Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Levallois tools in Capps, Alabama, USA

I have written several posts on Levallois tools, and today want to share a very interesting text I came across:

Capps A Levallois-Like Flaked Stone Technology in North America
Chapter 3 in Early Human Life on the Southeastern Coastal Plain by Blaine Ensor, ed. by Albert Goodyear and Christopher Moore, 2018

It describes the Capps site in Henry County, southeastern Alabama, USA where many tools manufactured using Levallois techniques have been found. This technique is old (300 Kya) and was used -and developed- by Neanderthals, it replaced the more primitive Acheulean lithic industry used by Homo erectus. And it was very successful, because it survived until some 40 kya.

The author mentions other sites in the US:

Map showing other sites, from Ensor's book.

They are indeed old, the author states that "The uniform heavy patination and staining of the Capps-Shelley artifacts certainly suggest some antiquity, but they cannot be used to date theartifacts... [making it unlikely] that Capps technology is related to Clovis or later Holocene cultures."

It should be pointed out that Levallois tools from the Old World originated some 350,000 years ago, and were used by Neanderthals.

So who made these Capps, Alabama tools? (modern humans or Neanderthals?) When were they made? (within the last 15,000 years? or long before that date?

Further reading: The Capps and Shelley Sites: Capps technology and implications for New World Prehistory by H. Blaine Ensor

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

On Puma parasites and human presence in South America

A paper by Romina S. Petrigh et al, Ancient parasitic DNA reveals Toxascaris leonina presence in Final Pleistocene of South America, (Parasitology, 2019. DOI: 10.1017/S0031182019000787) reported the discovery of a parasitic roundworm in a coprolite (fossilized feces) from a puma (Felis concolor) in Northern Argentina's Puna region. The fossil stool was dated at 16,573–17,002 calibrated years BP.

The finding is indeed remarkable because "Ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis confirmed the zoological origin of the coprolite as Puma concolor and that of parasite eggs as Toxascaris leonina. This is the oldest molecular parasite record worldwide".

Mental constraints

The age is a key factor here because, based on it, the authors dismiss that the parasite that infected the puma was transmitted by domesticated dogs (or cats) as other authors postulate; the paper states this several times:

"This allowed confirming the presence of T. leonina in prehistoric times, presumably even before that of humans in the region...Therefore, the common interpretation that the presence of T. leonina in modern American wild carnivores is a consequence of their contact with domestic dogs or cats (Okulewicz et al., 2012) should no longer be assumed as the only possible explanation".

The date is supposedly older than the currently accepted arrival date of humans in the region hence no domestic dogs could have transmitted the parasite to pumas ("The first human explorers who ventured into the area ca. 11 000 years ago")

So, the authors cannot avoid the current time frame for human presence in America. But, what if there were humans here 100,000 years ago, would that have affected the puma parasites? They wouldn't of had dogs with them -domestication date of dogs is much earlier anyway. The point is that human presence is irrelevant to their finding.

I mention this because scientists cannot escape from their mental straitjackets and thes authors mention the 11 Ky date as important-it isn't. But, let's go back to the paper:

A natural origin is suggested, and I fully agree with it: "Canids and felids are infected by ingesting rodents and paratenic hosts and also directly by contact with feces with eggs containing infective larvae. "

Regarding its identity as a Toxascaris leonina the paper indicates that "The BLASTN analysis showed an identity range of 96–93% between cox1 fragment of T. leonina European and Asia isolates from different hosts (canids including dog, wolf and European fox, and felids including Eurasian lynx and South China tiger). Pairwise analysis among available T. leonina sequences showed a wide range of identity percentages, from 98 to 93%. A maximum of 1% intra-specific divergence within Iranian isolates has been reported (Mikaeili et al., 2015). Thus, this 4% divergence with ancient T. leonina could be attributed to different temporal and geographic origins."

So American T. leonina are distinct from Asian ones due to "different temporal and geographic origins", which makes sense, after all the puma belongs to a lineage that originated 6.7 Mya. Nowadays it consists of three species: puma, and on a contiguous branch the American jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi)). The third species is the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) which 100,000 years ago migrated across Beringia into Eurasia and finally into Africa (this is a real "Out of America and Into Africa" event).

Puma surely got the roundworm from some non-human agent (I mean that domesticated dogs had no role in it), yet the authors had to point it out: "At a regional level, these aDNA studies have also allowed confirming the presence of pumas in the southern Puna at the end of the Pleistocene. This has significant implications for the natural history of the region, as well as for inferring the ecological context immediately previous – as far as is known so far – to the first human explorers who ventured into the area ca. 11 000 years ago".

But, as I said further up, humans could have been here in America for one million years and this would have no impact whatsoever on the fact that this team of scientists found ancient roundworm in fossil puma poo.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Calico Site is closed

The Calico "Early Man Site" in Yermo, California, has been closed (BLM closes Early Man Site, John Beyer For the Daily Press Posted Apr 27, 2019).

It is located on land adminstrated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which shut it down due to health concerns and vandalism. It may reopen if funds are secured to ensure the place is safe.

Calico is a controversial site (see our post) and funding will be hard to find.

You can learn all about the site at its website.

I will admit that I have mixed feelings about the Calico artifacts. I am not persuaded that they are man-made.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Skin color and Neandertals

Qiliang Ding et al., (2014) published a paper (Neanderthal origin of the haplotypes carrying the functional variant Val92Met in the MC1R in modern humans, Molecular biology, DOI:10.1093/molbev/msu180) which looks into the pale skin of Eurasians in general as due to admixture between Homo sapiens and Neandertals.

The color of our skins is due to the combination of two pigments, one red (phaeomelanin) and one black (eumelanin), and the proportion of this color blend is in part defined by the Melanocyte-stymulating hormone or MSH. MSH is encoded by a gene called MC1R.

If the function of this gene is altered by mutations, it impacts on MSH and therefore on skin color.

