A family history mystery – who is the 2nd Annie Priscilla Wilson?

Thomas Wilson

In a previous post, I wrote about my great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Wilson (who was transported to Australia as a convict in 1834). He had been sentenced to 7 years transportation for highway robbery. In researching his descendants, I documented a granddaughter Annie Priscilla Wilson, who was born in 1880 to his son Thomas Wilson (1847-1923) and wife Frances Oliver (1852-1893). Annie Priscilla married John Fitzgerald in Manly in 1900 and they moved to Wollongong. She died in 1964, I have seen the death certificate, and she is buried in the Wollongong Cemetery (Sect. RC Row: Nth 25 Site: 26). I have been contacted by one of her grand-daughters who has confirmed all these details.

This is where it gets interesting. In searching for information on Thomas Wilson and his family, who lived at Church Point, Pittwater north of Manly in Sydney, I came across a website with the following information. It described the rediscovery of the graveyard associated with the first St John’s Anglican Church in Mona Vale, about 5 km from Church Point, where the Wilson family lived. This church was a small weatherboard structure built in 1871 overlooking Mona Vale Beach, which was moved to a new site in Bayview in 1888.  One of the gravestones uncovered was for “Annie Priscilla Wilson Aged 2 Years (1880-1882) Dearly loved daughter of Frances and Thomas Wilson”. I have also found a photograph of the Memorial Plaque erected on the site in her memory. There is only one birth “Annie Priscilla Wilson” registered in NSW for anyone with the names Annie, Ann, Anne, Priscilla and parents Thomas and Frances Wilson in the date range 1865-1900. So this is a complete mystery. Although her gravestone has been found saying she died in 1882, she also got married to John Fitzgerald in 1900. I also cannot find a death certificate for Annie Priscilla Wilson in 1882.

Commemorative plaque for the relocated grave stones.

The finding of these graves in 1958 is described in more detail in a listing on the NSW Government’s State Heritage Listing.

On the western elevation there are three sandstone gravestones. One commemorates the death of William F Stark and was “erected by his fellow workmen as a mark of respect” and inscribed “accidentally killed during the erection of the New Lighthouse at Barrenjoey, Wednesday 16th February 1881”. The other two headstones and are actually two pieces of a headstone for Priscilla Wilson, died aged 2, daughter of Frances and Thomas Wilson.

The graves marked by the headstones were closer to the former church. It was reported in 1946 that early Pittwater pioneers were buried near the church site but the graves were neglected and the headstones had disappeared. William Stark and George Cobb both of whom were killed in the erection of Barrenjoey Lighthouse were buried here and also John Morris a fisherman of Broken Bay who died 19 April 1878, aged 45 years. In 1958, the headstones were re discovered in excavations on properties on the south side of Grandview Parade, Mona Vale. They were removed to the present St John’s Church site in Pittwater Road, Mona Vale. The remains of William Stark were removed to Manly cemetery.”

I’ve searched the records and the family tree for another girl born in 1880 to a relative, who might have been adopted and had her name changed to Annie, but could not find any. It would seem bizarre that another girl would have been adopted and had her name changed to match, particularly as they continued to live in the same community. It also seems odd that a gravestone with matching dates and parents names could be a complete coincidence. Particularly as there is no record of another Thomas and Frances Wilson in that period.  I have no idea what the explanation for this is. I hope someone who knows more may read this and contact me.

Marriage Certificate for Annie Priscilla Wilson and John Fitzgerald

Anaximander – the first scientist

Recently I discovered Carlo Rovelli, an Italian physicist and best-selling popular science writer and noticed he had written a book on Anaximander, an early Greek philosopher who lived around 150 years before Socrates in the sixth century BC. Though I read some of the Greek philosophers when I was younger, I don’t recall coming across Anaximander. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book and so here is a review.

Anaximander (c. 610 – c. 546 BC), lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia (in modern-day Turkey) and was a student of Thales. Nothing but a few quotations and descriptions of his work survive in the works of later philosophers, but from this sparse information, Rovelli mounts a persuasive argument that Anaximander was the first true scientist, the first to suggest that order in the world was due to natural forces, not supernatural ones.

Ancient Roman mosaic from Trier, dating to the early third century AD, showing Anaximander holding a sundial.

Prior to Anaximander, Greek thinking, including that of his teacher Thales, ascribed the causes of natural phenomena to the actions of the gods. Anaximander was the first to look for natural rather than supernatural mythical causes and to be willing to reject the views of authority. Among other things, he proposed that:

  • The universe arose from a single point (the apeiron) when hot and cold separated from the apeiron, generating the cosmic order.
  • The Earth is a body of finite dimensions floating in space. It doesn’t fall because there is no particular direction towards which it could fall.
  • Meteorological phenomena have natural causes. Rainwater is water that has evaporated from the oceans and rivers. Thunder and lightning are caused by colliding clouds, not the actions of Zeus.
  • Earthquakes are caused by fissures in the Earth
  • All animals originally came from the sea and the first animals were fishlike creatures.

