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Cultural Scene Investigation: A consilient approach to human migration studies Final Presentation MUMT 610 Jason Leung, Fabio Pires, Arianna Rehak, Moe.

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Presentation on theme: "Cultural Scene Investigation: A consilient approach to human migration studies Final Presentation MUMT 610 Jason Leung, Fabio Pires, Arianna Rehak, Moe."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cultural Scene Investigation: A consilient approach to human migration studies Final Presentation MUMT 610 Jason Leung, Fabio Pires, Arianna Rehak, Moe Touizrar

2 Introduction Impetus: 2014 Study by Hellenthal et alia published in Science titled A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History In some sense we dont want to talk to historians, Dr. Falush said. Theres a great virtue in being objective: You put the data in and get the history out. We do think this is a way of reconstructing history by just using DNA.

3 Hypotheses Given that biologists have very recently claimed to be able to date events in human history using the computer modeling of statistical genetic data, and have indicated no need for collaboration with historians, we propose that: (a) Any claim of accuracy is unverified and premature (b) The humanities are well-poised to aid both in the verification of biological dating techniques, as well as the degree of accuracy with which they can be applied (c) Both scientific and humanistic research into human origins and migration can be accelerated and enriched through an equitable and reasonable consilience in the form of a dedicated and independent inter-disciplinary institute.

4 Overview (of a rather utopian thought experiment) Conflicts Between Evidence and Narratives Basic Structure of a Consilient Research Institute Genetic Explanations of Human Origins and Pre-historic Migration Brief History of Migration in Ancient Rome Case Study: The Vandals Possible Outcomes and Problems Discussion

5 Narratives and Evidence: Academic and Theoretical Conflicts Why and how have theories in Archaeology and Anthropology failed to consider evidence that challenges orthodox positions (often rooted in 19 th century narratives of ancient history) ? Could the resistance to challenging but compelling evidence be symptomatic of a systemic aversion to change in the humanities (and therefore to consilience) ?

6 Two basic paradigms in modern archaeology Processual (Objectivist / Positivist) Scientific approach Approaches culture from an objective orientation Attempts to remain ethically neutral and explicitly nonpolitical Postprocessual (Material & Structural Individualistic Idealism?) Knowledge is subjectively situated Focuses on the ideologies, symbols, and mental processes behind human behavior Searches for structural explanations based on deep-seeded dichotomies Upholds individual actors as agents in cultural shifts Identity and marginalization as key factors in understanding human culture Compromise: Processual Plus? Approach that values the study of relativism, but can incorporate an objectivist orientation via rigorous scientific methods.

7 How Narrative Shapes Evidence (or the lack thereof) -Political Uses- Israels constant excavations in the City of David justify modern Jewish presence example: SF Chronicle, Sept 6, 2009: Ancient wall testifies to Jerusalems strength Excavations by Ronny Reich, Archaeology professor at the University of Haifa Archaeological research at the site known as the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalems Old City, is caught up in the struggle for control of the city. Archeological site and the Palestinian settlement of Silwan

8 How Evidence Shapes Narrative

9 Some Challenging Evidence Hueyatlaco Geochronological analyses indicate human habitation dating back to ca. 250,000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating of animal remains present in the site produced an age of over 35,000 years ago. Uranium dating produced an age of 260,000 ± 60,000 years ago. Using the zircon fission-track dating method, geochemist C.W. Naeser dated samples of ash from Hueyatlaco's tool-bearing strata to 370,000 ± 240,000 years ago. The findings challenge the scientific consensus for habitation of the New World (which generally places widespread human migration to the New World at 13,000–16,000 years ago). This has been widely refuted by the broader scientific community, and has seen only occasional discussion in the literature.

10 Challenging Narratives? How could consilience help to incorporate divergent evidence into a more flexible set of theoretical assumptions?

11 Vision for a Fully Consilient Research Institute

12 Pewterschmidt Institute for Consilient Research (PICR)

13 Basic Structure of PICR Inspired by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Core mission of equilibrium between the Sciences and Humanities Flexible Project-Based Hierarchy All projects determined by a small committee of humanists and scientists

14 Cultural Scene Investigation

15 On the Origin of Man Homo sapiens sapiens (Anatomically Modern Human) Primate subspecies of homo sapiens, genus homo 200,000 years ago to present Around 100,000 years ago: Africa: homo sapiens Europe: homo neanderthalensis Asia: homo erectus (also found in Africa and Europe) Around 30,000 years ago: everywhere homo sapiens only At present: two main, competing theories 1. Recent African origin of modern humans (Out-of-Africa model) 2. Multiregional origin of modern humans

