Sunday, January 27, 2008

123. Music of the Great Tradition -- 23:Old Europe & the Role of Women

Marija Gimbutas' last, and best known, book is entitled The Civilization of the Goddess:The World of Old Europe. In the Preface, Gimbutas writes:

This book examines the way of life, religion, and social structure of the peoples who inhabited Europe from the 7th to the 3rd millennia BC, which I have termed Old Europe, referring to Neolithic Europe before the Indo-Europeans. During this period, our ancestors developed settled agricultural communities, experienced a large growth in population, and developed a rich and sophisticated artistic expression and a complex symbolic system formulated around the worship of the Goddess in her various aspects (vii).
In an interview with David Jay Brown & Rebecca McCLen Novick, Gimbutas speaks of her childhood in Lithuania, a country which, at the time, was, as she says, "still fifty percent pagan." She goes on to explain as follows:
Yes, well Lithuania was Christianized only in the fourteenth century and even then it didn't mean much because it was done by missionaries who didn't understand the language, and the countryside remained pagan for at least two or three centuries. And then came the Jesuits who started to convert people in the sixteenth century. In some areas, up to the nineteenth and twentieth century, there were still beliefs alive in Goddesses and all kinds of beings. So in my childhood I was exposed to many things which were almost prehistoric, I would say. And when I studied archaeology, it was easier for me to grasp what these sculptures mean than for an archaeologist born in New York, who doesn't know anything about the countryside life in Europe.
She goes on to describe the essence of her hypothesis:

[P]roto-Indo-European people came from South Russia to Europe, introduced the Indo-European culture and then European culture was hybridized. It was the old culture mixed with the new elements - the Steppe, pastoral, patriarchal elements. So already at that time, thirty years ago, I sensed that, in Europe there was something else before the Indo-Europeans. . .
The Indo-European social structure is patriarchal, patrilineal and the psyche is warrior. Every God is also a warrior. The three main Indo-European Gods are the God of the Shining Sky, the God of the Underworld and the Thunder God. The female goddesses are just brides, wives or maidens without any power, without any creativity. They're just there, they're beauties, they're Venuses, like the dawn or sun maiden.

So the system from what existed in the matristic culture before the Indo-Europeans in Europe is totally different. I call it matristic, not matriarchal, because matriarchal always arouses ideas of dominance and is compared with the patriarchy. But it was a balanced society, it was not that women were really so powerful that they usurped everything that was masculine. Men were in their rightful position, they were doing their own work, they had their duties and they also had their own power. This is reflected in their symbols where you find not only goddesses but also, Gods. . .

Rebecca: Why did the patriarchal culture choose to dominate?

Marija: This is in the culture itself. They had weapons and they had horses. The horse appeared only with the invaders who began coming from South Russia, and in old Europe there were no weapons - no daggers, no swords. There were just weapons for hunting. Habitations were very different. The invaders were semi-nomadic people and in Europe they were agriculturalists, living in one area for a very long time, mostly in the most beautiful places.

When these warriors arrived, they [i.e., the pre Indo-European farmers -VG] established themselves high in the hills, sometimes in places which had very difficult access. So, in each aspect of culture I see an opposition, and therefore I am of the opinion that this local, old European culture could not develop into a patriarchal, warrior culture because this would be too sudden. We have archaeological evidence that this was a clash. And then of course, who starts to dominate? The ones who have horses, who have weapons, who have small families and who are more mobile. . .

David: Is there any evidence that the takeover was violent and how much did the people try to defend themselves?

Marija: It was violent, but how much they defended themselves is difficult to tell. But they were losers. There was evidence of immigration and escape from these violent happenings and a lot of confusion, a lot of shifts of population. People started to flee to places like islands and forests and hilly areas.

Whether there was literally a "cult of the Goddess" or "language of the Goddess," as Gimbutas claimed, is less important, as I see it, than her insight into the essentially "matristic," egalitarian and pacifist nature of Old European culture, prior to the transformation of Europe by the Indo-Europeans. The Old Europe she describes seems quite close in many ways to the culture of the Pygmies and Bushmen of Africa, as commonly described in both the ethnographic literature and books desiged for the general public, such as Colin Turnbull's The Forest People and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' The Harmless People. And, as I must not fail to point out, both of these peoples, like the Old Europeans, have been preserving age old traditions for thousands of years in marginal areas, surrounded by more highly "developed," and often violent, populations.

When we combine Gimbutas' ideas with certain basic hyphotheses associated with the "Out of Africa" model; plus the musical evidence, as described in Jordania's writings, my "Echoes" essay, and, of course, Lomax's ideas and research, going all the way back to the Fifties; then it's possible to associate her vision of Old Europe with traditions stretching all the way back to the Paleolithic and the earliest migrations of "modern" humans into Europe from Africa, ca 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.


To help us understand how "African" Old Europe may have been, I'm appending two sets of images to this post, the first representing rock art from southeastern Spain, as presented by Gimbutas in her Civilization of the Goddess book (p. 187), the second a selection of four unrelated rock art images from Southern Africa, usually associated with the Bushmen culture of anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of years ago:




49 comments:

Maju said...

For what I have read, Gimbutas' Old Europe is specifically focused in the Balcans, where the post-Sesklo Neolithic was most important.

Maybe it extended to all the, say, classical Neolithic areas too (Danubian and Mediterranean) but I find it somewhat difficult to include the Atlantic region, independent from either of these. Though maybe it was too, it's not like you find any goddess icon as far west (though it's also true that Basque mythology would fit in it more or less).

Also Gimbutas, most of whose analysis I think is pretty good anyhow, probably exaggerates when claiming that Neolithic peoples were not warlike. Certainly some of them were and that has little to do with Patriarchy (Iroquois were matrifocal and very bellicose, for instance). The Danubians of the Rhin area for instance buried their dead with weapons and there are findings that strongly suggest war and violence in other cases, even before the Indoeuropeans crossed the Volga.

...

The "African" artistic link (not sure what you mean) may be original from North Africa anyhow. Though it might be convergent evolution as well, as I find difficult to imagine how the artistic traditions of the Sahara and Iberia arrived to the Kalahari.

Anyhow it may not be a good example of Gimbutas' Old Europe. The traditions of the West were very different from those of the East. For example, while Balcanic and Danubian peoples buried their dead individually in foetal position, Westerners used standard supine position and their burials tended to be "collective" (clannic). While Gimbutas' Old Europeans of the Balcans had a religion apparently focused in icons of some sort of godess, Western European main religion appears to have been Megalithism, more obviously focused in ancestor veneration and probably astronomy.

Oversimplifying pre-IE Europe into a single cultural bloc is essentially wrong. There were at least two major regions (Balcano-Danubian and Atlantic) and many other smaller ones, plus the obvious intermediate areas and the many subdivisions and overlapping cultures. For example, much of the old Balcans (Thessaly, Macedonia, Serbia) was apparently conquered by an early invasion (of possible Anatolian origin) 1500 years before the Indoeuropeans began their raids. It is then when we begin seeing male icons (gods?), even if the female ones persist.

Victor said...

I think it's safe to regard all of Europe prior to the Indoeuropean migration as "Old Europe" in the sense intended by Gimbutas, though you are certainly correct regarding important differences between East and West. These differences show up in the music as well -- except for what appears to be the oldest layer, that which seems (to me) most closely related to P/B.

It's difficult to assess the meaning of the Spanish cave paintings. They may possibly have arrived in Spain via North Africa, yes. But it's also possible that they could represent a remnant from the earliest wave of "modern" human settlers, who, according to the genetic evidence, would have first entered Europe via the Caucasus, 50,000 to 40,000 years ago. The musical evidence is IMO much easier to interpret in this regard than the pictorial evidence, because the links with "Old Africa" are much clearer and more difficult to explain away -- thanks to the abundance of musical evidence as opposed to the sparsity of archaeological evidence.

"Oversimplifying pre-IE Europe into a single cultural bloc is essentially wrong." (etc.)

The complexities you mention are certainly real, but they appear to represent a later stage than the one that most interests me. If the geneticists are right, and Europe was populated ca 50,000 ya by a single group of modern humans "Out of Africa," then this group would have had an African culture and that culture would represent the oldest bloc of "modern" human culture in Europe for sure. So any manifestations of Africa culture we now find -- especially in the sort of "refuge" areas and among the sort of traditional peoples where we would expect to find such practices -- should be taken very seriously as possible survivals from the earliest stage -- why not?

All the evidence points to "modern" humans inhabiting many parts of Europe, both East and West, during the Paleolithic. And if they originated in Africa, then it makes sense to see them as "a single cultural bloc," no? The musical remnants I think I am finding from this very early stage are not identical in all parts of Europe, but they do seem to constitute a single musical style family. But it's only when one is familiar with all the other style families in the world that the special nature of these survivals becomes evident.

The various regions and time periods you mention refer to much later historical periods than the very early period I've been referring to, which would be well into the Upper Paleolithic at least. There are other musical differences that probably stem from these later periods, especially differences we find between the type of intervals favored: fifths and fourths in the East and thirds and sixths in the west. Also the much greater importance of drone polyphony in the East than in the West.

Maju said...

I think it's safe to regard all of Europe prior to the Indoeuropean migration as "Old Europe" in the sense intended by Gimbutas, though you are certainly correct regarding important differences between East and West. These differences show up in the music as well -- except for what appears to be the oldest layer, that which seems (to me) most closely related to P/B.

Reading to you now I certainly would wish to be more knowledgeable about music than I actually am. I probably should not but still I am amazed that you can notice those differences. I'm (sanely) envious of your ability to percieve all that.

It's difficult to assess the meaning of the Spanish cave paintings. They may possibly have arrived in Spain via North Africa, yes. But it's also possible that they could represent a remnant from the earliest wave of "modern" human settlers, who, according to the genetic evidence, would have first entered Europe via the Caucasus, 50,000 to 40,000 years ago.

West Asia, maybe Central Asia too. The Caucasus has not been too much researched genetically but anyhow, for what it has been, it doesn't seem to show any particular connection either. It is a refuge area though, so it's likely that cultural traits once more extended in Eastern Europe or West Asia have survived in the Caucasus for longer.

The case with the southern Iberian cave paintings from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic (there's some doubt about their exact datation, some could be even Iron Age - tough these are also the more abstract and distinct from African style) is that they follow a period of "iconoclastia" (Epipaleolithic) and that they show few if any direct relation to the previous Paleolithic art, much more naturalistic and almost exclusively focused on animals. The Neolithic art is instead stylized and strongly focused on humans and their activities.

Also it is very likely that Iberian Neolithic (specially that of Andalusia) had its earliest origins in North Africa. Though more research is needed Andalusian Neolithic (La Almagra Pottery) is older than the typical Mediterranean one (Cardium Pottery) and shows no prior connections in Europe or West Asia. Only poorly studied North Africa is left as possible origin, as the evidence is quite clear against an independent developement. Also there is a rather evident genetic influence from North Africa in Southern Spain and Portugal that could well belong to that period.

The complexities you mention are certainly real, but they appear to represent a later stage than the one that most interests me. If the geneticists are right, and Europe was populated ca 50,000 ya by a single group of modern humans "Out of Africa," then this group would have had an African culture and that culture would represent the oldest bloc of "modern" human culture in Europe for sure.

I must correct you in that: the OOA event, as per all the available evidence, headed to Asia, not Europe. European ancestors arrived (mostly) from West Asia, after having stopped for some time in South Asia most probably.

It is even possible that North Africa was (at least partly) colonized from Spain, though this is my own understanding of raw data that the publishing academic (Maca-Mayer) thought as being the inverse (Spain partly colonized from North Africa with an East african source derived from west Asia). I find that the raw data doesn't say that: even Maca-Meyer herself admits that the highest diversity of mtDNA haplogroup U6 is in Iberia (though it's extremely rare elsewhere in Europe). IMO it's an Aurignacian founder effect that affected only Iberia and then spread to Africa, along with other haplos (H, V, possibly K too) common in Europe, with the Oranian (Iberomaurusian) culture.

A clear direct African influence in Iberia (and Europe) is only visible after the Paleolithic (some claim that haplogroup E in Greece is Epipaleolithic - but I'd take Neolithic anyhow).

Why do you think that the P/B layer is so old in Europe? Can't it be Neolithic?

I think that African influence in Neolithic (or at least its Mesolithic prelude) has been largely oversighted, mostly because of the peculiar difficulties of archaelogical work in that region (both geographical and political) but also due to some Eurocentric bias. This influence would have separately affected the East and the West. The East via the Levantine and Greek Neolithic and the West via the Andalusian Neolithic and its indirect offshot: Megalithism (that apparently was born in Southern Portugal just two centuries after Neolithic spread to the region, in the fifth milennium BCE).

Instead I am pretty sure that your interpretation of a Paleolithic colonization directly originated in Africa is erroneous. You have misunderstood the process: it is Africa > India > West Asia > Europe, not Africa > Europe. Not at all.

This doesn't mean that, maybe, the Western branch of Eurasians, the one that headed to West Asia and Europe could not have kept some ancient cultural traits that the Eastern branch lost. It is another possibility, of course.

Victor said...

Thanks so much for your excellent comments, Maju, which are knowledgeable and make a lot of sense. These are just the sort of issues that will need to be hashed out in future as more and more evidence becomes available -- genetic, linguistic, archaeological and of course musical.

Our differences are due primarily, I believe, to our seeing things from somewhat different viewpoints. As someone who's been following the archaeological evidence, you tend to approach everything in terms of traditional archaeological classifications largely within Europe, which is only natural. But these are based on very sparse and incomplete data sets and just about every interpretation inevitably becomes the source of huge controversies.

But I'm looking at a much larger picture, based on the musical patterns I see worldwide. And my focus is on the oldest relationships, based on evidence of Paleolithic survivals, which for me are the simplest and easiest to understand. Once we reach the Neolithic things become much more complicated. But for archaeologists that's when things get really interesting, because that's where most of the evidence is.

It's understandable that you're not that knowledgeable about the music. I'm not that knowledgeable about the archaeology. Which is why it's important for the various specialists to be open to one another's ideas and work together.

My problem is that archaeology is a well established field while comparative musicology has been all but abandoned by ethnomusicologists. Which means that I am more or less alone in this field at present. Jordania is one of the few who is also pursuing this type of research, but I seem to be the only one seriously following the African-European connection.

Steven Oppenheimer emphasises the Caucasus as staging ground for one of the earliest migrations of homo sapiens to Europe. My ideas are heavily influenced by his since they make so much sense to me in terms of the musical evidence.

The meaning of the cave paintings in Spain is very difficult to assess and you are right, there is a strong possibility of a direct connection from N. Africa. This is not my area of expertize, so I don't want to get too far into this issue, but I do hope that at some point someone will undertake broad comparative studies of all the cave and rock paintings in the world, because there does seem to be evidence of some very old survivals in widely disparate places. For example there are certain images from Australia that appear to have much in common with both the Iberian and San images.

There is of course an important difference between the dating of a physical artefact and the dating of the origin of its style as a tradition, which could be much older. The latter can be assessed only by systematic comparative study on a worldwide basis. The great strength of Cantometrics is that was designed to do exactly this. And I wonder how many comparable data sets exist in the field of archaeology. Do you know of any with such a worldwide scope?

"I must correct you in that: the OOA event, as per all the available evidence, headed to Asia, not Europe. European ancestors arrived (mostly) from West Asia, after having stopped for some time in South Asia most probably."

You are absolutely right. And if it weren't for the musical evidence, there might be no reason to believe that African traditions had not been supplanted by later developments among the founding migrants in all that time. But as I see it, the musical evidence is very strong and cannot be ignored, especially when we assess the distribution of P/B related styles and practices in Europe, as discussed on this blog. There are other practices as well that in the past have been dismissed as coincidence or independent invention but that must now be reassessed. This is something folkorists are in a better postion to deal with than archaeologists, in my opinion. This is a phenomenon noted by Gimbutas herself, though I doubt that she fully explored the folkloristic aspect.

Victor said...

"This doesn't mean that, maybe, the Western branch of Eurasians, the one that headed to West Asia and Europe could not have kept some ancient cultural traits that the Eastern branch lost. It is another possibility, of course."

Here you raise an issue of the greatest interest, which could have truly profound implications for the study of "deep history." There is a very strong contrast between the musical traditions of "Old Europe" and "Old Asia" which could be a useful clue in our attempts to reconstruct the earliest history of the Out of Africa colonies and their culture.

We have to remember that the migrants are thought to have been following the Indian Ocean coast during the earliest phase and it's not difficult to assume that they would have left various colonies along the way. According to Oppenheimer, there is strong evidence that these colonies must have suffered some sort of disaster at some point, a disaster that could have led to various population bottlenecks which in turn would explain much of the differentiation we now see among the world's populations, both physicallly and culturally.

Oppenheimer suggests the Toba eruption as the most likely candidate, but a major Tsunami centered directly south of India could have had a very similar effect, since most the colonies would have had a coastal lifestyle.

If we look at the musical evidence we see many signs of an "African signature" in both Europe and what could be called "greater Southeast Asia" (including the island regions, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Melanesia, etc.). But there is little sign of this signature anywhere between. As I see it this strongly reinforces Oppenheimer's conjecture.

If the earliest proto-Europeans had been based far enough to the west, they might not have felt the full effects of Toba -- and if they had made their way inland, perhaps following the coast of the Indus River, they would have been spared the effects of an Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Similarly, we find survivals of many African cultural practices, not only music -- and also African phenotypes -- to the EAST of Toba, i.e. in exactly the region that would have been spared (since the prevailing winds were westerly). And if the ancestors of these groups had made it to the Pacific coast prior to a possible Indian Ocean Tsunami, they would have been spared its effects as well.

In the light of such a hypothesis it's possible to imagine a group based somewhere in west Asia that could have been spared the effects of the disaster and retained its original culture. Such a group could have made its way to Europe and spread aspects of African culture througout that continent in a series of very early migrations.

There are reports that some of the earliest homo sapien remains found in Europe have been described as consistent with a tropical physiognomy, implying that they could have looked more "African" than "European." And as I said, there are many clues from both the music and the folklore that African traditions could have survived from a very early date.

Maju said...

You raise a lot of issues, so I will try to focus my replies, just not to be too long. It may sound critical but that's mostly because I'm obviating what we agree on.

Steven Oppenheimer emphasises the Caucasus as staging ground for one of the earliest migrations of homo sapiens to Europe.

Just an opinion. Oppenheimer, that has his merits, has been criticized too. It's not "God" speaking, if you know what I mean.

And from an archaeological viewpoint the Caucasus hypothesis has no merit. Nor it does from a genetical viewpoint either. The Caucasus is a high mountain area and therefore not a good dwelling region in the Ice Age. The region was anyhow apparently re-colonized in the LUP from Eastern Europe in a movement that reached parts of West Asia too. Genetically too the Caucasus can be largely ignored (not fully of course) as reference area.

This is something folkorists are in a better postion to deal with than archaeologists, in my opinion.

Of course. But any strong conclussion must be interdisciplinary. Not long ago I was arguing with a researcher of kinship that argued based solely on that that humankind should be original from America, not Africa. such position is just untenable against the evidence of both arahceology and archeaogenetics.

I'd strongly suggest you not to fall in that "culturalist" trap. Culture is always more flexible than bones and genes. You should try to see how they can fit, not to frontally challenge the archaeological and genetic evidence based only on cultural elements.

Oppenheimer suggests the Toba eruption as the most likely candidate, but a major Tsunami centered directly south of India could have had a very similar effect, since most the colonies would have had a coastal lifestyle.

Well, the Toba caldera explosion surely caused major tsunamis but remember that the Andamense had no major problem keeping themselves safe from the 2004 tsunami, because they are hunter-gatherers and noticed the panic among wild animals (probably).

There is anyhow archaeological research that strongly suggests Pleolithic continuity in India (inland India certainly) before and after the Toba catastrophe ash layers. I would think that Toba did cause some sort of bottleneck (plus other long-term effects of climatic range) but mostly because of the darkening of atmosphere and overall destruction of vegetal and animal life.