Five "loss-of-function" variants of MC1R have been discovered to date, and are linked to fair hair (red or blond) and fair skin:

  1. Val60Leu (rs1805005*T)
  2. Val92Met (rs2228479*A)
  3. Arg151Cys (rs1805007*T)
  4. Arg160Trp (rs1805008*T)
  5. Asp294His (rs1805009*C)

Neanderthals also carried (but we, modern humans don't), another variant of MC1R (Arg307Gly)

Qiliang's team found that "...almost all of the derived alleles at the Val92Met variant of MC1R (rs2228479*A) in the human gene pool are carried by the putative introgressive haplotypes", by "putative introgressive haplotypes" they mean "haplotypes from Neanderthal introgression in modern Eurasians".

It is found at roughly 5% introgression rates in Europeans (not very high), up to 30% in East Asians (Chinese for instance) and at a surprising high introgression rate of 60 to 70% in the Taiwanese aborigine people (the Atayal and the Ami).

They don't know why this cline exists and conjecture: " Therefore, we cannot rule out demographic effects such as population bottleneck as an explanation for the unusually high frequency of rs2228479*A in Atayal and Ami although positive natural selection is also a possibility"

Its origin is linked to the Altai Neanderthal branch and the time line is the following:

"Based on the values, it could be estimated that the putative introgressive haplotypes diverged with the AMH 552.5 ka, then diverged with the Denisovan 159.0 ka, and then diverged with the Altai Neanderthal 103.3 ka (fig. 2). It could be observed that the divergence time between the putative introgressive haplotypes and the Altai Neanderthal (103.3 ka) postdates the reported Neanderthal–AMH divergence time (>270 ka), which indicates the presence of postdivergence introgression"

Altai, Japanese and Africans

The paper reports that "Remarkably, it was observed that all putative introgressive haplotypes carry the derived allele of the Val92Met variant (rs2228479*A), and almost none [except a Japanese subject NA19084_a]... of the nonintrogressive haplotypes carries the rs2228479*A. This suggests that the rs2228479*A carried by the putative introgressive haplotypes might be from archaic hominin lineage. However, rs2228479*A was not found in the Altai Neanderthal genome."

They explain the lack of rs2228479*A in the Altai Neanderthal as follows: " 1) The rs2228479 is polymorphic in Neanderthal populations, and 2) the mutation creating rs2228479*A occurred on the putative introgressive haplotype shortly after it entered modern human gene pool (...) The rs2228479*A was found in one (out of 41) sequencing read of Altai Neanderthal and one (out of 20) sequencing read of Denisovan. All of the relevant sequencing reads and base calls passed quality control filter. Therefore, it could be possible that the Neanderthal and Denisovan are heterozygous at the rs2228479, and some unknown reason caused the imbalanced observation of ancestral and derived alleles of rs2228479 in sequencing reads."

The Japanese subject NA19084-a is among the non-introgresses subjects, so the derived allele at rs2228479 "might be from recurrent mutation, double recombination, or biased gene conversion".

Interestingly they found this allele at rs2228479 in three African subjects: "...among all HapMap African individuals, it was observed that one YRI (Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria; NA18852) and two MKK (Massai in Kinyawa, Kenya; NA21339 and NA21574) carry heterozygous alleles at the rs2228479".

They propose three possible explanations for this odd situation:

"Presence of derived alleles at Val92Met (i.e., rs2228479*A) in Africans could be explained by three models: 1) The rs2228479*A existed in the human gene pool before the Neanderthal–AMH divergence and was drifted to very low frequency in modern Africans whereas preserved in the Neanderthals and modern Eurasians (i.e., the “ancestral polymorphism model”), 2) recent gene flow from modern Eurasians to Africans, or 3) independent origin (such as recurrent mutation)."

They reject (1) but consider (2) and (3) as feasible. That is, it originated independently in Africa or there was a recent flow into Africa carrying Neanderthal genes i.e. contemporary Eurasians, which is quite reasonable, nevertheless, I would add, Neanderthals could have entered Africa and mixed there with Massai in Kenya and Yoruba in Nigeria.

Another surprising find was that it appears ata 50% frequency among the Cheyenne people of America. That is high, and rather unique in the New World, where it is hardly found at all.

Below is a map with its global distribution:

It is important to point out that Norton, Werren, and Friedlaender,(2015) found this Val92Met polymorphism in over 600 Melanesians sampled on different islands, reporting that the frequency of the derived allele ranged from 4 to 33% yet it seemed to have no influence whatsoever on the skin or hair color of the individuals. This suggests that it must interact with other genes to define the tone of hair and skin.

The same thing can be seen in East Asians: they have black hair just like Africans - and unlike brown of fair haired Europeans- despite carrying this derived gene that promotes fair hair.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Santa Elina: humans in Brazil 23,000 years ago

I cama across a paper Peopling South America's centre: the late Pleistocene site of Santa Elina, by Denis Vialou, Mohammed Benabdelhadi, James Feathers, Michel Fontugne and Agueda Vilhena Vialou (Antiquity, Volume 91, Issue 358, August 2017 , pp. 865-884) which reports about a site called Santa Elina in western Brazil which has evidence of human occupation some 23,000 years ago.

The paper states that "The crucial significance of Santa Elina for understanding the earliest period of known prehistoric settlement in South America lies in the close articulation of archaeological, palaeontological, sedimentological and chronological datasets from the site. Human presence is attested by: a) lithic materials manufactured on site with evidence of debitage and retouch; b) the bones of extinct megafauna (Glossotherium), partly brought into the shelter, and clearly associated with the lithics; and c) by hearth deposits identified throughout the sequence. The results from three complementary dating methods—14C, OSL (sediments) and U/Th (Glossotherium bones)—are in relative agreement with one another, and confirm the stratigraphic integrity of the depositional history at Santa Elina. The dates indicate two periods of human occupation, with a date of 23120±260 BP for the first, and a date of 10120±60 BP for the beginning of the second (Table 1). These dates confirm the association between archaeological artefacts and Glossotherium bones. Subsequent occupations terminated around 2000 BP."

