A landscape created by light / Ephemeral Reality

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Indian Rice Grass and other bunch grasses, Rabbit Brush about to bloom, sagebrush, mesquite, shadscale (spiny salt bush) and “weeds.” The evening sunlight literally reflects colors that don’t exist at  any other time of day.

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The dispersal of Homo sapiens / Southern Asia

The dispersal of Homo sapiens across southern Asia: how early, how often, how complex?

2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Robin Dennell, Michael D. Petraglia; Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield; School of Archaeology, University of Oxford

(I’m posting the discussion first because this is a long post) Essentially Dennell is politely refuting “Out of Africa” versions 1 and 2.

1.4. Discussion and implications

As with Out of Africa 1, the existing model of Out of Africa 2 has been a useful way of explaining a very small amount of information. Nevertheless, the present model unduly restricts the ways we can interpret the sparse, but recently much improved, data upon which it rests, and there are benefits to be gained from widening our range of possible hypotheses.

A useful initial step would be for us to be more explicit about just how few reliable observations we have of early H. sapiens in southern Asia; others would be to explore the likelihood that more than one donor population was involved in the earliest expansion of H. sapiens from Africa, that these expansions may have begun much earlier than currently envisaged, and dispersed via more than one entry point. As indicated above, there are good reasons for arguing that our species may have dispersed from Africa into Arabia and India earlier than previously thought, and therefore we should be open-ended as to how far east, and how early, they may have dispersed.

Although movement out of Africa was likely restricted during the driest parts of MIS 6 (MIS –Marine Isotope Stages: paleoclimate time scale of warm and cool periods) there is no obvious reason why H. sapiens could not have entered Arabia during the Last Interglacial or during moist episodes during MIS 6 and perhaps migrated further east. Additionally, we have yet to develop models that accommodate the probability that early H. sapiens in Asia interbred with both Neanderthals and Denisovans. Here, it would help to move discussion beyond an either/or approach to Out of Africa or multiregional models of modern human evolution, as both migration from Africa and inter-breeding with indigenous populations were likely involved, even if the role of each is impossible as yet to determine in most regions of southern Asia.

Investigations of how, when, and how often H. sapiens dispersed across southern Asia need also to be integrated with environmental and climatic studies so that the responses of human (and mammalian) populations to the changing conditions of MIS 3 and 4 (and perhaps earlier stages) can be properly assessed. We need to recognise that not all dispersal events are successful, and the first appearance of a species such as H. sapiens in a region does not necessarily indicate permanent colonisation. Under the challengingconditions of the Pleistocene, local contractions and even extinctions of populations are likely, just as with the Middle Pleistocene. In the same way that studies of Early and Middle Pleistocene hominin demography need to distinguish between short-term visitors and long-term residents, so too do those of hominin dispersal in the Upper Pleistocene. Finally, discussions of the expansion of early H. sapiens from Africa need to be kept distinct from discussions of the diffusion of “modern behaviour” however defined. Early H. sapiens populations were emphatically not “modern” in the same senses as Holocene or Late Pleistocene ones, and the expansion of H. sapiens across southern Asia (and other regions) before 50 ka may have stemmed as much from ecological opportunism as from behavioural superiority over other hominin species.

The timing and the paths of colonization of southern Asia by Homo sapiens are poorly known, though many population geneticists, paleoanthropologists, and archaeologists have contended that this process began with dispersal from East Africa, and occurred between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago. However, the evidence for this scenario is very weak, particularly the lack of human skeletal evidence between the Levant and Borneo before 40 ka and other explanations are possible. Here we argue that environmental and archaeological information is increasingly indicating the likelihood that H. sapiens exited Africa much earlier than commonly thought, and may have colonized much of southern Asia well before 60,000 years ago. Additionally, we cannot exclude the possibility that several dispersal events occurred, from both North and East Africa, nor the likelihood that early populations of H. sapiens in southern Asia interbred with indigenous populations of Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo erectus. The population history of southern Asia during the Upper Pleistocene is likely far more complex than currently envisaged.

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Introduction

Although the expansion of our species from Africa into Europe between 30 and 40 ka has been extensively investigated for over a century, far less is known about its earlier expansion across southern Asia from Arabia to Australia. Over the last few years, a consensus has arisen that this expansion probably occurred between 40and 60 ka. Although opinion is far from unanimous, many palaeoanthropologists would support most components of the following consensus view of how and when this occurred:

Homo sapiens originated in East Africa by195-160 ka but did not enter Southwest Asia until the Last Interglacial, when it is first evidenced outside Africa by skeletal evidence from the caves of Skhul and Qafzeh in the Levant at 100 ka or perhaps as early as 125 ka, at the beginning of the Last Interglacial. It remained there until ca 65 ka when it was replaced by Neanderthals who may have been forced  southwards by the increasingly harsh conditions of MIS4. In this scenario, after being present in the Levant for ca 35-60 ka, these early populations of H. sapiens went extinct, thus leading to the argument that this was a failed dispersal by a groupof humans that were not as socially and cognitively advanced as later populations of H.sapiens.

Following an assumed demographic increase of populations in Africa, H. sapiens expanded across southern Asia between 40 and 60 ka and those that reached Sundaland, the landmass of modern island Southeast Asia that was linked to the Malaysian peninsula because of lowered sea-levels; they eventually crossed the open-sea to enter Australia. Some researchers have suggested that modern mans were the first to exploit systematically coastal resources (notably shellfish, sea mammals and inshore fish) and were thus able to disperse rapidly along a coastal route possibly by utilising coastal springs that emerged when sea levels fell and thus by passing indigenous populations that lived further inland. By this means, they were able to reach Australia by 40 ka or 60 ka, depending upon which dates are preferred from the Australian inland.