If we look at the musical evidence we see many signs of an "African signature" in both Europe and what could be called "greater Southeast Asia" (including the island regions, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Melanesia, etc.). But there is little sign of this signature anywhere between. As I see it this strongly reinforces Oppenheimer's conjecture.

There are other possibilities. Specially independent loss of cultural traits by different peoples in different circumstances. The presence of the B/P signature in SE Asia does suggest that it's not a "recent" arrival (I accept that) but suggests inedepndent loss of this trait on "random" factors that we are surely unable to judge.

If the earliest proto-Europeans had been based far enough to the west, they might not have felt the full effects of Toba -- and if they had made their way inland, perhaps following the coast of the Indus River, they would have been spared the effects of an Indian Ocean Tsunami.

In general genetics find greater high level diversity for South Asians over all other Eurasians and for East Asians and Australians/Papuans after them. The selective bottleneck hypothesis for Eastern Eurasians does not stand, sorry.

Actually West Eurasians have a more narrow top-level diversity than other groups maybe, probably suggesting a smaller founder population. This may deal with climatic difficulties in West Asia (extreme aridity), Neanderthal expansion after Toba or just a historical accident whose details we are unable to discern.

Similarly, we find survivals of many African cultural practices, not only music -- and also African phenotypes -- to the EAST of Toba, i.e. in exactly the region that would have been spared (since the prevailing winds were westerly).

"African phenotypes" in Melanesia are not such. The peoples living there tend to be brachicephalic, what is very non-African. Though I could agree to some types of "biological conservatism" because of similar Tropical conditions don't require much innovation.

They may be black with thinly curled hair but often, when looked carefully, they look very non-African too.

There are reports that some of the earliest homo sapien remains found in Europe have been described as consistent with a tropical physiognomy, implying that they could have looked more "African" than "European."

I would not go that far certainly. Different authors have tentaively classified ancient remains in very different ways. Certainly Europeans tend to be rather dolicocephalic (actually mesocephalic) for the average of Eurasians but most archaic Eurasian remains are that also, both in Europe as in East Asia. They tend to look vaguely "Australoid" (meaning surely just archaic) rather than "Africanoid" but occasionally also comparisons with modern "Mongoloid" and certainly "Caucasoid" types has been done.

Elements like marked cheeks or broad jaw tend to be simplistically assimilated with the Mongoloid type, others like dolicocephaly or prognathism with Negroid and overall archaic features with Autraloids. But I think they are just once widespread archaisms and nothing more.

...

In general I think that your research has merit on its own but I would be cautious about outlining hypothesis. Most likely the out-of-India expansion did not happen until some time after Toba and tsunamis alone cannot explain anything. I'd rather bow to randomized loss of cultural traits in the different areas because of local factors that we just cannot determine.

Victor said...

"Just an opinion. Oppenheimer, that has his merits, has been criticized too. It's not "God" speaking, if you know what I mean."

No, it's more than an opinion. Oppenheimer's book is heavily referenced and up to date (for 2003). His ideas regarding the Caucasus are based on research by Villems and Kivisild: "The Estonian work has suggested that the region around the Caucasus Mountains . . . was the Paleolithic genetic starting point for several important early European migrant maternal clans, of which the most important was HV" (p. 145 of the American paperback edition).

"Not long ago I was arguing with a researcher of kinship that argued based solely on that that humankind should be original from America, not Africa. such position is just untenable against the evidence of both arahceology and archeaogenetics. I'd strongly suggest you not to fall in that "culturalist" trap."

I know who you mean. I argued with him too. And I'm well aware of the many traps awaiting anyone falling in love with his own "bright idea." I call it the "lightbulb over the head" syndrome.

But the hypotheses I'm developing do not fly in the face of either the archeological or genetic evidence. In fact they fit this evidence quite well, as should be clear from my discussions of both Gimbutas and the population genetic data. In fact my theories are based on what appears to be an especially strong concordance between the musical and genetic evidence.

The bottom line on all this, for me, is the development of testable hypotheses as the ultimate goal, rather than the revelation of some ultimate truth. What most excites me about the musical evidence is that it can lead us to very specific hypotheses suggesting the possibility of genetic relationships that can be tested.

Petraglia's research on Toba was IMO misinterpreted by the media, resulting in headlines and stories that were seriously misleading. Yes, it looks like humans survived Toba, but we're talking about an 8 foot thick layer of volcanic ash, which would certainly have precipitated a huge disaster on all creatures living in this region, as you recognize. So yes, I agree, there must have been a bottleneck and a bottleneck is what Oppenheimer was talking about, not total extinction of the human race. (A bottleneck appears for the Tiger lineage in roughly the same time frame.)

The most important Toba news was treated like an afterthought in the media. Because according to Petraglia the tools he found were consistent with those of African homo sapiens of the same period, not homo erectus or Neanderthal. If confirmed, this would be the first hard evidence that modern humans were in this region at that time.

As for the presence of P/B in European and Greater SE Asian enclaves and its absence in between, this represents an enormous gap that couldn't possibly be due to random events. Not only the absence of P/B but the absence of any type of vocal polyphony in vast stretches of Asia, from the Near East through virtually all of non-tribal India, Central Asia (except for the Kalash & also the Tibetan example I referenced in the blog), Mongolia and Han China. Such a huge and consistent gap could only be due to events that took place very early in the history of the Out of Africa diaspora. Unless you can think of some other explantion.

As for "greater high level diversity for southern Asians," there are varying opinions on the significance of such findings. What just about everyone agrees on is that the evidence for "modern" humans in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia is much older than anything found to date in south Asia. Also the genetic links between Africa and certain aboriginal SE Asian groups appear to be stronger than anything in between, at least according to research by MacCaulley et al. (on which Oppenheimer participated, incidentally).

I realize that different researchers vary in their assessment of the "greater SE Asian" relationshiop to Africa, but this is probably due to the relatively sparse and much too broadly defined samplings. It's not enough to reference samples from "New Guinea," "Island Melanesia," etc., or even "Malaita" or "Bouganville," because this region contains such highly diversified groups. The musical research can pinpoint very specific groups that appear to share very similar musical traditions. Such musical "clues" can help geneticists to more narrowly focus their research.

As for falling back on "randomized loss of culture traits" that's a lazy way to proceed as I see it. One can explain almost anything away on that basis. If a clear pattern exists, I think it's always better to begin with the assumption that it's meaningful and try to devise very specific hypotheses on such a basis, hypotheses that can be tested.

Maju said...

No, it's more than an opinion. Oppenheimer's book is heavily referenced and up to date (for 2003). His ideas regarding the Caucasus are based on research by Villems and Kivisild: "The Estonian work has suggested that the region around the Caucasus Mountains . . . was the Paleolithic genetic starting point for several important early European migrant maternal clans, of which the most important was HV" (p. 145 of the American paperback edition).

I haven't read him but I'd say it's more like West Asia. The Caucasus may well be a refuge area in many senses of what was highlands West Asia in post-Paleolithic times. But the Caucasus itself doesn't seem a particular dispersal (neither from the arhchaeological nor the genetic view). It's more like Anatolia, Iran, maybe Palestine or Central Asia. At least as far as I know.

I think you are seeing the remnants of a once more widespread phenomenon, not its origin, there.

I haven't read him but I've read many research papers by now, including some by Kivisild. For example the dominant haplogroup among North Caucasians is J and this clade is relatively new in Europe (Neolithic). All archaeological and genetic data I know seems to point to West Asia, Anatolia possibly, but not the Caucasus. Anatolia is way too logical anyhow once you exlcude the steppary route (very weak archaeologically before the Neolithic). Anatolia and the Balcans may not be the ultimate origins but in any case they have been the passage of all Paleolithic colonizations of Europe.

I call it the "lightbulb over the head" syndrome.

That's a very good and funny name. Thanks for a good laugh. And glad that you are aware of it. I'll try to stay aware of that too myself.

But the hypotheses I'm developing do not fly in the face of either the archeological or genetic evidence.

I think some of your conclussions appear to. Not in the extreme way of Dziebel, not at all. But they don't seem to fit well with the "state of the art" of Paleolithic knowledge, IMO.

Petraglia's research on Toba was IMO misinterpreted by the media, resulting in headlines and stories that were seriously misleading. Yes, it looks like humans survived Toba, but we're talking about an 8 foot thick layer of volcanic ash, which would certainly have precipitated a huge disaster on all creatures living in this region, as you recognize.

I can assure you that I didn't read it in the media (I was not even aware of any media hype about it). I was already very interested in South Asian Paleolithic and this struck me as meaningful (one of my "lightbulbs" is an earlier than Toba OOA migration, maybe much earlier).

But I agree that, if H. sapiens was in Asia already at the time of Toba (and I suspect it was the case, though the mainstream paradigm so far is that it was not) it must have suffered dramatically for some time (bottleneck) but also resulted in the diversification of Eurasians (incl. Australians and Native Americans) that we see now (roughly).

But I also think that such diversification happened in South Asia or at most in he regions immediately around. You can't explain the spread and diversity of Y-DNA F or K or mtDNA R, among other clades without concluding in a likely South Asian urheimat. Other clades are maybe more ambiguous but Europe is basically made up of those haplogroups (and you also have to explain how some of these clades are present in both West Eurasia and Australia, for instance). You need South Asia to explain all that "original" time.

Now if you consider that South Asia is really big (almost as much as Europe) and diverse, that it could well have supported a plurality of different groups (clans, tribes, ethnicities), maybe you can fit better those connections. You mentioned that some Indian tribes partcipate of P/B tradition and polyphony, maybe they can give a clue. I am personally interested in knowing their ethnic names, so I can research them a little. They may well be a mising link of sorts.

I guess that you are more auditive than visual but I'm clearly more visual and I would first of all get a blank map of Eurasia and mark clearly the areas where such traditions exist. Then I would meditate on that map for a while. Whatever the case, both tribal Indians and Paleosiberians sound intriguing and as possible missing links, specially if you think that they may have been more widespread in other times.

What just about everyone agrees on is that the evidence for "modern" humans in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia is much older than anything found to date in south Asia.

If you mean skeletal remains, that is the case. But there is such an incredible lack of Paleolithic human (or even hominin) remains in South Asia that is somehow only normal.

But instead we have many tools and some show signs of modernity very early. The first stone blades (AFAIK) are not proto-Aurignacian, nor belong to some Neanderthal group of Palestine, they are from South Asia c. 103,000 BP. There's difference of techs though and it would seem that the branch that migrated to the East prefered other way to do things.

In any case is hard to believe that humans bypassed South Asia, also for genetic reasons and common geographical sense. If you want to walk or row from Iran to Burma... you must pass by South Asia. And I don't think Paleolithic humans had capability for long distance sea travel.

As for falling back on "randomized loss of culture traits" that's a lazy way to proceed as I see it.

Maybe. I see it more like caution. We only have so much info of the past and even if we can increase it a lot, it will never be like a time-machine. The ideal thing would be to become a Marco Polo with a time machine (and a videocamera to document all maybe) but...

But I agree that more definition is possible (with more archaeological work specially).

If a clear pattern exists, I think it's always better to begin with the assumption that it's meaningful and try to devise very specific hypotheses on such a basis, hypotheses that can be tested.

I fully agree with that. But loss of tradition for factors that we are not able to recognize can happen too. Individuals matter: individuals make decissions all the time - and some affect the way that culture is perpetuated (or alteres). The cummulative effect of those individual and groupal decissions can only be percieved as random by us.

But, yes, let's see if some good hypothesis emerge anyhow. Go for it.

Victor said...

"I think some of your conclussions appear to. Not in the extreme way of Dziebel, not at all. But they don't seem to fit well with the "state of the art" of Paleolithic knowledge, IMO."

Could you be more specific? Which hypotheses of mine don't appear to fit? The status of the Caucasus as either a corridor or simply a refuge area doesn't matter all that much as far as my theories are concerned.

The idea of "Old Europe" refuge areas seems consistent with Gimbutas -- and she references both Western and Eastern Europe in her "Civilization of the Goddess."

The African connection is a logical corrolary of the "Out of Africa" model, which you appear to accept. Gimbutas never made that connection, nor have most archaeologists -- yet. But Gimbutas never knew about "Out of Africa" and most archaeologists are currently trying to avoid dealing with it, apparently.

If patently "African" artefacts haven't yet been found in Paeleolithic Europe, that doesn't mean all the African traditions simply died out between ca 80,000 and ca 50,000 years ago. It could simply mean that archaeologists haven't seen them because they weren't looking for them. A case in point is the presence of bird bone pipes in certain Paleolithic sites, which suggests the survival of characteristically African "hocketed" pipe ensembles. And since very similar pipe ensembles -- and trumpet ensembles as well -- are found in typically "Old European" refuge areas, then why not think in terms of the survival of African traditions? How does such an idea conflict with the mainstream archaeology of Europe?


As far as the genetic evidence in Europe is concerned, it's generally agreed that European haplotypes are subsets of African ones, no? And as far as the special status of "Old Europe" the genetic evidence is not yet in. Most studies are still at the "Greece" vs. "Italy" vs. "France" level. Which is why I keep insisting that the musical evidence is important, since it could lead us to very interesting populations that wouldn't ordinarily be tested.

"But I also think that such diversification happened in South Asia or at most in he regions immediately around."

Well this is Oppenheimer's view as well, so I'm puzzled as to why you have a problem with that. No one is claiming that the OOA migrants simply sailed past India leaving no colonies there. The theory is that they suffered a serious population bottleneck as the result of a major disaster -- and Toba seems to be the best candidate. After the bottleneck there would have been an expansion that would explain the high degree of (relative) diversity in southern India. After all, 74,000 years is a very long time for diversity to regenerate after a bottleneck, no?

"and you also have to explain how some of these clades are present in both West Eurasia and Australia, for instance"

Is that really the case? Very interesting. How would YOU explain it?

Victor said...

One more response to your last post, maju:

"You mentioned that some Indian tribes partcipate of P/B tradition and polyphony, maybe they can give a clue."

No. There appears to be little to no trace of the "African signature" (i.e., P/B) anywhere in southern Asia. But certain tribal groups in that region do sing polyphonically, though in a far simpler manner.

You are right about the desirability of a map. I've already proposed to Jordania that we work together to produce an Atlas in the form of a series of maps identifying the various types of polyphony to be found in all parts of the world. But that would be a major undertaking ---something I wouldn't even attempt without funding from either a foundation or publisher.

Maju said...

Could you be more specific? Which hypotheses of mine don't appear to fit? The status of the Caucasus as either a corridor or simply a refuge area doesn't matter all that much as far as my theories are concerned.

I also agree that he Caucasus issue seems less of a problem.

What I meant was estabilishing a connection between Europe and SE Asia that exclude the rest. That is odd, it needs an explanation. Surely the apparent musical connection exists (I trust you on that) but how was that connection forged (or kept) is what seems to be the weakest spot of your theory as far as I can tell.

There is no particular correlation between the two regions that could exclude the rest of Eurasia so completely. I cannot think of any. That's why I asked about the Indian tribes.

When you draw a map (you do with words so far) connecting some of the most archaic groups of Africa (P/B), Europe and SE Asia, while excluding all what is in between, it just seems to make no sense. There must be a way that it makes sense but, of course, I have no idea of which one so far.

But Gimbutas never knew about "Out of Africa" and most archaeologists are currently trying to avoid dealing with it, apparently.

What do you mean with that? OOA is mainstream now. Anyone who would like to challenge it seems like would have to overcome a true fortress of empirical data. Only the details may be arguable, I think.

If patently "African" artefacts haven't yet been found in Paeleolithic Europe, that doesn't mean all the African traditions simply died out between ca 80,000 and ca 50,000 years ago. It could simply mean that archaeologists haven't seen them because they weren't looking for them.

I think it's quite clear that there is one or two transitions befoe reaching Europe. It is out-of-Africa but via South Asia (or something much like that). They do see continuity between South Asia and Africa (and genetics does too) but when arriving to Europe, people and their culture had already gone not just by South Asia but also through West/Central Asia, where the transition to the early European Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian specially) is visible (even if there is some discussion on the details).

A case in point is the presence of bird bone pipes in certain Paleolithic sites, which suggests the survival of characteristically African "hocketed" pipe ensembles. And since very similar pipe ensembles -- and trumpet ensembles as well -- are found in typically "Old European" refuge areas, then why not think in terms of the survival of African traditions? How does such an idea conflict with the mainstream archaeology of Europe?

I didn't know about that connection. Sounds interesting. I was totally unaware of wind instruments in Africa, specially in the Paleolithic.

What is odd is that no intermediate elements seem to be there anymore. I can somhow re-connect Africa and Europe (hard but possible, I guess). But why SE Asia and not India or any other intermediate spot?

As far as the genetic evidence in Europe is concerned, it's generally agreed that European haplotypes are subsets of African ones, no?

They are but only indirectly. For example, the typical European mtDNA haplogroup H would have this genealogy:

1. African L clades (they have their own complex tree rooted at "Mitochondrial Eve")
2. L3 - Africa
3. N - Southern Eurasia (exact location unclear but South Asia is a candidate)
4. R - South Asia (almost for sure)
5. R0 - West Asia
6. HV - West Asia
7. H - West Asia or Europe

The pattern is the same or almost for all clades, both in mtDNA and Y-DNA.

And as far as the special status of "Old Europe" the genetic evidence is not yet in.

Not sure what you mean here. But probably it was not very different from the modern situation anyhow, just that some eastern clades, specially Y-DNA, have advanced to the west with the succesive IE migrations.

Well this is Oppenheimer's view as well, so I'm puzzled as to why you have a problem with that. No one is claiming that the OOA migrants simply sailed past India leaving no colonies there. The theory is that they suffered a serious population bottleneck as the result of a major disaster -- and Toba seems to be the best candidate. After the bottleneck there would have been an expansion that would explain the high degree of (relative) diversity in southern India. After all, 74,000 years is a very long time for diversity to regenerate after a bottleneck, no?

Hmmm. You are suggesting this:

1. Expansion from South Asia
2. Contraction in South Asia (only or mostly) - Toba event
3. Expansion within South Asia (only)

Right?

But what we see is just (or mostly) expansion from South Asia. I have to think about this (as it's a new idea for me) but that's my impression.

It may be somewhat more complex anyhow, so I will reserve my opinion.

"and you also have to explain how some of these clades are present in both West Eurasia and Australia, for instance"

Is that really the case? Very interesting. How would YOU explain it?


Yes. Look at my series of maps:
http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/search/label/genetics (scroll down, ignoring the first four posts and you'll find them).

All three mtDNA macrohaplogroups (M, N and R) and even some of their subclades are found both east and west of South Asia, not just Australia and West Eurasia are affected, also SE and East Asia. That is also true for many Y-DNA haplogroups, specially those derived from F and K.

I highlight the West Eurasia-Australia connections because they really seem to require going through South and SE Asia (in either direction, or rather from these as core area). East Asia-West Eurasia only connections, specially when South Asia is not involved could have gone through Central Asia or Siberia (and there are some but they show a clearly different pattern and are placed at lower levels of the genealogical tree).

How would I explain them? The easiest explanation (and maybe the only possible one) is a spread from South Asia.

here appears to be little to no trace of the "African signature" (i.e., P/B) anywhere in southern Asia. But certain tribal groups in that region do sing polyphonically, though in a far simpler manner.

Ok. Guess that not good enough. :-(

You are right about the desirability of a map. I've already proposed to Jordania that we work together to produce an Atlas in the form of a series of maps identifying the various types of polyphony to be found in all parts of the world. But that would be a major undertaking ---something I wouldn't even attempt without funding from either a foundation or publisher.

I was thinking in a draft map of just the most significative stuff, like the P/B signature. Just as working notes, not for publishing.

Victor said...

"What I meant was estabilishing a connection between Europe and SE Asia that exclude the rest. That is odd, it needs an explanation. Surely the apparent musical connection exists (I trust you on that) but how was that connection forged (or kept) is what seems to be the weakest spot of your theory as far as I can tell."

