Monday, January 15, 2018

Ethiopia Was A Trade Hub In The Classical Era

In ancient times, long-distance trade was the umbilical cord linking Ethiopia and the outside world. Ethiopian merchants spread their wares far and wide, including incense, ivory, gold, and even live animals such as baboons. Its closest trading partners lay just across the Red Sea in southern Arabia, but Ethiopian traders also reached markets in far-away Egypt, India, and the Mediterranean. So numerous were the Ethiopian merchants of Alexandria, for example, that a fourth-century Roman law barred them from tarrying in the city for more than a year. These commercial contacts encouraged cultural exchange, such that Ethiopia’s art, architecture, and literature were constantly shaped by the practices of its distant neighbors.
From a review of a book about the Garima Gospels, some of the oldest known Biblical manuscripts.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Some Observations On West Eurasian Historical Linguistics

This post is a collection of linguistic history data points, without necessarily reaching a full conclusion.

From Edward Pegler at Armchair History (November 12, 2017):
2: What about the Anatolian languages? 
The Mathieson et al. (in review as of 2017) paper currently circulating in various forms, refutes one particular argument of David Anthony 2007 and others, which is that there was much migration from the steppe into Anatolia between 4000-2000 BC. This has been further backed up by Lazaridis et al. 2017. 
This means that any migration to the Balkans around 4000 BC is unlikely to have affected Anatolia and, therefore, that Anatolian IE languages are unlikely to have got to Anatolia via the Balkan route. Any potential early PIE languages coming southwest from the Ukraine are therefore likely to have got stuck in the Balkans. We have no evidence for any such language as all well attested IE languages of the Balkans appear to be from the later migrations (Yamnaya or even later). 
Instead, the evidence of an increase in genetic contribution from the Caucasus (or, less likely, Iran) suggests migration from the East into Anatolia during this period. 
What this tells us about Anatolian languages is difficult to say. As Mathieson et al. state, the sampling in Anatolia is not extensive, and maybe they’ve just been unlucky in not sampling the right ancient people in Anatolia. However, there is generally quite a lot of consistency in their samples for different areas, so this seems questionable. 
This leaves two theories for the Anatolian languages. The first is that they are home grown, as Colin Renfrew argued. Realistically, the likelihood of this is low, based on linguistic evidence of language replacement by Anatolian languages (oh how blind I was). The other is that Anatolian languages originated somewhere near or in the Caucasus (or Iran). . . .
Lazaridis I. et al. 2016 Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East, Nature 536, 419-424. 
Very important paper for detailing Anatolia, Armenia and NW Iran genetics. This shows the strange continuity of Armenia during the period under study. 
Lazaridis I. et al. 2017 Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, Nature 548. 214-8. . . . 
Mathieson, I. et al. (in press) The Genomic History of Southeastern Europe, (review copy posted on bioarxiv 9 May 2017, revised 19 September) 
This contains a very good summary of the genetic data for Europe, largely in diagramatic form, within the supplements.
I have long argued based upon archaeological evidence and contemporaneous historical accounts by Akkadian traders, that the Anatolian languages, despite being linguistically very divergent from the other Indo-European language families, actually date from ca. 2000 BCE, a result that Lazaridis (2017) and Mathieson (2017) now affirm with ancient DNA data.

In my view the apparent linguistic antiquity of the Anatolian languages is actually a product of substrate influences which seems stronger than in other Indo-European languages because the substrate was more divergent (and because the proto-Anatolians may have been less dominant and less numerous during the period of Anatolian language formation). There is pretty good linguistic evidence to suggest that the relative contributions of language contact and drift to language change is much more heavily weighted towards language contact than is widely assumed (I'll save the detailed evidence of that for another day.) 

Also, other Indo-European languages had substrate languages which were all much more similar to each other as a result of their common origins in First Farmer languages which themselves have common origins, and if there is a shared change in a group of languages due to parallel interactions with similar substrates, this makes the direction and nature of language change non-random and makes these languages look younger than they really are.