This site is located roughly 50 miles (80 km) from the city of Cuaibá in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, close to South America's geographic center, and 1,000 miles from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Far from Beringia, and far older than any other site.

Ornaments with holes on the ends, made from extinct sloth osteoderms. from Santa Elina site

How did humans reach central Brazil 23,000 years ago? Perhaps they arrived even earlier. They resettled the cave a second time some 10,000 years ago. Two separate events. Archeologists Agueda Vilhena Vialou and her husband Denis Vialou don't make any conjectures, they just state teir findings and facts. It is a pity that no human bones have been found at the site, to allow us to investigate the matter further.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Long strands of Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA in Melanesians

Most of us, non-Africans, carry tiny snippets of Neanderthal DNA inside of us, as part of our genome. This is because our ancestors had sex with Neanderthals as they moved across Eurasia, the children born from this admixture carried both Homo sapiens and Neanderthal DNA. Selection weeded out the nasty genes and dilution after countless generations of intra-human breeding watered down the Neanderthal DNA in our genomes, but we still carry roughly 1 to 3% of their DNA in us.

Humans also interbred with the mysterious Denisovans (in Asia), and Melanesians carry roughly 3 to 5% Denisovan DNA with them.

A paper by Ping Hsun Hsieh et al. published today, (Adaptive archaic introgression of copy number variants and the discovery of previously unknown human genes Science - 18 Oct 2019 Vol. 366, Issue 6463, eaax2083 DOI: 10.1126/science.aax2083) took a closer look at this admixture in Melanesians.

We usually carry small snippets of archaic DNA, moswt of these are merely single nucleotide changes, which is a switch in a "letter" of our genetic code, where one molecule (nucleotides are molecules that contain a phosphate group, a sugar group and a nitrogen base) changes for another, for instance an adenine nucleotide (A) changes for a thymine nucleotide (T) altering the genetic sequence.

These single nucleotide changes don't have much of an evolutionary impact, they are therefore immune to selection.

This paper looked for more significant changes: deletions and duplications, formally known as "Copy Number Variants" or CNVs.

And they found that Melanesians carry long strands of archaic DNA in their genes.

The images below are from the paper:

Deletions are parts of a DNA molecule that have been lost during replication. In general deletions are more deleterious than duplications.

Duplications are sections of DNA that are duplicated, as if they were copied and pasted. They are four times more common than deletions. They can be pasted adjacent to the original chunk, and this is known as "tandem duplication" -which are quite rare in humans- or somewhere else ("displaced duplication").

A duplicated section of DNA will of course be passed on to the descent of the mutant carrying it, and will be subjected to the forces of natural selection. If the mutation is beneficial, it will be conserved, but if it alters the metabolism of the person carrying it, selection will weed it out (the person may die or not have viable offspring).

This paper reported 37 CNVs in Melanesians, of which 19 came from Neanderthals and Denisovans. For instance two large chunks of archaich DNA: in chromosome 8, which came from Neanderthals, and in chromosome 16, inherited from Denisovans.

  • Chr. 8: Neanderthal with a duplication (38,000 base pairs -bp- long, carried by 44% of Melanesians), and a deletion (6,000 bp long.
  • Chr. 16: Denisovan, with two duplications. The first is 380,000 bp long and is found in 79% of the Melanesians that were sampled.

As a point of interest, the first Denisovan duplication lies next to DNA sequences linked to autism (Chromosome 16p11.2 critical region, are associated to roughly 1% of human autism cases).

Also, related to autism, is the region in chromosome 8 (8p21.3) affected by the Neanderthal CNVs. (see more).

The fact that these CNVs have survived tens of thousands of years means that they have contributed some positive trait, that helped those carrying it survive beter than those lacking it. Selective pressure therefore retained these changes as they provided an advantage to the "mutants".

As the paper is behind a paywall I have not been able to read the particulars, but I wonder why do Melanesians carry such large snippets of archaic DNA? Do we all carry long snippets of Neanderthal DNA and it hasn't yet been detected in Eurasians because nobody has looked for it or, on the other hand we don't carry any?

Did Melanesia have specific conditions that favored keeping these duplications while the rest of the world didn't? (certain diseases for instance which can be averted thanks to these CNVs).

The medical significance of these mutations will have to be investigated.

One of the images from the paper suggest that these particular mutations are very rare among non-Melanesians:

The CNVs had first been studied in a paper Global diversity, population stratification, and selection of human copy-number variation, by Peter H. Sudmant et al., (2015) published in Science 11 Sep 2015: Vol. 349, Issue 6253, aab3761 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3761. It too noticed the high level of Denisovan CNVs, in Melanesians, but not in Australian Aboriginals. They calculated its origin 440 kya among the Denisovans. They mention a chr 16 duplicaton:

"a duplication polymorphism restricted to modern Oceanic populations yet also present in the genome of the archaic Denisova hominin. This 225–kilo–base pair (kbp) duplication includes two microRNA genes and is almost fixed among human Papuan-Bougainville genomes".

This paper (Sudmat el al.,) also studied CNVs among modern humans and were surprised to find that when comparing the difference between Africans and non-Africans regarding deletions and duplications using a parameter they named "Deletion load", "... Africans exhibited an apparent higher deletion load than non-African populations ... Duplications showed no such effect."

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tasmanian Tiger may not be extinct after all

Ihave always had a soft spot for the Tasmanian Tiger (or Tassie) because it was one of the first animals (I believe that the dodo was the first one that really struck me) that made me aware that extinction was irreversible. An animal once gone, was gone forever.

