Saturday, 31 July 2004

Archeologists claim Essenes never wrote Dead Sea Scrolls

By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

Located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, Qumran is famous throughout the world as the place where the Essenes, who have been widely described in studies, conferences and exhibitions as a type of Jewish "monk," are said to have lived and written the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, based on findings soon to be published, Israeli archaeologists now argue that Qumran "lacks any uniqueness."

The latest research joins a growing school of thought attempting to explode the "Qumran myth" by stating that not only did the residents of Qumran live lives of comfort, they did not write the scrolls at all.

Two Israeli archaeologists, Yuval Peleg and Itzhak Magen, have recently completed 10 seasons of excavations at Qumran, sponsored by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. These are the most extensive digs since those conducted by Roland de Vaux half a century earlier. Among the finds were numerous pieces of jewelry, imported glass and expensive stone cosmetics containers.

"It's impossible to say that the people who lived at Qumran were poor," said Peleg. "It is also impossible that de Vaux did not see the finds we saw. He simply ignored what didn't suit him."

Friday, 30 July 2004

mtDNA of ancient central Asians

An interesting new paper confirms the anthropological and archaeological picture of a westward spread of Caucasoids in Central Asia in early prehistoric times, followed by the spread of Mongoloids in the opposite direction during the 1st millennium BC. The Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrid population resulting from these interactions is similar in terms of mtDNA with present-day Central Asians with some noted differences (e.g., presence of additional West Eurasian haplogroups). In the ancient samples, West Eurasian haplogroups H, HV, I, T*, T1, U*, U1, U5, U5a1 and W were represented:
  • HV sequences have matches in the Central Mediterranean region
  • H sequences are split between the common Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS) found in many populations, and two other sequences found in the Central Mediterranean and the Caucasus
  • The I sequence is present in a modern Central Asian and also in individuals from the Caucasus
  • The W sequence is widespread in West Eurasia
  • T* sequences are widespread in Europe, the Near East and the Central Mediterranean region
  • T1 is widespread in West Eurasia, but also found sporadically in East Eurasia
  • The U1a sequences are found in Turks, Armenians and Caucasians
  • The U5a sequence has been found in an Egyptian
  • The U5a1 sequence is frequent in the Caucasus and present in Europe, while a different U5a1 was reported previously in Mongolia
The East Eurasian haplogroups belong to A*, M*, M4 and G2:
  • The M* sequence was observed in an Indian individual
  • The M4 sequence has not been previously reported
  • The G2 sequence is found in present-day China and Central Asia
  • One A sequence is found in present-day Central Asians and Indians, while the other two have a motif found in a modern Chukchi
Most (78%) of the sequences are of West Eurasian (Caucasoid) origin, but before the 7th c. BC, East Eurasian (Mongoloid) sequences are absent, although they could be present up to 20.6% (p<0.05).
Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 May 7;271(1542):941-7. 

Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians.
Lalueza-Fox C et al.

This study helps to clarify the debate on the Western and Eastern genetic influences in Central Asia. Thirty-six skeletal remains from Kazakhstan (Central Asia), excavated from different sites dating between the fifteenth century BC to the fifth century AD, have been analysed for the hypervariable control region (HVR-I) and haplogroup diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the mitochondrial DNA genome. Standard authentication criteria for ancient DNA studies, including multiple extractions, cloning of PCR products and independent replication, have been followed. The distribution of east and west Eurasian lineages through time in the region is concordant with the available archaeological information: prior to the thirteenth-seventh century BC, all Kazakh samples belong to European lineages; while later an arrival of east Eurasian sequences that coexisted with the previous west Eurasian genetic substratum can be detected. The presence of an ancient genetic substratum of European origin in West Asia may be related to the discovery of ancient mummies with European features in Xinjiang and to the existence of an extinct Indo-European language, Tocharian. This study demonstrates the usefulness of the ancient DNA in unravelling complex patterns of past human migrations so as to help decipher the origin of present-day admixed populations.

