Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Nazinomics - The Neolithic Evolution

The standard narrative is that an "Agricultural Revolution" or "Neolithic Revolution" occurred, centered in the Southwest of Turkey, the Northern Levant, and the Uplands of Syria, and that this Agricultural culture, with an example of very early settlement at Jericho, then proceeded to cover the world.

As outlined to this point, this thesis is no longer tenable because:

1. In the Younger Dryas there had been key domestications of the same kind as the "Neolithic Revolution" is credited with: Sheep, Rye, Figs.

2. The Jerichoan culture, as I will label it here, is absent key pieces of the toolkit that are present in other places, most notably, pottery.

3. There were at least two, and perhaps more, centers of cereal/animal domestication contemporary with, or close to contemporary with, the Near Eastern center, which were independent of it: China and Mexico.

These do not require voluminous documentation or masses of footnotes to prove at this point, the genetics and archeology are well settled. The "Out of Eden" narrative and the "Neolithic Revolution" narrative are rooted in particular beliefs, biblical plutocratic ones, and have taken on a life of their own, repeated endlessly.

This is not to say that the moment around the stabilization of climate after the Younger Dryas does not attend fundamental changes and the introduction of new cultures. However, before becoming climatically deterministic, let us remember that for thousands of years after this domestication moment that flowers around 10K YBP, that much of humanity lived in different ways, and only slowly would adopt these supposedly "revolutionary" technologies.

There is a fourth gap in the standard "revolution out of Eden" theory, and that is that the pieces that are missing are as important as the pieces that are present. These include virtually all sea related skills: fishing, boating, navigation. These skills were clearly present in nearby societies, but no argument as to why the agrarians would have independently come to them is offered. Also missing is a language component. The peoples of the agrarian domestication event did not leave a language that absorbed others, the way it would be expected if they were truly an overturning of established order, the way the horse peoples would later.

Thus at this point it is possible to evaluate the two flawed, but dominant, narratives of the present. The primary narrative is of an Agricultural Revolution which has biblical and capitalist models in the idealized, and romanticized, 18th century Industrial Revolution: the gift of God's chosen people to the world, and the subsidiary one of a pressed in people who become inventive out of necessity, and bequeath their ideas to the world. It is modeled on many of the same romanticized moments, including the Scottish Enlightenment, and the European age of discovery.

While both narratives have many facts to point to, both have very large holes in their paradigm formation. If the Near East, then the other sheep domestications, the pig domestications, the Dryas domestications other than the dog, are problematic, and indeed the "revolution" writers go out of their way to minimize, explain way, or cover over the problematic moments. The Dryas theory has the more obvious problem that the people who did it do not leave behind key aspects of their language and culture, and they are quite likely not the people who then flower in the post-Dryas environment, as they weren't in China.

Instead a different thesis will be presented here, one which places the domestication moment in a wider context, and explains the series of changes, not "transition" but evolution, which occurred.

On Nazinomics - Without a Pot to Piss in

Ideology infects every part of the study of the move from paleolithic to neolithic cultures. In the last post I noted how the "Eden thesis" infects even peer reviewed papers, now I turn to the inflicting of another kind of ideology, namely that of part of a discipline imposing its view on the study of the field. In the case of the Near East, it is the defining of the first two thirds of the neo-lithic period as being the "Pre-Pottery Neolithic."

Let's take what that sponge of conventional wisdom, Wikipedia, has to say about it:

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (short PPNA, around 9500 to 8500 BC[1] or later) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. It succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).

The extensive domestication of plants and animals and the rise of settlement happened at this time. This period occurred at the end of the Younger Dryas and was probably linked with the associated stabilization of climate and increased rainfall.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was yet unknown. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian).

There is evidence for the use of wheat, barley and legumes from carbonized seeds and their storage in granaries

The key here is that "pottery was unknown" as an assertion. Since you can't blame an aggregate for having an intent, though individual editors there certainly do, let's look at where that particular assertion comes from. It was named by Dame Kathleen Kenyon, who was the leading excavator of Jericho in the late 1950's. At that time it might have reasonable to name it "Pre-Pottery" since the number of examples of pottery were few, and there was little evidence yet discovered of limeware. But the name is, and should be, suspect. Normally in archeology a period is named for the site that the discovery of its culture is associated with, for example before the Pre-Pottery Neolithic is the Natufian, and after the Yarmukian. The term Pre-Pottery Neolithic infects thinking, in that Kenyon divided the areas she found into "A" and "B," to which has been added "C." Bad thinking keeps on giving. Instead, it should be termed Jerichoan culture, since that is the key site from which the information about it came.