Mammoths, dinosaurs, wolly rhinos, well, they were things of the distant past but a dog-like marsupial like the Tasmanian Tiger was different, modern "civilized" humans had wiped them out (the same happened to the defensless dodos of Mauritius, and the aulk in the North Atlantic), and I found if very sad.

The Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacinus cynocephalus (dog-headed pouched-dog) was hunted to extinction by Australian shepherds of Tasmania a few decades before I was born.

At one time this meat eating marsupial had a range that spanned all of Australia and New Guinea. Though it was later confined to the island of Tasmania (hence its name of Tasmanian Tiger - and also Tasmanian wolf).

They were large dog-like creatures: 1 to 1.3 meters long (40 - 50 51 inches) plus a tail 20-35 in. long (50-65 cm). They weighed between 33 to 66 lbs. (15-30 kg). And had 15 to 20 dark stripes on their back. Their fur was yellowish-brown colored.

Unfortunately for the Tassies, dogs brought by the Aboriginal people (dingos) competed with the Thylacine in its same ecological niche, and were far more successful. Around 2,000 years ago the Thylacines became extinct on the mainland, but managed to survive on the island of Tasmania, near Southern Australia.

There were several species of Thylacines over the past 16 Million years in Australia. The Tasmanian Tiger appeared about 4 Million years ago and they were very successful predators. But being a predator was the cause of their downfall. Their predilection for mutton provoked its demise: to protect the sheep farms, the Tasmanian government paid bounties for their dead bodies from 1886 to 1909. Thousands of Tassies were killed.

By the time some action was taken to protect it, it was far too late. A few wild thylacines were captured and although the species was protected in July 1936, two months later the last survivor of the species died in the Zoo at Hobart, Tasmania.

Tasmanian Tigers in captivity

So it is very good news that the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has released a document describing eight sightings of Tassies (Tylacines) in Tasmania between 2016 and 2019.

Who knows, maybe the Tasmanian Tiger is still alive somewhere in the forests of Tasmania.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Another paper on "Out of China" (H sapiens originated in China)

A few days ago I wrote a post about an Asian origin for modern humans, written by Shi Huang. Today I found an earlier paper where Huang is one of the authors Modern human origins: multiregional evolution of autosomes and East Asia origin of Y and mtDNA (Dejian Yuan et al., 2018). As expected mankind originated in China and spread across the globe (into Africa too!).

The paper is quite interesting as it details its objections to the current Out of Africa theory and also highlights some interesting points:

On Negritos and Australian Aboriginals: "Analyses of autosomes, Y and mtDNA all suggest that Denisovan like humans were archaic Africans with Eurasian admixtures and ancestors of South Asia Negritos and Aboriginal Australians.".

"Origins of Negritos and Aboriginal Australians. The Andamanese and the African pygmies seem obviously related in multiple aspects, including traits, Y relationship with the African megahaplogroup ABDE, and mtDNA haplotype M being closely related to African L.
... Using the published genomes of 10 individuals from the Jarawa (JAR) and Onge (ONG) populations in the Andaman Islands (19), we found that Andamanese are relatively closer to Africans...
We also examined the Aboriginal Australian (AUA) samples ... These results showed similarity between AUA and Negritos, indicating similar ancestry in Neanderthals and Denisovans.

On Africans, Chimpanzees, Denisovans and Neanderthals: "... previous studies have found Neanderthals to be outgroup to AMH and used D-statistics to show Neanderthal gene flow into non-Africans but oddly not Africans (9, 10).
The assumption of D-statistics is that all modern groups are equidistant to chimpanzees so that presence of derived alleles (different from chimpanzees) was due to gene flow from Neanderthal. If in fact Africans are closer to chimpanzees or carrying more ancestral alleles in general, the conclusion of gene flow into non-Africans would become invalid. We examined this by measuring genetic distance between 1000 genomes and 10 previously sequenced chimpanzee genomes (49). Using the random 255K SNPs set, we found closer hom distance between Africans and chimpanzees than between non-Africans and chimpanzees....
Making use of the published Neanderthal genomes (9, 10, 50), we calculated the genetic distance in slow SNPs between 1000 genomes and Neanderthals (Altai, Vindija 33.16, 33.25, 33.26, and Mezmaiskaya) or Denisovan (Fig. 4A). These ancient genomes showed closer distance to Africans except Vi33.25 to ASN and Vi33.26 to AMR. Denisovan was closer to Africans than Neanderthals were...

The previous conclusions are completely opposite to current prevailing theories (Africans lack links to both Denisovans and Neanderthals as any admixture with these groups took place in Eurasia with Eurasian people that migrated out of Africa).

On SE Asian features in Africa: "Fossils or traits indicating AMH migration from East Asia into Africa or Europe have been noted before. First, native Africans such as Khoisans are well known to have certain East Asian features such as shoveling teeth, epicanthic fold, and lighter skins. Mbuti pygmies look very much like the Andamanese. The much lower frequency of shoveling teeth in African fossils and Khoisan relative to ancient and modern Chinese suggests that this type of teeth could only originate in China with its African presence due to migration. The type of shoveling teeth found in Neanderthals and Pleistocene Homo from Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos may either be a different type from that of Asians and Africans or come from early disposal of Homo from Asia to Europe (81, 82)...".

I found the article amusing and their arguments against the "Out of Africa" theory worth investigating in depth.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

An early Out of Africa 2.48 Million years ago

We have posted on the hominin remains found at Dmanisi in Georgia, and evidence of hominin presence in China 2.1 Million yeras ago (Ma). A recent paper provides some more information on this very early migration of hominins out of Africa 2.48 Ma, long before the first Homo sapiens appeared.

A few months ago we mentioned a new paper reported in the media that pushes the Out of Africa migration by pre-sapiens hominins to 2.4 Ma. We have just found it published: it is the paper by Giancarlo Scardia, Fabio Parenti, Daniel P. Miggins, AxelG erdes, Astolfo G.M. Araujo and Walter A.Neves, (Chronologic constraints on hominin dispersal outside Africa since 2.48?Ma from the Zarqa Valley, Jordan, Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol 219, 1 September 2019, pp 1-19, It tells us that they found evidence of hominin presence in an area that those who would later reach Dmanisi and China had to cross on their trek out of Africa: The Middle East.