In my view, the Caucasian genetic influence that is observed in the ancient DNA data in Anatolia is attributable to an earlier Bronze Age migration of non-Indo-European Caucasians into Anatolia in the Enolithic/early Bronze Age period prior to the arrival of Anatolian language bearers such as the Hittites, and this genetic shift, instead, reflects the people who brought the Hattic religion and language to Anatolia, supplanting the First Farmers of Anatolia whose descendants spread farming and herding to mainland Europe.
3: What about Armenian? 
The Armenian language is a similar problem. The genetics of Armenia is non-steppe and appears to have been so since at least the 5th millennium BC, being basically a mix of CHG and Anatolians/EEF. Since then genetic change in the area has been gently toward Iran, Anatolia and the Middle East. In fact, unlike northern Europeans, Armenians have not changed that much genetically in the last 6000 years. There is no particular evidence for a major immigration event during this time. 
I should mention the presence of ancient Y-haplogroup R1b1a1 in Armenia in an individual of the 3rd millennium BC, and of R1b1a1a and sub-clades from the 2nd millennium BC and 1st millennium BC. The first is ambiguous and could be due to male intrusion into the area of modern Armenia from the west or the steppe (more likely the steppe). The others are clearly due to steppe intrusion. What numbers of male individuals are implicated and on how many occasions is difficult to say, but it could not have been large. 
Whilst the language of Armenian is not recorded in ancient texts (it’s earliest record is the 5th century AD) it appears to have been knocking around in its present area since at least the 1st millennium BC based on the evidence of loanwords into neighbouring Iron Age languages. Coupled with the genetic info, this means that either the precursors of Armenian have been in NE Anatolia since the 5th millennium BC or a small elite managed to change the language of this region before the 1st millennium BC, something which, as with the Anatolian languages, is quite hard to do. 
In combination this makes a steppe origin for the Armenian language, arriving perhaps in 3rd millennium BC, possible but not very easy. . . .
The mysteries of the Armenian language, in my view, also reflect an underestimation of the importance of language contact.

The Armenians are at a complex linguistic boundary. To the east, Indo-Iranian languages and for a while, Indo-Aryan languages were spoken. To the west, Anatolian languages, especially Hittite, was spoken, and then later, the entire region was subsumed in Greek speakers. To the north, Indo-European languages of the steppe were spoken. As a result of these successive influences from different families of Indo-European languages, litmus tests like the satem-centum isogloss fail to capture the complex multi-layered process of language formation in Armenian, which may also have been influenced to some extent by neighboring non-Indo-European languages.

Also, it is worth noting that the apparent genetic continuity of Armenia, upon which this blogger relies, depends upon the findings of a paper whose poor methodology was later debunked. In fact, we know very little about whether or not Armenia displays continuity in genetic population, notwithstanding one overstated claim base upon a poor analysis of ancient DNA.
[K]nowing what I know now about the fact that Slavic peoples made their way into the Balkans from the North and had a significant demic component (unlike many other migration period "barbarians"), it isn't implausible that at least some of the Y-DNA R1a in the Balkan region today arrived as late as the Iron Age from Slavic migration (which would have predominantly Y-DNA R1a relative to Y-DNA R1b), and that the ratio of R1b to R1a in the Balkan region was higher in the Bronze Age than it is today. And, the R1b blending proportions with R1a in the Balkans, unlike in many other parts of Europe, is not a good fit to historical boundaries between the Bell Beaker cultural area and the Corded Ware cultural area that succinctly describes the relative proportion of these Y-DNA types in most of Europe. So there is a window in time in the Bronze Age during which R1b could plausibly have been dominant in a population that migrated through Western Hungary on to Western Europe.
From a June 30, 2015 post at this blog.

This is also a fairly important observation, which is also supported by many of the "Serbian-Irish" observations at the Old European Culture blog. While the big Bell Beaker paper, i.e. Olalde, I. et al. (in press) The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe, (review copy posted on bioarxiv 9 May 2017), notes that there is discontinuity in ancient DNA between Iberian Bell Beaker people and those of the rest of Europe, the hypothesis of this June 30, 2015 post could go a long way towards offering up a narrative that can explain the demic shift outside of Iberia that coincides closely in time and space with the Bell Beaker culture, which is probably, in my view, derived from the Southern Steppe, Y-DNA R1b Yamnaya people, while the Corded Ware and Slavic people are probably derived from sister populations in the northern part of the European steppe. The R1b people disappear at a historical moment well defined by ancient DNA and Central and Western Europe and to a lesser extent Northern Europe, is probably where they went.