native Americans are Mongoloid.

H. sapiens began to enter Europe about 40,000 BP, but it is only at 28,000 BP that we get a fossil that shows any Caucasoid features - the Old Man from Cro-Magnon, in France.

Within the African homeland, the appearance of Negroid features is debatable. The skull from Border Cave, on the South Africa/Swaziland border, may be 60,000 years old and may show Negroid features, but both claims have been challenged.

And Australia? The earliest widely accepted dates for human occupation are of the order of 60,000 BP, not more, according to Bert Roberts of La Trobe University and the late Rhys Jones of the Australian National University. The claim that the Mungo Man skeleton is 62,000 BP has recently been challenged. According to a recent study led by Jim Bowler of Melbourne University, both Mungo Man and Mungo Woman may be only 40,000 years old (AS, April 2003, pp.18-21), but they are still the earliest skeletal remains we have from Australia. Are they Australoid?

Of all “major races”, Australoids have evidently changed least from the generalized modern human pattern, but the flat, receding forehead and angular skull vault that characterise many full-blooded Aboriginal people today are somewhat different to the Qafzeh/Skhul pattern. A 1999 study by Susan Antón and Karen Weinstein of the University of Florida, in the process of confirming that some of the Australian fossils (including most of the famous Kow Swamp series) had undergone artificial head deformation in infancy, found unexpectedly that most of the Pleistocene fossil Australian crania are rounder-skulled than modern ones. So racial features developed late in this part of the world, too.

In summary, the new discovery at Herto does not shatter any myths, but it extends the dataset, shifts the weight of evidence yet more decisively in favour of the Out-of-Africa model of modern human evolution, and helps to place modern racial variation very firmly into context.

Colin Groves is professor of archaeology and anthropology at the Australian National University.

© Control Publications 2003


Let's see what Groves says is not the "generalized modern human pattern":

primitive features

...which Grove observes, is a feature of the Herto, the Omo and Klasies specimens; and to drive this point, Grove tells us that: The later Omo and Klasies remains are more modern, but they too are archaic, and certainly show no traces of the features that characterize any modern races.

Apparently, bespeaking of the outdatedness of his viewpoint, the Omo specimens that Grove deems more modern, are actually much older than the Herto specimen — that is, outside the fallacy of "human races".

What else is not generalized modern, according to Groves?

Mongoloid features

...on which we are clued in, here: Like Qafzeh and Skhul, Liujiang is a “generalized modern”; it has no Mongoloid features.

What else?

Caucasoid features

And we know this, because Groves tells us that: it is only at 28,000 BP that we get a fossil that shows any Caucasoid features - the Old Man from Cro-Magnon, in France.

Mind you, this would be the same "Caucasoid" Cro-Magnons that Chris Stringer tells us: more like present-day Australians or Africans, judged by objective anatomical categorizations, as is the case with some early modern skulls from the Upper Cave at Zhoukoudian in China

And with regards to which, Brace says: oft-repeated European feeling that the Cro-Magnons are “us” (46) is more a product of anthropological folklore than the result of the metric data available from the skeletal remains

We are also clued in that generalized modern isn't exactly....

modern racial features...either!

Yeap, you probably guessed it; he implies this to us, right here: When, then, did H. sapiens begin to split into races? The evidence indicates that modern racial features developed only gradually in each geographic area.

Yet even by Groves' own rationale, although he turns around and simply says that it has been challenged, the so-called 'Negroid' trait preceded the so-called Caucasoid:

Within the African homeland, the appearance of Negroid features is debatable. The skull from Border Cave, on the South Africa/Swaziland border, may be 60,000 years old and may show Negroid features, but both claims have been challenged.

For if the said 'Negroid' features are attested to 60 ky ago, then that would apparently predate the questionable appearance of the so-called 'Caucasoid' features at ca. 28 Ky ago among the discredited "Caucasoid Cro-Magnons" , wouldn't it?!

