Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Nazinomics - Why not the "Hydrologic Society"?

In December 2010 Jeffrey I. Rose summarized the "Oasis" and "Hydrologic" archeology of the Persian Gulf. The thesis described is that during the drought periods of the Late Pliocene and culminating with the Younger Dryas, humans huddled in "Oasis" points along the shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian gulf, and that when the sea level finally stablized we find already advanced epi-lithic cultures, including assemblages of technology that are not present in the settled areas, and the hypothesis that the development of these societies is currently underwater.

The hydrologic hypothesis is one which was developed during the early 20th century and is a product of the observation that while agriculture and neo-lithic assemblages developed in various places, that early civilizations flower into history along river valleys. There is also the analogy of the importance of large public works projects to civilization, which the 19th century had begun, and which would accelerate with the 20th century. Finally the hydrologic hypothesis explained the highly centralized nature of capital and wealth in early civilizations, and provided an explanation for the relative stability of these early civilizations. The concept was already quite old by the time Karl August Wittfogel would name the term "hydrologic empire."

Wittfogel's own journey from marxist to anti-communist is comparable to the arc of the idea: in its original incarnation it was a progressive era assertion that the creation of a program of concentration of effort for the public good was fundamental to "civilization." In its middle incarnation it asserted even farther that the nature of civilization was a specialized bureaucracy, and that bureaucracy's functioning was the essential glue of social order. But in the post-war era it became an assertion that ineffective and corrupt empires maintained their control through a "water monopoly" which functioned as a long term rent in support of an inefficient priest-caste, a "agromanagerial despotism."

This hypothesis was attacked, so that by the early 1970's its defenders were on the retreat. For example this is from Mitchell's weak defense in 1973:


Some archaeologists criticize the na- tion that centralized political power in the early states centered around con- trol of irrigation activities. Adams (1960,1969), for example, has argued that in Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica the centralized state developed prior to large-scale irrigation activities. In- deed, he argues (1960:280) that "the introduction of great irrigation net- works [in Mesopotamia] was more a 'consequence' than a 'cause' of the appearance of dynastic state organiza- tion-however much the requiremenu of large-scale irrigation subsequently may have influenced the development of bureaucratic elites charged with ad- ministering them." Other scholars have reached similar conclusions for Mesopotamia (Hole 1966) and Mesoa- merica (Steward 19550, Wolf and Pa- lerm 1955). For Peru, Rowe (1963:20) has found that in lea "large cities appear first and major irrigation canals were only built later. It would be diffi- cult to argue that there was any rela- tionship between irrigation and the development of cities in the area, unless it was that the growth of cities produced a pressure on the land which was met by irrigation projects on an unprecedented scale."


Decontructed, this is about the conflict between appearance of cities, and appearance of irrigation, and goes to the point of the argument that has been being outlined in this piece so far: namely that domestication is the spark and what follows is consequence versus the idea that irrigation takes a scattered neo-lithic system and makes possible civilization and empire.

A large part of the problem with the mid-century version of this hypothesis is that the economic records of several of the areas that supposedly practiced it do not bear out the hypothesis that water management produces a naturally despotic system. The Harrapan civilization of the Indus river valley was not notably despotic, and it does not have the physical marks of being a repressive or centralized state, more to the point, the economic records that we will examine from Summeria will show that the control of the irrigation systems did not lead to the control of the economic system, in fact, the builders were often at the mercy of the temple-market forces.

In the present the hydrologic hypothesis has undergone a revival, but in a very different from. Typical is the work of the Kennetts who recently have combined the "oasis" hypothesis with the assertion that it was river people who would develop irrigation, and that irrigation, not domestication, is the crucial shift in the development of advanced civilizations.

In this context the argument put forward by Douglas Kennett and James Kennett begins with an almost revolutionary manifesto:


The evolution of the earliest complex state-level societies and cities from small sedentary communities took place in southern Mesopotamia between 8000 and 5000 cal yrs BP during the ‘Ubaid and Uruk periods. Attempts to explain this transition often discount the role of environmental change and tend to evaluate available archaeological evidence for urban-based state development either within a static environmental context or assuming conditions similar to those of the present. This practice is no longer tenable given newly available paleoenvironmental records for the region.


This to some extent is a wake up call in the light of already existing evidence, but the mid-1990's the coastline reconstructions of Jenkins were already available, based on coral studies done in the 1980's, and they clearly showed that the Persian Gulf of today, was the Persian Plain of the Dryas and Early Holocene. Reconstructions of pollen and other proxies for condition had also long been available, as had floating tree ring chronologies that clearly showed radical change in conditions. Archeology moves almost as slowly as some of the things that it studies. The touchstone work on the evolution of different river systems, however was "On the geographical position of as yet unexplored early Mesopotamian cultures" in Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume 99, Number 2, April-June, 1979, where Nutzel outlined the series of river systems from the 70Ka to 14Ka glacial system, forward to the present.