Rovelli particularly identifies the conceptual leap from a flat Earth to a finite Earth floating in space as an extraordinary achievement. While Anaximander conceived of the Earth as a short stubby cylinder, the next generations of Greek philosophers rapidly realized that the Earth was spherical and even measured its circumference with reasonable accuracy. Despite popular belief, even through the dark ages and Middle Ages, educated Europeans knew that the Earth was round (see for example, Dante’s description in the Divine Comedy). European civilization was the only one to make this conceptual leap, and it did so 26 centuries ago. Despite the fact that the Chinese collected detailed astronomical measurements from Anaximander’s time onwards, they never realized that the Earth was round and floated in space. At least until the 17th century, when contact with Western astronomers led the Chinese to rapidly agree that they had got it wrong.

Rovelli has some fascinating arguments about why Greek civilization of the 6th century BC was such an intellectual ferment, not only in natural philosophy but forms of government. These hinge on the fact that the Greek language has six fewer consonants than the Phoenician language, but I will let you read the book if you want to know why.

Rovelli argues that Anaximander was the first thinker to question and disagree with the views of authorities, including his own teacher Thales, while still holding them in respect and reverence. Between absolute reverence and rejection, he discovered a third way. Rovelli says

“In my view, modern science in its entirety is the result of the discovery of this third way. ….[Anaximander] was the first thinker able to conceive and put into practice what is now the fundamental methodological credo of modern scientists: make a thorough study of the masters, come to understand their intellectual achievements, and make these achievements their own.Then on the basis of the knowledge so acquired, identify the errors in the masters’ thinking, correct them, and in so doing improve our understanding of the world.” –  Carlo Rovelli, Anaximander.

He argues that the reason a scientific revolution comparable to the one in the West did not take place in China was precisely because the master in Chinese culture was never criticized or questioned.

The second half of the book addresses the question of what “science” is, and in what ways it differs from religion. Rovelli’s central argument is that the key difference is that science is always willing to question established authority. It does not suffer a priori conclusions, reverence, or untouchable truths. This is the main reason he proposes that Anaximander should be considered the founder of the scientific tradition, not the actual accuracy of his ideas.

The science denialism of current times often attacks science as arrogant and certain of its truths, and one line of attack is to note that today’s scientific understanding of some issues contradicts previous understanding. This is a strange lack of understanding of the scientific method, and Rovelli notes that “the reliability of science is not based on the fact that its answers are certain. It is based on the fact that its answers are the best ones available. They are the best available because science is a way of thinking in which nothing is considered certain, and therefore remains open to better answers if better ones become available.”

The book finishes with a discussion of science and religion, characterizing religion as asserting certain truths are Absolute and beyond question. Rovelli argues that the conflict between rational/scientific thinking and structured religion is ultimately unsolvable because (most) religions demand the acceptance of some unquestionable truths while scientific thinking is based on the continuous questioning of any truth. This is much too simplistic. To my mind, the domain of science is the “outside” of things, what can be observed and measured in principle by anyone. Those who expand the statements of science to dismiss the reality of the “inside” of things, such as the experience of states of consciousness, qualia, emotions etc, are creating a religion of scientism, not doing science. And religion and spirituality should be mainly concerned with these “insides” and with such non-material things as ethics, morals, how to alleviate suffering, how to live the good life, etc. So there should not be substantial overlap between the domains of science (as traditionally understood) and of religion.

However, most of the “structured religions”, by which I assume he means institutionalized religions, have a body of dogma dating back to pre-scientific times, in many cases to the Bronze Age, and are framed in terms of mythic stories which include pre-scientific explanations of natural phenomena and the aspects of reality addressed by modern science. There are still many in the modern world who cling to these dogmas as Absolute truths, though in much of the Western world the major religions have evolved to understand that these mythic stories address aspects of the human condition but are not to be taken literally. On the other side, science is carried out by fallible humans, and there are of course scientists who hold to the “truth” of their findings dogmatically and can resist new evidence and theories that challenge their worldview or their life’s work. The case of continental drift is a classic example.

I argued in a previous post that I think Buddhism comes closest to eschewing dogma in favour of practice, experiment, seeing what works and what doesn’t. But in countries where Buddhism has taken root in pre-modern times, the religion has taken on many mythic elements with God-like Buddhas who are worshipped, and with unquestioned dogmas such as reincarnation. I agree with Ken Wilber that the universality of religion in human cultures strongly implies that it does capture important and universal truths about humanity and reality, and that mythic elements that are not common across all the religions must be the culture-specific understandings of these that should not be misinterpreted as absolute truths.

This is a book well worth reading, even if you don’t agree with all of Rovelli’s views. He certainly makes a strong case that Anaximander is one of the pivotal figures of the Axial Age, standing at one of the deep roots of modernity. His radical “inquiry into nature” without recourse to mythical-religious explanations put Western civilization on the path to the scientific revolution which has changed and will continue to change our conceptual image of the world.  If only institutional religions could embrace the same dynamic, let go of dogma and coercive control and encourage individual spiritual experience and growth.

