BAMAD no.63

 DNA and 
 Anthropology Updates 

Updates in DNA studies along with Anthropological Notes of general interest with a particular emphasis on points pertinent to the study of Ancient Israelite Ancestral Connections to Western Peoples as explained in Brit-Am studies.


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BAMAD no. 63
Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
27 October 2009, 9 Cheshvan 5769
1. Modern man 'a wimp', says anthropologist
2. Different [Racial] Ways of Thinking?
3. Mixed Races: The Positive Side

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1. Modern man 'a wimp', says anthropologist

1. Modern man 'a wimp', says anthropologist

Many prehistoric Australian aboriginals could have outrun world 100 and 200 metres record holder Usain Bolt in modern conditions.

Some Tutsi men in Rwanda exceeded the current world high jump record of 2.45 meters during initiation ceremonies in which they had to jump at least their own height to progress to manhood.

His conclusions about the speed of Australian aboriginals 20,000 years ago are based on a set of footprints, preserved in a fossilized claypan lake bed, of six men chasing prey.

An analysis of the footsteps of one of the men, dubbed T8, shows he reached speeds of 37 kph on a soft, muddy lake edge. Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42 kph during his then world 100 meters record of 9.69 seconds at last year's Beijing Olympics.

In an interview in the English university town of Cambridge where he was temporarily resident, McAllister said that, with modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kph.

"We can assume they are running close to their maximum if they are chasing an animal," he said.

"But if they can do that speed of 37 kph on very soft ground I suspect there is a strong chance they would have outdone Usain Bolt if they had all the advantages that he does.

"We can tell that T8 is accelerating toward the end of his tracks."

McAllister said it was probable that any number of T8's contemporaries could have run as fast.

"We have to remember too how incredibly rare these fossilizations are," he said. "What are the odds that you would get the fastest runner in Australia at that particular time in that particular place in such a way that was going to be preserved?"

Turning to the high jump, McAllister said photographs taken by a German anthropologist showed young men jumping heights of up to 2.52 meters in the early years of last century.

"It was an initiation ritual, everybody had to do it. They had to be able to jump their own height to progress to manhood," he said.

"It was something they did all the time and they lived very active lives from a very early age. They developed very phenomenal abilities in jumping. They were jumping from boyhood onwards to prove themselves."

Manthropology abounds with other examples:

* Roman legions completed more than one-and-a-half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment.

* Athens employed 30,000 rowers who could all exceed the achievements of modern oarsmen.

* Australian aboriginals threw a hardwood spear 110 meters or more (the current world javelin record is 98.48).

McAllister said it was difficult to equate the ancient spear with the modern javelin but added: "Given other evidence of Aboriginal man's superb athleticism you'd have to wonder whether they couldn't have taken out every modern javelin event they entered."

Why the decline?

"We are so inactive these days and have been since the industrial revolution really kicked into gear," McAllister replied. "These people were much more robust than we were.

"We don't see that because we convert to what things were like about 30 years ago. There's been such a stark improvement in times, technique has improved out of sight, times and heights have all improved vastly since then but if you go back further it's a different story.

"At the start of the industrial revolution there are statistics about how much harder people worked then.

"The human body is very plastic and it responds to stress. We have lost 40 percent of the shafts of our long bones because we have much less of a muscular load placed upon them these days.

"We are simply not exposed to the same loads or challenges that people were in the ancient past and even in the recent past so our bodies haven't developed. Even the level of training that we do, our elite athletes, doesn't come close to replicating that.

"We wouldn't want to go back to the brutality of those days but there are some things we would do well to profit from."

2. Different [Racial] Ways of Thinking?

The Chinese author Adeline Yen Mah discussed the differences in the mental hardwiring of some of her fellow medical students. The Indian med students for example could easily be hypnotized.

3. Mixed Races: The Positive Side
It's a wonderful, mixed-up world
Aarathi Prasad
Just two weeks ago in Louisiana, an American Justice of the Peace made international news for refusing to issue marriage licences to couples who were not of the same race. He said he had taken the decision because he believed that mixed-race children would not be accepted by their parents' communities. Whether this was genuine concern for a real social problem or was born of a more atavistic notion that there is something inherently, biologically wrong with mixing races, we can only speculate. Either way, his position was quite illegal, and his conduct is being challenged.

I can answer that question now. The answer is that my daughter, and approximately 400,000 other children like her in Britain today, is mixed race. Families like mine are on the rise, nearly one in 10 British children now lives in a mixed-race family, a figure that is six times higher than it was when I was a child. In fact, mixed race people are the fastest-growing minority in this country, a trend that is set to continue. Even in my community, traditionally inward-looking when it comes to choosing partners, the proportion of mixed marriages has increased from 3 per cent to 11 per cent in the space of just 14 years.

On the other hand, nature repeatedly shows us that genetically, diversity must be better: more diverse genes mean that animals are better at adapting to changing environmental conditions, and at fighting off and surviving infections.

But the combination of inbreeding being bad and diversity being good has flung open the doors for another claim about what it means to be mixed-race. The idea sounds simple enough. If inbreeding is bad, then the opposite, outbreeding, should be good. It makes sense, some suggest, that people might be genetically better off if they were mixed race. The anecdotal evidence is writ large in the over-representation of Britain's tiny mixed-race population in the arts, music, modelling and sport. Mixed-race people account for 30 per cent of the current England football team in a country where they make up only 2 per cent of the general population.

Here's the thing, though. We are different. Some of our genes - albeit a very small 7 per cent of them, vary between the continental populations, and along the lines of "races" as they were popularised by Victorian anthropologists. But we do not fit into tidy boxes as they believed. The map of the human genome has shown that the DNA of human populations across the globe is a continuum, not bluntly divided as had been erroneously supposed. ....The genes that are obviously different between races include those that enabled each population to adapt to new latitudes; the ones that maximised our success in particular environments, and protected us from the diseases that we were exposed to.

Shriver's work has uncovered something else that is very interesting. He finds that mixed-race people are more symmetrical than the rest of us, and being more symmetrical translates into being more attractive, having less infection, being less stressed, and having greater genetic diversity.

Professor Bill Amos at Cambridge University has also been studying the genetic basis of human disease. He finds that in humans, an individual's level of genetic diversity can predict with astonishing accuracy how likely they are to survive parasites and infectious disease. In a recent study in Kenya, he found that low levels of diversity were strongly associated with death before the age of five.

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