Although this consensus enjoys widespread support, we suggest that it is best regarded as a series of potentially falsifiable hypotheses, and we should thus be open-minded about alternative perspectives on what is likely to have been a much more complex process of colonisation. Leaving aside for the moment recent archaeological and skeletal evidence from southern Asia, there are two principal reasons why the current consensus may be overly simplistic. The first stems from its own internal weaknesses as a model, and the second is that the context in which early human dispersals across southern Asia is discussed is changing because of the implications of new fossil and archaeological evidence from Northeast Africa, and the evidence from ancient DNA (aDNA) studies that early H. sapiens outside Africa interbred with indigenous populations. To take each in turn:

1.1. Limitations of the current model (Out of Africa)

The current model for the expansion of H. sapiens across southern Asia is based on three lines of evidence: human skeletal material; genetic studies of modern populations; and the timing of arrival of H. sapiens in Australia. It has the following internal weaknesses:

1.1.1. The limitations of the human skeletal fossil record.

As indicated above, current evidence indicates that H. sapiens appeared in east Africa by ca 195-160 ka, whereas the earliest outside Africa are those from Israel at about 100-125 ka ago. At present, there are no hominin fossils 200 ka old from southern Asia, so it is an open question as to when H. sapiens first appeared in this region (or an open question as to when H. sapiens first appeared in this region y other type of hominin, from the Arabian Peninsula prior to the Holocene. All we know at present about southwest Asian hominins between 250and 125 ka ago is that Neanderthals were present in the northern Levant during part of MIS6. ”

Homo erectus was thought to have persisted into the last glaciation on the basis of isotopic dates for the Ngandong (Solo) assemblage of 28-54 ka, but a recent study now indicates that the likely age is between 143 and 546 ka. These estimates are consistent with faunal evidence that this hominin assemblage is late Middle Pleistocene in age (Storm, 2001). The earliest unambiguous evidence in Southeast Asia, for H. Sapiens is the cranium from Niah Cave, Borneo, dated to ca 35-37 ka.

The age of this specimen is comparable to that of the partial skeleton of H. sapiens from Tianyuandong, North China, and the 32 ka old H. sapiens cranium from Yamashita-cho, Okinawa (Kaifu and Fujita, 2012). Additionally, the 42 ka assemblages from Timor, which would most likely have been colonised by using boats or rafts with sails and paddles can also be attributed to H. sapiens.

Because the earliest evidence from the highlands of New Guinea now extends back to 49 ka, modern humans must have been on the Sunda Shelf and in mainland Southeast Asia by at least 50 ka. H. sapiens was absent from Southwest, South and mainland Southeast Asia before this time. As noted in relation to the evidence for Out of Africa 1, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

1.1.2. Stone tools are poor indicators of population changes

In the Levant, both Neanderthals and H.sapiens used Mousterian stone-tool assemblages, and in East and North Africa, early H. sapiens used the same lithic tool-kits as their predecessors. This indicates that stone tools are a poor indicator of the species of the hominin that made them: changes in hominin type did not necessarily result in changes in lithic technology. Conversely, unchanging lithic traditions need not imply that the type of hominin that used them remained the same.

As example, in mainland and island Southeast Asia, there is no equivalent of the Upper Palaeolithic, and Mode 1 technologically-simple flake and core assemblages persist into the late Pleistocene and even in places the Holocene, even though the species of hominin that made them changed from H. erectus to H. sapiens. This is in sharp contrast to a region such as western Europe, where the shift from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic was associated with the replacement of Neanderthals by H. sapiens leaving aside a much-contested debate over the status of so-called transitional industries that could have been made by either. Changes in lithic technology in southern Asia are likely to have been more subtle, and discernible only through more rigorous quantitative analysis than merely noting the size and frequency of a few common elements.

1.1.3. DNA studies of modern populations do not detect extinct ones, or ones older than 60 ka.

Analyses of the DNA of modern populations across southern Asia have made important contributions towards understanding the demographic history of H. sapiens outside Africa, and convincing arguments have been made that they first appeared in southern Asia ca 60ka. In China, similar studies indicate that the earliest populations of our species were present ca 50-60 ka or perhaps 27-56 ka. However, these claims are based on studies of surviving extant populations, and cannot take into account those that became extinct during the last 60 ka. Additionally, coalescence ages from mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome studies of contemporary Eurasian populations do not extend as far back as125 ka, when H. sapiens first reached the Levant. By the same line of argument, any expansion of H. sapiens that might have occurred across southern Asia before 60 ka is currently undetectable through analyses of modern populations. This is particularly relevant to the Arabian Peninsula, which H. sapiens probably reached at the same time, or even perhaps earlier than, the Levant, as its presence there in MIS 5 is also undetectable through genetic analyses of modern populations (Cabrera et al., 2009).

Moreover, given significant environmental changes in Arabia over the course of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, and the vulnerability of populations to even minor decreases in rainfall, we should anticipate that there were contractions and even local extinctions of hunter-gatherers, followed by population expansion and immigration from neighbouring regions. Thus the genetic make-up of contemporary populations in Arabia is likely only a partial and recent representation of the entire demographic history of the region, particularly because none has roots deeper than the late Pleistocene. Indeed, new genetic studies of Arabian populations indicate different source areas for indigenous peoples, with some groups representing much later Holocene expansions. The absence of any human skeletal evidence prior to the Holocene and the lack of ancient DNA studies continue to be major impediments to understanding the colonization and dispersal of populations of this critical region.

1.1.4. DNA studies of modern populations do not detect their residential histories

A point often overlooked in studies of the DNA of living populations is that they show their genetic, but not their residential history. As example, the Andaman Islanders are commonly regarded as the oldest surviving population in southern Asia, with a genetic history extending back 60 ka, and this in turn has been used as evidence in favour of an early coastal dispersal of H. sapiens across southern Asia. However, the fact that they have a genetic history extending back 60,000 years does not necessarily mean that they have inhabited the Andaman Islands, or have even beena coastal population, for that length of time. There is in fact noevidence that the islands were inhabited in the Pleistocene, as the earliest indications of occupation extend back only two millennia. This might indicate that either the Pleistocene (and early Holocene) occupation of the islands has yet to be detected, or that the modern islanders were until recently living on the main-land, and not even necessarily on the coast for much of their history. The same point can be made about the 30 ka Denisova individual, known only from its ancient DNA: its origin is probably African or Eurasian, but its distribution and the point at which “Denisovans” first (or how often) inhabited Siberia remain unknown.