I think I will leave the last words on Anaximander to a reviewer on Amazon.co.uk, who said:

“The only flaw is Rovelli’s insistence on a cumulative epistemology which just doesn’t get the kind of dialectic that avoids metaphysical positivism without losing the importance of idealisation as a social product.”

The twin pandemics and the second wave

Today, I took another look at the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic using data on confirmed new cases per day. The first figure shows four countries where the second wave has peaked and is coming down. Australia is somewhat unique in that its second wave peaked considerably higher than the first. Croatia and likely Spain will join that club.

The next figure shows four examples of European countries in which a second wave has started and average new cases per day are growing. New cases are growing in Switzerland at a relatively slow rate. Perhaps more alarmingly, the average effective reproduction number over the last 14 days, Reff,  is substantially higher in all four countries neighbouring Switzerland: France, Germany, Austria and Italy. This number represents the people infected on average by an infected person. Among the European countries with rising case numbers, the UK had the lowest Reff at 1.02 but it could easily rise if there is too much relaxation of social distancing and other measures. For a more detailed explanation of the data and analysis refer to this post on my professional website.

The last figure shows four countries who have had an extended first wave, now declining, and may or may not yet have a second wave. It is no coincidence that three of the four countries in this category  – Brazil, Russia and the USA – are led by far-right nationalists who use technology as a tool for disinformation, demonize minorities and ignore climate change.  Sweden was one of the few European countries not to impose a compulsory lockdown and has had a much more extended epidemic as a result. It did ban gatherings of more than 50 people, but other measures were voluntary. Though I saw a post from a Swedish man recently, saying he was having a lot of trouble coping with the social distancing of 2 metres and asking how soon he could go back to his usual social distance of 5 metres. I haven’t classified the USA has having two waves, because the first small plateau resulted from the peaking and decline of the epidemic in New York largely, while transmission continued to increase rapidly elsewhere, particularly in the South. I came across an article today that described the USA as suffering from twin pandemics: covid-19 and stupidity.

Variations and trends in cultural values across 105 countries, 1980 to 2020

I’ve long been interested in the relationship between the stages of development of the individual (whether stages of moral development, psychological development, or consciousness) and the stages of development of human societies and civilizations. With the increasing prominence of fundamentalist religion in some regions of the world, the rise of science denialism and “post-truth” popularist politics, differences in human values are of huge importance and can literally become life and death matters for people. More generally, it seems fairly clear that people’s beliefs play a key role in economic development, the emergence and flourishing of democratic institutions, the rise of gender equality, and the extent to which societies have effective governments.

So I have taken an interest in results from the World Values Survey over the last two decades, and last month learnt that data from its most recent wave was being released in late July. There have now been seven waves of the World Values Survey (WVS), the first in 1980-1982 and the seventh underway since 2017. There have also been five waves of the European Values Study (EVS), which includes many of the same items as the WVS, and whose most recent wave covers the period 2017-2020. With the release of the WVS 7th wave data for 48 countries in July 2020, the WVS plus the EVS now include data for 117 countries or territories and over 638,000 respondents, covering the period 1981-2020.

Data from previous waves of the World Values Survey were used by political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel to identify two major dimensions of cross cultural variation across the world. They refer to these as Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and Survival values versus Emancipative values. Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values in contrast to secular-rational values. Survival values place emphasis on economic and physical security. It is linked with a relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance. Emancipative values are associated with gender equality, relative acceptance of divorce, abortion, and homosexuality and rising demands for participation in decision-making in economic and political life. Inglehart and Welzel used factor analysis to estimate where each country lies on these two dimensions are constructed what they called a “culture map”.

I set out to replicate this analysis with the full WVS+EVS dataset including the latest wave [1-4]. I decided to use a different statistical approach (item response theory) to estimate the two dimensions. I have posted a more technical summary on my professional website to give details of this analysis. In brief, I used structural equation modelling to estimate two latent variables. The survival-emancipative variable was derived from data for three questions of gender equality (jobs, politics, education) and three questions on acceptance of homosexuality, abortion, and divorce. The traditional-secular values variable was derived from data for three questions on sources of authority (nation pride, government, parents) and three questions on religion (importance, belief, practice. The values for countries with data for years 2005 or later were used to extrapolate values for year 2019. The following “culture map” shows the location of 105 countries based in these two variables.

New West and West —  Western Europe and overseas offshoots of Western Europe
Returned West —  Catholic and Protestant parts of post-communist Europe  returning to the EU
Orthodox —  Christian Orthodox or Islamic parts of the post-communist world, mostly parts of former USSR
South Asia —  Parts of South Asia under the historic influence of Indian culture
South East Asia —  Parts of South East Asia excluding those under historic influence of Chinese culture
Sinic East —  Parts of East Asia under the historic influence of Chinese culture
Latin America —  Central and South America and the Caribbean
African-Islamic —  African countries south of the Sahara, together with regions of the Islamic world that have been parts of the Arab/Caliphate, Persian and Ottoman empires.