Why the issue? One might argue that pottery, unlike every other technology is so important that it is worthwhile to name it. But you'd be an idiot to do so, since there are, demonstrably, many other technologies that are equally important. Pottery is far more important to archeologists, than to the people that are studied, because pottery is highly sequencable, and highly survivable. Like teeth for the study of paleontology, pottery is the residue of human activity that changes in nice regular ways.

But the problem in the present with naming this period "Pre-pottery" is that it wasn't pre-pottery. Pottery, in fact, dates back to before the neolithic in places, using a method of taking a slab of clay, and then rolling loops of clay, and joining them together with a mixture of clay and water to make a "slip." This, when dried is fired, in a bonfire early on, later in kilns. In fact, in late paleolithic China, there is evidence of pottery from as far back as 18,000 years ago. That is, some 3000 to 6000 years before the neolithic in the Near East. The people of the near east used ceramics for millenia, but did not make pottery, but it is not that the technology was unknown, because they produced the much more ephemeral "limeware." It is not that they did not have pottery, it is that they did not make a pottery making industry central to their culture. They did not want pottery. And yet, the terms persist, and are added to, and directly incorrect information is disseminated to the public, such as pottery being "unknown" in 6000BC, when correctly, at best, it was not known to the people of Jericho and the other cultures that assimilated their technology.

More over, not far away was the "Early Khartoum" culture, which was less advanced in the area of stoneworking, and did not have domesticated animals, or, as far as we yet know, plants, but had "wavy line" pottery. It has been suggested that they had contact with more advanced societies to learn pottery, but if so, who? There are no pottery making neo-lithics from the same time as the Early Khartoum.

In short the entire terminology of "Pre-pottery neo-lithic" is incorrect, and yet, the established disciplines continue to disseminate the terminology, and misinformation associated with it.

Instead, if we are to clear away the debris of bad thinking, the entire classification system of the Near East must be renamed, so as to avoid repetition of old errors.

On Nazinomics - Serpents in the Gardens of Eden

This section is about the dramatic change that attends the end of the Younger Dryas in humans, it begins, as much of this essay is devoted to, to uncovering the relationship between money in the present, and the corruption of knowledge, often at a very high level. In this case it is about the power of a biblical plutocratic narrative infecting the stream of peer reviewed, scientific, knowledge, in a relatively short and traceable chain. Instead of this narrative, which, I will again note is in the most prestigious journals in the sciences, the evidence indicates that the change in climate created an opportunity which evolved rapidly from a pre-cultural substratum which was neither nomadic foraging, nor pre-agricultural, but, instead, a developed response to the conditions which humanity had evolved in: namely climatic instability, with periods of warming and cooling.

First let us begin with what will seem like incendiary charges, but which are, in fact, so trivially easy to prove that it almost beggars belief that the evidence is so transparent. Let us take the following quote from a peer reviewed journal:

About 12,000 years ago, humans began the transition from hunter-gathering to a sedentary, agriculture-based society. From its origins in the Near East, farming expanded throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, together with various domesticated plants and animals. Where, how and why agriculture originated is still debated. But newer findings, on the basis of genome-wide measures of genetic similarity, have traced the origins of some domesticated cereals to wild populations of naturally occurring grasses that persist in the Near East. A better understanding of the genetic differences between wild grasses and domesticated crops adds important facets to the continuing debate on the origin of Western agriculture and the societies to which it gave rise.

Salamini, Francesco and Ozkan, Hakan and Brandolini, Andrea and Schafer-Pregl, Ralf and Martin, William "Genetics and geography of wild cereal domestication in the near east" Nature Reviews Genetics 2002 June Vol. 3 Number 6 pg 429-441

This is the opening of an article in a peer reviewed article in Nature, one of the most prestigious journals in the world of the sciences. It was, even at the time of writing, absolutely unsupportable by scientific evidence. Not in the sense that there was not a center of neolithic agricultural development in the Near East, clearly there was, but in the sense that proof that all agriculture in the world coming from that complex is most decidedly not true, and was demonstrably not true at the time the article was published. Instead, then and now, two other centers of agricultural invention were known: in China, centering on the highlands around the Yangtze river (Khush, G.S. Origin, dispersal, cultivation and variation of rice. Plant Molecular Biology 35:25-34.), and in Meso-America, centering around the highlands of Mexico.