1.1.5. The timing of arrival of humans in Australia

A conservative estimate for the arrival of humans in Australia is ca 40 ka, when it was conjoined by lowered sea levels to New Guinea and Tasmania. This estimate is consistent with the date of the Niah cranium in Borneo, and the evidence from Timor, and with a narrative that envisages modern humans arriving in Southeast Asia ca 40 ka and shortly afterwards using boats or rafts with sails and paddles to colonise islands such as Timor and the Australian landmass. Recent evidence from New Guinea indicates that humans were already in the highlands by ca 49 ka, which would imply an earlier entry into Southeast Asia that preceded the earliest dates for Niah and Timor. If one accepts the earliest dates proposed, humans reached Australia ca 60 ka. However, a recent genetic study of a100-year old lock of Aboriginal hair implies that Aboriginal Australians are descended from a dispersal of H. sapiens into SE Asia ca 62-75 ka.

These uncertainties over the timing of arrival of humans in Australia have wider but unaddressed implications for the colonisation of southern Asia. An exit from Africa ca 60 ka and an arrival in Australia at 40 ka implies a slow rate of dispersal, and low rates of population increase in the donor population. In contrast, a near simultaneous departure from Africa and arrival in Australia implies an almost epidemic rate of population growth in the donor region (presumably East African) and ensuing daughter populations, for which there is no evidence, anda dispersal event of H. sapiens as early as 62-75 ka into SE Asia implies that the date of dispersal from East Africa may have been under-estimated.

1.2. Emerging problems: donor regions, points of entry, and inter-breeding

In addition to the above problems, three recent developments pose further diffculties for the existing model.

1.2.1. How many donor regions?

Emerging evidence from Northeast Africa indicates that the Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) cranium is that of sapiens rather than a Neanderthal, and is ca 160 ka old (Smith et al., 2007). Associated Middle Stone Age a date back ca 145 ka at Ifrin Anmaar. These include perforated beads from the Grotte des Pigeons (Morocco) that are ca 82 ka old, and thus predate the 75 ka old beads from Blombos, South Africa (Balter, 2011), which were previously the oldest known examples. Similar and even earlier examples are now known from Qafzeh, Israel, and Oued Djebbana, Algeria, where they are ca 100-135 ka. All this leads to the possibility not only that H. sapiens may have entered Southwest Asia from either North or East Africa, or both, but also that there may have been several dispersal events,involving different populations. As example, the 80 ka skull from Dares-Soltan, Morocco, shows affinities with both those from JebelIrhoud and Qafzeh (seeBalter, 2011). Although these early populations of H. sapiens in Morocco may have been marginal to developments in Asia, the greening of the Sahara in the Last Interglacial and early part of the last glaciation makes it more probable that they could have dispersed eastwards towards the Levant and Arabia during and after the Last Interglacial.

1.2.2. How many entry points from Africa into Asia?

Because the Levant is often envisaged as a crossroad that links Africa to Europe and continental Asia, it is frequently depicted as the principal entry point into Asia for the earliest anatomically modern humans that left Africa via the Sinai Peninsula or theNegevDesert at the north end of the Red Sea. This view is of course reinforced by the presence of H. sapiens in the northern Levant a searly as 115-125 ka. It is not, however, the only route out of Africa, or even the most likely one. An alternative is the Bab al Mandab at the southern end of the Red Sea between theHorn of Africa and southern Yemen, and 1200 miles south of the Sinai Peninsula. These straits are only 20 km wide, and at times of low sea level, perhaps only12-15 km wide, and cannot be counted as a major sea barrier. With island hopping (especially at times of lowered sea levels), the distances across open water are reduced still further, although they were never totally eliminated. We should note also recent indications from Crete, that humans, presumably H. sapiens arrived there during the Last Interglacial aftera sea-crossing of at least 70 km.

A third route out of Africa that avoids the need to cross any open water is along the western and then eastern coasts of the RedSea; after that, entry into the interior of the Arabian peninsula,where there were large river courses would havebeen relatively easy. Alternatively, hominins might have continued along the coast and dispersed along the coast of the Indian Ocean towards Oman, following lowered spring lines. There is no reason to exclude any of these routes; indeed it is likely that all were used, although not necessarily at the same time or by the same populations. Nevertheless, the Arabian Peninsula was probably a more important faunal corridor than the Levant. Besides being geographically closer to East Africa than the Levant, the faunaof the Arabian Peninsula has few endemic mammalian species.

Irrespective of dispersal route(s), topographic and favourable environmental settings in Arabia indicate that populations could have penetrated and expanded in these zones. If H. sapiens was present in the Levant for a period spanning 60 ka (from 130 to70 ka), it seems inconceivable that similar populations were not also present in the well-watered and vegetated zones of Arabia at the same time.

1.2.3. The implications of ancient DNA (aDNA) studies

One of the most important revelations of the recent analysis of the aDNA of Neanderthal fossils is that they interbred with non-African modern humans before the divergence of modern Europeans, East Asians and Papuans, who thereby acquired ca 4-8% of their genes from Neanderthals. This most likely occurred through contact in Southwest Asia between 100 and125 ka (when H. sapiens is first recorded outside Africa) and 65 ka (when they became locally extinctin the Levant). Likewise, analysis of the aDNA of the Denisova individual also indicates inter-breeding with H. sapiens, hence the presence of some “Denisovan” genes in modern-day inhabitants in Melanesia, and the possibility that Denisovans once inhabited Southeast Asia. Both discoveries imply complex population histories in southern Asia, and the likelihood of hybridisation between Neanderthals, Denisovans and H. sapiens. By extension of the same reasoning, inter-breeding may also have occurred in East Asia between incoming populations of H. sapiens, and resident populations of H. erectus, whose genetic make-up remains unknown. This point has relevance to some of the specimens from South China, as indicated below.

1.3. Archaeological and human skeletal evidence

Recent evidence from Arabia, India, mainland and island Southeast Asia imply that the population history of southern Asia may have been more complex than envisaged under the current view, and that our species may have left Africa before 40-60 ka.

1.3.1. Arabia

Recent analysis indicates that some Arabian Middle Palaeolithic assemblages show affinities with both the Levant and EastAfrica.At Shi’bat Dihya in Southwest Yemen (opposite the Horn of Africa), assemblages with Levallois cores and tool forms date to ca 55 ka, and are said to be reminiscent of both the Levantine Mousterian and East African MSA, but are also idiosyncratic. As mtDNA analysis indicates that H. sapiens was in southern Asia by 60 ka, it seems reasonablycertain that any Middle Palaeolithic assemblage younger than that from southern Asia (including Arabia) would also have been made  sapiens, rather than Neanderthals. In contrast with Shi’bat Dihya, a lithic assemblage dated to ca 125 ka from Jebel Faya in Oman is claimed to have affinities with Northeast Africa, suggesting a population in flux of H. sapiens from Northeast Africa during the Last Interglacial. (Opinion remains sharply divided on this claim.