This gap is indeed an extremely vexing puzzle, you are absolutely right on that score. But it presents a serious problem for ANYONE attempting to re-create the earliest migrations of modern humans on the basis of ALL the relevant evidence. I don't see it as a weak spot in "my theory," because the gap is not so much a part of my theory as a mystery presented by the (musical) evidence itself. And the (admittedly hypothetical) explanation I present isn't really MY theory but a theory derived from the genetic evidence plus the historical evidence (Toba) by Oppenheimer. What I've been able to show is that the musical evidence appears to be consistent with Oppenheimer's interpretation and that, in turn, his interpretation works very well as an explanation of the musical evidence. If his interpretation is ultimately rejected, then the gap would nevertheless remain and would still have to be accounted for.

Prior to the advent of the Out of Africa theory and all the genetic research associated with it, most comparative musicologists simply shrugged their shoulders and attributed all such remote connections to "independent invention." If you look at any serious study of the distribution of the panpipe you'll find that sort of "explanation" offered as the only one possible. And prior to the "Out of Africa" model that did indeed seem to be the only possible recourse.

But "Out of Africa" forces us to accept a completely different paradigm than before. Suddenly everything appears in a new light. When we find anything anywhere in the world that reflects highly distinctive practices characteristic of Africa, then it's impossible not to seriously consider the possibility that we are dealing with an African survival. It's not enough anymore to simply shrug it off as a result of random "cultural drift" or independent invention, the possible African connections must be taken seriously and explored, because we now know better and understand that everything in human life can, one way or another, directly or indirectly, be traced to that continent.

When I write that most Archaeologists are trying to avoid OOA, that's a reflection of what I am reading in the literature these days. Almost all studies based on the new genetic research are found in biology journals, NOT anthropological or archaeological journals. My own recent contribution to the journal "Before Farming," for example, appears to have been the first to reference the genetic research.

The only exception appears to be on certain blogs, such as Anthropology.net, Dieneke's blog, John Hawkes and of course your own (which by the way I find very interesting).

"I was totally unaware of wind instruments in Africa, specially in the Paleolithic."

They may not have turned up in any Archaeological dig, but the very wide distribution of such ensembles in Africa, especially in refuge areas among the more tradition-minded groups strongly suggests a very long history. Combining that with our knowledge of the distribution of very similar ensembles among indigenous groups also living in refuge areas in many other parts of the world, strongly suggests (to me at least) that they must have been part of the original OOA migration(s).

"But why SE Asia and not India or any other intermediate spot?"

This is where Oppenheimer's interpretation of Toba comes in. A major disaster of this kind (or a Tsunami) would have led to severe population bottlenecks all along the Indian Ocean coast. What cultural anthropologists seem to have not yet considered is the fact that population bottlenecks can lead to cultural bottlenecks and genetic founder effects can lead to cultural founder effects. This IMO is the major engine of cultural "innovation." (Traditional people are not by nature innovative, but on the contrary highly conservative.)

What Europe and "greater SE Asia" have in common is their remoteness from the effects of the Toba eruption -- because the prevailing winds were (are) westerly. Or if we are considering a Tsunami, again any groups that had made their way to the Pacific coast would not have been affected and any groups that had made their way up the Indus would not have been affected.

"And as far as the special status of "Old Europe" the genetic evidence is not yet in.

Not sure what you mean here."

What I mean is that "Old European" survivals are currently to be found only in very remote areas, difficult to access. So it's unlikely that much if any DNA from "Old European" groups has been collected and whatever has been collected would be overwhelmed by the mainstream. We can't expect Old Europe to be represented by the current DNA databases, but that could be corrected if geneticists would let themselves be guided by the musical evidence -- and other evidence that could be supplied by folklorists.

"Hmmm. You are suggesting this:

1. Expansion from South Asia
2. Contraction in South Asia (only or mostly) - Toba event
3. Expansion within South Asia (only)

Right?"

Not quite. What I'm suggesting (based on Oppenheimer -- and not only him, by the way) is:

1. Expansion out of Africa with colonies left along the coast of the Indian Ocean as far as Sundaland and the Sahul and very possibly extending to the South Pacific coast.

2. A major disaster affecting the Indian Ocean coast, either via Toba or a Tsunami, sparing only those groups east of Toba, already settled in SE Asia, Sundaland and the Sahul and also possibly a single group that had made its way up the Indus valley (proto "Old Europeans").

3. Re-expansion through all parts of Asia, including parts of Sundaland, the Sahul, and ultimately Europe as well by the survivors of the disaster, who would have suffered severe bottlenecks, both genetic and cultural.

4. A situation in which the mainstream populations of Asia, Sundaland, the Sahul (including Australia) and Europe are descended from the survivors of the original bottleneck(s). Since such a bottleneck may well have produced individuals with a more agressive psychology (via a process of Darwinian selection), they would have taken over the most desirable areas, leaving the less aggressive descendants of those unaffected by the bottleneck to fall back into easily defended "refuge" areas, such as mountains, islands, heavy forests, etc.

"Yes. Look at my series of maps:"

Your maps are very interesting, thanks for the link. But what I see there is very close to my own (i.e. Oppenheimer's) view, since you are centering so much in India. This is indeed what the expansion I mention in point 3, above would look like. The only thing missing are the descendents of the groups not affected by the bottleneck, the groups located out of reach of Toba or the Tsunami, now living in remote refuge areas where little or no DNA has yet been collected -- or else mixed in with the more mainstream groups so their DNA picture has been obscured. These are the groups I can pinpoint from the musical data.

Actually I too have produced some maps, and these might well interest you, especially since one of them presents a (India-centered) picture very similar to the one you present. You'll find it in this part of my blog: http://music000001.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html

It can be accessed via post 12, entitled "A Phylogenetic Tree." You'll find the tree and also a set of maps coordinated with the tree. The map entitled "Post-Bottleneck Founder Effects" is also centered in India and reminds me of what you have found, which is actually very useful to me for this reason.

"The easiest explanation (and maybe the only possible one) is a spread from South Asia."

Exactly. But don't you find such a spread odd, in the light of the overall "Out of Africa" picture? It seems to me that Oppenheimer's ideas provide the best explanation for the "out of India" spread you've found, since the bottleneck survivors according to him represent the ancestors of the great majority now living throughout both Asia and greater SE Asia as well -- these would also have been the ancestors of the "Kurgan" invaders referred to by Gimbutas, no?

Maju said...

This gap is indeed an extremely vexing puzzle, you are absolutely right on that score. But it presents a serious problem for ANYONE attempting to re-create the earliest migrations of modern humans on the basis of ALL the relevant evidence. I don't see it as a weak spot in "my theory," because the gap is not so much a part of my theory as a mystery presented by the (musical) evidence itself. And the (admittedly hypothetical) explanation I present isn't really MY theory but a theory derived from the genetic evidence plus the historical evidence (Toba) by Oppenheimer. What I've been able to show is that the musical evidence appears to be consistent with Oppenheimer's interpretation and that, in turn, his interpretation works very well as an explanation of the musical evidence. If his interpretation is ultimately rejected, then the gap would nevertheless remain and would still have to be accounted for.

Right, absolutely right. I am not yet sure if Oppenheimer's model is the best possible but, after looking at an online version of it at http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/, I think it could make some sense.

My own evolving ideas on the human spread in Eurasia have come to a point where I really think that a pre-Toba OOA is very possible and I have also found some unclear indications of a hypothetical more important role of SE Asia (along with that of South Asia). I would probably not agree with his model right away but I think some elements are intriguing and interesting and can be "recycled" into a more comprehensive model maybe.

I had actually visited that site before, when I was more "mainstream" in my understanding of the OOA spread and found it unlikely, far-fetched. But now my opinions have evolved and in some aspects in a similar direction.

Yet I still think that South Asia was central - but the exact details are elusive and a greater SE Asian role cannot be ruled out at all.

It's not enough anymore to simply shrug it off as a result of random "cultural drift" or independent invention, the possible African connections must be taken seriously and explored, because we now know better and understand that everything in human life can, one way or another, directly or indirectly, be traced to that continent.

Indeed.

When I write that most Archaeologists are trying to avoid OOA, that's a reflection of what I am reading in the literature these days. Almost all studies based on the new genetic research are found in biology journals, NOT anthropological or archaeological journals.

Yes, probably. I can only imagine that historical genetics is kind of elusive for our hyper-departamental academy. That archaeologists prefer their traditional "bones and stones". After all, they have never been trained to perform genetic tests or analyze their results.

But the OOA model in itself is older than modern genetics. It was founded on archaeology first and foremost, even if the blanks were many and unclear. I don't think archaeologists can ignore that.

The only exception appears to be on certain blogs, such as Anthropology.net, Dieneke's blog, John Hawkes and of course your own (which by the way I find very interesting).

Thanks. Putting my little blog side by side with such prestigious ones makes me blush (or something of the like). Certainly my blog was never intended as anthropological (much less archaeological) but just as "my blog". You can find all kind of stuff (among what interests me) in it, though certainly human prehistory is one of my favorite interests.

"I was totally unaware of wind instruments in Africa, specially in the Paleolithic."

They may not have turned up in any Archaeological dig, but the very wide distribution of such ensembles in Africa, especially in refuge areas among the more tradition-minded groups strongly suggests a very long history. Combining that with our knowledge of the distribution of very similar ensembles among indigenous groups also living in refuge areas in many other parts of the world, strongly suggests (to me at least) that they must have been part of the original OOA migration(s).


Yes. It does make sense.

This is where Oppenheimer's interpretation of Toba comes in. A major disaster of this kind (or a Tsunami) would have led to severe population bottlenecks all along the Indian Ocean coast. What cultural anthropologists seem to have not yet considered is the fact that population bottlenecks can lead to cultural bottlenecks and genetic founder effects can lead to cultural founder effects. This IMO is the major engine of cultural "innovation." (Traditional people are not by nature innovative, but on the contrary highly conservative.)

They are conservative, sure but we are talking of many many many generations. Obviously we have not conserved whatever common myths that the original humans could have, these myths have been re-created once and again. They may have gained importance or lost it, new myths have been invented or construed upon real facts, or even imported (often with many modifications) from neighbouring groups. And transmission errors are just unavoidable anyhow.

When you study any ethnic group's culture you see those variants in it, in space and time, the variants accumulate through time and space and eventually they just become totally different. The factors in that evolution through maybe 100,000 years are not something we can really hope to understand and that's why I talked of randomness.

In most cultural aspects, I think we can consider ourselves lucky when finding connections that can be traced maybe to Neolithic or something of the like. The interesting thing is that music could maybe have partly overcome such a process and show traces of preserving in some cases even older elements, as old as OOA, in your opinion.

This is not impossible certainly, because music is very "intuitive", something that you would normally learn from your elders almost as a baby and tend naturally to reproduce. But some of the same transmision errors and innovations as you can see in other cultural aspects must have happened too.

An interesting element, that I guess you have already explored, could be that polyphony is more "group-demanding", while solos can be performed by any individual singer or musician. When the groupal ties are weakened, when maybe single families live alone most of the year, I'd suggest, the solo would tend to predominate, while the polyphony seems to demand some greater social ties and frequent groupal activities (festivals or whatever). Polyphony (specially when as elaborate as in hockets) also seems to demand greater collaborative training.

I am not surprised that many shrugged off and thought of convergent but separate evolution: hocket would seem after all, on first sight, a very elaborate rather than primitive type of music. But your model is intriguing anyhow, specially because you place primate "music" at the root of the tree, and also because its presence among some of the most archaic human groups of Africa.

What Europe and "greater SE Asia" have in common is their remoteness from the effects of the Toba eruption -- because the prevailing winds were (are) westerly. Or if we are considering a Tsunami, again any groups that had made their way to the Pacific coast would not have been affected and any groups that had made their way up the Indus would not have been affected.

I think this part needs some refining, certainly. Europe was apparently populated only by Neanderthals at the time of the Toba event. The colonization of this (sub-)continent by H. spaiens was probably only achieved with Aurignacian culture some 40,000 years ago and the connection with West Asia was very strong all the time anyhow.

We can't expect Old Europe to be represented by the current DNA databases, but that could be corrected if geneticists would let themselves be guided by the musical evidence -- and other evidence that could be supplied by folklorists.

IMO we can, with some modifications of course. I think the bulk of European DNA is Paleolithic and the recent discovery of mtDNA H in early Gravettian Italian remains just ratifies (up to a point at least) that impression. The farther you go to the East, grosso modo, the greater the Neolithic and post-Neolithic changes anyhow, specially in the Y-DNA.

4. A situation in which the mainstream populations of Asia, Sundaland, the Sahul (including Australia) and Europe are descended from the survivors of the original bottleneck(s).

But you have too many, probably post-Toba, genetic connections between east and west of India. The chaotic nature of the migrations and founder effects cannot really be ignored. You have for instance Y-DNA K subclades dominant all around, from New Guinea to Europe and Native America. And this is just one example. And even pushing back OOA to before 100,000 BP, K is still post-Toba.

Since such a bottleneck may well have produced individuals with a more agressive psychology (via a process of Darwinian selection), they would have taken over the most desirable areas, leaving the less aggressive descendants of those unaffected by the bottleneck to fall back into easily defended "refuge" areas, such as mountains, islands, heavy forests, etc.

Very hypothetical. Though I cannot ignore such possibility to an extent, I'd rather hink in "best adapted" in general. That may not be identical to mere aggresivity; techno-cultural innovations of all sorts, from tools and weapons to the ability to exploit different ecological niches (sometimes marginal ones like colder climatic areas maybe) surely played a role too. Some of the nowadays more succesful haplogroups are also those that were eventually distributed at the colder edges of inhabited Eurasia - though this is not a simple rule anyhow.

Innovation and certainly pioneering attitude may have played a major role in success. In many cases can just imagine that people that were pushed to the margins ended up colonizing new niches and eventually, many generations later surely, expanding from there. A good example could be mtDNA R: while clearly more diverse in South Asia than anywhere else, its almost only majoritary out of it. The impression I get is that in the Indian subcontinent it had no room for expansion but it did find it outside it. Similar situations may have happened with other clades and their respective actual human groups.

Your maps are very interesting, thanks for the link. But what I see there is very close to my own (i.e. Oppenheimer's) view, since you are centering so much in India.

Somewhat close only. I never dared to hypothesize further (or, if I did, it was in the preliminary phase, when putting together my thoughts and data). As mentioned I can really accept a greater role for SE Asia (including Southern China and Sundaland) but I cannot obscure with that the importance of the Indian subcontinent, not just because genetic diversity and almost necesary passage but also because its archaeology seems more interesting (in general, and as far as I can tell).

On what I think I differ specially with Oppenheimer and you is that I don't really see the selective bottleneck very clear in South Asia. Some elements like mtDNA M and Y-DNA C and D may seem to have a more eastern "gravity center" and that could fit somewhat - or be mere founder effects. But other elements do not fit well. Not just K and C are almost always in tandem east of India (while K alone is also widespread west of it), R and N are also present at both sides of the subcontinent.

What I think I can see in the Eurasian haploid structures is that the "out of India" Eurasian expansion is post-Toba and that it does seem to have greater diversity towards the east than towards the west, that the movement to the West included more marked founder effects, that it was done by a smaller group (or set of groups). Why? Maybe because West and Central Asia are more arid (in contrast SE Asia is more like India: tropical), maybe because of hostile Neanderthal presence...

Actually I too have produced some maps, and these might well interest you, especially since one of them presents a (India-centered) picture very similar to the one you present. You'll find it in this part of my blog: http://music000001.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html

It can be accessed via post 12, entitled "A Phylogenetic Tree." You'll find the tree and also a set of maps coordinated with the tree. The map entitled "Post-Bottleneck Founder Effects" is also centered in India and reminds me of what you have found, which is actually very useful to me for this reason.


Ok. Thanks. I looked at them with outmost interest. You have made a good job with them certainly and I do find them very interesting, both the musical "phylogenetic" tree and the maps. That's the kind of stuff I needed to understand better your model. Thanks a lot.

As suggestion maybe you could add direct links to the two graphs in the margins of your blog, as quick reference for readers. It's easy with blogspot.

"The easiest explanation (and maybe the only possible one) is a spread from South Asia."

Exactly. But don't you find such a spread odd, in the light of the overall "Out of Africa" picture? It seems to me that Oppenheimer's ideas provide the best explanation for the "out of India" spread you've found, since the bottleneck survivors according to him represent the ancestors of the great majority now living throughout both Asia and greater SE Asia as well


I think that the Oppenheimer model seems to emphasize hypothetical survival rates in SE Asia, that would have been colonized before the Toba event. Maybe he has a point in that but I'm still reluctant to accept that in full for the reasons outlined above.

-- these would also have been the ancestors of the "Kurgan" invaders referred to by Gimbutas, no?

Well, yes. But we are talking of very different timelines. Kurgan peoples originally were just a small marginal group between the Volga and the Central Asian deserts. Their expansion is very very recent in comparison with the colonization of Eurasia overall. It's like 55,000 vs. 5500 years ago. Their main genetic signature seems to be Y-DNA R1a, found aboundantly now in Eastern Europe, Northern South Asia and parts of Central Asia.

Victor said...

"My own evolving ideas on the human spread in Eurasia have come to a point where I really think that a pre-Toba OOA is very possible"

I see no reason to reject such an idea and I'm wondering why so many have rejected it, including Ambrose himself. Do you know what their reasoning is?

On your blog you suggest a much earlier date for OOA even then the one proposed by Oppenheimer (ca 80,000 ya) and I see no reason to reject that either.

"I can only imagine that historical genetics is kind of elusive for our hyper-departamental academy. That archaeologists prefer their traditional "bones and stones". After all, they have never been trained to perform genetic tests or analyze their results."

Indeed. Nor do most seem interested in learning. "Is this gonna be on the test?"

The discomfort of the "experts" with any approach going beyond their comfort zone will be a continuing problem for the acceptance of both the genetic and musical evidence, along with any other fresh approach stemming from the new paradigm. Anthropologists(ethnomusicologists too) find it hard to admit that ideas and/or evidence pertaining to their own field, yet stemming from an area beyond the reach of their expertize should be taken seriously.

"They are conservative, sure but we are talking of many many many generations."

Well this is the great challenge for me -- to convince anthropologists, folkorists, musicologists, etc. that certain practices can indeed be conserved over so long a time. As I see it, the proof is there in the current distribution patterns, which CAN be used to extrapolate backwards in time, why not? If we find essentially the same highly distinctive practice widely distributed among indigenous peoples over vast stretches of the globe, then how else can that be explained except as a survival of something truly archaic?

The only alternative is to posit some mysterious human universal, such as Jung's "collective unconsious" or Levi-Strauss's "structural logic" or some universal law of cognition that keeps reasserting itself in various forms over and over again in various times and places for no good reason.

It's important to remember, by the way, that Cantometrics focuses on broadly defined stylistic features rather than specific melodies, harmonies, etc. When we consider for example that for all the many different types of pop music in the world today, with so many different melodies and rhythms, all are united by essentially the same basic structural features, such as the rhythm section, standard triad based harmonies and chord progressions, metrical regularities (usually 4/4 time), heavy emphasis on the guitar and other plucked string instruments, etc, etc., then it's possible to see that stylistically all this apparently multifarious activity can be understood as more or less "the same," especially when considered from a very broad world historical perspective. From the same perspective, it can be considered an extension of practices going very far back, all the way to the popular dance music of the early Baroque period and the pre-Baroque as well.

"Obviously we have not conserved whatever common myths that the original humans could have, these myths have been re-created once and again."

Well that notion itself is imo a myth, the notion of the "eternal return" of various themes for no good reason, re-emerging in so many different places and times. What needs to be done in the field of myth is to take all the many collections kept by all the many specialists and pull them together into a single worldwide database that could be queried as we can now query the Cantometric database. If we did so I feel sure that certain patterns would emerge, both structural and thematic -- also stylistic -- that might well help us understand a great many myths simply as historical survivals rather than mysterious "eternal returns" based on equally mysterious unconscious or cogntive universals.