They mention the presence of hominins in China some 2.1 Ma, and in North Africa (2.4 Ma), - and we add the Homo georgicus found in Georgia (1.75 Ma) to their list.

They also report that even though the Levant does not have any sites as old as those mentioned above, they found stone tools in the Dawqara Formation sediments in Zarqa Valley, in Jordan that were buried some 300,000 years earlier thant the Chinese tools.

As Jordan lies in the corridor that any out-of-Africa Homo habilis would use to exit Africa, they conclude that these artifacts were made by these hominins.

They found Oldowan tools together with fossils of mammals in the Dawqara Formation. They were not found in a site (a camp site for instance), the tools were transported to where they were found by water and buried by riverine sediments. They dated these sediments to 2.48 Ma.

These Oldowan tools are primitive and predate the later Acheulean tools developed by Homo erectus. So clearly these hominins were Homo habilis.

This puts an early date for the first hominin migration out of Africa and into Eurasia.

The Abstract is the following:

" Recent discoveries constrain the presence of hominins in North Africa since ca. 2.4?Ma and in China since ca. 2.1?Ma, providing a new temporal framework for the earliest migration out of Africa. No Paleolithic sites of such age exist in the Levant, the natural corridor between Africa and Asia. The Dawqara Formation in the Zarqa Valley, Jordan, has been known since the early 1980s because of the presence of artifacts at different stratigraphic levels within its fluvial sediments, consisting of choppers, cores, and flakes.
Although most of the artifacts display signs of transport, they bear unambiguous evidence of manufacture, and document hominin presence in the Zarqa Valley during the deposition of Dawqara Formation. Based on integrated chronology provided by paleomagnetic, 40Ar⁄39Ar, and U-Pb dating methods, our study shows that the Dawqara Formation was deposited between 2.52+⁄-?0.01?Ma and the Matuyama–Olduvai geomagnetic reversal (1.95?Ma). By linear interpolation, the artifact-bearing stratigraphic levels within the Dawqara Formation have ages of ca. 2.48?Ma, 2.24?Ma, 2.16?Ma, 2.06?Ma, and 1.95?Ma, respectively, possibly documenting continuous hominin presence in the Zarqa Valley.
These new ages for the Dawqara assemblage constrain the earliest hominin dispersal out of Africa to the beginning of the Pleistocene, and pre-date by ca. 300 kyr the hominin occupation of Chinese Loess Plateau.

The North African tools are the 1.9-million- and 2.4-million-year-old artifacts and stone tool-cutmarked bones from Ain Boucherit, Algeria., Sahnouni M, et al., Science. 2018 Dec 14;362(6420):1297-1301. doi: 10.1126/science.aau0008. Epub 2018 Nov 29.

Sahnouni suggests that these old Algerian tools (slightly younger thant the Oldowan tools from East Africa - 2.6 Ma) "shows that ancestral hominins inhabited the Mediterranean fringe in northern Africa much earlier than previously thought. The evidence strongly argues for early dispersal of stone tool manufacture and use from East Africa or a possible multiple-origin scenario of stone technology in both East and North Africa.".

However there are even older tools found in Asia, in India to be more specific, that are 2.6 Ma. Were these the first hominins to leave Africa?

Last but not least, these Zarqa Valley "artifacts" have been dug up in a fluvial environment not unlike the setting where the Calico California stone tools were found, yet these American artifacts have been disregarded by orthodox science and labeled as geofacts (not man made, but shaped by natural forces).

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Australian Pygmies, fact and fiction

Australian pygmies are a source of controversy because mainstream science and the Aboriginal indigenous people oppose the notion that pygmies were the first humans to inhabit the continent.

Right wing supporters on the other hand believe that the pygmies came first and that the Aborigines took the continent from the pygmies.

Their argument goes as follows: Pygmies arrived first, the aboriginal people came later and drove the pygmies to extinction, the British were just another wave of migrants doing what the aboriginal people had done before. So why should invaders such as aboriginals have more rights over the land than the British. After all, the Aboriginals took it from the original Pygmie people.

A quick online search shows that there are not many references to pygmy people in Australia. I didn't manage to find anything recorded by the first European explorers or during the period of British exploration and occupation.

Most of the literature points back to an article published in Quadrant (Keith Windschuttle and Tim Gillin, The extinction of the Australian Pygmies, 2002).

Quadrant is a right-wing magazine (see what has to say about how far to the right they are), so Quadrant would have a reason to back the pygmy theory because it undermines the aboriginal people's claims of being the first people in Australia.

My Search for Pygmies in Australia

This is what I have found out about pygmies down under:

1. Pygmies are part of the Aboriginal people's mythology.

There is an Aboriginal myth, about the origin of the platypus (Source), which mentions the "small people" or "Dinderi". They hunted water snakes in the Brisbane River in what is now Queensland, but these managed to turn them into platypuses. But does this myth mean that there were a tribe of pygmies (the Dinderi)?

You can also read about Short people in Cape York Peninsula, Northern Queensland, Australia.

2. Short stature people lived in Queensland recently.

An article titled Pygmy elder faces eviction, published in 2007 (Queensland CourierMail August 25, 2007), reported that Lizzy Woods, 105 years old, was the "... oldest surviving matriarch of the Jirrbal rainforest people. ... the sole surviving link to the pygmy 'white cockatoo' tribe – most of whom stood less than 122cm (4ft) tall – of the Misty Mountain region near Tully.
... the 110cm-tall [3.6 ft] elder [said] 'I was born in the rainforest. I grew up chasing kangaroo and picking berries off the trees. I belong here. This is my land. The pygmy tribe – that is my mob'.