The general topology of this map is similar to the Inglehart-Welzel map, with Scandinavian countries to the top right, Sinic countries to the top left, and African-Islamic countries to the bottom left. However, there are some considerable differences in the locations of countries relative to each other, and the positions of some individual countries – no doubt reflecting the difference between the method I have used and the factor analysis used by Inglehart and Welzel.

I have also extrapolated time series for these two culture variables across the period 1980-2020 and calculated population-weighted averages for 10 culture zones (as used by Welzel in his recent book Freedom Rising  [5].

The following graph summarizes the net trend in culture values from 1980 to 2020 as straight lines joining these two points. For more details, and full trajectories, see trends-in-cultural-values-1980-to-2020.

Net trends for 10 culture zones from 1980 to 2020.

The 10 culture zones are defined as follows:

Reformed West — Western European societies strongly affected by the Reformation;
New West — English-speaking countries (UK, Ireland and former overseas colonies);
Old West — Mostly Catholic parts of Western Europe being core parts of the
Roman Empire;
Returned West — Catholic and Protestant parts of post-communist Europe returning to the EU;
Orthodox East — Christian Orthodox or Islamic parts of the post-communist world,
mostly parts of former USSR;
Indic East — Parts of South and South East Asia under the historic influence
of Indian culture;
Islamic East — Regions of the Islamic world that have been parts of the Arab/Caliphate, Persian and Ottoman empires;
Sinic East — Parts of East Asia under the historic influence of Chinese culture;
Latin America — Central and South America and the Caribbean;
Sub-Saharan Africa — African countries south of the Sahara.

This graphs shows a very clear contrast between the evolution of cultural values for the West plus Latin America and the other culture zones. The West regions and Latin America have all moved quite strongly towards more emancipative values and also away from traditional values to more secular-rational values. In contrast, while the other regions have also moved somewhat rightward in emancipative values, they have moved downwards away from secular-rational values towards to more traditional values. The Islamic East is the major exception with very little change in either dimension.

In his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, Samuel Huntington described a global revival of religion in the second half of the twentieth century, claiming that the trend towards secularization went into reverse in the 1970s in every region of the world [6]. At least to the extent the second latent dimension (or indeed Inglehart and Welzel’s traditional-secular factor) measure the degree of secularization, the trends from 1980 to the present do not fit with his conclusion. He was correct in identifying a return to religion in the former Soviet countries with predominantly Orthodox Christian or Islamic religious tradition. He also pointed to an increasingly Hindu orientation of India, whereas the story from the WVS-EVS data is somewhat more complex with a fairly stable level of religiosity from 1990 to 2000 associated with an increasing level of emancipative values, but from 2000 to 2020 an increasing degree of religiosity associated with a declining level of emancipative values. This correlates broadly with the rise of Hindu extremism and the election of the BJP Party with its Hindu nationalist orientation in 2014.

I am currently looking more closely at questions in the WVS/EVS relating to religious belief and exploring ways to develop a better measure of religiosity, if possible to take into account degree of “fundamentalism” and rejection of science. There are also questions that allow investigating how broadly the respondent identifies with others (tribal/neighbourhood, ethno-religious group, nation, world) and whether they see religion as a way of making sense of life in this world versus making sense of life after death. These latter questions are available in fewer waves of the survey but may enable a more nuanced latent variable to be constructed that identifies stages of religious understanding.

References

  1. Inglehart, R., C. Haerpfer, A. Moreno, C. Welzel, K. Kizilova, J. Diez-Medrano, M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). 2014. World Values Survey: All Rounds – Country-Pooled Datafile Version: https://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSDocumentationWVL.jsp. Madrid: JD Systems Institute.¨
  2. Haerpfer, C., Inglehart, R., Moreno,A., Welzel,C., Kizilova,K., Diez-MedranoJ., M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). 2020. World Values Survey: Round Seven–Country-Pooled Datafile. Madrid, Spain & Vienna, Austria: JD Systems Institute& WVSA Secretariat[Version: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSDocumentationWV7.jsp].
  3. Gedeshi, Ilir, Zulehner, Paul M., Rotman, David, Titarenko, Larissa, Billiet, Jaak, Dobbelaere, Karel, Kerkhofs, Jan. (2020). European Values Study Longitudinal Data File 1981-2008 (EVS 1981-2008). GESIS Datenarchiv, Köln. ZA4804 Datenfile Version 3.1.0, https://doi.org/10.4232/1.13486.
  4. EVS (2020): European Values Study 2017: Integrated Dataset (EVS 2017). GESIS Data Archive, Cologne. ZA7500 Data file Version 3.0.0,doi:10.4232/1.13511
  5. Welzel C. Freedom Rising. Human Empowerment and the. Quest for Emancipation. 2013. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/freedom-rising/80316A9C5264A8038B0AA597078BA7C6
  6. Samuel Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. London: Simon and Schuster 1996.