Taking only domestication of cereals, it is entirely possible that rice was domesticated before Emmer Wheat, and certainly contemporaneously, and it is clearly possible that other centers of sheep domestication occurred. It is also certain that pig domestication occurred in several centers. Absent a compelling argument as to how, leaving no other traces, the Near East center could have diffused agriculture to the highlands of Mexico and the rivers of China, the statement is unsupportable as its stands. Again, this is the opening paragraph of a peer reviewed paper in Nature Reviews Genetics in 2002. It is not some forgotten musty paper, but a clear and present fraud perpetrated by the authors, and by Nature itself, on the public.


It is not that wheat is not a crucial grain that has spread through the world, it is the at the claim for a single Near Eastern origin of agriculture simply is not supportable from genetic or physical evidence.

But whence comes this? Again it is a very short trip from peer reviewed scientific paper, to the farther fringes of religion.

Consider the following citation, from 2000 in Science magazine:

The fertile crescent region of the Near East was the center of domestication for a re- markable array of today’s primary agricul- tural crops and livestock animals. Wheat, barley, rye, lentils, sheep, goats, and pigs were all originally brought under human control in the broad arc that stretches from the southern Levant through southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, to the high Zagros mountain pastures and arid lowland plains of Iraq and Iran. For more than 50 years researchers have sought to define the sequence, temporal placement, and social and environmental context of domestica- tion (1). Central to addressing this process is the ability to identify early domesticates in the archaeological record, and to place them within a secure temporal context. Here we describe recent research that uses a study of modern wild goats (Capra hircus aegagrus) to develop an unequivocal mark- er of early goat domestication, which we apply to assemblages that lie both within and outside the natural range of wild goats in the eastern fertile crescent region—a region long thought to be the initial heart- land of goat domestication (2).

That (2) is a footnote, and we should note that even at the time the assertion about pigs was questionable at best - it was clear that there were multiple possible domestication events for ovines even then, and later research has only underlined that this is the case, and if they were domesticated multiple times, the first was not in the Near East, but somewhere in East, or Southeast, Asia.

Let's dig down into the foot note, again, in a peer reviewed article in one of the foremost journals in the world, I'm not digging into the Social Text level of obscure publication of a sub-group of scholars:

F. Hole, in The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia, D. Harris, Ed. (Smithsonian Press, Washington, DC, 1996), pp. 263–281.

Seems bland enough, but let's take a look at it, fortunately, it has a page, one that should make you wince: The Golden Age Project

We believe that in the basic thesis within The Genius of the Few and The Shining Ones is well supported by this book. The records relating to climatic change and the proven glacial refuge in the Southern Lebanon for many of the important plants trees and animals, which would have allowed the subsequent agricultural revolution to unfold, are of particular interest. The need for irrigation is an interesting feature of the Kharsag (Eden) site, and it would not be out of place to suggest with hindsight that highly advanced skills were required in selecting this ideal elevated location at that moment in time.

We believe that when the concepts presented within all three books are related to each other a single more reliable and connected story unfolds. We believe we have gathered together the key evidence supporting the delivery of an existing farming package and confirmation of a 'Biblical' diffusion from Southern Lebanon, from perhaps as early as 8,750 BC, if the recalibration of old dating methods and recent dating techniques ultimately prove accurate.

Over time it will be necessary for further contributions to be made by others to prove or disprove this basic thesis. Fortunately there are many other sources available yet to be fully explored, and a great deal of old evidence, which we hope to recover and re-present in our collective search to piece together and confirm the more detailed record.

Here it is important to note that the page is written by people supporting the book as proof of their ideas, not the other way around, one has no idea if the authors support this interpretation. Note that google feels queasy about it, in that it offers a "block all results" link. This is a good thing to google bomb: blocking bad links from the fringe.

However, the methodological errors in the original paper, overlooking peer reviewed, published, and available research which contradicted their thesis, means that the two are part of one and the same error: the deliberate drive to create a single Urheimat for agriculture centering in "a broad swathe" from the near east. In fact, this dissolves on examination, instead there is one domestication center around the South East of Turkey, and another, unrelated one, farther to the east, based on a different cultural complex.

Similar citations can be added to with a relatively small amount of digging around. The reality is that the assertion of a single origin Neolithic/Agricultural Revolution is based on similar – fraudulent or slipshod, it makes no difference – deletion of essential data. Again, this is not to assert that this particular locus was not a crucial and important center of the diffusion of important and vital aspects of the cultural tool kit, merely to assert that it is impossible to read the data and come to the conclusion that it is the only one of this functional part of civilization, nor that all of civilization comes from its tool kit.

The more damning evidence of a systematic brutalization of evidence is baked into the very terminology of the sequence of cultures of the Near East, which will be in the next post.