3. An anthropologist also reported the Dinderi myth.

Lindsay Winterbotham interviewed an Aboriginal man born in 1887, Gaiarbaus and wrote (1957) the book "Gaiarbaus story of the Jinibara tribe of south east Queensland (and its neighbours)", it was never published, but the book exists and you can read its index online, and this index mentions: "Pygmies (Dinderi), beliefs in south east Queensland tribes".

Winterbotham was advised by Norman Tindale during his interviews, and it is Tindale who is quoted in the article published by Quadrant.

3. Tindale and the Trihybrid theory

Tindale and American anthropologist Joseph Birdsell, worked together for over 50 years, starting in 1938. They put forward the theory that: The pygmoid and negrito people(the word negrito is Spanish, and means "small black people") living in the rainforests in Northern Queensland in the 1930s were the remnants of the first wave of humans to reach the vast Australian continent. These tiny people were later pushed in to the island of Tasmania (hence the name of "Tasmanoids" that Tindale and Birdsell gave them) and the deep rainforests by two later waves of humans invading Australia.

The two scientists later renamed them "Barrinean" after Lake Barrine. Yoy can read this theory in this 1953 newspaper article.

This "Trihybrid" theory included a second wave of pale skinned "Murrayians" which were supposed to be linked to the Ainu people of Japan, and the third wave of robust dark skinned "Carpentarians" possibly linked to primitive Indian tribes.

This website has some photos of these three "types" of humans proposed by Birdsell and Tindale as the successive waves that peopled Australia.

This theory has been discredited by later research (see this paper for example), but it was not invented by Tindale, I found an earlier publication suggesting the same idea:

In Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1922, an article (Cylindro-Conical and cornute stones from the Darling River and Cooper Creek, Robert Pulleine. pp.304-308) mentions Albert Churchward:

"If we accept the views of Churchward, now gaining the attention of anthropologists, that mankind originated in the great lake districts of Africa, we find opened up a path which leads to an understanding of the origin of our aborigines and their beliefs. In his two books, "Signs and Symbols of - Primordial Man" and "The Origin and Evolution of Mankind," he pictures the Pygmy exodus throughout the world and their displacement and annihilation by the people of the second Nilotic exodus to which our aborigines, accord- ing to him, belong. He states that the Pygmies of the first Nilotic invasion were displaced in Australia and eventually only remained in Tasmania. "

Churchward had been writing about pygmies since the early 1900s, so he surely influenced Tindale.

4. There are "pygmies" in New Guinea

New Guinea has small people too, reported as early as 1910 (paper in Nature), as recently as 2013, and in between too (see this paper from 1961 (it mentions the trihybrid theory and Tindale).

Closing Comments

Probably different waves of humans colonized Australia, starting with Homo erectus and ending with the British. The Aboriginal people are without any doubt, the rightful original people of Australia, the first people to successfuly colonize the continent and live there for over 50,000 years. However it is also likely that other groups, linked to the Negrito people of Southeastern Asia and New Guinea also settled in Australia, whether it took place before, during or after the arrival of the Aboriginals is a trivial point.

But what if the Aboriginal myths aren't about the Negrito people, and instead refer to "small people" like the "Hobbits" of Indonesia? A distant relative of us humans.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Neanderthal admixture in Africans (into Africa? or back to Africa?)

Time and time again you read that only non-Africans carry Neanderthal DNA because it was the wave of humans leaving Africa in an Out-of-Africa migration that encountered the Neanderthals in Eurasia and mated with them, mixing our and their genes. Africans who remained in the cradle of mankind, didn't admix and therefore carry no Neanderthal DNA.

A paper published in 2018 (Neandertal signatures in modern human mitochondrial genome haplogroups?, Renata C. Ferreira, Camila R. Rodrigues, James R. Broach,Marcelo R. S. Briones, BioRxiv, 18/Sep/2018. doi: puts this idea upside down: the authors state that "...contrary to what is observed in the nuclear genome, African mitochondrial haplogoups have more potential Neandertal signatures than Asian and European haplogroups.".

Let's look into this surprising and contradictory finding.

The authors repeat the current orthodox view of an admixture outside of Africa:

"Intercrosses between Neandertals and ancient Homo sapiens lineages, or archaic Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) who migrated from Africa into the Middle East and Europe in the last 50,000 years might explain the presence of Neandertal signatures in extant human genomes (Prüfer et al., 2014; Simonti et al., 2016). The spatio-temporal overlap of Neandertals and AMH is estimated to be approximately 22,000 years since the first AMH arrived in Europe around 50,000 years ago..."

Neanderthal mtDNA is liniked to certain diseases in modern humans, and the study found evidence of this too, and this included Africans: "Four of these disease associated N-SNVs were observed in African haplogroups (L0, L1, L2, L3, 10 L4, L5 and L6)", N-SNVs stands for Neanderthal SNVs. and the haplogroups they mention are considered the oldest and most basal ones. So how did the Neanderthal DNA admix with these "basal" haplogroups?

The autors explain this as follows: "A back to Africa hypothesis has been proposed in which humans from Eurasia returned to Africa and impacted a wide range of sub-Saharan populations (Henn et al., 2012). Our data suggest that Neandertal signatures might be present in all major African haplogroups which supports the “Back to Africa” contribution to the modern mitochondrial African pool."

They also conclude that modern human males introgressed with female Neanderthals more frequently in the Africans than in the Europeans (where the opposite took place: modern women were impregnated by Neanderthal men):

"Our data is compatible with a scenario in which the AMH-Neandertal crosses occur in Europeans, East Asians and African lines of descent. However, in the African haplogroups the crosses between AMH males and Neandertal females would have a higher frequency than in European lines of descent, where the reverse crosses would be predominant. Based on the comparison of Neandertal signatures in nuclear and mitochondrial genome haplogroups we hypothesize that the African lines of descent would have a higher female Neandertal contribution whereas European lines of descent would have higher male Neandertal contribution."

