Re: puzzle of the negrito: isolated archaic populations

Philip Deitiker (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 03:02:17 GMT (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>In article <58s45k$>, (Philip Deitiker) writes:

>(A lot of interesting stuff, but in a somewhat difficult, disjointed
>format - I'll try to respond in a coherant manner.)

Hope springs eternal

>|> (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>|> >Aren't the solomon islanders melanesian? Both melanesians and negrito
>|> >have kinky hair, but it seems a bit premature to link them purely on
>|> >that basis.

>|> melanesia can be divided along two lines, the solomon island-like
>|> folks and classical east asains. The solomon island/autralo aboriginal
>|> peoples represent an anceint (diverged) subgroups of widely scattered
>|> people with several characterisitics in common (when comparing them
>|> with other eurasians).

>Melanesia is the archepelago extending from new guinea to the fiji
>islands, so named because it is inhabited by melanesians; they have
>dark skin, kinky to frizzy hair, and slightly negroid features.

Not true, there are also a fair number of recent immigrants which
apparently migrated in from the north. I refer to these as classical
s.e. asians who are of recent southeast and east asian ancestry. These
islands are like salt and pepper. For example, on new guinea one sees
tribes with 'negrito' traits and other tribes which are more
polynesian. Solomon islands are small and fortuitously represent
homogeneity in the endemic population, however, this cannot be assumed

> I think of
>chinese, who are very recent economic immigrants. Your
>characterization of the solomon islanders, including the linkage
>implied by the term "solomon island/australo aboriginal" confuses me;
>can you explain?

Please read the article, it will explain the linkage better than I

>Here is an example of the value of racial terminology: who are the
>"ancient dwellers" you refer to? If you mean the anatomically modern
>immigrants of 40 KY, the term "ancient" seems misplaced. In this
>discussion, they are relative newcomers.

At the time I wrote this I was going by the assumption that h.e. was
not present there, a new find in the region dates h.e. to the same
If you want to call these 42K immigrants peoples negritos you can,
but I warn you that there is an impending difficulty in that many of
the melanesian tribes are very distantly related to one another, and
so lumping them into a group distorts the reality of their heredity
(in the same way lumping africans into 'black' does). Probably the
best way to handle this is to use the regional tag (i.e. solomon
islanders) since this tales into account.

>I'm confused by this also - blond melanesians? blond africans? Which
>remote african peoples have blond hair?

Read the paper, thanx. My 18 mo old interpretations would not do
justice here.

>|> >Also, h. erectus first entered asia about a million years ago. There
>|> >has been a whole lot of evolution going on since. This area of the
>|> >world is one of the places which makes the out-of-africa/genocide
>|> >hypothesis look very questionable.

>|> Maybe, I think it's very doubtful, though, if your making the argument
>|> that way over here there is a group which hasn't been throughly tested
>|> and possibly of non-african origin. There has been no other instance
>|> that supports this belief and there is no set of charactersitcs which
>|> suggest these people have superafrican traits (i.e. traits above and
>|> beyond those represented by the total of other of tested humanity)

>The article on australian settlement in the _cambridge encyclopedia of
>archaeology_ notes the extremely archaic physical features of many
>australians, indicating continuity with the pre-h. sapiens population
>of indonesia. Australian remains show a mixture of populations, with
>an earlier group of late-model h. erectus/archaic h. sapiens
>coexisting with anatomically modern h. sapiens who arrived within the
>last 40 ky. There is direct evidence of hybridization: the current
>residents are intermediate. They are neither as primitive nor as
>modern as the bimodal fossil evidence.

Unfortunately these reports show biases. It really depends on ones
standards. If one goes by the out of africa hypothesis then I think
the correct standard would be a collection of peoples from
northeastern africa (=control). Probably comparing the skulls with
peoples of IE origin is not a smart thing, since they represent an
extreme not a likely concensus point for out-of-african populations.

>|> >There is a
>|> >|> synapsis on this in Science, about a year ago. The gene studies
>|> >|> haven't been done for all, but I beleive three of the populations have
>|> >|> been identified. Ironically, I think the data shows that these peoples
>|> >|> are the most diverged from from current african populations, basically
>|> >|> showing that when it comes to genetic makeup, inheritiance can be
>|> >|> deceiving.

>|> >I'm not sure which populations you refer to - melanesian? negrito?
>|> >papuan? australian? vedda? And which african populations - negro or
>|> >pygmy?

>|> comparing solomon-like folks with classical east asians

Comparing peoples who presumptively moved into the region 42KYA with
those that migrated in later (say within the last few thousand years).

>Again, I don't understand - you stated that 3 populations (from
>melanesia? micronesia? new guinea? australia?) had been compared with
>african populations (negro? pygmy? nilo-sudanic?)

They have been compared with other eurasians.

> and were found to
>have a greater degree of genetic divergance than (presumably) other
>samples around the world - and then you say that solomon islanders
>(presumably melanesian) were compared to "classical east asians" - I'm
>having a hard time following your line of reasoning. I think you
>probably have some interesting things to say, but I'm not sure what
>they are.