"And transmission errors are just unavoidable anyhow."

True. Which is why there are so many variants of the same styles, structures and themes. Transmission errors happen all the time, but they invariably apply to the transmission of details. The overall styles and structures are far more difficult to alter. Which is why bottlenecks are so important, as I see it, because only under extreme conditions can the most fundamantal cultural structures disappear or be seriously changed.

"The interesting thing is that music could maybe have partly overcome such a process and show traces of preserving in some cases even older elements, as old as OOA, in your opinion."

Thank you. I do think that music, or more accurately musical style, has special properties that tend to make it far more resistant to change than other cultural elements, even religion.

"Europe was apparently populated only by Neanderthals at the time of the Toba event. The colonization of this (sub-)continent by H. spaiens was probably only achieved with Aurignacian culture some 40,000 years ago and the connection with West Asia was very strong all the time anyhow."

Yes, but during all the time between Toba and 40,000 ya there must have been people living somewhere in western Asia whose descendants were destined to be the first homo sapiens in Europe.

The musical and other, folkoristic, evidence in Europe today suggests that this may well have been a group that had either been spared the effects of Toba or whose musical culture wasn't seriously modified by it. Because remnants of the "African signature" can be found scattered around so many different "refuge" areas in so many remote places througout so many different parts of Europe, both east and west. Evidence that the earliest modern humans in Africa were still physically African in at least some ways also exists, in the form of all those "Goddess" figures with steatopygia, no?

"But you have too many, probably post-Toba, genetic connections between east and west of India. The chaotic nature of the migrations and founder effects cannot really be ignored."

Well, this is going to be the next
phase of this research that will have to be worked out. If the chaotic migrations were all post-Toba, then I see no conflict with Oppenheimer's theory, which is consistent with that as far as I can tell. But you're right, there is a lot of complexity that might or might not be consistent with such a view of early history and will need to be hashed through.

"That may not be identical to mere aggresivity; techno-cultural innovations of all sorts, from tools and weapons to the ability to exploit different ecological niches (sometimes marginal ones like colder climatic areas maybe) surely played a role too."

Certainly. The ability to surive a major disaster would involve many possible aspects of "adaptation." In some cases the more agressive individuals might have been the ones to survive. But on the other hand the most inventive might have had a better chance, and their inventions could have led to more advanced weapons that would have given them an advantage in future encounters with rival groups.

Also we must remember that it isn't only the genetics that might have made a difference, because, as a result of certain events, the traditions and values rather than the genes of the survivors might have altered, and they would have passed these traditions and values on to their offspring. In the face of a terrible disaster, confronted with many horrors and deprivations, one might decide that "dog eat dog" is closer to the truth of harsh reality, than "share and share alike."

"On what I think I differ specially with Oppenheimer and you is that I don't really see the selective bottleneck very clear in South Asia."

It's important that I learn more about this whole issue and especially the question of where to look for signs of such a bottleneck. Your ideas on this matter especially are very much appreciated, maju. But as I see it we must look for such signs everywhere outside of Africa, not just in India. And much more sampling must be done before this complex history can be sorted out.

Maju said...

"My own evolving ideas on the human spread in Eurasia have come to a point where I really think that a pre-Toba OOA is very possible"

I see no reason to reject such an idea and I'm wondering why so many have rejected it, including Ambrose himself. Do you know what their reasoning is?


I think that several factors would seem to weight in favor of a post-Toba OOA:

1. Archaeological dates: excepting Palestine (believed generally to have been a failed expansion), all well dated Eurasian H. sapiens remains are of 45,000 BP or later.

2. Toba itself could have hypothetically wiped out H. erectus from Asia, allowing for a colonization after it.

3. MCH age estimates that tend to give a date of 80-50,000 BP for the "Eurasian Adam".

Maybe there are other factors too. In any case, I think neither of these is conclussive. Also there's a H. Sapiens specimen of Southern China that has been indirectly dated by Uranium to older dates (but this is also not solid enough, as the datations were made decades after the discovery and have huge uncertainties).

Well this is the great challenge for me -- to convince anthropologists, folkorists, musicologists, etc. that certain practices can indeed be conserved over so long a time. As I see it, the proof is there in the current distribution patterns, which CAN be used to extrapolate backwards in time, why not?

Guess you don't need to convince them right away, much less all of them. If the study is solid enough (and I think yours can be, not matter I am myself not fully convinced) you should provide it anyhow as a theory. While the "lightbulb over the head" complex is surely not good, a weak version of it is surely necesary to push science ahead.

Of course, the better you work out all the aspects, the better, the more solid and suggestive your proposal will be.

If we find essentially the same highly distinctive practice widely distributed among indigenous peoples over vast stretches of the globe, then how else can that be explained except as a survival of something truly archaic?

Agree in principle. Though obviously it would be important to back up this daring hypothesis of you with as much evidence as possible.

"Obviously we have not conserved whatever common myths that the original humans could have, these myths have been re-created once and again."

Well that notion itself is imo a myth, the notion of the "eternal return" of various themes for no good reason, re-emerging in so many different places and times. What needs to be done in the field of myth is to take all the many collections kept by all the many specialists and pull them together into a single worldwide database that could be queried as we can now query the Cantometric database. If we did so I feel sure that certain patterns would emerge, both structural and thematic -- also stylistic -- that might well help us understand a great many myths simply as historical survivals rather than mysterious "eternal returns" based on equally mysterious unconscious or cogntive universals.


Maybe. It's a hard job to do anyhow.

I do think that music, or more accurately musical style, has special properties that tend to make it far more resistant to change than other cultural elements, even religion.

I can accept that possiblity. In most cultures music is learnt even before birth. There have been some studies that demonstrated that, say, playing the violin to a foetus allows them a much faster musical developement and greater musical abilities. It's (or can be) a very intuitive pert of culture.

Yes, but during all the time between Toba and 40,000 ya there must have been people living somewhere in western Asia whose descendants were destined to be the first homo sapiens in Europe.

Yes, probably yes. But in itself doesn't explain why Europe has P/B and West Asia mostly doesn't. It must imply more recent process of deletion of such traditions.

Such cultural deletion (transformation) processes may have happened in different places under different circumstances too.

The musical and other, folkoristic, evidence in Europe today suggests that this may well have been a group that had either been spared the effects of Toba or whose musical culture wasn't seriously modified by it. Because remnants of the "African signature" can be found scattered around so many different "refuge" areas in so many remote places througout so many different parts of Europe, both east and west.

Yes, the "refuge model" is surely an important aspectof your theory, at least as I see it.

Evidence that the earliest modern humans in Africa were still physically African in at least some ways also exists, in the form of all those "Goddess" figures with steatopygia, no?

You must mean "outside Africa", right?

I don't think it's any evidence as some degree of steatopygia exists in women all around the world and the artists may have wanted to exaggerate those traits for symbolic reasons. The peoples doing that art were surely very close physically to modern Caucasoids anyhow (Crô-Magnon type) and are most likely to make up a good deal of the ancestry of modern Europeans.

Also we must remember that it isn't only the genetics that might have made a difference, because, as a result of certain events, the traditions and values rather than the genes of the survivors might have altered, and they would have passed these traditions and values on to their offspring. In the face of a terrible disaster, confronted with many horrors and deprivations, one might decide that "dog eat dog" is closer to the truth of harsh reality, than "share and share alike."

It may happen certainly. It's some sort of old anthropological "wisdom" that, when the shaman fails to make it rain, the shaman and maybe the beliefs he/she upholds are likely to fall in disgrace.

The dichotomy between egoism and altruism exists clearly in humankind. In most cases, specially among hunter-gatherers, altruism is dominant because people so strongly depend on each other that any loss is a huge loss. But we cannot (at least I cannot) know the details of each case of cultural evolution.

Btw, (off-topic), have you put any attention into the phenomenon of what in Basque is called "bertsoak" (lit. "verses"): peaceful competitions of solo song improvisation within very defined metrics? What intrigues me is that the same kind of solo song-improvisation competition happens among Inuits, among them with quasi-judicial effects (the most succesful singer gets the backing of the community in a dispute).

Victor said...

"Yes, probably yes. But in itself doesn't explain why Europe has P/B and West Asia mostly doesn't. It must imply more recent process of deletion of such traditions."

As I see it a relatively recent process of deletion is unlikely. If we begin with a more or less uniform distribution of P/B (or simply polyphonic singing) throughout all of Eurasia, then we would expect to find survivals more or less uniformly scattered in refuge areas throughout both Asia and Europe. We find that pattern in Europe -- but NOT in Asia. Aside from the Kalash and the single instance from Tibet, which is very unusual and also quite a surprise, there are simply vast stretches of western, central and eastern Asia with no trace of vocal polyphony of any kind, even in very remote places.

Moreover as I mentioned the music of the tribal groups in India, fairly well represented in the Cantometric database, lacks any trace of either P/B or hocket of any kind, despite some presence of relatively simple polyphony. This tells me that the dichotomy between Europe and most of Asia must stem from a very early period indeed. The pattern is consistent with Oppenheimer's interpretation of Toba, though founder effects stemming from some other event or events are also a possibility.

Oppenheimer's Toba hypothesis would also go a long way to explain many of the so-called "racial" differences we see in the world today. These differences also show signs of great age. If it were simply a matter of environmental adaptation, then morphological differences would be far more localized than they are.

On the other hand, we do find one very striking instance of a musical practice very common in India, which may well have African roots -- and that is the Indian drumming tradition. The drums themselves are very similar to African drums, as is the manner of playing -- and the polyrhythmic basis. Whether this could be the result of the initial OOA migration is a very interesting question. The oldest type of drum found in both Africa and "Greater SE Asia" appears to be the slit drum, not the membranophone.

"Yes, the "refuge model" is surely an important aspectof your theory, at least as I see it."

A similar "refuge" pattern seems to be characteristic of Africa as well, at least on the basis of research I'm now doing that isn't yet complete. P/B vocalizing and possibly hocketed wind ensembles as well tend to be found either among Pygmies and Bushmen (living in forest or desert refuge areas) or their immediate neighbors (probably due to the taking of P or B wives) or groups located in mountain regions or high plateaus.

This evidence seems to suggest that P/B once prevailed throughout Africa (even among farming and herding groups), but became marginalized due to the Bantu expansion, producing a situation roughly parallel to the European one (due to the Indoeuropean expansion).

Victor: "Evidence that the earliest modern humans in Africa were still physically African in at least some ways also exists, in the form of all those "Goddess" figures with steatopygia, no?"

Maju: "You must mean "outside Africa", right?"

Thanks Maju for picking up on that slip. The sentence should read "Evidence that the earliest modern humans in Europe . . "

With regard to the parallel you mention between song competitions among the Basque and similar competitions among the Inuit, several thoughts come to mind:

1. First of all such competitions can be found in non-Basque Spain as well, and also in Italy, I believe.

2. The unpatterned distribution of a single trait is the sort of thing that could most likely be attributed to independent invention. More ethnographic research would be needed in order to learn whether other related traits are also held in common between the two groups. For example whether we find these competitions associated with particular types of ritual or whether comparable types of rewards are given, etc. in both groups.

As I see it, the less of a pattern is involved in the distribution of the trait, then the more highly distinctive it would need to be before it could be taken seriously as a possible survival. And the resemblances would need to be truly striking and unusual -- not only the circumstantial resemblances but the musical and/or textual as well.

3. Maybe you can help me out here. One of the puzzles we came across early on in our Cantometric research was the apparent lack of any particularly distinctive trait that could be associated exclusively with Basque music making. In every case I can recall, Basque traditional music seems to fit quite well with the traditional music of surrounding Spanish peoples. There are some strikingly beautiful recordings of Basque music that I love, but none of them stands out as distinctively "Basque." The only exception is the famous "Basque yell."

I'm wondering if you know of any type of Basque traditional music that you find especially interesting and distinctive and if so where I could find a recording.

Victor said...

My comments on Indian drums and drumming got me thinking. Both membranophones (drums with skins) and slit drums (drums made of a single piece of hollowed out wood, with a slit on one side) are found in tribal India, among certain Gond groups and the Naga, among others.

Membranophones have a very wide distribution, actually, from Africa through Arabia and all parts of India, but also in many other parts of Asia and SE Asia. What's important is not only the use of a membrane (very common) but the way in which the instruments are played.

In Africa and India (and also, probably as an extensin of Hindu traditions, Indonesia) they are played in a very similar style, it seems to me, with very similar and very complex rhythms. Among tribal groups outside of Africa, however, they tend to be played in much simpler ways, very often just a single repeated beat.

So what is going on here and what could it mean?

Maju said...

As I see it a relatively recent process of deletion is unlikely. If we begin with a more or less uniform distribution of P/B (or simply polyphonic singing) throughout all of Eurasia, then we would expect to find survivals more or less uniformly scattered in refuge areas throughout both Asia and Europe. We find that pattern in Europe -- but NOT in Asia.

Georgia is in Asia.

Anyhow the process of change may have been more radical in Asia than in Europe. Even Indo-Europeans were strongly "europeanized" before their main expansions. The Kurgan groups that conquered parts of north-central Europe before 3000 BCE, then suffered a contraction and clear influence from a temporary resurgence of Danubian culture (and power) in the region for some 500 years. Also parts of highland West Asia (Zagros, Iran) were deserted at the coldest period of the Ice Age and then recolonized from Eastern Europe in the LUP. Later they suffred from Semitic and IE invasions.

Hard to say but I see no reason to conclude that the refuges should be scattered uniformly. Some large areas may have just been more resistent to change overall. Finding P/B in Europe and SE Asia, along with many enclaves of persitence in mainland Asia would make sense with a late process of deletion rather than with anything else.

This tells me that the dichotomy between Europe and most of Asia must stem from a very early period indeed.

But then you have SE Asia, whose relation with Europe (or Africa) is nearly non-existent. And you have those remains in Tibet, and in Siberia... obvious pockets of a once more widespread P/B, IMO.

Oppenheimer's Toba hypothesis would also go a long way to explain many of the so-called "racial" differences we see in the world today. These differences also show signs of great age. If it were simply a matter of environmental adaptation, then morphological differences would be far more localized than they are.

I don't know the details but I guess they stem from that time. Nevertheless the process of consolidation of the modern "racial" types took some time after the divergence at South Asia.

On the other hand, we do find one very striking instance of a musical practice very common in India, which may well have African roots -- and that is the Indian drumming tradition. The drums themselves are very similar to African drums, as is the manner of playing -- and the polyrhythmic basis. Whether this could be the result of the initial OOA migration is a very interesting question. The oldest type of drum found in both Africa and "Greater SE Asia" appears to be the slit drum, not the membranophone.

That is interesting and points to a clear direction of migration eastward along the coast. It would seem to fit better with the mainstream OOA model than the P/B connection. Yet what do you think of the Basque txalaparta, I know of no other such instrument in Europe (or elsewhere) though it cannot be defined as a slit drum either, as the correct tone is achieved by selecting the wood pieces themselves.

This evidence seems to suggest that P/B once prevailed throughout Africa (even among farming and herding groups), but became marginalized due to the Bantu expansion, producing a situation roughly parallel to the European one (due to the Indoeuropean expansion).

Probably.

With regard to the parallel you mention between song competitions among the Basque and similar competitions among the Inuit, several thoughts come to mind:

1. First of all such competitions can be found in non-Basque Spain as well, and also in Italy, I believe.

2. The unpatterned distribution of a single trait is the sort of thing that could most likely be attributed to independent invention.


I didn't know about anything of the like in Spain nor Italy. In the case of Spain, it may be a loan or just survival in areas that were in other time Basque, but the case of Italy is more intriguing.

There is something that connects Basques and Inuits, even if it's very remote and shared with many other peoples of Eurasia and America: dominance of Y-DNA P subclades (R and Q). Another coincidence (that can be also due to independent evolution) may be in the Magdalenian and Azilian proto-harpoons, the closest thing know elsewhere being historical Inuit ones (check my post: http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/2008/04/magdalenian-and-inuit-harpoons.html).

3. Maybe you can help me out here. One of the puzzles we came across early on in our Cantometric research was the apparent lack of any particularly distinctive trait that could be associated exclusively with Basque music making. In every case I can recall, Basque traditional music seems to fit quite well with the traditional music of surrounding Spanish peoples. There are some strikingly beautiful recordings of Basque music that I love, but none of them stands out as distinctively "Basque." The only exception is the famous "Basque yell."

Well, first of all think that "surrounding Spain" (and France) was once Basque and that can be seen in elements like toponimy, historical data or even mythology.

There are things that are probably only Basque though, not just the irrintzi. AFAIK the txalaparta is not used by any other people anywhere in the World. I thought you'd know of it but basically it's an instrument of percussion, traditionally consistent of two long wood planks, each with a diffeent tone, resting on two cushioned supports and played with four sticks, two for each player. Normally one of the players makes a basic rythm and the other plays variations, often improvised.

I just read that there is a similar (also Basque) instrument that I had never seen before: the kirikoketa. The rest of instruments seem to have their European counterparts, even if they are somewhat rare often. The trikitixa, a diatonic accordion, is played in a very high pitched manner (acompanied typically by a pandero) and it and the associated songs approach the sound of the irrintzi, that is not absent in such performances anyhow, where it fits almost naturally. In general Basque music other than percussion seems to like the high pitch.

You can find some info on Basque music in the English Wikipedia (thanks to the Basque WikiProject).

I'm wondering if you know of any type of Basque traditional music that you find especially interesting and distinctive and if so where I could find a recording.

I'll make a search. There's material online and you'll probably find it interesting. Surely some of the Wikipedia external links can be of use for you to start with. Begin maybe at the generic article titled "Basque music".

What's important is not only the use of a membrane (very common) but the way in which the instruments are played.

In Africa and India (and also, probably as an extensin of Hindu traditions, Indonesia) they are played in a very similar style, it seems to me, with very similar and very complex rhythms. Among tribal groups outside of Africa, however, they tend to be played in much simpler ways, very often just a single repeated beat.

So what is going on here and what could it mean?


I already mentioned in relation with stilt drums that to me it implies a clear migration route from Africa to Southern and SE Asia.

But I can't really explain how the complexity became simplified. Maybe it has to do with spiritual traditions as what you describe seems to be the way that the shamanic tradition of NE Asia and America plays drums, right? Or maybe it's just lost of musical ability?

Can't say.

Maju said...

Txalaparta play online (site in French): http://txalaparta.free.fr/ - includes a play of "tobera", another version of the instrument.

Oreka Tx: http://www.cdroots.com/elk-oreka.html - you can buy their records or listen to samples online. They are an innovative txalapartari group (one of the players is a friend of friends, btw) that have been playing the basque instrument all around the world with folk musicians everywhere.

From the same site, loads of Basque music CDs for sale:
http://www.cdroots.com/basque.shtml. For trikitixa maybe Kepa Junkera is the most famed modern artist. For alboka Ibon Koteron. I haven't met Kepa personally but his brother was with me at Basque language school, Koteron went to the same school as myself, though he's two years older and we were together at the chess team (he was the star, I was the reserve - LOL). It's a small country this one: if you don't know someone pesonally, you sure know someone who knows him/her.

Victor said...

maju, I want to respond in more detail to your last posts when I get more time, but for now I just want to say that I am very embarrassed to have to admit that I'd never heard of the txalaparta -- and the related instruments you mention -- until now. I was able to see a performance on youtube that blew me away.

This is a VERY important instrument that, for me, definitely carries the "African signature," as it's an example of very intricate hocketing. While this exact configuration is very unusual, the manner of performance strongly resembles the playing of stamping tubes, as found in both Africa and "Greater SE Asia."

It also resembles the "kotekan" parts in Indonesian gamelan music. And it is of course a type of xylophone as well, which is also quite a surprise!

I just came across references to something similar in Romania that I also didn't know about.