Nevertheless, given that so little is known about the early prehistory of the million-square miles of the Arabian Peninsula, we should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that modern humans were resident there before 60 ka, particularly because they were present scores of millennia before that date in the adjacent regionsof Northeast Africa and Levant.

1.3.2. India

The crucial link between the western and eastern parts of southern Asia is India, which has traditionally played little part indiscussions of modern human origins in Asia though this has been changing in recent years. In northern Pakistan, a small blade assemblage was excavated at site 55, Riwat,and dated to ca 45 ka (Dennell et al., 1992) but most blade- and micro-blade dominated assemblages appear after ca 35 ka in peninsular India (Clarkson et al., 2009), given the caveat that there are more reliable dates available for sites such as Hayonim, Israel, than for the whole of India! Moreover, most radiocarbon and luminescence dates from India are single determinations, oftenmade many years ago and long before laboratory and field tech-niques improved to their current standards.Recent research in peninsular India has produced a great deal of new evidence that substantially revises previous knowledge of the Indian Palaeolithic sequence. Much of this new evidence has comeabout through intensive study of the Younger Toba Tuff (YTT) that resulted from the volcanic eruption of Toba in Sumatra ca 74 ka. As this was by far the largest eruption of the Pleistocene, a great deal of ash fell across India, and thus it providesa clear marker horizon  Most significantly, recent analyses of core reduction techniques show that these most resemble those of the African Middle Stone Age made by H. sapiens. Such assemblages can be distinguished from those made in the Levant by Neanderthals. This strongly implies that these Indian Middle Palaeolithic assemblages were also made by H. sapiens, and this suggestion further implies that that it entered India earlier than the dates estimated from mtDNA data. Even more exciting is the recent discovery that stone assemblages from above and below the Toba ash are extremely similar technologically to those from early modern humans sites in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia and Australia, suggesting modern humans may have entered India before the Toba eruption as part an early eastward dispersal from Africa.

Although only a single find, the recovery of a tanged point under the Toba ash, also suggests an African affiliation.The earliest micro-blade industries excavated fromrock sheltersin India and Sri Lanka firmly date to ca 35 ka. Although it has been suggested that the tradition of making micro-blade tool forms and small crescentic tools was derived from the considerably older Howieson’s Poort assemblages from southernAfrica, dated to ca 65-60 ka, the most parsimonious explanation is that these are local innovations that may denote changes in hunting or plant processing activities, rather than the revival of a technique first initiated several thousands of kilometres distant and scores of millennia earlier. In support of this suggestion, there is currently no strong or convincing evidence for “Upper Palaeolithic” industries or symbolic assemblages, or microliths in early MIS 3 > 40 ka or MIS 4 in either the Zagros (which is fairly well-documented for the last glaciation) or Arabia. If the micro-blade industries of the Indian subcontinent are local in origin, their wider significance is that H. sapiens did not arrive in southern Asia with a behavioural “package” of useful items and techniques (e.g. microliths, bone points, fishing equipment), but developed these as and when they were locally useful, in the same way that has been proposed for Australia.

1.3.3. Southeast Asia

There are two slight hints that H. sapiens might have been present in island SE Asia and the Philippines before 50 ka. The first is a premolar from Punung, Java, dated on faunal grounds to 80-126 ka. Although identified as H. sapiens, Bacon et al. were not convinced that this constitutes convincing proof for the presence of modern humans in Java at such an early date. The second and stronger piece of evidence is a hominin 3rd metatarsal dated to ca 67 ka from Callao Cave, Luzon,the northern Philippines.

1.3.4. South China

As most readers will be aware, most Chinese palaeoanthropologists maintain that H. erectus evolved locally in East Asia into H. sapiens, with the early forms of our species best described as “archaic” H. sapiens” This leads to an immediate confusion in that the same term is sometimes given to the earliest examples of H. sapiens in Africa. This point aside, there is still considerable uncertainty over the dating and context of these “archaic” specimens prior to 30 ka. The main problems in evaluating the Chinese evidence (besides the obvious one over language for non-Chinese readers) are that excavations are not always fully published, some claims are based solely on isolated teeth, and there are doubts over the context and dating of finds, particularly in these complex cave environment. The hominin specimens from several cave sites are particularly problematic. At Liujiang, the breccias containing a cranium and post-cranial bones attributed to H. sapiens have been dated to a minimum age of 61-68 ka, but a probable age of 111-139 ka; they also suggest that the maximum age could be 153 ka.

The layer containing H. sapiens teeth at Bailongdong cave was previously dated to 30-14 ka, but a stalagmite contemporary with the same layer has recently been dated to 160 ka. At Tubo Cave, stalagmites above and below a layer with human teeth were dated to between 94 and 220 ka, and dating by 230-234 and 227-230 of two non-human teeth in the same layer to 85-139 ka. At Laibin, human teeth have been dated to a minimum of 39-44 ka, and a maximum of 112 ka. More recently, a mandible from Zhirndong, South China, has been attributed to H. sapiens and dated by U-series dating to ca 125 ka. Interestingly, because the mandible shows a mixture of characteristics associated with both H. sapiens and H. erectus, it is interpreted as showing inter-breeding between the two species at an early date, rather than purely in situ evolution (An alternative interpretation is that it indicates a gracile late H. erectus.  

The Chinese evidence outlined above is clearly at odds with the conventional scenario for the colonisation of Southeast Asia by H. sapiens, with Niah as the earliest indication at ca 43 ka, and western scholars have tended to ignore these early dates, or reject them because of uncertainties over age and context. However, itmight be advisable to consider alternative interpretations. As Kaifuand Fujita (2012: 8) suggests “a compatible scenario is that there was an earlier MIS 5 eastward dispersal of early modern humans but their genes did not significantly contribute to the genetic make-up of contemporary Asia people.” Because one implication of the aDNA evidence for both Neanderthals and “Denisovans” is that they interbred with H. sapiens, there is no a priori reason why H. erectus might not also have interbred with H. sapiens (and other extinctspecies), and produced off-spring with hybrid features (as suggested for Zhirendong). Additionally, if, Denisovans inhabited Southeast Asia and interbred with H. sapiens, the population history of this region is likely much more complex than currently envisaged.”