The jet d’eau of Geneva

The jet d’eau (jet of water) is a famous Geneva landmark, situated just off the shore of Lake Leman near the centre of Geneva and its old town. The original jet d’eau was a pressure release mechanism for the Geneva water supply in the 19th century. When engineering improvements made it obsolete, the City of Geneva decided to make the jet a tourist attraction. The current version was installed in 1951 and sends the water plume to a height of 140 m (460 feet). Its two pumps expel 500 litres of water per second at a speed of 200 km/hour.

My paternal ancestors – from Adam via ice age Siberia to the steppes of Europe

In earlier posts, I discussed how I have used an analysis of my Y chromosome DNA to identify my paternal ancestors all the way back to Y-chromosomal Adam, the most recent common ancestor of all men alive today. The following map summarizes my Y haplogroup ancestors from Y-chromosomal Adam down to those who left Africa around 70 thousand years ago (70 kya) and headed east through India and South East Asia and then up through China into ice age Siberia and then across to the Ukrainian steppeland north of the Black Sea.

I was originally going to continue this story all the way across Europe to the Iberian Peninsula and up to Ireland and Scotland, but I will keep that for a later post. I have discovered that there is an immense amount of recent research on European Bronze Age genetics and migrations and a very considerable unfinished debate on how to interpret the evidence. So it may take me a little while to come to grips with it.

The estimated dates for haplogroup founders shown on the map are mostly taken from the SNP Tracker [1] and are interpolated from the dates in the Y haplotree on Yfull.com. The latter use the updated method of Adamov et al [2] to estimate ages, based on the average SNP mutation rate parts of the Y chromosome expected to be stable in the mutation rate. The date for Y chromosomal Adam is estimated from recent studies cited in the post about him. Note that there is large uncertainty in age estimates and locations of Y haplogroups. The 95% uncertainty for dates ranges from ±10% for early haplogroups to ±20% for R1b. Some of the possible locations discussed below are speculative and will be revised as new data becomes available. The acronyms BCE and CE refer to “Before Current Era” and “Current Era” and correspond to BC and AD respectively.

The Y chromosome is substantially larger than mitochondrial DNA (56 million versus 16,600 base pairs). As a consequence there are more paternal haplogroups than maternal haplogroups. There are 36 paternal haplogroup founders between me and Y chromosomal Adam, compared to only 17 maternal haplogroup founders between me and mitochondrial Eve. In the story below of my paternal ancestors, I have focused on important haplogroup founders associated with key developments in human migration and culture.

Y-Chromosomal Adam

Y-chromosomal Adam, our great*8,870th grandfather [3], lived approximately 275,000 years ago in western Africa, likely in western Cameroon. His haplogroup A is ancestral to all Y-haplogroups found today. Y-chromosomal Adam was not the first Y-chromosomal Adam was not the first man, nor was he the only man alive at the time. His contemporaries could still have descendants, whose line zig-zagged back and forth between males and females, but Adam was the only one who had an unbroken line of sons, through thousands of generations, right down to the present time. He is the paternal ancestor of all humans alive today. In a previous post, I have told the story of the discovery around 2010 of a new haplogroup A00, which pushed the date of Y-chromosomal Adam from around 120-160 thousand years ago (kya) to 275 kya. This is somewhere around the time the first anatomically modern humans appeared.

Haplogroup A is restricted to Africa, where it is present in several populations at low frequency but is most commonly found in populations of the Koi and the San tribes of Southern Africa. Early sub-branches of A have been found in central Africa. My paternal lineage descended through haplogroups A0-T, A1, A1b and BT to haplogroup CT, whose founders progressively moved eastwards towards the horn of Africa.

Haplogroup CT – Out of Africa Adam

Haplogroup CT (CT-M168/PF1416) has been referred to as the lineage of “Eurasian Adam” or “Out of Africa Adam”; because, along with many African Y-lineages, all non-African Y-lineages descend from it. Recent dating of CT [4, 5] gives a date close to 100 kya, making the CT founder my great*3,160th grandfather (and yours if you are a non-African). He is thought to have lived in what is now Ethiopia.

In describing these haplogroups, I will note the key mutations (SNP) which define the haplogroup (or sometimes are a marker chosen from a larger group of SNPs defining the haplogroup. Thus CT is defined by the two SNPs M168 and PF1416.

There is some evidence that modern humans left Africa around 130 to 115 kya, and possibly in even earlier waves, but none of these survived or left any trace in the human genome. All modern non-African men (and women) descended from Eurasian Adam in their paternal line. This migration is thought to have occurred between about 70 to 50 kya, at a time when a period of warmer temperatures and moister climate in Africa changed the desert in north-east Africa to savannah. Parts of the inhospitable Sahara briefly became habitable. As the drought-ridden desert changed to a savanna, the animals hunted by our ancestors expanded their range and began moving through the newly emerging green corridor of grasslands.