No, you want to have a specific attachment to a group. My argument is
that solomon islander or australo aboriginal tag is unimportant. While
these poeples are very distinct they seem (as a group) to share the
same ancient path of origin. The group tag is not as important as the
abstractions associated with this type of divergence. If you wanted me
to tag them I would call them 42K isolated immigrants and these are
compared with later immigrants of east asians. We are thinking along
different lines here, My assumtpion is that eurasions are a gradient
of things representing a group of rather mobile peoples and, while the
extremes show marked differences, the rank and file eurasion has a
probable average divergance time of less than 20-30KYA. This is a
misnomer in the sense that extremes of eurasia might have diverged
>45KYA but then at some later time the populations refused, mixed,
etc. Now you might select scandinavia (or a basque) and then compare
that individual with a native philipino and find >45K difference but
only in this example is one pushing the extreme. On average eurasions
represent (based soley on genes) a relatively homogenous group.
Whereas intercomparing _certain_ melanesian/australo aboriginals (i.e.
dark skinned asians with superficial SSA characterisitcs), there is
good genetic divergence between individual groups. In addition the
CD4-intron paper indicates the western eurasia has more recent genetic
contribution from africa than does east asia.

Thus my interpretation of these findings is that:
-Originally one group of eurasians (90K to 70KYA)
-this group spreads out and begins regional evolution (70KYA to 50KYA)
-a subgroup finds its way to melaneasia and australia (50 to 40KYA)
-the remaining eurasian populations mixes east/west as a result of
climatic variation in the temperate regions. There is input from
africa, minor, and its impact toward east asia is weakens. OTOH
mobility may be resulting in a minor but significant truncation of
eurasian extremes which is slightly offseting the effect of selective
regional evolution.

Now answer the question, which stem should the east asian be placed,
with melanesian or 'gradient eurasion'. My bets are with the eurasian
gang. If one throws out the stem structure and says lets define the
current out-of-africa as a 2D-map of different rate gradients the
solution is very easy. One can plot east asians on the one edge of the
gently sloping eurasion gradient plane, then as one approaches
melanesia one has very sharp gradient fingers (a finger for each
isolate) which protrude from the mainland, intermingle with gently
sloping fingers for recent immigrants. Then the underlying assumptions
of the gradient take into account the original (50-70KYA) group
spreading and also the subsequent mixing.
But in trying to derive a stem structure there is this delimna. True
the melanesians are most closely related to southeast asians
(comparing with europeans and african groups). However, east asians
may not be most closely related to melanesions (this is the
contradiction you picked up on). Also true that africans may have
more incommon with europeans than asians, but again this does not mean
europeans best stem off a recent african trunk. This is the type of
phenomena which result from interpopulation geneflow.

>|> >The polynesian settlements are *very*
>|> >recent, and open-ocean technology is viewed with scepticism anywhere
>|> >beyond 40,000 b.p. or so. Java, on the other hand, had residant
>|> >hominids a million years ago

I think one has to catagorize open ocean technology. Polynesians have
a very active ocean going capacity. While true, one has to consider a
combination of lessor technologies (for trade or food) designed for
inland travel in combination with freak events such as storms or
floods might be sufficient for creating a crossing event. A single
crossing event then can quickly create new events as a result of
placing the original isolate in proximity to new opportunities. This
process repeats itself 3 or 4 times and one has an apparent mass
colonization. Remember we are talking about 42KYA with an acurracy
window of 8KY. This basically means that these people spread over a
relatively small region over a very large period of time and as you
mentioned in concurrance with glacial flux. In addition if one looks
at the technology for boat travel in melanesia, asia, and africa, the
kind of chop tree down, hollow out middle, make paddle seems to imply
a commonality of the technique in AMH. On a good day one might even
find a tree with a naturally sufficient hollow to do the job. The only
thing that the polynesians add to the craft is a post for a sail, and
a lateral sabilizer.
BTW, The technology does not = results. The europeans had (during
PC times) much more advanced craft (than polynesians) without greatly
increasing the operational range. The phoenicians had craft capable of
colonizing the new world. The only difference is that the europeans
had reason to believe that there was something of great benefit out
there. Imagine when the americas might have been settled if everyone
on the earth had a functional map of the world (along with detailing
of resources). A culture can combine a very simple technology with
opportunity and desire or circumstances and accomidation to push a
technology beyond its functional margins.
At some time during the future some third party may look at modern
space flight and argue whether it was real or not. True, we launch men
into space but they need to come back in a week or so, most of the
launch vehicle is lost in take off. In the forty or so years since the
first manned space flight what have humans actually colonized? Now
contrast this with a possible colonization, fragments disrupted by a
meteor hit (i.e. no technology) could have transfered the first living
things to earth. The difference is humans don't see anything worth or
receptive of colonization now, the question of technology is a moot
point. 4 billion years ago, without much competition the earth may
have been a great place for microbes to colonize, it is apparantly not
The point is don't be so rigid in your thinking about ancient
peoples, a particular people (even hominids) might have been within a
circumstance (such as a way of food gathering, etc) that set up
opportunities for new colonization with the meagerest of supporting
technologies. There might have been countless attempts at prior and
subsquent colonizations which failed because of disaster and/or
competition. Under the right set of circumstances they manage to
immigrate and compete in the new enviroment, the actual window of
opportunity may have been brief.

>|> True, but the fossile record dries up after that and I'm not even sure
>|> that there were non-HS hominids in this subequatorial region when the
>|> 75K - 50KY migrants came across.

>The recent javanese findings are very timely, though I'm looking
>forward to seeing the actual article. I'm curious about the
>classification as h. erectus; I suspect that if the dating holds up,
>the finds will eventually be reclassified as archaic h. sapiens.

While I might dispute the dates, I'm not much for the revisionist
trend which many multiregional proporters lean toward. From what I've
heard the remains are comparable to peking man, again I'm looking
forward to seeing the actual publication but I would be satisfied only
if they could show true intermediate form. If not then I think its
another good reason for discounting the multiregional hypothesis.