The Tough Question / What is Art?

This is difficult – to explain in words what visual meaning, means. I keep repeating, “The image is the meaning.” If you are a visual person, that revelation needs no explanation, but I will try for those who are unfamiliar with the existence of visual thinking.

Last night, the dogs and I drove south to my favorite “mud hole.” In town, the temperature was 94*, but as we climbed a bit in elevation, it dropped to 87*. Hot wind blew through the truck cab; the pale blue and yellow countryside was softened by a haze from dust. The dogs settled into getting drunk on smells, wind and whatever it is they see, which certainly is not what I see. They “collect” their own universes and then dream about them, perhaps explore what they have taken within themselves, as they  sleeping; running madly on the floor – twitching, jerking and howling in desperation.

My intuitive thoughts began to bubble over, and this is what I thought:

Artists are people who can see fragments of the universe, and in those fragments they see the entire universe, or if you will, the secrets of the universe. It’s a ‘fractal’ awareness?  The artist chooses fragments; discovers fragments, is chosen by the fragments. However it happens, it happens. So, the artist needs to be careful about the  fragments with which they engage; those fragments become one’s universe and one’s “self” is created by that collected vision.

We observe themes in the work of artists; visual ideas that develop over a lifetime. A fascination or obsession with certain forms, patterns, objects, people, models and structure – fragments of the universe through which the artist tries to “get at” those questions of meaning. but the image is the meaning.

I vividly remember taking up “residence” at the Art Institute of Chicago during high school. Art for me then was actual paintings, prints, sculptures, and other more everyday objects made with “vision.” Chinese ceramics were especially “content heavy” – bowls made with exquisite patience: little universes in themselves. I absorbed everything I saw.

Over the years “gallery art” “framed and ready to hang” “suitable for a corporate environment” “significant for its political message” “the voice of the disenfranchised” “compatible with the new pastel trend in home decorating” infringed on my views about art. These are “social” concepts and uses for images that ultimately trivialize the power of images until they have no importance. I’m Asperger: these social motives (all Pavlovian) have no meaning for me.

Do I criticize artists who pursue social success; support their families, join the chaos of “appraising monetary value” that consumes entire cultures? Which product is worth more? Pink and purple plastic crap from China, or the artist’s non-figural interpretation of a sofa-sized Mid-Century Modern graphic that will not offend anyone’s selection of living room furniture? In a rabid consumer culture, it only matters to the mass retailer. It’s good that some artists can find this type of success – why not?

I’m one of those people who was constantly urged to “make something of my talent.” (I did work in advertising for fifteen years and enjoyed it!) The social pressure was always present: when I quit to study geology there was consternation, but also applause – I would of course go into the oil industry and strike it rich. The social advice was always to reorient my focus away from what interested me, to making things that people would pay for. What would it hurt to be “normal”? (Sigh)

Unknown, even to myself, fragments of the universe had been filling my life from the beginning, creating who I am, bit by bit, image by image, and in stark contrast to the “crappy” circumstances that often took control of my life, the universe was beautiful. I believed in what the universe kept telling me, and rejected the social perversions of reality.

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So be careful when you choose which fragments to incorporate into “who you are”.

 

 

 

Official People / Owning Art by explaining Art

This post was intended to be an examination of “expert” explanations put forth by academics as to the “meaning” of  cave art, but…

No one knows what’s “going on” with humans and yet “discovering” who we are is a fundamental project that consumes entire Western Cultures. I sense a weariness in people today that comes from this incessant pre-occupation. “Who am I?” quickly devolves into “Who am I supposed to be?”

The picture that we are shown of “America: Land of immigrants” is always uplifting; escape from poverty, tyranny and war; tough times, but eventual success; happy new citizens waving little American flags. New generations of “foreign” Americans owning homes, businesses, and gadgets, and doing their best to dress like “official” people. Too eager, too accommodating, too much “I love America.” I wonder who it is that these ardent new citizens are trying to convince?

It’s obvious that not all newcomers identify with “Official America” – which actually doesn’t exist. Nor do the majority of native born citizens identify with official America. What social humans fear the most is the possibility that no one is “in charge” ergo, the popularity of gods: it’s a comfort to believe that invisible parents are in control; obedience implies a master.

Speaking from my personal Asperger “way of being” it is apparent that in early childhood I found no reassurance that adults were reliable authorities as to “how things work”. There were no foundations of thought, but merely incessant arguing about who is right. Right always had some absolute force behind it, but the validity of authority fell apart with even the most simple challenge.

Contrary to popular conceptions of Asperger children, I think that like other people, we want someone to “know what’s going on” to “be in charge” and for there to be some sensible and reasonable explanation for human behavior and our existence. But deep down in my intuitive thinking machine, (I can’t apply this to all Aspergers) I have always known that this not true. My Asperger father had solved this dilemma by believing in  engineering, technology and the hard sciences. At some point in his teens he had jettisoned humans as impossible complications in a pure mathematical world. I saw this as unfortunate, and although people were hugely problematic, I believed that their actions and behavior were understandable.

After all, humans had produced things that I loved: drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture, design – anything and everything that spoke to me. I discovered that the majority of artists were not “official people” but messy people; awkward, scared, searching and obsessed, infuriating to “normal” people. Disobedient. Willful, even crazy. If lucky, they found people to encourage and protect them. Most could not support themselves, but many of their works generate billions today for museums, auction houses, dealers and an underworld of theft and fakery.

Modern social typicals tend to believe that somehow an artist’s post-death destiny of “fame” and high dollar value, must compensate (in a magical way, of course) for having a crummy life and justify the “funny money” involved in the official Art World as somehow supporting the arts; of course this illusion comes from literally owning the art. Ownership is the point; many wealthy people have no clue as to what it is that they own.