Bab-el-Mandeb. Source: eol.jsc.nasa.gov

It has been estimated that from a population of less than 10,000 individuals in Africa, only a small group, possibly as few as 150 to 1,000 people, crossed the Red Sea around 70,000 years ago, and these were all members of haplogroup CT [4]. Today at the Bab-el-Mandeb straits, the Red Sea is about 20 kilometres wide, but 70,000 years ago sea levels were 70 meters lower (owing to glaciation) and the water was much narrower. Though the straits were never completely closed, there may have been islands in between which could be reached using simple rafts.

Haplogroup CF

The founder of haplogroup CF-P143/PF2587 probably lived in the Arabian Peninsula around 68 kya, making him my great*2,130th grandfather. Haber et al. [5] estimate the date is somewhat earlier at 75.6 kya. Over the next twenty thousand years, my paternal lineage descended through haplogroups F, G, H and I to K as humans numbering at most in a few tens of thousands, moved north along the Arabian Pensinsula through Iraq and Iran into India. This period was towards the beginning of the Upper Paelolithic or Late Stone Age. At this time, stone tools were still relatively unsophisticated, humans were hunter-gatherers with an increasing diversity of foods, including fish. Cave paintings and carvings became more common, and the first evidence has been found of organized settlements, in the form of campsites.

Haplogroup K

The founder of haplogroup K-M9/PF5506 probably lived in South Asia or South East Asia around 47 kya, making him my great*1,450th grandfather. His identifying SNP M9 marked a new lineage, the Eurasian Clan, which spent the next 30,000 years populating Europe, Asia and the Americas. One group of descendents in subclade K2, then K2b move down through South East asia.

Haplogroup P (or K2b2)

The founder of haplogroup P (or K2b2) is identified by the SNP P295. The basal P* haploclade is found at its highest rate in the Aeta (or Agta), a people indigenous to Luzon, in The Philippines. Luzon is also the only location where P*, P1* and rare P2 are now found together, along with significant levels of K2b1.[5] Even though P1 is now more common among individuals in Eastern Siberia and Central Asia, these distributions suggest that P* (P295) emerged in South East Asia, and I have shown its origin as Luzon.

Haplogroup P1 (or K2b2a)

Members of haplogroup P (P-M45 or K2b2a) migrated northwards from the Philippines through China and Haplogroup P1 probably arose in Siberia or in Kazakhstan in the Late Stone Age around 42,000 years ago. Around this period, the environment on the Eurasian steppes was becoming increasingly hostile as the glaciers of the ice age began to expand again. Reductions in rainfall may have induced desert-like conditions in the south and led members of ancestral haplogroup P to follow herds of game north. They developed smaller stone points and blades—microliths—that could be mounted to bone or wood handles and used effectively. Their tool kit also included bone needles for sewing animal-skin clothing that would both keep them warm and allow them the range of movement needed to hunt the reindeer and mammoth that kept them fed.

In 2001, Russian scientists discovered a 31,000-year-old site where ancient hunters lived on the Yana River in Siberia, 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle and not far from the Bering land bridge that then connected Asia with North America [6]. The researchers found stone tools, ivory weapons and the butchered bones of mammoths, bison, bear, lion and hare, all animals that would have been available to hunters during that Ice Age period. This age is twice that of other known human occupations in any Arctic region and shows that people adapted to this harsh, high-latitude, Late Pleistocene environment much earlier than previously thought.

The archaeological site where two 31,000-year-old milk teeth were found. Credit: Elena Pavlova

DNA analysis of two human milk teeth found at the site found that one of them (labelled Yana1) belonged to haplogroup P1 (P-M45) Yana2 had five additional SNPs that defined a new haplogroup P1a (P-P284) [7]. The earlier map shows the location of the Yana site.

Haplogroup P gave rise to haplogroup R, the ancestors of most European men, and also to haplogroup Q, to which most native Americans belong.

Haplogroup R

The founder of haplogroup R, identified by signature SNP M207, lived in southern Siberia around 31,000 years ago, making him my great*997th grandfather. At this time, glaciers were expanding over much of Europe and western Eurasia, and the estimated population of homo sapiens was approximately one hundred thousand.

The 24,000 year old remains of Mal’ta boy

Several thousand years later we have our first evidence of R-M207. The remains of a four year old boy was found in a hunter-gather group dated to 24 kya, near the village of Mal’ta in the Lake Baikal area of Central Siberia [8]. Descendants of the haplogroup R founder moved westward over the next twenty thousand years across the Eurasian steppes into Europe, another group of descendants turned south and eventually made it to India.