Thank you so much for making me aware of this extraordinary instrument and musical practice, which can definitely be associated, as far as I'm concerned, with the "Old European" survivals I've been discussing.

For me this looks very much like the echo of an African tradition and makes me now wonder if there are other places in Europe where we could find traces of either stamping tubes or even slit drums.

Maju said...

I am very embarrassed to have to admit that I'd never heard of the txalaparta -- and the related instruments you mention -- until now. I was able to see a performance on youtube that blew me away.

Hehe! It's a fascinating instrument, I agree.

This is a VERY important instrument that, for me, definitely carries the "African signature," as it's an example of very intricate hocketing. While this exact configuration is very unusual, the manner of performance strongly resembles the playing of stamping tubes, as found in both Africa and "Greater SE Asia."

It was always a very rural instrument, as most of Basque musical tradition - but maybe even more. It was almost lost but then there was a revival. Nowadays 'txalapartariak' sometimes have expanded the concept of the instrument, experimenting with new materials and larger instruments with more planks (traditionally they were just one, two or four at most - typically two).

It also resembles the "kotekan" parts in Indonesian gamelan music. And it is of course a type of xylophone as well, which is also quite a surprise!

I'm not familiar with "koketan" though I have the impression that SE Asian music has their own rules and sounds.

I just came across references to something similar in Romania that I also didn't know about.

Me neither. Interesting.

Thank you so much for making me aware of this extraordinary instrument and musical practice, which can definitely be associated, as far as I'm concerned, with the "Old European" survivals I've been discussing.

For me this looks very much like the echo of an African tradition and makes me now wonder if there are other places in Europe where we could find traces of either stamping tubes or even slit drums.


So you think that the ancestor of the txalaparta probably arrived here with the first European colonists, right? I knew it was something old but never could think that soooo old. It's fascinating, really.

Victor said...

Some comments on your earlier post, maju:
"Finding P/B in Europe and SE Asia, along with many enclaves of persitence in mainland Asia would make sense with a late process of deletion rather than with anything else."

But we aren't finding enclaves of persistence in mainland Asia. I haven't found P/B in Asia in any form, vocal or instrumental, until we reach SE Asia and south China (including Taiwan), aside from some very interesting but sparse instances among some Paleosiberian groups (including the Ainu).

"And you have those remains in Tibet, and in Siberia... obvious pockets of a once more widespread P/B, IMO."

The Kalash and Tibetan examples are D/D (dissonant drone), not P/B. The Kalash polyphony can be explained imo (though you don't seem to agree), leaving only the Tibetan instance, which is extremely intriguing, but not part of a pattern. Siberia is a different matter entirely, part of a circum-polar tradition very different from the rest of Asia.

V: "The oldest type of drum found in both Africa and "Greater SE Asia" appears to be the slit drum, not the membranophone."

M: "That is interesting and points to a clear direction of migration eastward along the coast."

I haven't given it much thought until now, but yes, if we are looking for an example of cultural continuity between Africa, southern Asia and SE Asia, the slit drum seems to fill the bill, since it is found in Tribal India. The membranophone is also of interest because if we pay attention to the way it's played it might also help us to reconstruct some history from a later period, perhaps.

The history of the membranophone per se is a very difficult matter. It appears to be a later development, after the slit drum, but that might simply be an assumption. Membranophones are much more widely distributed worldwide than slit drums and they are certainly very important in Africa, so it's possible that the original OOA migrants had both membranophones and slit drums.

However, the characteristically African polyrhythmic manner of playing either type of drum isn't found outside Africa except for non-tribal India and also to some extent the Arab world as well.

As I recall, and I'll have to check on this, certain tribal peoples of India have both types of drum, but play both types in a much simpler manner. The same is true for New Guinea and Melanesia, which also have both membranophones and slit drums but played in a relatively simple way, often basically repetition of the same beat over and over. In some cases we do find complex rhythms but they are quite different from African rhythms.

It's only when we come to village and cosmopolitan India that we find drumming as complexly polyrhythmic as that in Africa -- and very similar drum designs as well. (Polynesia is another matter, with a different approach to drumming using "tatoo" patterns that can also be complex.)

Neither the Pygmies nor the Bushmen appear to have had any type of drum originally. However both accompany their singing with polyrhythmic clapping that can sometimes be quite intricate.

So, on the basis of the above it's possible to put together the following chain of inference:

The OOA migrants proabably had both membranophones and slit drums with them from the start. But it's not clear how they were played. Since the Pygmies and Bushmen now clap polyrhythmically it's possible to assume that their common ancestor did as well, which suggests that the rhythms of the OOA migrants were also played polyrhythmically.

If this was the case, then the polyrhythmic tradition must have been lost at some point, since we don't find it in either tribal India or tribal Greater SE Asia -- or anywhere else in Asia.

How then do we explain the polyrhythmic drumming tradition of village and cosmopolitan India and the Arab world, which is so close in so many ways to that of Africa?

As I see it, the only possibility is the existence of some later connection between Africa and the Middle East, something relatively recent, possibly stemming from the slave trade. Does this make sense?

One way to determine the dating would be to do a systematic survey of the iconography of the many artworks to be found in caves and temples of ancient India and Pakistan. I'm sure African-style drums are depicted in some of these, as I recall seeing them. But I'm not sure of the dates.

To return to the Basque song competitions, are these in the form of alternating solos, with one singer taking one verse and the other responding with an improvised verse and so-on back and forth? If so, then we do find this sort of thing in other parts of Spain, and also Italy, yes. If not, then I'd need to learn more about the tradition before telling you what I think. Though I do think a connection with the Inuit seems pretty remote and probably just something random. It's always possible to find remote connections of this sort, but unless they can be tied to some pattern it's hard to account for them.

I found an example of kirikoketa playing on the Internet as well and must say that this is even more interesting -- and brings the Basque even closer to Paleolithic Africa. This sort of cooperative "hocketed" interplay is common in both stamping tube music and work practices of both Africa and Greater SE Asia. There are some really interesting examples filmed in the Solomon Islands by Hugo Zemp. And also Olga Velitchkina has filmed something similar in Plekhovo, in European Russia, associated with the remarkable panpipe playing tradition she's studied there.

All I have time for now.

Maju said...

But we aren't finding enclaves of persistence in mainland Asia. I haven't found P/B in Asia in any form, vocal or instrumental, until we reach SE Asia and south China (including Taiwan), aside from some very interesting but sparse instances among some Paleosiberian groups (including the Ainu).

That is most intriguing because it seems to suggest that if there is any connection (i.e. if they are not independent developements) it must have been via Siberia. Honestly, it sounds very unlikely. If it means something, I really don't know what it might be.

The Kalash and Tibetan examples are D/D (dissonant drone), not P/B. The Kalash polyphony can be explained imo (though you don't seem to agree), leaving only the Tibetan instance, which is extremely intriguing, but not part of a pattern.

Sorry, my ignorance.

I would think that the Kalash and Tibetan traditions would be related anyhow. Much more likely than a Greek connection that doesn't show up anywhere for the Kalash.

How then do we explain the polyrhythmic drumming tradition of village and cosmopolitan India and the Arab world, which is so close in so many ways to that of Africa?


I don't think it's impossible that castes and tribes of India may represent remnants of different peoples, all possibly rooted in the highly diverse Indian subcontinent. They may well represent two very old different traditions, both with roots in the region dating to the OOA.

As I see it, the only possibility is the existence of some later connection between Africa and the Middle East, something relatively recent, possibly stemming from the slave trade. Does this make sense?

Not the slave trade as such maybe but all the trade of the Indian Ocean maybe. It is a possibility but not the most likely IMO, as India has such an old tradition that seems unlikely that this import could permeate the whole subcontinent in such a total manner. Not sure anyhow.

I think you should consider selective cultural transmission: where some traits are perpetuated and others are not. Depending on each particular line, different traits are the ones being perpetuated.

Maybe, after a while (after Toba?) there were a handful of ethnicities in South Asia, each of which perpetuated a different tradition. These expanded irregularly around the world, depending on the particular groups involved. Later many areas would also see their traditions transform, as different groups were melted in larger ethnicities or macro-ethnicities by grade or force.

One way to determine the dating would be to do a systematic survey of the iconography of the many artworks to be found in caves and temples of ancient India and Pakistan. I'm sure African-style drums are depicted in some of these, as I recall seeing them. But I'm not sure of the dates.

Makes sense. Maybe a blogger friend of mine, Manjunat (http://www.blogger.com/profile/00474338169829802934), can help you or point you in the direction to solve this question. He's a Dravidian with strong interest in Indian culture and anthropology. He probably knows better than any of us about that issue or can research it more easily. Just an idea. I suspect he would be interested in exploring this matter but I have not exchanged with him about it.

To return to the Basque song competitions, are these in the form of alternating solos, with one singer taking one verse and the other responding with an improvised verse and so-on back and forth? If so, then we do find this sort of thing in other parts of Spain, and also Italy, yes. If not, then I'd need to learn more about the tradition before telling you what I think. Though I do think a connection with the Inuit seems pretty remote and probably just something random. It's always possible to find remote connections of this sort, but unless they can be tied to some pattern it's hard to account for them.

I also think that the Inuit connection seems unlikely, at least on first sight.

But the B/P signature looks equally unlikely. Maybe even less: what do have in common "Old Europe", SE Asia and remote African peoples like the Pygmies and Bushmen? Nothing at all except the P/B polyphony itself. At least Inuits and Basques/SW Europeans share a distant common male ancestor long after the OOA.

I found an example of kirikoketa playing on the Internet as well and must say that this is even more interesting -- and brings the Basque even closer to Paleolithic Africa. This sort of cooperative "hocketed" interplay is common in both stamping tube music and work practices of both Africa and Greater SE Asia. There are some really interesting examples filmed in the Solomon Islands by Hugo Zemp. And also Olga Velitchkina has filmed something similar in Plekhovo, in European Russia, associated with the remarkable panpipe playing tradition she's studied there.

Cool. It's really fascinating. I really cannot figure the connection (except by selective perpetuation through different lines, as mentioned above). I am intrigued at the Russian connection particularly.

Victor said...

"But the B/P signature looks equally unlikely. Maybe even less: what do have in common "Old Europe", SE Asia and remote African peoples like the Pygmies and Bushmen? Nothing at all except the P/B polyphony itself."

If you read the blog carefully enough you'll see the many connections, which are summarized in my (admittedly very rough and incomplete) Phylogenetic Tree and associated maps.

If we accept some version or variant of Oppenheimer's interpretation of the genetics then it's not that hard to see that what they have in common is that they can all be understood as OOA survivals -- with the same sort of highly scattered distribution in remote refuge areas that one would expect of a truly archaic surival.

"Cool. It's really fascinating. I really cannot figure the connection (except by selective perpetuation through different lines, as mentioned above). I am intrigued at the Russian connection particularly."

As I see it, this practice can be understood as part and parcel of the same stylistic complex I discuss in the segments of my blog dealing with "Old Europe." The connections with Africa and Greater SE Asia are part of the larger OOA survival picture.

If you go to the following website -- http://www.umbc.edu/eol/2/velitch/velich2.html -- you'll find a discussion of the "Russian connection" I just referred to. It's from Olga Velitchkina's study of Russian panpipe performance in relation to certain patterns of movement.

If you scroll about 3/4 of the way down, you'll find a link to a very brief video clip of women threshing. She writes: "In general, this complementary rhythmic coordination between the parts of a panpipe ensemble is often compared to threshing with flails: 'it is like threshing, not together, but one after another, so one even could dance.'" The whole passage on threshing can be compared to the kirikoketa tradition in the sense that it is based on a very similar type of cooperative farm work.

Victor said...

maju, can you tell me what "kirikoketa" means literally in the Basque language?

Maju said...

maju, can you tell me what "kirikoketa" means literally in the Basque language?

A musical instrument. There's no other direct meaning I know of (but I may be missing something: I'm not a fluent speaker).

The suffix -eta is a plural found in many toponyms and alos part of many normal declination plurals. The rest reminds me specially of the game of hiding, at which the song goes something like "kiriketan, koroketan...". The dictionary says that "kirik" is a children's voice used in that game, "kiriketan" is the game itself, "kirikatu" a variant for to watch, "kirikino" hedgehog, "kirio" a variant for marrow (or any intimate, deep part), "kiri" order and also a type of bush, "kirats" (where -ats means breath or air) stink. "Koka" and the verb "kokatu" are also Basque words. So it seems to have some sort of Basque etymology but it's hared to say exactly what it means. At least I cannot say.

It can well be onomatopeyic too: kirikoka sounds rythmic specially if you repeat the word several times. And kirikoketa would precisely mean that plural, repeated word/rythm. As I write I'm getting to like this onomatopeyic ethymology better.

But surely there's people somewhere who will know better than I do.

Maju said...

If we accept some version or variant of Oppenheimer's interpretation of the genetics then it's not that hard to see that what they have in common is that they can all be understood as OOA survivals -- with the same sort of highly scattered distribution in remote refuge areas that one would expect of a truly archaic surival.

But then you have slit drums also with African signature in their rythms, probably also an OOA survival that have a much more contiguous well defined area.

Why are some traditions kept that way and others instead show a much more scattered distribution?

The whole passage on threshing can be compared to the kirikoketa tradition in the sense that it is based on a very similar type of cooperative farm work.

That's also intriguing but the reason is that farm work is something really "modern", that did not exist in the Paleolithic. How can a possible Middle Paleolithic survival be rooted in farm work practices? Isn't that totally contradictory?

Victor said...

"But then you have slit drums also with African signature in their rythms,"

Actually the slit drum rhythms we find in Greater SE Asia (i.e., SE Asia, S. China + various islands in the same region, including Indonesia and Melanesia, etc.) aren't played with African rhythms, the rhythms are either much simpler or else "tatoo" rhythms that have a different type of pattern. I need to learn more about the rhythms of the tribal Indian slit drums, but I suspect that they too are not played in a typically African manner -- though I could be wrong, I just don't know.

"probably also an OOA survival that have a much more contiguous well defined area."

The presence of slit drums in tribal India may be the best cultural evidence we have of that continuity. The manner in which they are decorated, often with zoomorphic "heads" protruding on one end, and the fact that they are often used for signalling and many other design elements are all very similar to what we find farther east, througout Greater SE Asia. I need to hear how they are played, because that too could be significant.

"Why are some traditions kept that way and others instead show a much more scattered distribution?"

Excellent question. But if you think about the nature of population bottlenecks, especially severe bottlenecks, of the sort that could have been produced by a major disaster such as Toba or a huge Tsunami, then such "mix and match" patterns do make sense. The key word to keep in mind is "contingency."

In a major disaster, many or most of the population might well be killed or severly disabled. Who survived and who didn't would be largely a matter of chance. If the best singers were all killed, then we might expect from then on a simpler musical tradition, based on what came before, but modified to suit the skills and knowledge of the survivors. In the case of the ancestors of these Indian tribal groups, perhaps the best singers and drummers were killed but the most skillful carver(s) survived. So slit drums would continue to be carved in the traditional manner, but they'd be played in a simpler manner. And the singing would become simpler as well. This seems to have been the case with the Indian tribals.

Another possible scenario would be one where the older people were killed and only the youngest and strongest survived. Since the older ones tend to be the most conservative and knowledgeable carriers of tradition, then, once they are gone we might expect certain traditions to become more or less "watered down." This might also give the younger ones an opportunity to innovate in ways that might not have been permitted previously.

It's important to remember also that the Toba eruption may well have destroyed all but a very few of the colonies living in the most vulnerable areas. So the survivors I've been talking about would have become the ancestors of a great many different groups we see in the world today. One small group of such survivors might have eventually produced descendents now living in many different parts of the world, including the Circumpolar region, Australia, the Americas, parts of N. Guinea, etc. And these descendents might still be practicing at least certain aspects of their cultural traditions. So whereever we find such traditions we might be able to trace them back to their source in the original bottleneck.

Of course, this type of "explanation" after the fact might seem suspiciously convenient. It looks more like a means of "explaining away" certain differences than accounting for them according to some underlying principle.

But the more we learn about evolution, as I see it, the more we begin to doubt the importance of the sort of "basic principles" that so many have sought in the past as ways of explaining history -- for instance the notion of continual human "progress" in logically determined "stages." The very important role of contingency -- i.e., chance -- must be acknowledged in the production of a great many genetic, morphological and cultural forms. This is the basis of the theory of "punctuated equilibrium," which explains the origin of various species in similar terms.

Why does a mammal such as the Platypus have a duck bill and lay eggs? Again, the only answer is that this happened "just so" -- as a result of chance mutations that might or might not have occurred at very specific points in time and space.

A more positive way of thinking about explanations of this sort is that they can enable us to retrospectively pinpoint certain very specific moments in history. Which is one reason why I think the musical evidence is so important, because we can attempt to recreate certain (contingently determined) events in the past on the basis of the distribution patterns we see in the present.

"How can a possible Middle Paleolithic survival be rooted in farm work practices? Isn't that totally contradictory?"

Only if you insist on retaining the rigid categories of traditional archaeology. The advent of farming didn't mean the rejection of all earlier traditions. It's more likely that early farmers adapted certain pre-farming traditions that were already firmly established as part of their earlier lifestyle. If they were already used to dancing and singing together in coordinated groups, then it would have been natural for them to adapt such practices to typical farming activities whenever possible. So why not "dance" your way through the pounding of apples or the threshing of grain?

Maju said...

What does "tribal India" mean to you? Because for me it just means an array of different peoples often related to non-tribal ones. The main exception is probably Austroasiatic tribes, most frequent in Orissa and other eastern areas of India, that are directly related to SE Asian Austroasiatic peoples. This macro-ethnicity seems very old in SE Asia but is probably a Neolithic arrival in India.

If the connections you see between Tribal India and SE Asia are limited to or concentrated only among AA tribes, the why is obvious: they are a SE Asian import.

The key word to keep in mind is "contingency."

Contingent means possible, uncertain, unpredictable. It's more or less what I meant before by random selection of specific cultural traits. Contingency = randomness.

In a major disaster, many or most of the population might well be killed or severly disabled. Who survived and who didn't would be largely a matter of chance. If the best singers were all killed, then we might expect from then on a simpler musical tradition, based on what came before, but modified to suit the skills and knowledge of the survivors. In the case of the ancestors of these Indian tribal groups, perhaps the best singers and drummers were killed but the most skillful carver(s) survived.

Well, that may happen also by normal generational replacement randomness. And also by marginal accumulation towards this or that cultural trend: more importance of woodcarving, of solo music, of polyphony, of this or that instrument... all that is contingent, even in lack of any sort of bottleneck. You just need for small generational contingencies to accumulate. The bottleneck logic is just one possibility among many.

Cultural preservation/change is largely unpredictable. We can only see the actual results, not the process, as we can't know why exactly this or that clan kept this tradition and dropped that other one.

Another possible scenario would be one where the older people were killed and only the youngest and strongest survived.

This may make some sense: it would favor cultural modification but would not radically change it, as adults are generally also knowledgeable people and among the most likely ones to survive too.

It's important to remember also that the Toba eruption may well have destroyed all but a very few of the colonies living in the most vulnerable areas.

The key word here is "may". We really have little idea of what exactly happened. We don't even know for sure if H. sapiens were in Eurasia at that time.

I can agree with you but it's all very hypothetical.

Why does a mammal such as the Platypus have a duck bill and lay eggs? Again, the only answer is that this happened "just so" -- as a result of chance mutations that might or might not have occurred at very specific points in time and space.

Convergent evolution in the case of the duck-like bill: they both feed on the same kind of niche. Laying eggs instead is due to shared origins, as the platypus is a primitive mammal in that sense, not a placentarious (?) mammal.

With cultural (not technological) traits it seems much more difficult to discern which is which.

Only if you insist on retaining the rigid categories of traditional archaeology. The advent of farming didn't mean the rejection of all earlier traditions. It's more likely that early farmers adapted certain pre-farming traditions that were already firmly established as part of their earlier lifestyle. If they were already used to dancing and singing together in coordinated groups, then it would have been natural for them to adapt such practices to typical farming activities whenever possible. So why not "dance" your way through the pounding of apples or the threshing of grain?