Link (pdf)

Females are attracted to males with large pupils

Evolution and Human Behavior
Volume 25, Issue 4 , July 2004, Pages 221-228

Pupillometry: A sexual selection approach

Selina Tombs et al.


We attempted to clarify prior reported discrepancies between males judging females and females judging males in the attraction value of pupil size. Our hypothesis was that attraction values of pupil size will be described by an interaction effect, such that males will be most attracted by large pupils in females and females by medium size pupils in males. The rationale for the hypothesis was that the reproductive strategies of males are best served by unequivocal female sexual interest and arousal, whereas the strategies of females will predispose them to favor more moderate sexual attentions. As expected, the relationship of attraction to pupil size was positive and linear for males viewing females. Females, however, rather than showing the predicted inverted U function, showed consistent preferences for either medium or large pupils in males. Further investigation revealed that females attracted by large pupils also reported preferences for proverbial bad boys as dating partners. Analogous findings in the literature on female romantic partner preferences are discussed.


Thursday, 29 July 2004

mtDNA in Maharashtra (India)

A new study examines mitochondrial diversity in the population of Maharashtra (India) and confirms the authochthonous development of mtDNA haplogroup M in India, and finds that the indigenous clades U2 and U7 are the most important subclades of U in this population. The coalescence age for M is ~45000 ± 641 and for U it is ~25600 ± 1624. According to the authors, these results demonstrate that:

Thus, this reconfirms that India has witnessed two major expansion phases that have influenced the wide assortment of the Maharshtrian and other Indian lineages. The more recent phase, which according to our estimation started around 25600 years ago, is well reflected in the coalescence age of U. This period seems to correspond to the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic. The first expansion phase may reflect a demographic burst immediately after the initial peopling of India around 45000 years ago.
Annals of Human Genetics
OnlineEarly doi:10.1046/j.1529-8817.2004.00108.x

Mitochondrial DNA Diversity in Tribal and Caste Groups of Maharashtra (India) and its Implication on Their Genetic Origins
M. M. Baiga et al.

Genetic relationships among caste-groups are not uniform across the geographical regions of India. Many anthropologists have speculated on the tribal origin of some caste groups in Maharashtra and other states of India. To test this hypothesis, we used neutral mtDNA markers to study genetic relatedness among tribal and caste groups from Maharashtra. Descriptive statistics such as nucleotide diversity, gene diversity and average mismatches were found to be of the same magnitude. Phylogenetic network analysis exhibited a star-like expansion that may date back to the peopling of Eurasia, ~50,000 year ago. The reconstruction of mtDNA haplogroups showed that both the caste and tribal populations share similar branches of the tree. Also, the coalescence age estimation of caste and tribal populations suggests the persistence of maternal lineages with their root in early late Pleistocene. Our mtDNA analyses show some preliminary and significant evidence for the origin of prehistoric tribal and hierarchical caste societies of Maharashtra.

Reduced genetic structure of the Iberian peninsula revealed by Y-chromosome analysis: implications for population demography

A new comprehensive Y-chromosomal study on Iberian populations demonstrates that despite a small level of admixture, modern Iberians remain relatively homogeneous and untouched by contacts during historical times.

European Journal of Human Genetics
advance online publication 28 July 2004; doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201225

Carlos Flores et al.


Europe has been influenced by both intra- and intercontinental migrations. Since the Iberian peninsula was a refuge during the Last Glacial Maximum, demographic factors associated with contraction, isolation, subsequent expansion and gene flow episodes have contributed complexity to its population history. In this work, we analysed 26 Y-chromosome biallelic markers in 568 chromosomes from 11 different Iberian population groups and compared them to published data on the Basques and Catalans to gain insight into the paternal gene pool of these populations and find out to what extent major demographic processes account for their genetic structure. Our results reveal a reduced, although geographically correlated, Y-chromosomal interpopulation variance (1.2%), which points to a limited heterogeneity in the region. Coincidentally, spatial analysis of genetic distances points to a focal distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups in this area. These results indicate that neither old or recent Levantine expansions nor North African contacts have influenced the current Iberian Y-chromosome diversity so that geographical patterns can be identified.