It is interesting to point out that Africans, Eurasians and Neanderthals share the N-SNV 16,278, which "is found in African haplogroups 34 (L0, L1, L2, L5 and L6) and two Eurasian haplogroups (X3, U2c and P2) and in all Neandertal sequences..."

What is also interesting is the link between Amerindians, Eurasians and the Altai Neanderthals, hinting at an admixture in Siberia : "... N-SNV 16.298 is found only in Eurasian-Native American 36 haplogroups (V1, V2, M8, C1, C4, C7 and Z1) and only in the Altai Neandertal."

The heat map (Fig. 4) in the paper shows a surprisingly strong introgression of Neanderthal genes in Africans, compared to Europeans, Asians, people from Oceania and Amerindians:

You would expect this admixign to have happened in non-Africans, instead it took place with Africans.

Could this enrichement of African DNA be caused by an actual into-Africa migration? One where modern humans -of Eurasian origin- with Neanderthal admixture entered Africa, and admixed there with the locals?

The gradient displayed in the image above, from a low (Oceania - Americas) to mid (East and western Asia - Europe) to high (Africa) Neanderthal genetic content clearly marks a migration path through Neanderthal territory (central Eurasia) into Africa.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Out of China?

Ye Zhang and Shi Huang ( The Out of East Asia model versus the African Eve model of modern human origins in light of ancient mtDNA findings, bioRxiv, Feb, 10, 2018. doi: have proposed that an "Out of East Asia" (read that as "China") is a better model to explain human origin than the current "Out of Africa" theory.

I invite you to read the paper, which finds fault in the Genetic clock: "...The African Eve model assumes the molecular clock while the Asia model not. Given that the universal molecular clock is widely acknowledged to be unreal" (We have posted about the "clock" several times).

It upholds Huang's Maximum genetic diversity (MGD) hypothesis but does not explain it in this paper, however you can read Shi Huang's detailed explanation here (Shi Huang, New thoughts on an old riddle: What determines genetic diversity within and between species? Genomics, Volume 108, Issue 1, July 2016, Pages 3-10.

It also dismisses the Infinite-Sites Mutation Model or ISM, which states that all mutations that have occurred along the sequences since the most recent common ancestor only affect a new site; therefore no single position can mutate twice.

Out of Africa also requires the "Neutral Theory" to be applicable (Mutations can be harmful, and they take place at random and those that are selectively neutral accumulate while those that are deleterious are removed by natural selection). Huang disagrees with this theory (read more here: Genetic equidistance).

The authors find that "Our model furthermore specifically places the least differentiated haplotype R0 or R* as the ancestor of all mtDNA haplotypes, which is in contrast to the African Eve model that puts R downstream of haplotype N (Figure 1). The R0 haplotype is most common today in the Southern Chinese group in the 1000 genomes project, implicating the origin of the modern mtDNA lineage in Southern China [5]."

This is their Figure 1:

The paper concludes that: " the Out of East Asia mtDNA model is inherently more sound and self-consistent than the African Eve model due to stronger theoretical foundations and far more realistic assumptions. "

Readers of this blog are well aware of my anti-sinocentrism, I usually tend to take claims by Chinese scholars lightly, because of their "China is the center of the world viewpoint", however this paper is quite interesting though lacking more sound evidence to fully convince me.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Humans but not AMH in Australia 125,000 years ago?

My previous post mentioned the currently accepted window for the entry of humans into America, roughly some 15,000 years ago. A similar situation occurs with Australia: the peopling of the vast southern continent-island is tied to the purported "Out of Africa" dates meaning that nobody accepts an earlier entry date than roughly 50,000 years ago.

But there seems to be some evidence of early human activity in Australia. I will mention two of them.

Charcoal 120,000 years old at Moyjil

Fire is a good indication of human activity. Of course, natural events can also start fires. A paper published in 2018 (Ian J. McNiven et al., The Moyjil site, South-West Victoria, Australia: Excavation of a last Interglacial charcoal and burnt stone feature - Is it a Hearth?, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 130(2):94, January 2018, DOI: 10.1071/RS18008), looks into the charcoal found at a site in NSW, Australia.

I will highlight the paper's main points: "The oldest dates for human occupation of Sahul (Australia and New Guinea) based on radiocarbon dating are a little under 50 ka...
we present excavation results for a small deposit containing charcoal and darkened stones (some clearly burnt) at Moyjil...
The potential for Moyjil to re-write the early human history of Australia is not new, as claims have already been made that a marine shell deposit at the site dating to at least 60‒80,000 years ago (since redated to 120‒125,000 years old — see Sherwood et al. 2018a) could be cultural in origin (Sherwood et al. 1994; Nair & Sherwood 2007)...
On balance, the broad range of discrimination criteria marginally point more towards CBS1 representing a cultural hearth and not exclusively a naturally burnt feature. As such, some evidence exists for CBS1 representing a ~120,000 year old hearth. However, the evidence for CBS1 as a hearth must be definitive and irrefutable for such a substantial claim to be considered credible, given the significant implications that this would have for world history. At this juncture, CBS1 does not meet this high level evidential threshold.

So the evidence exists but as it isn't "irrefutable", for the time being it will not be considered as being the result of human activity.

For those interested on the shell midden deposit dated to 120-125 kya, the full text paper is here.

Lake Eyre Skull Fragment

The book The First Boat People by Steve Webb, Cambridge University Press, 2006, addresses the issue of an early peopling of Australia (you can read it online following the link above).

Webb provides plenty of evidence to back his ideas. I will just mention the skull fragment found at Lake Eyre, (pages 161 to 172) which was dated to an age of 121 - 162 kya via fluorine analysis and to 132 kya by uranium series method.