I don't insist. Just that I understood that you meant that. I agree that integrating pre-existent music and dance into work is possible. But I would also expect quotidiain activities like those to influence art in all forms.

Victor said...

In the literature I've seen, clear distinctions are usually made between "tribal" groups, officially referred to as "Scheduled Tribes," and "Castes." But you are right, not all so-called "tribals" are necessarily indigenous to southern Asia.

There have been studies to determine whether or not certain "low caste" peoples originated as "tribals" but we need not get into that here.

"If the connections you see between Tribal India and SE Asia are limited to or concentrated only among AA tribes, the why is obvious: they are a SE Asian import."

Slit drums have been reported among the Hill Maria Gond, Dravidian speakers currently living in central India. They are reported as having "remained relatively isolated in forests and hills."

"Contingent means possible, uncertain, unpredictable. It's more or less what I meant before by random selection of specific cultural traits. Contingency = randomness."

Not really, no. What I'm talking about is the establishment of long standing traditions on the basis of initial conditions determined at least in part by contingent, i.e., random, events and situations. Once the new tradition is established, contingency no longer applies, the new tradition is then handed down more or less intact from one generation to the next. This is essentially the "punctuated equilibrium" process.

What you described is a situation where contingency would operate as an important formative factor on a continuous basis, causing traditions to gradually shift on their own over time due simply to an accumulation of random changes.

Both are testable hypotheses. But yours has already failed the test. Mine has not. :-)

If contingency operated as you assume, on a generation by generation basis, then over thousands of years we would have a veritable Babel of completely unrelated cultural practices even in relatively localized areas, with very little if any pattern or consistency.

But we don't see such a result in the world of today. Very strong patterns can in fact be discerned. All the evidence tells us that certain traditions are adhered to very strongly once they have been established -- and don't change unless something drastic happens to interfere with their promulgation. Such as a population bottleneck -- or an invasion and takeover by a group with a very different set of traditions.

If continually random changes had an affect above and beyond the production of relatively minor variants, then it would by now be impossible to distinguish between the culture of the various N. American Indian groups and that of Africans or Indonesians or Paelosiberians, etc. Each local group would have developed its own idiosyncratic practices and no large-scale patterns would be discernable.

"The key word here is "may". We really have little idea of what exactly happened. We don't even know for sure if H. sapiens were in Eurasia at that time."

Thanks to the development of modern genetic methods, coupled with the comparative study of culture pattern, including of course musical style, we can extrapolate backward to develop some relatively precise hypotheses, which can then be tested.

This is what makes our present situation different from that of the past, where we had no means of testing such hypotheses and everyone simply speculated on the basis of the "light bulb over the head" syndrome.

Maju said...

But you are right, not all so-called "tribals" are necessarily indigenous to southern Asia.

Nor all non-tribals are allocthonous, IMO. Surely Indo-Aryan culture is partly that, but it also includes many many authoctonous South Asian elements. Dravidians are likely authoctonous in all senses.

Slit drums have been reported among the Hill Maria Gond, Dravidian speakers currently living in central India. They are reported as having "remained relatively isolated in forests and hills."

Central and Mid-Eastern India, directly in contact with the core of Austroasiatic peoples in Orissa, and Chatisghar. Do we know any western tribe with such traits?

Not really, no. What I'm talking about is the establishment of long standing traditions on the basis of initial conditions determined at least in part by contingent, i.e., random, events and situations. Once the new tradition is established, contingency no longer applies, the new tradition is then handed down more or less intact from one generation to the next. This is essentially the "punctuated equilibrium" process.

I am not sure if the Punctuated Equilibrium model is always true or what. But I'm sure that you nor anyone can discern in the rather difuse aracheological and archaeogenetical record all the precise instances when a nodal divergence happened. Certainly Toba was probably one but I seriously doubt it was the only one.

What you described is a situation where contingency would operate as an important formative factor on a continuous basis, causing traditions to gradually shift on their own over time due simply to an accumulation of random changes.

Not necesarily continuous. I don't defend that model either. But with more, often hard to determine evolutionary nodes. These crisis could be caused by many factors, not just merely enviromental: human groups exert pressure on each other, migrations also cause new nodes quite clearly...

Both are testable hypotheses. But yours has already failed the test. Mine has not. :-)

LOL. You don't even say when and by whom. How can I argue against that?!

If contingency operated as you assume, on a generation by generation basis, then over thousands of years we would have a veritable Babel of completely unrelated cultural practices even in relatively localized areas, with very little if any pattern or consistency.

But we don't see such a result in the world of today. Very strong patterns can in fact be discerned. All the evidence tells us that certain traditions are adhered to very strongly once they have been established -- and don't change unless something drastic happens to interfere with their promulgation. Such as a population bottleneck -- or an invasion and takeover by a group with a very different set of traditions.

If continually random changes had an affect above and beyond the production of relatively minor variants, then it would by now be impossible to distinguish between the culture of the various N. American Indian groups and that of Africans or Indonesians or Paelosiberians, etc. Each local group would have developed its own idiosyncratic practices and no large-scale patterns would be discernable.


You also see that. No matter how correlated may the txalaparta and the gamelan be in your mind, when I listen to gamelan music I percieve a very different thing than when I listen to txalaparta.

There's no way to stop change, notwithstanding that it may happen faster in some periods than in others. Each time you try to teach to your son what you learnt from your father, you introduce changes. It's just impossible not to do it. Each time a son or daughter learns, he/she innovates too, exploring the possibilities based on the parental lesson. Change never stops. Nothing remains perfectly stable, even in the most conservative, isolated and stable of societies.

The accumulated effect of many lesser changes can be as effective as a sudden radical change at an evolutionary crossroads. I say that both are posible and that both actually happen.

You may see our society as very stable since the end of WWII but it has changed a lot. It may have changed more while in stability and affluence than what did in the great crisis that preceded this period. That is a real test: the test of history, where crisis and revolutions are important but also gradual processes and evolution inside stability. They feed on each other, they are complementary and they are both real.

Thanks to the development of modern genetic methods, coupled with the comparative study of culture pattern, including of course musical style, we can extrapolate backward to develop some relatively precise hypotheses, which can then be tested.

This is what makes our present situation different from that of the past, where we had no means of testing such hypotheses and everyone simply speculated on the basis of the "light bulb over the head" syndrome.


We can test some stuff. But there's a lot that cannot be tested. There is much speculation also in genetics. After all it's a young science that will still need some time to consolidate.

What genetics offers us is quite good genealogical trees - but undated (or very speculatively dated) ones.

Victor said...

Thanks so much, maju, for so patiently continuing this discussion. While we often disagree, your comments are meaningful and extremely useful in helping me refine and develop my thinking.

"Central and Mid-Eastern India, directly in contact with the core of Austroasiatic peoples in Orissa, and Chatisghar."

I suppose it's a matter of exactly how "relatively isolated" they remained. You have a point -- I'll definitly need to do more research on the distribution of slit drums in tribal India.

"These crisis could be caused by many factors, not just merely enviromental: human groups exert pressure on each other, migrations also cause new nodes quite clearly..."

Yes, of course. There are many reasons why population bottlenecks might form. But regardless of the cause, there will always be the opportunity for significant cultural change. For example, let's say a family leaves the band due to a dispute and subsequently founds a new lineage and ultimately a new tribe that migrates to a different place. If there were no skilled carvers in the original family, then the original carving tradition will not be passed on and will therefore die out. If the founding family was not particularly musical, then some of the more complex aspects of the musical tradition might get simplified. Etc.

"Both are testable hypotheses. But yours has already failed the test. Mine has not. :-)

LOL. You don't even say when and by whom. How can I argue against that?!"

Well, I did place a smiley there, maju, so I was laughing too.

Seriously, however, I strongly doubt that the gradualist notion of cultural "evolution" would pass any test based on current patterns of cultural practice as they exist in the world of today. The lifestyle patterns that distinguish Amerindians, Australian aborigines, African tribals, Melanesian highlanders, Polynesian natives, Paleosiberians, etc., from one another could only be the result of long standing survivals going back to the later stages of the Upper Paleolithic at least. If gradual change were the rule then each separate band would have evolved independently and the broad patterns of cultural similarity and difference we now see would not be evident.

On the other hand, important aspects of the hypothesis that most interests me have already been put to the test and have so far passed. For example, the strong correlation Jordania found in Europe, between the presence of traditional vocal polyphony and residence in remote refuge areas definitely supports the hypothesis, at least as far as Europe is concerned.

I recently did a systematic test for Melanesia that resulted in a strong correlation between the presence of vocal interlock (part of the African signature) and residence in highland as opposed to coastal/lowland New Guinea. Since most geneticists are in agreement that the New Guinea highlanders represent the oldest population in this part of the world, with the strongest links to Africa, this result strikes me as especially significant. (See Blog post 46 of July 3 et seq. for details.)

"No matter how correlated may the txalaparta and the gamelan be in your mind, when I listen to gamelan music I percieve a very different thing than when I listen to txalaparta."

If you were to listen only to the kotekan parts I think you'd hear the very strong similarity. But it's never very meaningful to do one on one comparisons across such broad cultural and geographic divies. Which is one reason I'm skeptical of the Basque-Inuit connection you've been considering. It's only when an entire pattern is explored on a worldwide basis that meaningful connections can become apparent.

"There's no way to stop change, notwithstanding that it may happen faster in some periods than in others. Each time you try to teach to your son what you learnt from your father, you introduce changes. It's just impossible not to do it. Each time a son or daughter learns, he/she innovates too, exploring the possibilities based on the parental lesson. Change never stops. Nothing remains perfectly stable, even in the most conservative, isolated and stable of societies."

The above is a very clear statement of what could be called "the central dogma of postmodern anthropology." As I see it, there is no solid basis for such a notion, it is simply an assumption.

Your description of tradition as being handed down as a kind of chain from parent to child is not only misleading but also wrong. The classic model based on the famous experiment whereby a statement is transmitted from one person to another and finally emerges as totally different from the original cannot be applied to the transmission of a tradition within a fully functioning society. Tradition is not literally passed down from "one generation to the next" as though we were dealing with a chain that could be broken or distorted at any one point.

If babies were born in huge batches, once every 20 years or so, then I suppose this model could apply. But they are being born continually and being born into a society that for them is experienced not simply as "culture" but reality itself.

Traditions are transmitted to the child not simply by the parents but by the entire environment, and reinforced literally by everything around that child, not only all the adults but also the older children. There is no chain that could easily be broken, but something much more like a network of intermeshed and intertwined chains that is almost impossible to break, because any weak chink is reinforced by all the stronger chinks that surround it.

I'm not saying that tradition is consistently transmitted 100%, with no changes at all. There will always be minor changes as each group adapts to changing circumstances, from intermittent flooding or droughts to threats from outside groups. But in all but the most drastic cases, the basic overall features of the tradition will remain intact. And this is consistent with the patterns of culture we see in the world around us.

"You may see our society as very stable since the end of WWII but it has changed a lot."

First of all one can't compare modern society, with its instantaneous communication methods and global economy with the tribal and/or peasant societies of the past. Secondly, if we back away from the welter of details, there is in fact a basic culture pattern to modern life in the developed countries of "the West" that has in fact remained essentially unchanged, despite all the many superficial changes.

"We can test some stuff. But there's a lot that cannot be tested. There is much speculation also in genetics. After all it's a young science that will still need some time to consolidate."

True. But when the somewhat tentative genetic results are tested against the somewhat tentative cultural results, and a strong correlation emerges, that must be taken seriously.

Victor said...

maju: Compare these two youtube clips and tell me what you think.

Basque Txalaparta: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ubkkj09JNKY

Balinese Kotekan: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7y771-AxrFA

Maju said...

Thanks so much, maju, for so patiently continuing this discussion. While we often disagree, your comments are meaningful and extremely useful in helping me refine and develop my thinking.

You are welcome. That's my intention: to try to separate the grain from the hay... or help you to as well.

"Central and Mid-Eastern India, directly in contact with the core of Austroasiatic peoples in Orissa, and Chatisghar."

I suppose it's a matter of exactly how "relatively isolated" they remained. You have a point -- I'll definitly need to do more research on the distribution of slit drums in tribal India.


And their genesis which is unknown. But they are not the typical small egalitarian tribe but a large stratified one. Maybe they assimilated some Austroasiatics in their genesis. The very status as tribe or caste is in India a socio-political one nowadays, as belonging to a tribe or scheduled caste gives some privileges. I would rather think in terms of ethnic groups, independently of their social and official status.

There are many reasons why population bottlenecks might form

Founder effects act as bottlenecks (genetic diversity is lost). Nevertheless founder effects do not imply a massive catstrophe but a small pionering group.

For example, let's say a family leaves the band due to a dispute and subsequently founds a new lineage and ultimately a new tribe that migrates to a different place. If there were no skilled carvers in the original family, then the original carving tradition will not be passed on and will therefore die out. If the founding family was not particularly musical, then some of the more complex aspects of the musical tradition might get simplified. Etc.

Exactly. That's what I was thinking. And these processes do not need of massive bottlenecks or anything of the like.

Seriously, however, I strongly doubt that the gradualist notion of cultural "evolution" would pass any test based on current patterns of cultural practice as they exist in the world of today. The lifestyle patterns that distinguish Amerindians, Australian aborigines, African tribals, Melanesian highlanders, Polynesian natives, Paleosiberians, etc., from one another could only be the result of long standing survivals going back to the later stages of the Upper Paleolithic at least. If gradual change were the rule then each separate band would have evolved independently and the broad patterns of cultural similarity and difference we now see would not be evident.

In fact you see regional patterns because the different tribes and clans influence each other coninuously, with a general tendency to homogeneization. This is surely more obvious in the technological aspect, where productivity may be on the stake, but also in the less economical aspects of culture. Pygmies have lost their original languages to Bantu hegemony for instance, though due to ecological differences they still keep a lot of other peculiarities (but they may hunt using crossbow nowadays, a crosbow that is obviously inspired on the ones the Europeans used five centuries ago - yet hand-made in the woodlands).

I recently did a systematic test for Melanesia that resulted in a strong correlation between the presence of vocal interlock (part of the African signature) and residence in highland as opposed to coastal/lowland New Guinea.

That's interesting certainly.

The above is a very clear statement of what could be called "the central dogma of postmodern anthropology." As I see it, there is no solid basis for such a notion, it is simply an assumption.

You see it daily. Change may go slower or faster, affect these or those aspects more but nothing can be frozen in time. You are not your father nor your son is you and even when it's the same person, small changes happen too in every instance of expression. Even if you put a lot of emphasis in perfectly copying the tradition, there will be some changes and they will accumulate over time. Not even the rocks remain static, much less human society.

Of course there are moments and circumstances (crisis) when change becomes accelerated. But even without these, change is intrinsecal to the Universe.

Traditions are transmitted to the child not simply by the parents but by the entire environment, and reinforced literally by everything around that child, not only all the adults but also the older children. There is no chain that could easily be broken, but something much more like a network of intermeshed and intertwined chains that is almost impossible to break, because any weak chink is reinforced by all the stronger chinks that surround it.

You have a point in this. But it doesn't change the process in the long run. While social consensus acts as conservative force, it also allows for instance of innovation and peculiarity. These instances can more or less easily become dominant eventually.

Maybe it may imply that change may be faster or easier in smaller groups (everything else being equal), where vertical inter-generational transmission is more important. But it's not any absolute barrier to change, specially as larger groups are likely to be more complex and statistically include many more innovative attempts, even if most of these fail to consolidate.

First of all one can't compare modern society, with its instantaneous communication methods and global economy with the tribal and/or peasant societies of the past. Secondly, if we back away from the welter of details, there is in fact a basic culture pattern to modern life in the developed countries of "the West" that has in fact remained essentially unchanged, despite all the many superficial changes.

I think it can be compared if one assumes that the pattern of change is just a lot faster because of global interconnection or because of Deleuze and Guattari's decodifying nature of Capital - or whatever other reason you can think of.

And I also think society has changed radically in the last 50 or 60 years. A Christian society has become agnostic and skeptic, classical music and jazz has been replaced by megadecibelic rock&roll in all variants, patriarchy has been largely dismantled (not totally, sure), the industrial worker has become an endangered species, strong leadership figures like De Gaulle or Roosevelt are not anymore (because the very essence of authority has been dramatically eroded and because now it's all just a publicity stunt). True that the main changes in this direction happened in the 60s and 70s but when you look for the big crisis causing them... it's not aywhere. It was just internal sociocultural change.

True. But when the somewhat tentative genetic results are tested against the somewhat tentative cultural results, and a strong correlation emerges, that must be taken seriously.

Psah! If there is an accumulation of interdiscplinary evidence, then yes, but two good guesses don't make a truth.

It's still a hypothesis, a good hypothesis maybe but without something solid, without evidence, it cannot be upgraded to theory.

It's a matter of opinion, of course. And I do think you have a good case, just that I'm critical and therefore not likely to accept it as a solid model without some clear evidence. Even if parts of your model are true, some conclusions may be wrong anyhow - conclusions that do not depend on the base hypothesis but on other ideas of how cultural evolution happened.

Maju said...

My PC's sound doesn't work. I have to fix it but cannot find the driver. :-(

Victor said...

"Of course there are moments and circumstances (crisis) when change becomes accelerated. But even without these, change is intrinsecal to the Universe."

One of the fundamental principles of science is Leibnitz' "principle of sufficient reason," which states: "anything that happens does so for a definite reason. In virtue of which no fact can be real or no statement true unless it has sufficient reason why it should be otherwise."

If change were intrinsic in the universe, or in human life, then we would see all sorts of things happen for no reason and scientific enquiry would be meaningless.

Again, this inflated notion of the "inevitability" of change is part of a dogma that began among certain anthropologists as an unfortunate over-reaction to certain equally naive dogmas of their predecessors. Two wrongs don't make a right. (Not sure whether Leibnitz said that, but he should have. :-)

Changes can of course occur due to innovations and also the influence of other societies living nearby. But anyone with experience of traditional societies knows very well that innovation is NOT valued and not encouraged. What is most important above all is the bond with the ancestors -- i.e., tradition. Cultural borrowing is another matter and certainly that possibility must be taken into consideration. But change in itself, for no reason, as a basic principle? I don't think so.

"In fact you see regional patterns because the different tribes and clans influence each other coninuously, with a general tendency to homogeneization."

In certain cases this is undoubtedly true. But in other cases it's hard to accept. Certainly in Australia, where large scale human movements appear to have been common, one could attribute the high degree of homogeneity to mutual influence over thousands of years. But what about Paleosiberia, a vast area with terrain that's notoriously difficult to cross?

The notion of continual influence involving groups living at great distances from one another reminds me of the multiregionalists and their claim of reticulated genetic "influence" due to a process involving mass migrations of humans all over the planet for two or three million years. At least they are giving themselves millions of years for this to happen. But it's still highly unlikely, it seems to me.

If we find (as Jordania appears to have found in Europe) traditional polyphonic singing almost exclusively in remote refuge areas, surrounded by mainstream populations singing exclusively either solo or in unison, then please explain how those people living in remote mountain, forest or island areas could have influenced one another? Doesn't it make more sense to see this as an archaic survival, based on a historicaly remote common ancestry?

Are you aware, by the way, of the research being done by linguists applying the notion of punctuated equilibrium to the eveolution of languages? Here's a reference that might interest you: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/319/5863/588

Here's another: http://anthropology.net/2008/01/31/punctuated-equilibrium-drives-language-evolution/

I'd be really interested in your take on all this.

"And I do think you have a good case, just that I'm critical and therefore not likely to accept it as a solid model without some clear evidence."

I've presented all sorts of evidence almost on a daily basis for a long time on this blog. Also in papers that I've written, most of which have been published, including one in an anthropology journal, Before Farming. I'll get copies to you if you email me with a request.

