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November 18, 2004



>there is just no freaking way that all the speciation into the extant Native American languages took place in the last 10,000 years.

I'm with ya. Of course, you could have multiple groups coming over which would mix things up a bit. (Some chinese professor claimed a coupla years ago to have deciphered Chinese pictograms in olmec writings from way back whenski, thus proving that the Chinese must have ventured across the Pacific earlier than that. Surely, weirder things have happened, but then again, did that weirder thing happen? Especially since the Chinese have that freaky Freemasonesque thing going of trying to claim all advances throughout world history as originating in China. 'Jesus actually had a noodle shop before he was a carpenter!')

None of that sort of thing makes sense, really. Cro-Magnon and their language marches out of er, Israel and spreads across Europe, wiping out the bigger, heavier cold-adapted people. None of that mixed race interbreeding stuff, no sir. Then everything putts-putts along until, oh, 9000 years ago when the 'agriculture gene' suddenly starts moving from Iran to England at a mile a year. On the other hand, Hungarian and Altaic split 3000 year ago, and planetwide linguistic diversity peaked 15,000 thousand years.

Given all that you'd sorta expect everything to be kinda really really mixed up. So it's kinda funny when the map of the Neadertal population, the map of modern Indo-European population and the 'Caucausoid' (<--- shhhh.) population all sort of overlap almost exactly. (The Hamito-Semitic group has the fertile crescent and the Neadertals didn't make it much past Iran it seems.) Doesn't really fit together neatly. Hrmm. Must be the geography. And then to completely fuckin' confuse thing you have Egyptians mummies just loaded with cocaine, a plant that shouldn't have arrived for 2000+ years.

Best just to ignore all that, I suppose.

I've found Caddo arrow heads, but nae any Clovis ones that I can recall. Pity.

['Ah, look. The villagers are here, and they've brought some festive farm implements. Must go to greet the guests.']

belle waring

egyptian mummies loaded with cocaine? F'realz?


the mormons will love this.

Dave Librik

A linguistics professor at Berkeley (where my ex-boyfriend was a linguistics PhD) elaborated this in a very convincing way, but now I can't remember her name.

Johanna Nichols. Right around the time we were there she wrote "Linguistic Diversity and the Settlement of the New World." That was part of her study in which she looked at the distribution of certain long-lasting persistent typological features in languages across the world and noticed that they seem to group together in bands, spread out radially from Africa. It was eerie to realize that those were the fingerprints of the first great human migration waves.

I'm totally with you on the diversity of American languages pointing to much greater time-depth for the settlement of this hemisphere. In California, there are small areas (the I-80 corridor, for instance) containing entire language families, with the age and complexity of Indo-European. People have been there a very long time.

belle waring

riiight, Johanna Nichols.

Abiola Lapite

"there is just no freaking way that all the speciation into the extant Native American languages took place in the last 10,000 years."

I'm not so sure. The Chadic subgroup of Afroasiatic has managed to divide into over 600 languages within ~5,000 years ago. Indo-European's differentiation into daughter languages has been appreciably retarded by the longstanding, widespread ability to read and write in much of Europe and the Middle East, and a tremendous amount of Europe's original linguistic diversity was lost long ago under the uniformizing influence of states like the Roman Empire.

I find it doubtful in the extreme that North America was settled 50,000 years ago, as it would suggest a virtually instantaneous spread of our species through the entire world after its emergence from Africa; this is an exceedingly difficult notion to swallow as all the evidence we have suggests that our species wasn't able to conquer the European climate until 40,000 years ago, despite its being much milder than the sorts of conditions one would have had to put up with migrating through Siberia via the Bering Strait.

The genetic evidence we have doesn't support the theory either, as Native Americans are very clearly related to East Asians in a way that suggests that their ancestors emigrated after the genetic divergence of West and East Eurasian populations had occurred; there isn't a trace of a single ancient lineage of the sort we'd expect if any of the ancestors of today's Native Americans were descended from such ancient settlers.

Abiola Lapite

"The Hamito-Semitic group has the fertile crescent"

"Afroasiatic" you mean. Your geography is off, as Afroasiatic extends throughout the entirety of Africa starting from the Sahel, with the Semitic languages being no more than a small offshoot (albeit one with a single member which has hundreds of millions of speakers), and even then, most Semitic languages are actually to be found in Africa, not the fertile crescent.

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