But perhaps the most instructive piece of Groves' racialist discourse, is this:

Of all “major races”, Australoids have evidently changed least from the generalized modern human pattern, but the flat, receding forehead and angular skull vault that characterise many full-blooded Aboriginal people today are somewhat different to the Qafzeh/Skhul pattern.

It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to see that Australian aborigines are tropically-derived peoples, with considerable skin eumelanin, placing them well within the range of skin pigmentations found across 'sub-Saharan' Africans. In popular language, we all know the latter are known as "blacks". Indeed, Groves' ability to see closer phenotypic link between Australian aborigines and Upper Paleolithic "Eurasian" specimens of Qafzeh/Skhul and Australia, is consistent with the aforementioned Chris Stringer et al.'s assessment:

"Nor does the picture get any clearer when we move on to the Cro-Magnons, the presumed ancestors of Modern Europeans. Some were more like present-day Australians or Africans, judged by objective anatomical categorizations, as is the case with some early modern skulls from the Upper Cave at Zhoukoudian in China

Source: African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity by Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, Page 162

Stringer et al.'s observation is yet consistent with that of Neves et al. 2005:

"Increasing skeletal evidence from the U.S.A., Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil strongly suggests that the first settlers in the Americas had a cranial morphology distinct from that displayed by most late and modern Native Americans. The Paleoamerican morphological pattern is more generalized and can be seen **today** among **Africans, Australians, and Melanesians.**

Here, we present the results of a comparative morphological assessment of a late Paleoindian/early archaic specimen from Capelinha Burial II, southern Brazil. The Capelinha skull was compared with samples of four Paleoindian groups from South and Central America and worldwide modern groups from W.W. Howells' studies.

In **both analyses** performed (classical morphometrics and geometric morphometrics), the results show a clear association between Capelinha Burial II and the Paleoindians, as well as Australians, Melanesians, and Africans, confirming its Paleoamerican status."


Reminiscent of Groves' distancing of the generalized cranial morphology from the so-called 'Mongoloid pattern', Neves et al. tells us:

The increasing evidence that all late Pleistocene/ early Holocene human groups from South America are characteristically non-Mongoloid has major implications for the colonization of the Americas, as argued by one of us (WAN) since the end of the 1980s. Even if few studies with large samples from single sites have been carried out so far with Paleoindians (see Neves et al., 2003, 2004, as examples of these studies), it is evident by now that South America Central America and possibly North America, were populated by human groups with a more generalized cranial morphology before the arrival of the Mongoloids.

Like Stringer, they too see the generalized pattern as that akin to that seen in cranial morphology of tropical adapted groups like Australians, Melanesians and Africans:

Since this more generalized morphology (‘‘Australo-Melanesian- like’’) was also present in East Asia at the end of the Pleistocene, transoceanic migrations are not necessary to explain our findings.

As presented in detail elsewhere (Neves et al., 2003) the arrival of an ‘‘Australo-Melanesian-like’’ population in the Americas is easily accommodated under what is presently known about the place of origin and the routes taken by modern humans in their first long-distance dispersions (Lahr and Foley, 1998).

What Neves et al. tells us next, pretty much sums up why Upper Paleolithic African specimens show affinities with Upper Paleolithic 'Eurasians', as well as Paleo-Indians:

1) Accordingly, a population that began to expand from Africa around 70 ka reached southeast Asia by the middle of the late Pleistocene, carrying with it a cranial morphology characterized by long, narrow neurocrania and narrow, projecting faces.

2) We postulate that after reaching southeast Asia, this stem population gave rise to at least two different dispersions.

50 Ky ago
One took a southward direction and arrived at Australia around 50 Ka.


Between 50 and 20 Ky ago
Sometime between 50 and 20 Ka a second branch dispersed towards the north, and arrived in the Americas by the end of the Pleistocene, bringing with it the same cranial morphology that characterized the first modern humans.