The real problem for me is that hardly anyone knows what to make of the evidence I present, 1. because no one else has been doing this sort of research for a long time and 2. most people with an interest in comparative research of this kind are not musicians and feel uncomfortable assessing musical evidence.

I'm not sure how to deal with this problem but I do seem to be getting through to at least some people little by little and I intend to persist.

Maju said...

One of the fundamental principles of science is Leibnitz' "principle of sufficient reason," which states: "anything that happens does so for a definite reason. In virtue of which no fact can be real or no statement true unless it has sufficient reason why it should be otherwise."

But you may just not know the reason. In physics, you can make experiments... but not in history, where you are bound to study the remains, be them subjective documents, or objective but incomplete and mute archaeological remains (including now genetics). Another element is certainly cultural pervivences but in my experience these often have very unclear and diverse links.

You have found very suggestive pervivences of this kind pointing to pretty clear links. But I don't know if you are correct about the cause because I don't know if Oppenheimer's model is really the ebst possible one and because I can think of alternative models perfectly as well.

You don't like them because you have faith in the punctuated equilibrium model. But even the paper you mention only claims 33% of change due to sudden outbursts of innovation. The other 2/3 are gradual change.

Additionally the abstract clearly suggests that these outbursts of innovation are not caused by any bottleneck (in fact there are no detected genetic bottlenecks in Africa) but by "language splitting events",what I read as expansions, diversification, pioneering and colonization.

You say that traditional societies are very conservative. I agree they are but the degree of conservatism varies a lot depending on how ritualized is each aspect of life. If they can change the way they treat their dead ones, always a very religious and ritualistic aspect of culture, they can also change their music. That's what I think.

Also some cultures may be more conservative than others or more conservative in some aspects only. For all cultures allowing some individuality and innovativeness is important, because that not only assures personal satisfaction with life but also allows the community to evolve and stay fit.

It's not like "the gods" are watching for each aspect of life to be performed in a perectly ritual fashion. That's not realistic. "The gods" (or ancestors or whatever) may be watching for some particular rituals and traditions but there is always room for innovation too.

...

Anyhow, I do think your research is very interesting and will add some really good stuff to cultural prehistory that will be chewed upon as people becomes more and more aware of these apparently very archaic connections. I just think you go a little bit too far in trying to explain every single reason of these pervivences, when our knowledge of the prehistorical reality and even of social processes of change and perpetuation are not well defined.

Oppenheimer's model is one among many. And your insistence on cultural ultra-conservatism and needing a super-strong clearly defined cause for each innovation is not something I can share, really. This doesn't mean I don't agree with the patterns you see, just with the explanations of the causes to them.

Victor said...

"But you may just not know the reason."

True. However, you were talking as though change were in itself some sort of universal bound to take place naturally, as a matter of course. And this type of thinking appears to be typical among many anthropologists today.

When you take the principle of sufficient reason into account then the burden of proof shifts to you to provide "sufficient reason" for the changes you claim are so common. You can't just shrug your shoulders and say "well change is inevitable." And if you can't come up with convincing reasons then YOU are the one without a theory.

There is also another basic principle of modern science that must also be respected: "Occam's Razor." Clearly the notion that a particular cultural practice can be explained as an archaic survival is far simpler than an explanation based on a hypothetical series of encounters that might or might not have taken place over time that might possibly have led two otherwise different peoples to adopt the same practice as a result of mutual influence -- and then go their separate ways, erasing all evidence of the previous encounter.

If there is no compelling evidence that could tip the scales in either direction ("all other things being equal"), then the simplest interpretation must be preferred. This is basic scientific method, NOT just a guiding principle.

The Ptolemaic interpretation of planetary motion could in principle, if carried far enough, account for the motions of the planets as understood in Newton's day -- but the interpretation offered by Newton was accepted in his time essentially on the basis of Occam's Razor. It accounted for the same motions in a far simpler manner.

By "pervivence" I assume you mean "persistence"? I'm not acquainted with this term.

"I can think of alternative models perfectly as well."

Yes, alternative models. But on what basis? Assumptions regarding the nature of change? Assumptions regarding human psychology? Remember, your models must 1. conform to the principle of sufficient reason and 2. conform to Occam's Razor. The alternative models can't be based on excuses ("you may not know the reason") but actual reasons -- and not only reasons but sufficient reasons. And if you can't find compelling evidence that your model is superior, then it must at least be simpler.

"Additionally the abstract clearly suggests that these outbursts of innovation are not caused by any bottleneck (in fact there are no detected genetic bottlenecks in Africa) but by "language splitting events",what I read as expansions, diversification, pioneering and colonization."

It's pretty clear that they have bottlenecks in mind. Otherwise the punctuated equilibrium model wouldn't work. If two groups simply split up then we would assume that the language would persist as before in both groups. It's only when something relatively drastic occurs that sudden changes could be expected.

"If they can change the way they treat their dead ones, always a very religious and ritualistic aspect of culture, they can also change their music."

I agree. And there are many instances where the music must have changed and many reasons for such changes, certainly. But funerary practices don't just change due to "innovation," just because someone had a bright idea for how to do it more efficiently or whatever. In traditional societies, both funerary practices and music (especially ritual music) are highly resistent to change. When we see evidence of such changes we must assume that there was some compelling reason that forced the change, not simply "innovation" or change for its own sake.

"For all cultures allowing some individuality and innovativeness is important, because that not only assures personal satisfaction with life but also allows the community to evolve and stay fit."

The Darwinian model of adaptation can certainly be applied to material culture. Housing design, clothing, food production methods, all these will tend to change as people adapt to new environments. The groups that can't or won't adapt are less likely to survive.

But immaterial culture -- such as funerary customs, rituals, healing practices, music and also dance -- has no particular survival value. These are what could be called "neutral markers," not usually subject to Darwinian pressures, thus far less likely to change.

I appreciate your sympathetic approach to my work despite your skepticism. But I seem to have given you the impression that my position is more rigid than it really is. I'm not trying to convince people that the theories I'm presenting must in fact be correct, but that they must be taken seriously. What I want above all is to develop testable hypotheses. I don't expect anyone to simply accept my ideas based on the force of my arguments alone, before they've been both properly tested AND subject to independent review.

Maju said...

Look, Victor: human creativity, free will or ingenuity is sufficient reason. If you don't believe in free will, think in terms of quantum uncertainty (the statistical effect should be the same).

And I ask Occam's Razor: "little razor, little razor, tell me which is the simplest explanation for cultural differences". And the shiny sharp gadget replies: "human innovativity and caprice is".

I have never experienced the devastating effects of a super-caldera mega-colossal explosion but I experience every single day the effects of human innovativeness and caprice. And I wonder: "maybe this is an issue of our very decodified society...", so I look at other societies, like the Bushmen or the Inuit and I see a greater degree of persistence of tradition, yes, but I also see a lot of freedom to create and innovate.

Take for instance the legend of Sedna. The Inuits are known to have colonized arctic North America in the last 1500 years, yet the legend has completely different versions depending of the local group. For some Sedna is an all powerful goddess, for others a bad girl justly punished... each time the elders told the story, something was changed, even if just slightly. Each time the young ones heard it, they got a slightly different impression, they retained more this or that detail, they understood certain ambiguity this or that way. Even if social conservatism did surely counter that chaotic tendency somewhat, it could never stop it totally.

It's pretty clear that they have bottlenecks in mind.

No. A bottleneck is a massive contraction. It should not diversify the language at all, as the total number of speakers is lost and with them linguistic diversity. We see languages evolving like animals or people do but with much greater flexibility (creolization, loans, substrate influence...). They primarily diverge because of isolation (inbreeding), though other factors can speed up change (outbreeding with unrelated languages specially).

This relative isolation is specially achieved by colonization efforts. The new group will then evolve in relative isolation and in the long run their language will become very different from the evolved version in their homeland.

You see that also in genetics: when a lineage splits it often means that two or more different groups were already living separatedly (otherwise drift would tend to fixate one clade and erase the others).

Otherwise the punctuated equilibrium model wouldn't work.

It's just a model anyhow, not the absolute truth. But it can perfectly work with other kind of punctuations, not just mega-catastrophes and bottlenecks. In fact the punctuated equilibrium model fits very well with punctuated expansions, i.e. good yields lead to population growth and a bad period leads to split and emigration. That split moment is a 'punctum' by definition: a moment of radiation. You don't even need a sharp malthusian situation to have divergence, it could just be caused by the discovery of new good lands, like happened at the end of the Ice Age with the Northern Europe or by the developement of new weaponry able to overcome your backward neighbours and get their lands.

If two groups simply split up then we would assume that the language would persist as before in both groups.

Just look at known history: Rome split and Romance languages arose, the former Spanish Empire language is already evolving towards distinct entities, you even find strong dialect differences among nerby groups everywhere. Some of this natural divergence has been stopped by globalization recently but the effect of four centuries of major geographic distances and some "random" founder effects is very visible.

You have faith in lack of change but that's one of the most unrealistic types of faith I've ever seen. Any hunter-gatherer group of some 10-30 people maybe is too small to enforce conservatism too much. Some cultural conservatism will happen of course, because we humans learn from our elders and peers but there are no impassable gates for innovation either, providing some individuals have the creativity for it. Nobody will really force them unless they are breaking a major taboo or doing something really stupid that could endanger themselves or the community.

If elements like wood drums or hocket have persisted is probably not because they could not have changed (they did in some groups, in fact) but because people surely appreciated them too intensely to forget them. Nevertheless they have also evolved into different variations: each group chose, gradually or abruptly, what peculiar style they enjoyed best.

It's only when something relatively drastic occurs that sudden changes could be expected.

That speeds up change, sure. But a migration, a group that splits, is something drastic enough. It creates two or more different realities that evetually become really different.

You should not anyhow discard the effect of gradual accumulative change. It clearly happens: it's everywhere.

But funerary practices don't just change due to "innovation," just because someone had a bright idea for how to do it more efficiently or whatever.

Look at historical religions: someone had a lightbulb (mystic vision or whatever) and they managed to create very powerful waves of change. Not sure if they altered burial practices but I guess such changes in the archaeological record often do reflect religious changes too. Of course, loads of would-be prophets had to fail or have only very limited success for a handful to muster such radical waves of change. It's the same with other cultural aspects: was Renaissance associated to any sort of mega-crisis? Nope. At most at the influence of refugees from Byzantium. Was the transition from Romanic to Gothic the product of a catastrophe? Nope. Some milenarism at most. You certainly cannot pinpoint such erratic causes in the archaeological record, maybe if we had a time-machine...

But immaterial culture -- such as funerary customs, rituals, healing practices, music and also dance -- has no particular survival value. These are what could be called "neutral markers," not usually subject to Darwinian pressures, thus far less likely to change.

But neutral markers also change, even if just due to drift and founder effects. Only what is essential, what if changed causes death or reproductive failure, persists.

I appreciate your sympathetic approach to my work despite your skepticism. But I seem to have given you the impression that my position is more rigid than it really is. I'm not trying to convince people that the theories I'm presenting must in fact be correct, but that they must be taken seriously.

I take them seriously. We don't seem to agree in the underlying processes, the causes, but I do think that the patterns you have identified are probably real.

I'd like to encourage you to keep your good work. It's valuable research in my opinion.

Victor said...

"Look, Victor: human creativity, free will or ingenuity is sufficient reason. If you don't believe in free will, think in terms of quantum uncertainty (the statistical effect should be the same)."

Yes, the statistical effect should be roughly the same. But when we examine the full range of cultural practices worldwide, we see no evidence of such an effect. If it were simply a matter of creativity we would expect to find more or less the same practices cropping up in various corners of the world with no discernible pattern.

"little razor, little razor, tell me which is the simplest explanation for cultural differences". And the shiny sharp gadget replies: "human innovativity and caprice is"."

Occam's razor sorts on the basis of the simplest explanation CONSISTENT WITH THE FACTS. The facts do not support "human innovativity and caprice" as the source of cultural differences. Also this is NOT a simple explanation, as it entails the independent invention over and over of essentially the same practices in different places and at different times for no particular reason other than "creativity."

Also it violates the principle of sufficient reason. Creativity is a reason, for sure, but hardly a SUFFICIENT reason, as it can't explain why certain things were created and not others -- and why certain things were created only in certain parts of the world and not others.

The legend of Sedna that you mention is a good example of such patterning. The differences you have found are easily explainable as variants of the basic story. Variants will inevitably arise in any tradition and research has demonstrated that certain variants can be associated with certain groups, for sure. Whether this is due to creativity or randomness, isn't clear, but there is no question that this sort of "cultural drift" occurs. However, when we step back to observe the big picture, we see that effects of "cultural drift" are secondary to the larger patterns.

For example, in Western popular music we see all sorts of variants, in the form of genres such as show music, disco, rock, blues, country, heavy metal, punk, etc., but all conform to a more fundamental pattern, featuring: a rhythm section (double bass, chord instrument(s), such as guitar, piano, accordian, etc., and drum set), standard triadic and seventh chord progressions, strophic form with refrain, a predominance of plucked lute type instruments (mostly electric guitars), etc. The only genre that doesn't fit the mainstream European model is hip-hop, which represents a return in many ways to African models. No matter how creative the many pop musicians of our day might be, they rarely step beyond the constraints of the overall style family. Actually they almost never do.

"No. A bottleneck is a massive contraction. It should not diversify the language at all, as the total number of speakers is lost and with them linguistic diversity."

I think you are missing the point here. A bottleneck does not produce diversity, it reduces it. This is as true in genetics as in linguistics or anything else. A bottleneck produces divergence, not diversity. Or to put it another way, bottlenecks reduce internal diversity, but the resulting divergence can have the effect of increasing external diversity.

The examples you see, of "gradual accumulative change" are characteristic largely of relatively recent developments, due as I see it to 1. improved communications associated with the development of writing; 2. increased specialization, producing subclasses of specialists who cut across the usual cultural boundaries, influence one another and compete in such a way as to produce innovations on a regular basis. But even so, most of these innovations are nevertheless variants of larger patterns that remain stable.

Thanks very much for your encouraging remarks, they are very much appreciated, even if you don't fully agree.

As I see it, the principal difficulty with the approach to fundamental musical change that I'm presenting, as due largely to population bottlenecks, and based on a more or less "punctuated equilibrium" model, is not that change or "cultural drift" is somehow inevitable (IMO it isn't), but that it's very difficult to formulate a version of my hypothesis that is falsifiable. Which means that testing certain aspects of the hypothesis could present an especially difficult challenge.

Maju said...

Occam's razor sorts on the basis of the simplest explanation CONSISTENT WITH THE FACTS. The facts do not support "human innovativity and caprice" as the source of cultural differences.

Do they? As I see it they often seem to. Maybe not for all aspects but for some certainly. Two isolated groups of people originally speaking the same language will with the course of time unavoidably speak two related yet different languages. Just out of spontaneous innovation or different conservative trends. And that happens with every other single cultural item. The human mind is not a mere recording device.

Also this is NOT a simple explanation, as it entails the independent invention over and over of essentially the same practices in different places and at different times for no particular reason other than "creativity."

It's simple because it's real: we can see people doing that over and over in all aspects of culture, in "real time" and historically. It's just simple to think that happened also when we don't have records to know the exact process.

Also it violates the principle of sufficient reason. Creativity is a reason, for sure, but hardly a SUFFICIENT reason, as it can't explain why certain things were created and not others -- and why certain things were created only in certain parts of the world and not others.

It cannot explain why this and not that, sure, because that choice is (was) individual or groupal choice. Humans are not mere machines but the universe is not Newtonian either anyhow. Newtonian machinerism is off: it can only explain things up to some point. Then we enter the realm of quantum uncertainty, of relativity and of chaos physics.

If you want to predict how the weather will be in a week or so, you have a good deal of uncertainty. Why? Because you just cannot track and map every single factor and the system is unstable enough. If the proverbial butterfly happens to flap its wings in the right moment, then it will be storm, if not, maybe it will be sunny.

This applies even for tomorrow's weather (with much lesser uncertainty though). Similarly human societies are largely unpredictable, specially if you don't know all the factors in play. And one of these factors, a very important one, is the human mind, or more precisley the minds, each one with its own very complex parameters and its own implicit uncertainty.

If you like predictability you may strongly dislike this. But it's a fact of life, as important as gravity, the Sun or the oxygen we breath.

What happens in crisis, the "puncti" of punctuated evolution, is that the predictability becomes even less predictable, much less so, allowing for even greater and faster changes. But mini-crisis are happening all the time, every single day... and systems (either biological or social) must be flexible enough to adapt to them or accumulate structural damage till the point of fracture (big crisis).

Variants will inevitably arise in any tradition and research has demonstrated that certain variants can be associated with certain groups, for sure. Whether this is due to creativity or randomness, isn't clear, but there is no question that this sort of "cultural drift" occurs. However, when we step back to observe the big picture, we see that effects of "cultural drift" are secondary to the larger patterns.

Ok to that. But remember that such variation in Inuits has happened along just 1500 years without any major division in the ethnic group. Imagine in 50 or 70,000 years, with the group (not anymore Inuits but Eurasian humans) splitting once and again to colonize new lands, getting involved in tribal wars, experimenting with new ecological niches (how could Sedna survive into a culture that has forgotten the Sea, that knows nothing of whales and otters?)

No matter how creative the many pop musicians of our day might be, they rarely step beyond the constraints of the overall style family. Actually they almost never do.

Yes. But society (big globalized society via the mass-media nowadays) can also act as conservative constraint towards innovation.

I don't say that major changes are bound to happen every single time a person plays an instrument or sings in the shower. I just say that you never know how some can innovate eventually and how can society react to such innovations. I understand that even if the general trend is rather conservative and only very moderately innovative, there will be exceptions to that rule and these exceptions are not predictable.

... bottlenecks reduce internal diversity, but the resulting divergence can have the effect of increasing external diversity.

Ok. Admitted as possibility. But I am not persuaded all changes can be traced to a likely single bottleneck in Eurasian history. There were surely other moments of openness in that prehistory, whose parameters we cannot know. Just because we know of the dramatic dimension of Toba explosion, it doesn't mean that it was the only factor promoting change.

As mentioned before (and I could put more and more examples) major crisis themselves are not the only elements playing in innovation. You cannot explain Colombus and de Gama just in terms of crisis. There may have been some factors of that sort (Turkish pressure was a major one, sure) but that alone doesn't explain almost anything. There was a process of accumulation of smaller changes (improved navigation, better geographical knowledge, etc.) that allowed them to exist in the historical meaningful way.

The examples you see, of "gradual accumulative change" are characteristic largely of relatively recent developments...

It's easier to look at well known recent history - just that. Certainly improved communications expand the effects of change faster and may even influence these changes via greater cultural interaction... but in a smaller scale they also happened in the past. Expansion of succesful innovations was slower, cultural interaction was somewhat more limited... but more direct too, as the interacting groups had to be in direct contact (not indirectly via trade, newspapers or the Net).

As I see it, the principal difficulty with the approach to fundamental musical change that I'm presenting, as due largely to population bottlenecks, and based on a more or less "punctuated equilibrium" model, is not that change or "cultural drift" is somehow inevitable (IMO it isn't), but that it's very difficult to formulate a version of my hypothesis that is falsifiable.

Sure. But do you really need to attempt to explain everything? It's laudable but I doubt it's realistic.

Personally, I would focus in studying and showing the patterns of cultural continuity and would just outline one or, more likely, several possible explanations. But, of course, it's up to you.

Enjoy.

Victor said...

"Two isolated groups of people originally speaking the same language will with the course of time unavoidably speak two related yet different languages."

Yes. And there appear to be somewhat predictable laws of "linguistic drift" that facilitate this process. Change does seem to be "built in" to the history of language, for sure.

The problem is that anthropologists and archaeologists have taken language as THE model for cultural change, whereas language is in fact a highly specialized and idiosyncratic aspect of culture.