Webb states that these dates... "strongly suggests it lies well within the last interglacial, probably towards the middle (?80–100 ky). These results are, therefore,taken to indicate that humans were certainly in this region during the lastinterglacial and well before the onset of the last glaciation."

Which is what we mentioned in our post, yesterday. Dates of initial peopling of America could be from the Interglacial. And Webb finds that feasible for Australia too.

Webb summarizes the situation as follows: "Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that humans lived next door to Australia for nearly two million years before they arrived here. The fossil evidenceindicates that they constituted a viable population living at the edge of theinhabited world, in Java and China. Their viability stretches beyond theirfossil remains and into the realm of exploration as they explored beyond Java to Flores Island almost one million years ago, and that required a capability to cross at least two 22 km water gaps. The idea that this was an aberrant group and one that does not count in any assessment of regional human evolution is difficult to accept and, indeed, it does not take into consideration the will and determination of this erstwhile group of humans. Consider, if they made that inter-island crossing so long ago, what would have stopped them from continuing to the end of the archipelago and even further during the next 700 ky? These people or their descendants were the most obvious to be the first Australians, long before the 'advent' of anything called anatomically modern human. Why should we invoke a people from half way round the world to reach here first when this successful population thrived and explored their archipelago only a few hundred kilometres away from our continental shelf or little more than a hundred kilometres away during low sea levels? It isnot possible that this persistent and successful group did not attempt to enter Australia and eventually succeed in doing so. They may have done this out of pure curiosity, probably tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of years before anybody else came anywhere near their new homeland. For me, the question is not did they arrive here, it is when did they arrive here."

I fully agree with Dr. Webb.

The map below shows current continental shores (gray line), the ice age coastline (gray shade), the Homo erectus would have had to cross the same open stretches of water our Homo sapiens ancestors crossed, from Flores Island to Sahul:

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Earliest human presence in America: 24Kya in Alaska

Jacques Cinq-Mars, a Canadian archaeologist studied and dated bones he excavated at the Bluefish Caves in western Canada during the mid and late 1970s. He reported that these bones had scrapes caused by humans and that they were 22-24,000 years old.

Orthodox scientists of those days opposed to his ideas bitterly because they undermined the "Clovis first" theory that proposed a later peopling of America (13 Kya).

Time has proven him right, these bones that show the marks left by humans butchering animals are indeed the earliest evidence of human presence in America.

Horse jaw bone from Bluefish Caves. Marks were done by humans.

These remains are now used to support the current prevailing ideas of a Beringian standstill, but could equally prove that humans were living in America 24,000 years ago, or even earlier.

The fact that humans were scraping horse and bison bones 24,000 years ago does not mean that they were stuck in Beringia for 8,000 years during a "standstill" event. It means that humans were there, period, and may have been there for 15,000 or even 50,000 years before that date.

Read more about it in a paper that revisited Cinq-Mars findings: Bourgeon L, Burke A, Higham T (2017) Earliest Human Presence in North America Dated to the Last Glacial Maximum: New Radiocarbon Dates from Bluefish Caves, Canada. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0169486.

They report: "Our results, therefore, confirm that Bluefish Caves is the oldest known archaeological site in North America" and place its age at: "24,000 cal BP".

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Could Denisovans have reached America 130,000 years ago?

The currently accepted dates for the peopling of America are linked to the end of the Last Ice Age. And there are several reasons for this:

1. Accessibility. Humans coming from Asia (and originating in Africa) had to be able to cross the sea in what is now Bering Strait (the area is called "Beringia"), to do so, the sea level had to be lower than it is now, to allow these people to cross a dry stretch of land into America.

This could only happen during a glacial period, when the vast masses of ice that covered both northern and southern continental areas, accumulated an enormous amount of water and therefore lowered sea levels.

2. Opportunity. But this glacial period had to take place after our Homo sapiens ancestors left Africa, and this is believed to have taken place some 100,000 years ago. So these guys had to trek across Asia to reach America and this would take time... after all, no human remains have been found in eastern Siberia earlier than 50,000 years ago (at Tuyana in the Tunka Rift Valley, Siberia).th

So this means they had to reach Bering Strait area sometime after 50 Kya and cross into America before the glaciers melted (some 15,000 years ago).

This means humans crossed Siberia during the cold ice age period, reached Beringia (which was high and dry), and then entered America before the glaciers melted, engulfing the dry plains of Beringia (now under the cold sea of the North Pacific, Bering Strait and south Artic Sea).

However their entry into America required that the gigantic masses of ice that covered Alaska, Canada and the Rocky mountains, to melt to let them into the southern areas of the North American continent (what is now the US).

This took place some 14,000 years ago. Before then they were stuck in Beringia, which was beginning to flood. Of course they could have also boated down the Pacific coast of Alaska and Canada into the US, or even walked along areas now submerged by the sea, which at that time were dry land.

These are the reasons that scientists adopt the last Ice Age as the date for the earliest peopling of America.

However a similar situation took place at the end of the previous Ice Age, a period known as the Eemian (or Sangamonian Stage), which corresponds to Marine Isotope Stage 5e. It also has other names: last interglacial, Valdivia, Riss-Würm,Kaydaky, Milulin, and Kaydaky periods.

The Eemian began as the Penultimate Glacial Period ended 130,000 years ago. It was followed by a warm spell, which would have let any "humans" into America as the melting ice flooded Beringia. It was followed some 115,000 years ago by the next and final Ice Age.

Humans would have had to be present in Siberia and Beringia 130,000 years ago, but according to current orthodoxy, they were still in Africa at that time.

See the map below: in red is the land that is now submerged below the sea, which was dry during the last ice age. In pale blue, lakes that were formed by glacial dams. A similar geography existed 130,000 years ago.

Ice ages sea levels. Discover Magazine.

Could Denisovans or even Neanderthals have crossed into America along the dry Beringian plains?

Or, Homo erectus do the same, during any of the previous glacial periods...

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 
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