Haplogroup R1

Haplogroup R1 (R-M173) is estimated to have arisen during the height of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 23,000 years ago, most likely on the Eurasian steppes (possibly in Kazakhstan). During this period, the Eurasian steppelands extended from present-day Germany, and possibly France, to Korea and China. The two most common descendant clades of haplogroup R1 are R1a and R1b.

Map of the Eurasian Steppes

Haplogroup R1b

The founder of haplogroup R1b (R-M343)  most probably was born around 20,000 years ago in Western Asia, at a time close to the peak extent of the European and Siberian ice sheets, which extended to the northern edge of the Eurasian steppe.  The steppe itself became much less hospitable tundra, and the steppeland people moved south down the eastern side of the Caspian, the likely location of the founder of the R1b haplogroup.

Map shows Palaeolithic Europe 18,000 years ago in the grip of the last ice age. Glacial ice 2km thick covers much of Northern Europe and the Alps. Sea levels are approx. 125m lower than today and the coastline differs slightly from the present day. The air would have been on average 10-12 degrees cooler and much more arid. In between the ice and the tree line, drought-tolerant grasses and dunes would have dominated the landscape.

Haplogroup R1b (R-M343) is the most frequently occurring paternal lineage in Western Europe, accounting for 50% or more of all paternal lineages in Europe. It peaks at the national level in Wales at a rate of 92%, at 82% in Ireland, 70% in Scotland, 68% in Spain, 60% in France (76% in Normandy), about 60% in Portugal,] 45% in Eastern England, 50% in Germany, 50% in the Netherlands, 42% in Iceland, and 43% in Denmark.

Haplogroups R1b-L754 / R1b-L388 / R1b-P297

Soon after the appearance of R1b, another marker, R-L754 (R1b1) appeared in an individual who probably lived somewhere around the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, possibly in Iran. Three thousand years later (17 kya), haplogroup R-L388 arose near the northern border of modern day Ajerbaijan, and another four thousand years later (13 kya), haplogroup R-P297 arose further north on the western steppeland of southern Russia.

Rock carvings of paleolithic hunters on the western shore of Lake Caspian

When I was in Azerbaijan in 2011, I visited a stone age rock shelter close the western shore of the Caspian Sea, about 65 km south of Baku. The earliest rock engravings date back to around 23 kya, and others date from the Mesolithic period around 10,000 kya. The migration route of my paternal ancestors (and quite possibly yours) would have passed by this site around 18 kya. I like to think that one of my paternal ancestors used this rock shelter around 18 kya, ie 16,000 BCE. Just to complete the sweep of history, there is also a carving of what appears to be a Viking longship, and it is known that a Viking trade route connected northern Europe and Russia with the Caspian Sea via the Volga River. And in a field a couple of kilometres away is a boulder with Roman graffiti in Latin that translated says “In the time of Emperor Domitian Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Lucius Julius Maximus, Centurion of the 12th “Thunderbolt” Legion [was here]”. This is the furthest east that a Roman inscription has been found and is dated to around 90 AD.

Haplogroup R1b-M269

Haplogroup R1b1a2 (R-M269) is observed most frequently in Europe, especially western Europe, but also with some frequency in southwest Asia. R1b1a2-M269 is estimated to have arisen approximately 13 kya on the European Western Steppes and to have spread into Europe from there. R-M269 is the most common European haplogroup, greatly increasing in frequency on an east to west gradient (its prevalence in Poland estimated at 22.7%, compared to around 60% in France, 70% in Spain and south-east England, 92% in Wales, and 98% in parts of north-west Ireland. It is carried by approximately 110 million European men.

R-M269 can be used to trace the Neolithic expansion into Europe as well as founder-effects within European populations due to later (Bronze Age and Iron Age) migrations. My R-M269 ancestors lived on the Western Steppes for at least 7,000 years until the appearance of the R-L23 founder 6,400 years ago.

Haplogroup R1b-L23

The founder of the R-L23 haplogroup was born on the Western Steppe (Pontic-Caspian Steppe) around 4,400 BC (6.4 kya). This was around 1,000 years before the appearance on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe of the Yamnaya culture. Genetic studies performed since 2015 have revealed that the Yamnaya culture, thought to have spoken some stage of the Proto-Indo-European language, predominantly carried R1b-L23.

Yamnaya herders from western Asia, four of whom are buried in this grave, started mating with European farmers hundreds of years before launching a major migration into Europe.

The Yamnaya culture, or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age herding culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, dating to 3300–2600 BC. Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds. Recent studies indicate that the Yamnaya people played a role in the domestication of the modern horse.

Examination of physical remains of the Yamnaya people has determined that they were tall and massively built, overwhelmingly with brown eyed, dark haired and had a skin colour moderately light, though darker than that of modern Europeans. The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, the ancestor of most modern European languages.

The migrations of the Yamnaya and their impacts on the Bronze age cultures and languages of Europe are complex and our understanding is evolving rapidly with increased genetic information from modern cultures and ancient remains. I will try to make sense of the evidence on the likely migration path of my paternal ancestors from the Western Steppe in Ukraine, through Bronze and Iron Age Europe and into Britain in a future post.