I've written elsewhere that language appears to be a force for change whereas music is a conservative force. What makes language so dynamic is its inherently "creative" nature. Each statement has the potential to be a unique expression, and in fact a great many statements are completely original and never before uttered. For example, "When I was visiting Sarah, who is now living with her fifth husband, I saw John take an ax from Jerry's hut, wipe it off with a Jubjub leaf and head for the brick house over by the five large pine trees." Speech is full of "creative" statements such as this.

Music, on the other hand, is far LESS creative. This is especially true in "tribal" societies and "folk" communities, where a limited repertoire of songs and dances can persist for generations, each with its own name, its own tune and its own text.

Even the longest song often consists of the same melody repeated over and over again, with different words for each verse. In some cases, the same melody AND text (or nonsense vocables) can be repeated endlessly all night long or even for several days and nights.

This is not to say that variant versions of the same songs don't arise or that new ones aren't created. But on the whole redundancy and conservatism tend to be the rule with music, whereas expressive efficiency and innovation tend to be the rule for language. This is true, by the way, for the folk and popular music of our present "global" culture as well.

It's only when we adapt a typically "Western" standpoint, based largely on the classical art music tradition, that music is seen as an essentially creative act. For most societies it most certainly isn't. Even when new songs are created, they are often the product of dreams, and understood as the creation of ancestors or gods, not individuals.

Whether other aspects of culture are closer to language or music is another issue, but it would seem that certain cultural practices, such as rituals, kinship systems, marital customs, etc. tend also to be highly redundant, repetitive and non-creative in a similar way.

There will always be a certain amount of "cultural drift" for sure, but relatively speaking many cultural practices will not change in any fundamental way unless outside pressure of some kind forces that change.

The bottom line on all this is that we see large-scale patterns of both musical style and cultural style that we would not see if cultural drift were strong enough to overwhelm cultural inertia -- even over tens of thousands of years. While this might seem an arbitrary and even outrageous claim, it's demonstrably consistent with the facts. What is it NOT consistent with is the prevailing ideology, which assumes continual change and willfully ignores the existence of large-scale patterns.

"But do you really need to attempt to explain everything? It's laudable but I doubt it's realistic. Personally, I would focus in studying and showing the patterns of cultural continuity and would just outline one or, more likely, several possible explanations. But, of course, it's up to you."

I HAVE been concentrating much of my effort in one particular area, i.e., Pygmy/Bushmen style and its relation to African music in general. And I've been collaborating with geneticists Sarah Tishkoff and Floyd Reed on research focused on that continent.

But IMO we can't account for local patterns of difference and continuity without taking the big picture into account. So it's important to work both ends of the problem. As I see it, the new genetics research plus the old Cantometrics database gives us some pretty good tools for making systematic comparisons on both a worldwide and local basis.

Maju said...

The example you give for language "creativity" is not a good example: it's just a possible sentence among the many (infinite?) that language allows for. Language change means sound and word changes and grammar change as well. It's more like comparing the Beowulf with its modern translation.

But anyhow. I don't fully agree that music is soooo conservative. After all musicians had something to say and while some may limit themselves to mere repetition, I am 100% sure that others also included some innovations. Wether inspired by the gods or the ancestors or whatever is just a convenient explanation.

Equally religions and even kinship systems also have changed, sometimes almost overnight. When you see an archaeological culture changing their burial practices it really means they changed their rituals. If they can change their burial rituals, they can change anything.

There will always be a certain amount of "cultural drift" for sure, but relatively speaking many cultural practices will not change in any fundamental way unless outside pressure of some kind forces that change.

Obviously such pressures are the "easiest" way to induce change but you cannot just claim anyhow that all cultures were always static or almost so. Now and then, for this or that reason, things changed. It's an archaeological fact, even if we cannot know most details about music itself.

We don't know exactly why they began to paint bisons nor why they stopped it. We don't exacly Know why they began building dolmens nor why this custom fell out of fashion several milennia later.

Maybe they all were caused by some abnormal pressure but we don't know really which one, nor its force nor how much individual decissions affected the outcome. But we know there was no Toba explossion affecting these important changes. Whatever the reason, it was much more subtle.

The bottom line on all this is that we see large-scale patterns of both musical style and cultural style that we would not see if cultural drift were strong enough to overwhelm cultural inertia -- even over tens of thousands of years. While this might seem an arbitrary and even outrageous claim, it's demonstrably consistent with the facts. What is it NOT consistent with is the prevailing ideology, which assumes continual change and willfully ignores the existence of large-scale patterns.

I think there's an intermediate realistic point somehwere. Even if there are "unexpected" pervivences that doesn't mean that change cannot happen for reasons we can't understand. Change happened in fact and you don't find such pervivences in very wide areas, so maybe it's more the pervivence which needs an explanation than change.

Why were these apparent archaisms preserved so well, not among remote peoples like the Pygmies, Bushmen or even some paleo-Siberians... but in Europe and SE Asia? Neither region seems particularly isolated, so why?

So it's important to work both ends of the problem. As I see it, the new genetics research plus the old Cantometrics database gives us some pretty good tools for making systematic comparisons on both a worldwide and local basis.

I agree with that. But surely they are not just parallel issues, the same that language and genetics aren't in mamny cases either.

Victor said...

"The example you give for language "creativity" is not a good example: it's just a possible sentence among the many (infinite?) that language allows for."

My example was simply intended as an illustration of the innate "creativity" of language as opposed to the far more conservative nature of music, in the most general sense. Whether this degree of sentence by sentence creativity influences long term linguistic "drift" or not is hard to say.

"But anyhow. I don't fully agree that music is soooo conservative. After all musicians had something to say and while some may limit themselves to mere repetition, I am 100% sure that others also included some innovations."

Among the indigenous peoples that most interest me there is no such thing as "musicians." Everyone is expected to participate in music and dance, and everyone is indoctrinated into the fundamental principles from infancy.

In any case, innovation is a relative thing. We can see from studies of Pygmy and Bushmen music that new songs and dances are continually being introduced, even today. These peoples can be regarded as exceptionally creative musically. But only in a strictly limited sense. If that were not the case, and the innovations extended to more fundamental aspects, such as structure or style, then the two traditions would not share such strikingly similar structural and stylistic features, as they do today.

This is not to say that such an extreme degree of structural/stylistic conservatism is necessarily universal, to be applied in all cases. But it does establish that, at least in some cases, essentially the same cultural practice can endure more or less unchanged for tens of thousands of years. This in itself would represent a huge paradigm shift for anthropology, I would think.

"Equally religions and even kinship systems also have changed, sometimes almost overnight. When you see an archaeological culture changing their burial practices it really means they changed their rituals. If they can change their burial rituals, they can change anything."

We are seeing things from very different perspectives, which is, I think, one reason why it's so hard to find common ground. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that most of the dramatic changes you see are from "ancient" archaeological sites. From my perspective, "ancient" is already very far along historically. And such societies were undoubtedly far more complex than the indigenous tribal groups where I am finding evidence of strongly conservative traditions.

Once you have strong leaders, where everything is dictated from the top down, then the entire picture changes. The "creatitivy" (or whim) of a powerful leader can certainly result in all sorts of change over very short periods of time. But the societies I'm focusing on tend to be acephalous and egalitarian.

"But we know there was no Toba explossion affecting these important changes. Whatever the reason, it was much more subtle."

The changes that most interest me go back very far into human history, much farther back than the archaeological record can reveal, with only a few exceptions. Certainly the very deep division between polyphonic and unison singing, with the very clear and large differences we see in their distribution worldwide must have its roots in a very early stage, proabably dating from changes that took place during the initial OOA migration.

The real question regarding Toba is whether or not modern humans had already migrated out of Africa and left colonies along the Indian Ocean coast when the eruption took place. If that can be established, then that event would almost certainly have produced major population bottlenecks and founder effects that could account for many very basic changes, in genetics, morphology and culture.

The changes I'm referring to are far too basic and far reaching to have been produced by gradual changes among many different groups over long periods of time. If not caused by Toba then it seems likely they must have been caused by some other major event, such as a Tsunami, years-long drought, flood, etc.

"I think there's an intermediate realistic point somehwere. Even if there are "unexpected" pervivences that doesn't mean that change cannot happen for reasons we can't understand."

I agree that change can happen for all sorts of reasons. But different types of change, triggered by different sorts of events leave different traces in the cultural record. These show up not only in archaeological remains but also in current cultural practices of the sort I've been studying.

"Why were these apparent archaisms preserved so well, not among remote peoples like the Pygmies, Bushmen or even some paleo-Siberians... but in Europe and SE Asia? Neither region seems particularly isolated, so why?"

There are isolated regions in Europe, of course. Gimbutas among others makes that point. And certainly in New Guinea and Melanesia generally groups exist that have been isolated, relatively speaking, for many thousands of years, as is attested by the many language isolates in this region.

Maju said...

I think we have pretty much common ground, Victor: we differ a lot in emphasis but I really don't feel that our overall understanding is so different.

... the societies I'm focusing on tend to be acephalous and egalitarian.

Have you ever heard of spontaneous leadership? It's not like there is anyone who can dictate things to the rest, as in an autocracy, but often, in certain specific aspects possibly, some person may take temporarily a special leading role. It's not institutional but more like charismatic, based on trust on that person's abilities and initiative.

The changes I'm referring to are far too basic and far reaching to have been produced by gradual changes among many different groups over long periods of time. If not caused by Toba then it seems likely they must have been caused by some other major event, such as a Tsunami, years-long drought, flood, etc.

I'll leave this here. I am not sure we really need catastrophic changes to cause such differences, specially as the differences also exist within Africa, that was surely not much affected by Toba. But anyhow, I'm just not sure.

There are isolated regions in Europe, of course.

How isolated? I know that the western edge of Europe and North Africa (Megalithic area) was relatively special in the Neolithic but "isolated" is not the word really. And if you are thinking in the Alps for instance... those areas were clearly colonized only in the Neolithic (Chalcolithic probably). They may have remained relatively apart since then but it's not like they had a founder effect in the Toba event or the original colonization of Europe, and they were certainly not immune to Indo-Europeization either.

But anyhow...

Victor said...

Again thanks so much maju for your very helpful comments.

"I think we have pretty much common ground, Victor: we differ a lot in emphasis but I really don't feel that our overall understanding is so different."

I agree. There will always be change, as you say, but the question remains as to what degree of change was/is in effect at any given time and place, and within what parameters. Ultimately such questions can only be answered by future research.

"Have you ever heard of spontaneous leadership? It's not like there is anyone who can dictate things to the rest, as in an autocracy, but often, in certain specific aspects possibly, some person may take temporarily a special leading role."

Certainly. But in acephalous societies such leaders have only the power to alter certain things and not others. If they attempted drastic changes they would probably lose their authority. In hierarchical societies, on the other hand, a powerful ruler can change just about anything, even on a whim. He can have a dream and as a result many things can change overnight.

"I am not sure we really need catastrophic changes to cause such differences, specially as the differences also exist within Africa, that was surely not much affected by Toba."

This is an excellent point, which opens up a whole new area for research. As a matter of fact there are indeed many groups in SSAfrica that sing mostly in unison with only incidental or no vocal polyphony. I've been mapping their distribution and so far it is interesting. This pattern, such as it is, could not have been caused by Toba, that seems certain.

The isolated regions in Europe to which I refer are apparent when we look at the musical picture of today, or at least the recent past, as Jordania has done. This is the realm of "Old Europe" as understood by Gimbutas, who also places such isolated groups in refuge areas, such as mountains, islands and thick forests.

This is an especially promising idea because it could in principle be tested genetically. And here I think the musical evidence could be especially useful in this process.

In an article I read recently on the genetic picture in Greece, several different groups within that country had been sampled. However the two groups mentioned by Jordania as the only two where vocal polyphony is (or was until recently) common were not sampled. Specifically he refers to Epirus and Rhodes. It would be interesting to learn whether there were unique markers in these two areas that might point to "Old European" survivals. And there are, of course, many other such relatively isolated "refuge" areas that could be similarly tested on the basis of their musical styles.

Maju said...

As a matter of fact there are indeed many groups in SSAfrica that sing mostly in unison with only incidental or no vocal polyphony. I've been mapping their distribution and so far it is interesting. This pattern, such as it is, could not have been caused by Toba, that seems certain.

That looks like the theory needs some refinement, right? I wonder what the exact pattern is but I can only guess that most SS Africans do not practice hocket music.

But in acephalous societies such leaders have only the power to alter certain things and not others. If they attempted drastic changes they would probably lose their authority. In hierarchical societies, on the other hand, a powerful ruler can change just about anything, even on a whim. He can have a dream and as a result many things can change overnight.

I think you overvalue the power of autocrats (they are usually more dependent on the cultural consensus than you think, IMO) and undervalue the flexibility of horizontal societies. As I see it instead autocratic societies are seldom able to evolve (think Saudi Arabia, for instance), while participative ones can be more dynamic.

Not all societies are overwhelmed by ancestral taboos, rules and rituals. The presence of too many of them is actually a sign of stagnation and of some sort of autocracy, even if not personalized yet but exerted via the "magic" of the ancestors/gods.

By this I don't mean that suddenly everything may change just because some spontaneous leader decides it. But that such a charismatic person will surely find no real difficulty introducing some of his/her creations to the cultural repertory of the group, assuming these are not percieved as ugly or "blasphemous" by the rest (what would then substract from his/her charism).

There is always room for a new beautiful song probably, for experimentation with a new instrument... And the effect of such small innovations, and cummulative effect of many of them through the generations, can become maybe larger when the circumstances are the right ones (small groups specially, where individual variation can have a greater effect surely).

Guess you can always say/believe that the innovation was revealed in a dream or a mystical experience. Or, if there is a shaman or medicine person, maybe he/she can support your innovation saying that the ancestors bless it or whatever.

The isolated regions in Europe to which I refer are apparent when we look at the musical picture of today, or at least the recent past, as Jordania has done. This is the realm of "Old Europe" as understood by Gimbutas, who also places such isolated groups in refuge areas, such as mountains, islands and thick forests.

Remember that Gimbutas concept of "Old Europe" just means pre-Indoeuropean and mostly refers to peoples of the European (and West Asian) Neolithic tradition(s). This is not very specific, really.

In an article I read recently on the genetic picture in Greece, several different groups within that country had been sampled. However the two groups mentioned by Jordania as the only two where vocal polyphony is (or was until recently) common were not sampled. Specifically he refers to Epirus and Rhodes. It would be interesting to learn whether there were unique markers in these two areas that might point to "Old European" survivals. And there are, of course, many other such relatively isolated "refuge" areas that could be similarly tested on the basis of their musical styles.

Hmmm. Dienekes had an article recopilating different papers on Greek Y-DNA: http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2008/05/exploring-y-chromosome-haplogroup.html

I blogged on that, adding my own map: http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/2008/05/greek-y-dna-review-at-dienekes.html

There's no data on Rhodes but Epirus seems not abnormal:

1. More J2(xJ2a) than J2a, a more common clade elsewhere in Greece.

2. High levels of haplogroup E, that IMO is an early Neolithic signature, shared withs some of the oldest Greek sites like Sesklo and other peninsular sites. And also high among nearby Albanians.

Both areas used to be of Dorian tradition what in itself doesn't point to ancient pervivences but to new arrivals if anything. But Epirus is a marginal mountain region providing some relative isolation (and IE markers like R1a are low in it). Rhodes instead was a major commercial hub in Hellenistic times, open to all sorts of external influences.

That's all I can say.

Victor said...

"That looks like the theory needs some refinement, right? I wonder what the exact pattern is but I can only guess that most SS Africans do not practice hocket music."

Well, first of all I'm reluctant to speak of a "theory." I've been casting about for a (testable) hypothesis that could explain certain patterns in the distribution of musical style that we now see worldwide. And the bottleneck model stemming from the genetic research seems to have by far the greatest explanatory power.

While a major population bottleneck centered in southern Asia could have triggered a switch from polyphonic to unison singing on that continent, that doesn't mean that the same transition could not have occurred elsewhere for other reasons.

The distribution of unison singing in Africa has a very different pattern from the distribution of unison in the rest of the world. Most SSAfrican groups that sing in unison are located in East Africa, with a few in the West as well, but all are interspersed with different groups that sing polyphonically. This suggests that there could have been some sort of bottleneck among the common ancestor of all or most of the unison groups, a hypothesis that could be tested by looking for a genetic bottleneck that might have affected the same groups. Whether this pattern could have been produced by the Toba event seems doubtful. But the fact that unison in SSAfrica is most commonly found in the East is certainly of interest in this respect.

And yes, you are right, most subSaharan groups do not practice the sort of vocal hocket characteristic of P/B style. However, as has been noted by Nketia, the hocket principle pervades many types of music making throughout SSAfrica, especially instrumental music.

"Not all societies are overwhelmed by ancestral taboos, rules and rituals. The presence of too many of them is actually a sign of stagnation and of some sort of autocracy, even if not personalized yet but exerted via the "magic" of the ancestors/gods."

The model of socio-cultural "equilibrium" I've presented has nothing to do with taboos or rules, but involves something far more fundamental: the tremendous power of tradition per se to maintain certain basic cultural forms and norms generation after generation. Many of the most traditional societies, such as the Pygmies and Bushmen lack very much in the way of taboos or explicit rules.

"There is always room for a new beautiful song probably, for experimentation with a new instrument... "

Yes, but ALWAYS within the boundaries of the traditionally aceeptable norms. It's the norms, of structure, style, concept, etc. that are what I've been talking about, not the creation of new songs or dances, etc.

"And the effect of such small innovations, and cummulative effect of many of them through the generations, can become maybe larger when the circumstances are the right ones (small groups specially, where individual variation can have a greater effect surely)."

What you are suggesting is that over time the creation of new songs, dances, texts, etc. could have the sort of cumulative effect that could alter the underlying norms. In principle that might be true, but it doesn't seem to be reflected in the patterns of distribution we see for these norms. We do see stylistic variation from group to group, no question, but almost always within a more fundamental stylistic framework that embraces all the groups. It's on such a basis that we can so easily distinguish the cultural practices of, say, North American Indian groups from, say, Polynesian groups.

"Remember that Gimbutas concept of "Old Europe" just means pre-Indoeuropean and mostly refers to peoples of the European (and West Asian) Neolithic tradition(s). This is not very specific, really."

In an interview I quoted in this blog, she makes the point that survivals of "Old Europe" still exist today, as for example in the Lithuanian region she grew up in. It's true that she isn't more specific about such contemporary survivals. Which is why Jordania's survey of the musical survivals is so important.

"There's no data on Rhodes but Epirus seems not abnormal:"

I definitely want to check out the research you mention, on Dieneke's site and yours also. Epirus is very close to Albania, so it's possible that what Jordania found is more closely related to certain Albanian groups rather than the Greek groups in that area (assuming that this is a valid distinction to begin with).

"Rhodes instead was a major commercial hub in Hellenistic times, open to all sorts of external influences."

Again I think it important to be very precise in pinpointing the groups that sing polyphonically which might represent only one small segment of the population, tucked away in some remote spot that hasn't yet been subject to genetic testing.

Maju said...

Hi, Victor. I don't think I can add much more.

On African differences, it would be hard to relate them with genetics because south-saharan Africa is very mixed internally (there are some regional differences but not the structure you see quite clearly in Eurasia and periphery). The only special groups maybe are precisely Bushmen and Pygmies who seem to have separated (never strictly anyhow) from the rest of humankind somewhat earlier than the main spread, that is closely related to the OOA itself.

On "Old Europe" just to reaffirm that Gimbutas means Neolithic Europe. This Neolithic Europe was not the direct descendant of Paleolithic Europe, even if it may be genetically in most cases, because the Neolithic revolution altered very intensely the ethno-cultural European landscape. Also it's clear that the ultimate origins of this revolution were out of Europe.

Now if, how and where Paleolithic pervivences meant also musical traditions, it's really hard to say.

Btw, have you read on that research that strongly suggests that painted areas in caves were meant to signify spots of greater resonance: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704130439.htm

I guess a musicologist like you will be interested.