My haunt as a teenager growing up in Chicagoland was the Art Institute of Chicago, and without that exposure, I doubt I would have discovered myself to be a “visual being” – there is always a startling reaction to seeing “live” objects that had before only been available in books. How many children never have the experience of visual intelligence, but grow up on Cheetos, pizza, smiley stickers and purple talking dinosaurs?

cave-art

This process of ownership by purchase, academic commentary and theory generation, and supernaturalization – no surprise – of art extends into the far distant past of “cave art”. It’s another case of Neurotypical narcissism – modern social humans truly believe that the humans who produced exquisite pictures of animals, as well as geometric forms, doodles and hand prints, and who coaxed images from natural geologic forms within those caves, who hunted a wild landscape for a living; endured physical hardship beyond what we can likely imagine, and risked (and were) being eaten alive by predators, were merely modern neurotypical humans who lacked laptops with word processing programs, which, if they had possessed, would have been used to verify the outlandish texts now published by academics.

we-are-best-friends-forever-teddy-bear-graphicNeurotypical bears.

Remember: The image is the meaning.

Ethological Attachment Theory and ASD

Maternal deprivation in Rhesus monkey's - Harry Harlow's 1950s experimentsfamous experiments

Maternal deprivation in Rhesus monkeys – Harry Harlow’s famous experiments, 1950s

Ethological Attachment Theory: A Great Idea in Personality?

By Patricia Pendry, Northwestern University

http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/pendry.html (complete paper)

This paper critically reviews the ethological attachment theory as proposed by Bowlby and Ainsworth in order to examine if attachment theory is a great idea in personality. The most important aspects of attachment theory are presented and two critical questions are posed. The first question is, Can attachment theory be supported by empirical evidence? To answer this question, a variety of studies will be reviewed, each of which examines a specific aspect of attachment theory. The second question is whether the phenomena explained by creators and proponents of ethological attachment theory could have been explained differently, using other psychological mechanisms. These are two criteria that must be met if attachment theory is to be considered a great idea.

After millions of years of successful rearing of infants by primates, is it not peculiar that modern social humans are still arguing over How to be a proper parent?

After millions of years of successful childrearing by primates, is it not peculiar that modern social humans are still trying to figure out how to be a proper parent? Tribal people get it. Why don’t we?

 

“Given that attachment security describes the interpersonal relationship between infant and caregivers, one could easily see that personality traits and temperament play an active role in the dynamics of establishing this relationship. Attachment theorists recognize this aspect and note that it is exactly the concept of sensitive caregiving that forms an effective predictor of the quality of the attachment bond.  A major reason that temperament and other child characteristics do not show strong relationships with attachment security may be that their influence depends on goodness-of-fit. From this perspective, many attributes of children can lead to secure attachment, as long as the caregivers modify their behavior to fit the needs of the baby (Seifer & Schiller, 1995). But when a mother’s capacity to do so is limited by her own personality or stressful conditions then infants with difficult temperament or problem behaviors are at risk for developing attachment insecurity. According to attachment theorists, sensitive caregiving implies that regardless of the innate temperament of the infant, whether introverted or extraverted, whether shy or irritable, whether outgoing or confident, the care is adjusted to fit precisely the need of that particular infant. It is this eclectic nature of ethological attachment theory that becomes another strength.”

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Is this not a problem in Western culture, where “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality still lurks beneath social indoctrination? Your child “acts funny” so he or she must be examined, tested, diagnosed and categorized and then is coerced into being someone it is not. Hysteria surrounds childrearing in contemporary America, especially among the upper classes – which likely accounts for ASD diagnosis skyrocketing in this group.

 

Dancing with the Devil / Creationists, Anthropologists, Archaeologists

My frustration with “scientific” studies of Neanderthal, which use minor imaginary details to prove that socially inept Neanderthals were vanquished by slick Homo sapiens, is this notion that the crown of superior evolutionary status was won by H. sapiens, in a legendary Cave Fight. Questions about the “apparent succession” of hominid species is valid, so is the question concerning this “model” of succession – an idea with suspicious modern structure: the Social Pyramid. A pyramid leaves very little room at the top: we’ve placed ourselves at the pinnacle and must continually attack all threats to that status.

The “casting” and “reading” of the magic Genomes of both H. sapiens and H. neandertaliensis,  has set off a mania for reorganizing the “Social Pyramid” as the “Genetic Pyramid.” In the U.S., this means that African Americans want to be at least part Native American, thus raising their status, while “white people” have a craving to be Vikings – characters with supposedly “real American virtues” of independence, freedom and rage-without-guilt. A small percentage of white people imagine themselves to be Neanderthal, despite no one being able to describe their appearance and behavior. Science falls prey to human narcissism, but also feeds this bizarre “bloodline magic” that is yet another neotenic fad – an identity fantasy as old as the male need for a dynasty of “true blood.”

We haven’t come very far in understanding the “nature of life” or in shedding those old, old narratives of patriarchal domination with “blood” as the highway of might and right. Genes have been added to the mix, but conceptually, it’s the same old rutted road. That’s why, while reading a Creationist blog, I was surprised – but not surprised – at the confusion over evolution and “what scientists say.”

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The question the Creationist writer asks is, How do we differentiate ape / human? He is caught between a narrative in the Bible (absolute) and a fluctuating and competitive scientific narrative which is incoherent at times. One can identify with his frustration!It is a fact of science that revision is a powerful tool, so this uncertainty must be pursued: humans hate uncertainty. What many “scientists” don’t realize is that they are unconsciously directed by the same Biblical narration. Both groups are trying to integrate material from outside their culture’s “story” into that story.

bible-vs-evolution

The sticking point for people who are religious is just this: the permanent and final narrative in a religious text vs. the sometimes chaotic presentation of a “scientific narrative” that must change as information is gained – but, the blizzard of ill-conceived studies and bizarre conclusions that are done by scientists are barely distinguishable from fiction.

Introduction  Homo neanderthalensis was the scientific name given to an unusual ancient fossil (later to be called Neanderthal Man) found in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1856. It was later realized that fossils of H. neanderthalensis had been discovered earlier in Engis, Belgium, in 1830, and in Forbes’ Quarry, Gibraltar, in 1848. (For an extensive history of Neanderthal finds, see, for example, Trinkaus and Shipman 1993).

At that early time, these fossils were considered to be ancient, primitive humans by some (who called them “ape-man”), or diseased modern humans by others, but nonetheless human (Regal 2004, pp. 38–43). Reconstructions of what Neanderthals might have looked like when alive gave them a very satisfactory ape-like appearance (for example, fig. 1). In 1908, Neanderthal as a primitive, brutish, caveman was literally invented by Marcellin Boule of France (Regal 2004, pp. 51–52). That image of the Neanderthals was to persist for the next 50 years (Drell 2000; Schrenk and Muller 2008).