Horsemen of the Western Steppes

References

  1. Rob Spencer. SNP Tracker. [INTERNET] http://scaledinnovation.com/gg/snpTracker.html?fbclid=IwAR0irzIVQiqVzLsWodhJfnA8h-fbxYlLaPllOYf6kEQ146Ba002sW8jxYok
  2. Adamov, Dmitry & Gurianov, Vladimir M. & Karzhavin, Sergey & Tagankin, Vladimir & Urasin, Vadim. (2015). Defining a New Rate Constant for Y-Chromosome SNPs based on Full Sequencing Data. Russian Journal of Genetic Genealogy. 7. 1920-2997.
  3. International Society of Genetic Genealogy (2015). Generation length. ISOGG Wiki https://isogg.org/wiki/Generation_length. For calculating approximate degree of great-grandfatherhood, I have assumed that my average paternal line generation length is 31 years prior to 1000 CE, and 32 years after that.
  4. Kamin M, Saag L, Vincente M, et al. (April 2015). “A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture”. Genome Research. 25 (4): 459–466. doi:1101/gr.186684.114
  5. Haber M, Jones AL, Connel BA, Asan, Arciero E, Huanming Y, Thomas MG, Xue Y, Tyler-Smith C (June 2019). “A Rare Deep-Rooting D0 African Y-chromosomal Haplogroup and its Implications for the Expansion of Modern Humans Out of Africa”. Genetics. 212 (4): 1421–1428. doi:1534/genetics.119.302368.
  6. Pitulko VV, Nikolsky PA, Girya EYu, Basilyan AE, Tumskoy VE, Koulakov SA, Astakhov SN, Pavlova EYu, Anisimov MA. The Yana RHS Site: Humans in the Arctic Before the Last Glacial Maximum. Science 2004; 02 Jan: 52-56.
  7. Sikora M, Pitulko VV, Sousa VC et al. The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene. Nature 2019; 570, 182–188. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1279-z
  8. BBC News. Ancient DNA from Siberian boy links Europe and America. 2013; 20 Nov. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25020958
  9. Balaresque P, Bowden GR, Adams SM, et al. A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages. PLoS Biol 2010;8(1): e1000285. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1000285

 

Breathwork and sensed energy

In an earlier post, I described my experience with transformational breathwork and the Wim Hof method. I’ve continued to practice these, and to do some online sessions with the breathwork instructor from the retreat I attended late last year. In looking around for more information on breathwork, I came across a book by David Lee called “Life force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magic” (Norwich: The Universe Machine, 2018).

Lee gives an overview of and simple instructions for ten types of breathwork, as well as discussing their various purposes and effects, and the relationships between them. This is interesting enough, but his approach to understanding breathwork completely changed my experience of it. He describes the book as an exploration of “sensed energy” and schemes of belief that work best for experiencing, cultivating and manipulating these subtle sensations. In particular, he frames breathwork in terms of the arousal and relaxation of sensed energy.

Transformational breathing produces within minutes a tingling within the hands and feet and a sense of energy surging around the body. Lee advises to simply witness this energy as it circulates and coalesces into definite sensations and emotions. Layers of unresolved emotion may surface and the high level of sensed energy helps them to resolve. So breathwork may untangle pain and discomfort from the past. Lee describes how to modulate the intensity of the breathwork to hover in the space between suppression of this unresolved material and its too intense activation, allowing a process of resolution to occur, rather than repression or re-traumatizing. I certainly experience intense emotions at times during breathwork, and the periods of “tantrum” and application of pressure to particular points on the body enable you to intensify and experience or release these intense emotions.

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A pandemic out of control

Over the last two days, I’ve been assessing the coronavirus situation across the world. I’ve posted a regional analysis of trends in new cases on my professional site (an-out-of-control-pandemic-in-most-world-regions).

I reproduce a graph of regional trends below. The dramatic difference in trajectories for Western Europe and the Americas is obvious. While levels are lower in most developing regions, this is mostly due to much lower levels of testing. But confirmed new cases in all regions apart from Europe and East Asia and Pacific are rising.

North America has the most out-of-control epidemic, and that is all due to the USA. I plotted trends for blue and red states in the USA. There is a dramatic difference, with most of the recent rise in new cases occurring in red states (that voted for Republican presidents in most of the recent presidential elections). In the week ending July 5, there were an average 226 new cases per 1 million population in red states compared to 88 per million in blue states.

In a second post which-countries-are-succeeding-and-not-succeeding, I have shown country-specific plots for selected examples of three groups of countries: (1) those that are beating Covid-19, (2) those that are nearly there, and  (3) those that need to take action.  The experiences of the first two groups of countries show that (a) it is important to act early, not wait till there a hundreds of deaths in the country, (b) it only takes about 5-7 weeks of strong interventions to get rid of the majority of cases and (c) half measures don’t work.