The Kennetts point to the growing wave of scholarship in the early part of this decade which began to question the analysis which saw development of states as being entirely "endogenous" – that is internal – and therefore amenable to ergodic explanations.

The gradual filling in of the Persian Gulf is hypothesized to push humans up from the Ur-Schott river value, leaving the evidence of their material culture underwater. In short, an argument for a program of underwater archeology.

While the paleo-climatology is not in question, the gaps in this hypothesis are glaringly large. The first is the admitted on: that geo-political concerns have halted work in this area, one might also add redirected it, as the Saudis are not interested in funding research that would point to Sumerian societies, and the Iranians are most interested in reconstructing the periods of the dominance of Mede, Parthian, and Persian empires much later. The second is that this model would propose the Sumerians as "out of the gulf" along, perhaps, with the Elamites. However, both the Sumerian and Elamite economic systems rest on a herding ethos - the goat part of the Capricorn, which means that they were from the mountains. Their architectural styles also point to a mountain genesis. The "out of the gulf" hypothesis would suppose there being a root ergodive-agglunitive language family rooted in the area under the Gulf. However, there is no cluster of such languages found around the Gulf. Instead, the only possible clusters are far to the north, in the form of the Georgian languages, and far to the East, in the form of the Dravidian languages. There are no Haplotype maps for a genetic movement back from India, hence, it is difficult to draw a coherent movement or diffusion history which works. Nor is the paleo-lithic history from Arabia helpful: instead of seeing the once hypothesized highway from Africa through Arabia over the filled in Red Sea, we find a unique Arabian peninsula industry, which has some backwash into the Horn of Africa.

In short, the linguistic, genetic, and physical evidence point against a founding of the Sumerian culture by in migrating Gulf peoples based on a centralized irrigation political economy. We should expect this. As noted before the hydrologic society always supposed that the need for irrigation and other forms of powerful bureaucracy produced a top down political system to create and control the building of large scale works. Since the Sumerian corpus is very clear on kings as builders, it has a certain straightforward appeal, especially in light of the patterns of centralized of capital seen in the 19th century and early 20th century, whether private or public. The analogy runs this way: "capital needs to be centralized to perform large scale works, thus the presence of such works imply the creation of an information bureaucracy to control them." However, empires come after irrigation, cities come before it. The dry hypothesis may be wrong about "Eden" but it is correct in pointing out that before people had powerful centralization, they had the ability to execute monumental and organized systems.

With the "dry" hypothesis contradicted by missing toolkit and proto-neo-lithic domestications, and the present form of the "wet" hypothesis contradicted by genetic and linguistic evidence, the way is open for a more comprehensive combining of genetic, linguistic, climate, and physical evidence.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Nazinomics - The Capricorn Thesis

The Sumerian god Enki had the goat and the fish as his symbols, which were fused into the "sea-goat" symbol, which by Old Babylonian had become the sea-goat that the Greeks would rename "Capricorn." The Babylonia codex of constellations lists SUḪUR.MAŠ – the "goat fish" as a constellation, and the symbol is also used on boundary stones. These boundary stones form an important part of the coming narrative on land rents, since the Sumero-Akkadian world would base a great deal of their social economy on setting up of boundary stones, and collecting barley rents on them.

The importance of both goat and fish to the question of ownership is not mysterious, while the Jerichoan culture, and its sister domestication cultures, were dry agriculture, the explosion of civilization in the late neolithic and bronze age is based on the move to wet agriculture, that is, irrigation. Tracing the line we can see why this happened: the first grain domesticators were mountain people, which is why two of the Jerichoan domestications were animals well suited for mountain pasturing: the sheep, and the goat. But it is Capricorn that is the old constellation, as "Aries" was, at the time of the Sumerians, the "farm worker," not the ram. Only much later is Aries important as the procession of the equinoxes had shifted. In the time of the Sumero-Akkadian world the Plieades marked the vernal equinox, which is quite possibly why, in many cultures, the six stars of the Plieades are known as the seven sisters.

However this is just a cultural resonance, a story out of many stories. It would be a mistake to believe either that it is determinative, or that there is an imperative to explain it out of all of the others. Many will make those mistakes. Instead it is an indication, one that we will follow up on. But to begin to establish a thesis requires some heavy lifting, in this case, genetics and paleo-climate.