It has been generally conceded by evolutionists, however reluctantly, that they would have to accept that Neanderthals were as human as we were (Lewin 1999, pp. 156–163). But evolutionists haven’t given up entirely without a struggle, and they remain ambivalent about the Neanderthals. Hints of the evolutionist difficulty with considering Neanderthals entirely human keep surfacing, as in questions of whether they could really talk like us, for instance (Hoffecker 2005; Krause et al. 2007a; Swaminathan 2007). Speth (2004) found it necessary to chide his fellow scientists for convicting the Neanderthals of gross mental incompetence without adequate proof (“By most recent accounts, Neanderthals would have had considerable difficulty chewing gum and walking at the same time.”).

Young-earth creationists, meanwhile, were not at all reluctant to recognize Neanderthals as human (Oard 2003a; Phillips 2000; Robertson and Sarfati 2003); after all, they had known from the beginning that there was no such thing as an ape-man. Lubenow pointed out that at several sites Neanderthals and modern humans were buried together, which he considered to be strong evidence that Neanderthals were of our species, because “In all of life, few desires are stronger than the desire to be buried with one’s own people” (Lubenow 2004, p. 254).

But there remained the serious job of examining this Neanderthal man. Who was he? On this question, creationists have been somewhat less than unified in their answers.

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The preconceived “being” called Neanderthal has had it’s share of brutal defamation since it’s discovery. At this point, Neanderthal is a “supernatural” concept that reflects both religious and social prejudice.

  1. Homo sapiens is the measure of all creation, especially “bipedal apes”
  2. We can ignore all the non-hominids because those “ape” species are no threat to the premier status of Modern Social Humans
  3. Neanderthal is a threat, (big brain, sexual invader, cousin, competitor) and the perfect “object” for political-academic-social fights, including politically correct agendas .
  4. The fight over the status and description of Neanderthal is a “racial” process; can Neanderthal be integrated into the exalted “EuroAmerican male universe? Just as African Americans had to be “vetted” as being genuinely human, so do hominid species.
  5. Constructing ape-human-species boundaries is a means of obscuring and reinforcing the question of human uniqueness; deconstructing barriers is a “proxy battle” to tear down specific EuroAmercan male self-aggrandizement.

Once again, neurotypical vanity is ruining any accurate understanding of Neanderthal as a type of human, without comparison to an inflated description of modern human intelligence and abilities. We only see this successful group of people as a threat to supernatural and self-delusional narratives about our own nature. This is crazy! The modern social human opinion of superior status is a sham, when a supposedly long-extinct human type is perceived as a dire threat and must be constantly denigrated as inferior.

The Logic-defying Wonderland of Archaeological Science Fiction

All I needed was literal information on Neanderthal archaeological sites, having to do with pre-Homo sapiens art, if any, that has been discovered and studied.

Dozens of papers / articles later and I have a killer headache! Wrong Planet,  WRONG BRAIN. My suggestion is that every discipline that purports to “study” human species that currently, lately, or in a long ago time, ought to require that “professional students” earn a BA in geology before going on to engage in any of those fields. And not “just” for familiarity with “how the world works” but for the discipline of thinking – How to construct a “reasonable” (ie not supernatural, not “magic words”) and  testable sequence of events that arises from actual evidence.

Instead we have something akin to the popular addiction of collecting “religious artifacts” such as bones of the saints and splinters of the True Cross, which become fixations for neurotypical fantasy.

More About Archaic Human Genetic Legacy

Surprise! 20 Percent of Neanderthal Genome Lives On in Modern Humans, Scientists Find

From 2014 – “old” enough that new information is available, but this covers basics.

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Two new studies suggest that the contribution from Neanderthal DNA was vital.

By Ed Yong, for National Geographic; January 29, 2014

When modern humans migrated out of Africa some 60,000 years ago, they found the Eurasian continent already inhabited by brawny, big-browed Neanderthals. We know that at least some encounters between the two kinds of human produced offspring, because the genomes of people living outside Africa today are composed of some 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA.

Two studies published concurrently in Nature and Science on Wednesday suggest that while the Neanderthal contribution to our genomes was modest, it may have proved vitally important.

Some parts of non-African genomes are totally devoid of Neanderthal DNA, but other regions abound with it, including those containing genes that affect our skin and hair. This hints that the Neanderthal gene versions conferred some benefit, and were kept during evolution.

“It seems quite compelling that as modern humans left Africa, met Neanderthals, and exchanged genes, we picked up adaptive variants in some genes that conferred an advantage in local climatic conditions,” says Joshua Akey, who led the study in Science.

“The adaptive things from Neanderthals are very interesting because they are not obvious,” says John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in either study. Based on fossil bones alone, anthropologists would never have predicted that Neanderthals contributed to the keratin filaments and immune systems of modern people.

The fact that Neanderthal DNA is totally absent from other stretches of the modern non-African genome suggests that their versions of the genes in these regions would have caused problems in modern humans, and were weeded out by natural selection.

In the Nature study, Sriram Sankararaman and David Reich of Harvard Medical School used the previously sequenced Neanderthal genome to screen 1,004 modern genomes for sequences with distinctive Neanderthal features.

For example, if a fragment of DNA is shared by Neanderthals and non-Africans, but not Africans or other primates, it is likely to be a Neanderthal heirloom. Also, Neanderthal sequences are typically inherited in large batches, since they were imported into the modern human genome relatively recently and have not had time to break apart.

In the Science study, Akey and Benjamin Vernot, both of the University of Washington in Seattle, used similar statistical features to search for Neanderthal DNA in the genomes of 665 living people—but they initially did so without the Neanderthal genome as a reference. They still managed to identify fragments that collectively amount to 20 percent of the full Neanderthal genome.

Neanderthal Influence on Skin, Hair, Common Diseases

Despite their different approaches, both teams converged on similar results. They both found that genes involved in making keratin—the protein found in our skin, hair, and nails—are especially rich in Neanderthal DNA.

For example, the Neanderthal version of the skin gene POU2F3 is found in around 66 percent of East Asians, while the Neanderthal version of BNC2, which affects skin color, among other traits, is found in 70 percent of Europeans.