Neves et al.'s observations are apparently valid, and appears to be the consensus scientific finding, but even they fall victim to "idealized" typological constructs [as indicated by the need to refer to the term "Mongoloid" at all] — although to a much lesser degree than Groves — and it serves one to understand that when they speak of stronger phenotypic associations between Paleo-Indians and Paleo-Eurasians and contemporary dark-skinned tropically-adapted/derived groups like aboriginal Australians, Melanesians and Africans than other contemporary groups, that with regards to Africans, the comparison is being made with view to only a snapshot of African diversity. Take for instance, the following Neves et al. characterizations of the Paleo-Indian source populations:

Recap — Accordingly, a population that began to expand from Africa around 70 ka reached southeast Asia by the middle of the late Pleistocene, carrying with it a cranial morphology characterized by long, narrow neurocrania and narrow, projecting faces.

And then this — When the classical Mongoloid cranial morphology appeared in northeastern Asia, either as a local response to extreme environmental conditions, or as the product of a migration from northern Europe, a new expansion of northern Asians reached the New World, bringing with it a cranial morphology characterized by short, wide neurocrania and broad, retracted faces.

Although local microevolutionary processes in the Americas can not be precluded to explain the transition from a generalized to a very specialized cranial morphology (Powell and Neves, 1999), a model based on the entrance of two different morphological patterns from the Old World is much more parsimonious.

The two patterns are further described as follows...

The three different quantitative analyses undertaken in this study demonstrate that the first South Americans exhibit a cranial morphology that is:

1 — very different from late and modern Northeastern Asians and Amerindians (short and wide neurocrania; high, orthognatic faces; and relatively high and narrow orbits and noses)

2 — but very similar to present Australians/Melanesians and Africans, especially with the former (narrow and long neurocrania; prognatic, low faces; and relatively low and broad orbits and noses).

Source: Neves et al. 2005; Cranial morphology of early Americans from Lagoa Santa, Brazil: Implications for the settlement of the New World.

Clearly, the cranial patterns described in association with the Australian/Melanesian and African groups is only a snapshot of the actual overall diversity of Africans; the combination of traits described above is often invoked in what one might refer to as 'stereotypical Negro" — or as it has been referred to elsewhere — as "forest Negro". Certainly, these traits do not cover the full range of cranio-facial patterns observed across sub-Saharan Africans and Africans as a whole; they are just subsets of the said variation.

Revisiting that last 2nd point: 2 — but very similar to present Australians/Melanesians and Africans, especially with the former (narrow and long neurocrania; prognatic, low faces; and relatively low and broad orbits and noses).

It should be obvious from the above, that showing stronger phenotypic affinities with the above mentioned groups — Australians, Melanesians, and Africans, that this doesn't mean the said three groups show no inter-group differences; apparently, there are discernible phenotypic manifestations between them, with contemporary Australians and Melanesians perhaps showing somewhat stronger links to the aforementioned Paleolithic specimens than contemporary Africans, but relatively smaller distances between the three contemporaries and the Paleolithic specimens, than the case may be with other groups; this brings us to the:

Conclusion: Stronger phenotypic associations are observed between the modern tropically-adapted/derived groups like Australians, Melanesians and Africans and Paleolithic groups of Africa, Eurasia and America, because original modern humans were tropically-adapted Africans, who sported considerable skin pigmentation — that is to say, "blacks". Therefore, the 'generalized modern' is nothing more than a code word or just another euphemism for a variant(s) of the [naturally, dark-skinned] tropical African, otherwise also called "black African". This applies to their tropically-adapted Paleolithic descendant populations in the Levant, SouthAsia, Europe, and the Americas. The generalized moderns represent part of the then existing overall variation of tropical Africans, just as the "stereotyped" or "idealized" sub-Saharan African archetype constitutes just a part of overall phenotypic diversity of Saharo-Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ps — Some Eurocentric ideologues, as exemplified in Groves' work, unable to psychologically come to grips with their ultimate derivation from dark-skinned [tropical] African ancestors, conjure up pseudo-scientific "racialist" or typological discourse wherein they seek to mystify the fact by hiding behind code terms like "generalized modern", even if it means contradicting themselves in the process — again as Groves did — and overlooking it. For instance, from Groves, one almost gets the sense that he tries too hard to make a case that the generalized modern is a type which is spared so-called archaic features, yet distinctive from 'contemporary' populations which he divides and classifies into rigid types, while at the same time, acknowledging a relatively stronger association with the contemporary likes of aboriginal Australians. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that aboriginal Australians are considerably dark skinned peoples, whom like other tropical-affiliated groups like Melanesians, are in certain ways reminiscent of their dark skinned African brethren, not to mention sporting strong morphological affinities with both Paleo-'Eurasians' and Paleo-Africans, because they all emanate from autochthonous dark skin ancestral populations of tropical Africa — a fact which is relayed through cephalo-morphometric study, as just examined, and molecular genetics — wherein relatively deeper monophyletic units or markers are attested to in these groups [especially Africans] than those observed in their counterparts elsewhere!
____________________________________________________
*References:

— Colin Groves 2003

—Neves et al. 2005; A new early Holocene human skeleton from Brazil: implications for the settlement of the New World.

—Neves et al. 2005; Cranial morphology of early Americans from Lagoa Santa, Brazil: Implications for the settlement of the New World.

—Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity.

— Brace et al. 2005, The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form. Neat little link (clickable) to a discussion on the draft of the this paper before it went into publication!

5 comments:

Proud Canadian said...

Very interesting. How does Colin Groves define "Negroid" I wonder? It seems from what you say that the "generalized modern human" stands as yet another "type" to avoid acknowledging the reality of African genetic diversity.

I checked the link you posted. Great information particularly on the Natufians, which are a real eye-opener. So often I read of assorted migrants into the Nile Valley but they always seem to be mysterious Caucasoids, Mediterraneans, Eurasians, Hamites etc.. I hear little about other movement.

If these Natufians were sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the Levant region of the Near East between about 12,500 and 10,200 years ago, and they show strong sub-Saharan linkages, I wonder about theories which posit a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern type sweeping into the Nile Valley. If these Natufians folks were in Palestine, (Jericho etc) then could it be said that the much touted "migrants" to the Nile Valley from the Levant, were not Hamites or Cuacasoids but plain old sub-Saharan variants making another one of their routine moves in accordance with climate, food sources etc etc..

Also how would you compare it with the Krings 1999 ("mtDNA analysis of Nile River Valley populations: A genetic corridor or a barrier to migration?") study that found greater historical gene flow from south to north than vice versa? If advanced Caucasoids were flowing into the Nile Valley, shouldn't it be from north to south?

What is your view on the fact that the dynasties arose from the 'darker' south verus the north which is closer to the Mediterranean and to Palestine?

Mystery Solver said...

proud canadian writes:

Very interesting. How does Colin Groves define "Negroid" I wonder? It seems from what you say that the "generalized modern human" stands as yet another "type" to avoid acknowledging the reality of African genetic diversity.

Actually, I was saying that "generalized modern human" is a generic catchword -- meant to generate an atmosphere of ambiguity or mysteriousness -- used in reference to Upper Paleolithic specimens from Africa, Eurasia and the Americas, but it is really a reference to what amounts to variants of tropical African morphology in the Upper Paleolithic, and hence, re-occurring researcher observations of closer links to comtemporary Australo-Melanesian and African groups than other groups.

Anonymous said...

Yet even by Groves' own rationale, although he turns around and simply says that it has been challenged, the so-called 'Negroid' trait preceded the so-called Caucasoid.

lol.. well at least its progress- of a sort. If I remember Carleton Coons had those "negroids" as the latecomers of history, appearing way after assorted "caucasoids" and virtually non-existent before then. Generously, Colin Groves has them "moving on up.." to borrow a jingle from the old US TV show "The Jeffersons".

Mystery Solver said...

anonymous writes:

Colin Groves has them "moving on up.." to borrow a jingle from the old US TV show "The Jeffersons".

Lol; that's funny.

Anonymous said...

aterian tanged and levallois tools have been found recently in southern ga,usa, supporting an early african presence in the americas.