16 Out-of-Africa (v. 2.0) Homo erectus Migration from Africa 2 million years ago Homo sapiens Evolved in Africa Migration from Africa 100,000 years ago Replaced other hominin populations worldwide


18 Multiregional Hypothesis Homo erectus Migration from Africa 2 million years ago Each group continued to evolve separately Mixture of genes between populations Accounts for different physical attributes External/Internal

19 A journey of a million miles…

20 Building Blocks of Life DNA: double helix Nucleotides: A, T, C, G (letters) Base pairs (A+T, C+G) Humans: 3.2 billion bp Two helices = two copies Replication by duplication

21 Molecular Clocks Mutations Variation amongst humans: 1 bp in 1000 Known mutation rates Genetic markers Polymorphisms: differences in individual letters Mini-/microsatellites: small group of repeating letters

22 Survival of the Fittest Theory Out-of-Africa has greater evidence to support it 1. Co-existence of homo s. sapiens and other hominins 2. Genetic studies: new development! (within past 5 years)

23 Survival of the Fittest Theory Everyone genetically equidistant from those species 2.1 Little admixture from other hominin species

24 Survival of the Fittest Theory Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Exclusive inheritance frommother Matrilineal (mother to daughter) Mitochondrial Eve: 140,000–200,000 years ago in Africa Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) Exclusive inheritance from father Patrilineal (father to son) Y-chromosomal Adam: 100,000–300,000 years ago in Africa 2.2 Tracing human lineage: Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)

25 … begins with a single step

26 Barbarian Migration: How the humanities might help to test the efficacy of genetic dating techniques

27 Overview of the Migration Period in Ancient Rome 100 BCE - 500 CE Considered to be the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. Marks the arrival of the Germanic peoples as colonizers of Europe.

28 Why Migration Matters to our Project We have specific humanistic accounts of peoples and movements. Allow us to create benchmarks for comparison between historical and biological evidence. We can then confirm or refute the accuracy of the proposed DNA dating methods.

29 Genetic Admixture: G. Hellenthal, G.B.J. Busby, G. Band, J.F. Wilson, C. Capelli, D. Falush, S. Myers, Science (2014) o Genetic admixture occurs when individuals from two or more genetically distinguishable groups have children together. o This can be a result of individuals from one part of the world settling into a new geographic region already inhabited by other people, e.g. due to invasions or large-scale migrations.

30 Sourcing Genetic History When individuals from different groups have children (i.e. admix), their offspring's DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group. Pieces of this DNA are passed along through subsequent generations, carrying on all the way to the present day. Therefore, the genomes of modern- day individuals (who descend from this admixed population) contain segments of DNA inherited from each of the original source groups.

31 The Case of the Vandals Origin of the Vandal tribe is thought to be in Scandinavia. From 40 BCE – 533 CE, they embarked on a tour of Europe and the Mediterranean because they were never able to settle anywhere permanently. We believe this means that they must have mixed with many diverse populations.


33 Initial Assumptions Early site of Vandal burial. DNA profile unique enough to identify salient genetic markers. Three subsequent sites from different historical periods to verify the markers.


35 Phase 1 – Data Collection Identify 20-30 sites along the Vandal migration path for genetic testing of contemporary populations. CSI teams to be deployed to sites Teams consist of an historian, a geneticist, an archaeologist, and a physical anthropologist.

36 Phase 2 – Data Analysis Laboratory analysis. Create a geographic representation of Vandal DNA. Construct as accurate a genetic timeline as possible.

37 Phase 3 – The Consilient Consolidation of Disparate Data Comparative analysis of timelines between genetic dating and historical records. Results: Consilience WORKS!

38 Possible Problems with the Case Study Is it scalable? If the genetic test works, will it work further back into history? What if the genetic data contravenes the accepted historical narrative? How much does population mixing in the time between the event and the test play a part? Does it interfere with the interpretation of data? The potential Goldilocks problem with the sample size.

39 Possible Problems with the Institute Incompatible methodologies, epistemologies, vocabulary & perspectives. Communication of the big picture to so many different specialists. Us vs. Them (Scientists vs. Humanists). Funding feasibility?

40 Discussion Questions Will this project revolutionize the hard histories? If so, how? What is the power of this technique to change the human narrative? If the technique works, what can it tell us about the modern period? What can it do for pre-historical period and what cant it do? What happens when there is discrepancy between the humanistic data and scientific results? How do we prevent it from being a turf war?

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