The Neanderthal version of these genes may have helped our ancestors thrive in parts of the world that they were not familiar with but that Neanderthals had already adapted to. “Neanderthals had been in these environments for hundreds or thousands of years,” says Sankararaman. “As modern human ancestors moved into these areas, one way to quickly adapt would be to get genes from the Neanderthals.”

“Unfortunately, skin and hair do so many things that it’s hard to speculate on what specifically that adaptive trait was,” says Akey.

Sankararaman also found Neanderthal variants in genes that affect the risk of several diseases, including lupus, biliary cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. The significance of these sequences is “even less clear.”

Both teams found that non-African genomes have large continuous “deserts” that are totally devoid of Neanderthal DNA. These regions include genes such as FOXP2, which is involved in motor coordination and could play an important role in human language and speech.

The Neanderthal-poor deserts are especially big in the X chromosome, and include genes that are specifically activated in testes. This hints that some Neanderthal genes may have reduced the fertility of male modern humans and were eventually lost. However, Hawks cautions that this probably happened over hundreds of generations—it was very unlikely that the sons of Neanderthals and modern humans were obviously infertile.

DNA Hints at Other Mystery Humans

Both teams are now planning to apply their methods to other hominids like the Denisovans — an enigmatic group whose presence in Asia some 40,000 years ago is known just from DNA from a finger bone and some teeth found in a single cave in Russia.

And Akey’s work shows that it may even be possible to partially reconstruct the genomes of unknown groups of ancient humans without any prehistoric DNA samples.

“That’s one of the things that I’m most excited about,” he says. “Paleogenomics is a difficult field because it often requires finding suitable fossils with well-preserved DNA. “Maybe we’re not always beholden to bones. We can look at the genomes of present-day individuals.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Pleistocene was awash with many different groups of early humans, hooking up with each other to various degrees. Recent studies, for instance, have found tantalizing hints of unknown groups from Asia and Africa that left genes in Denisovans and modern humans, respectively. Akey’s method could give us our first glimpse at these mystery humans.

“If there is no fossil evidence and potentially never will be, this will be the only way of finding out about groups that were important in human history,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much do your god(s) make you pay

for the life that you were freely given by Nature?

imagesAK4BKCGF

Nature is never this cruel:

Cannibalism in the Bible.

John 6:53-56 is a call to perform cannibalism as an act of contagious magic: Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

Homo sapiens the cannibal.

Cannibalism is common to mythologies world wide. Evidence for the sacrifice of objects, animals, foods, and human beings is abundant in archaeological reports, but how could the related practice of cannibalism have originated?

Cannibalism is described in myth, from the killing and eating of captives, to witches that steal children and boil them for dinner, to fathers who are tricked into eating their own children, which arises from the fear of uncertain paternity. Cannibalism has left physical evidence in the form of human long bones and skulls cut or broken open for marrow and brains. It is not difficult to imagine that in times of hardship, humans may have killed and eaten their own, or preyed on the competition; slower moving hominids may have been fair game for early Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens: last hominid standing?

An obvious choice for survival cannibalism during famine would be a child who was too young to contribute to the support of the group. A magical idea may have been put forth to persuade the mother to give up her child: the mothers of animals sacrifice their children so that humans have food. Perhaps they will accept one of our children in trade, and thus produce more young animals to feed us. Cannibalism that sustained a group through extreme conditions may have become, in better times, an act of prophylactic sacrifice meant to postpone hardship or to jump-start perilous undertakings. Acts of sacrifice would become a component of the culture myth and thus be incorporated into religious ritual.

The Last Supper myth is a twisted tale of human sacrifice and cannibalism that Christians enact, but without recognizing its roots in the annual human sacrifice and cannibalism practiced in agricultural societies – cultures in which protein was scarce. The thirteenth man didn’t provide dinner, he was dinner, and his body parts (specific to fertility) were distributed to the fields to fertilize mother earth, so that  food crops would be resurrected in the coming harvest season. The twelve apostles replaced the signs of the zodiac, the traditional calendar that set the time of planting and harvest. – hence the unlucky number thirteen and the myth of resurrection.

Christians changed what had formerly been a yearly ritual into a one-off event. The sacrifice and resurrection of the demigod identified as Jesus, was made available to cult members through the shared ritual of eating the sacrificial man and drinking his blood, an act of power transference basic to magic. It’s no accident that Christian doctrine banned cremation. Christians heavily copied Egyptian magic, in which the body must be intact for resurrection to succeed.

In male-dominated cultures, the chief male god is awarded extraordinary talents of procreation, and he often utilizes virgins to secure his paternity. The god can appear in animal form, as a force of nature, or is hidden by atmospheric effects, such as a storm or beam of light (lightning bolt.) We tend to forget that violation by a god is rape. Recasting a brutal sexual attack into a charming story serves to excuse behavior that if committed by a lesser male would be considered a crime – criminal behavior that is claimed by a Top Male god, or a Pharaoh, King, Despot or a Celebrity.

The rape victim will relive the attack, removing details and reducing or accentuating others. This process removes the crime to the supernatural realm, where it may live safely forever, despite the actual attack having had a beginning and an ending. This falsification of reality yields a consequence: once the event is recast as supernatural, it is difficult to bring it into the light of day, and to know that it was real.

Supernatural coping is not coping at all. The victim is stuck with a version of the experience that is eternal, fixed, not compatible with reality, and which often justifies the crime; guilt is transferred to the victim. Phobias, compulsive behavior, overuse of drugs and alcohol, rage and self-abuse are symptoms of the supernaturalization of trauma.

Patriarchal religion is the expression of inhuman cultural values; violent Top males dominated “pyramid” societies. Rape, rage, revenge, murder, incest, abandonment, genocide, cannibalism were commonplace. Add the psychopathic demand for abject obedience, and the drastic punishments for perceived disrespect of the Father, and  unchecked male egomania. The grotesque and pathological punishment for “dissing” a Top Male, as described in Deuteronomy: Jehovah threatens the Hebrews that if they don’t “revere this glorious and awesome name” (in the practice of magic, names have power) they will be forced to eat their own children. 

Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating…. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you…will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—59 the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses….63 Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you.”

Judging from history, Jehovah is a god of his word.