It is important to remember that there are waves of domestications and climate changes. We find, from the genetics and archeology that there is a Dryas Domestication wave that leads to pastoralism, a Holocene Break domestication wave that leads to agrarianism, and a Peak Holocene wave which leads to irrigation. The first begins around 12000 YBP with the dog– whose origin is still unknown, the second at the end of the Dryas, which gives us an artificial precision to what may well have been an on going process at 10500 YBP, and the third at 7000 YBP.

The Capricorn thesis is that the Dryas domestication wave shows that human beings had begun domestication activities of the three major types: animal, grass, and tree, as we will see, these are different activities with the same basic goal. The Holocene Break domestication wave shows mountain cultures developing a stable grain domestication strategy, why will be described below. The final wave shows the integration of the Jerichoan cultural complex, which included towns and fields, with the river tool kit, which included, among other things, pottery, as well as fishing. The Carpricorn thesis being presented then is that the grain fetish clearly visible among archeologists, combined with biblicalism and the search for proto-capitalism that we will encounter again, has placed an artificial linealism on the Jerichoan culture. It's just too convenient for too many preconceived notions.


The first question to examine is why three mountain cultures domesticated dry agriculture, corn, wheat-barley,and millet-rice. The answer comes from the genetics of domestication. In their natural state, grains have a brittle husk that shatters. Before domestication, humans threshed wild grains. The advantage of the brittle husk is that threshes cleanly, but more of the seeds are lost as it is threshed. For migratory, nomadic, or semi-sedenetary humans, this is not a problem, because the lost seeds resow the field of grain. Humans take what they can get, and leave behind a field that will renew itself by the time they return. They don't need to plant, and they don't need the intensiveness of cultivation. However, a single base pair change makes it so that the seeds cluster, rather than shatter. But these are harder to thresh. This mutation is recessive, that means that dominant shattering grasses will carry it, and when two dominant's cross, they will produce some double recessives, double recessives that cross will produce non-shattering grass purely. This mutation exists among wild grasses, and is stable, so that even if it represents an introgression, it represents one that works for wild grasses. Looked at from the perspective of grass evolution, the non-shattering grass offers animals that can chew it, or thresh it, some grain that will be a greater reward, and that means they will move through the grass, shattering the rest. This means that the recessive will drop down to the level of presence enough to attract animal foraging, but not below that point. Animals will eat their fill, leave some behind, and shatter the rest. The recessives will also be somewhat more resistant to non-specialized pest outbreaks.

This means, however, that to domesticate grain and produce only recessive domestic grain which does not shatter, requires isolation from wild grain, otherwise, the wild grain's dominant shattering quality will appear in all the grain that pollenates with it. From this it can be seen why mountain mesolithics are the first domesticators: because mountain and terrace agriculture allows for the isolation of fields more easily from wild introgression, as well as from competing animals and other humans. The characteristic wearing patterns of domesticated flint threshing can be used to separate the move from threshing of wild grains to the threshing of their more domesticated equivalents, even before there is a genetic divergence. This kind of threshing culture continued until well into the 20th century in Turkey and Crete.

Interglacial periods produce natural terracing:


The occurrence of periglacial climatic conditions produced a strong and systematic conditioning of the hydrographic system evolution. Generalized areal erosion of the relief summits and prevalent sedimentation along the valley floors in the middle-upper portions of river catchments were the results. Afterwards, the temperate phase that followed, with a generalized and marked uplift during the Middle and Upper Pleistocene (P. AMBROSETTI et al., 1981), favored the rapid incision of alluvial deposits and of the bedrock itself, forming terraces or completely erasing the original material. Consequently, sedimentation migrated valleywards down to the river mouths, along the coasts and to the Adriatic Sea.


While ultimately the topsoil will migrate to the delta, it will, in intermediate phases, produce terraces, whose artificial versions are still used in hill and mountain agriculture. These natural terraces produce the sizable, defendable, and isolatable basis for domestication of grain. The process implies, however, selection from stock: namely selection of seeds that would otherwise be eaten, but are instead sown again. However, we have population evidence that human beings are doing exactly this with animals: selection for desired traits.

The process of fluvial terracing also produces a well drained bed of rounded pebbles, in general, at three layers for each of the interstadials. This creates the ideal form for dry agriculture, where a soaking rain leads to germination, and then drainage leads to hot rapid growing conditions.

The other component as to why hill and mountain people stabilize during the post-Younger Dryas moment is seen from the limnology, or coastlines, of the period. The Younger Dryas both began, and ended, quickly. This means that sea levels fell, and then rose, at the rate of over 1m per year during the onset and ending phases. While this would not end fishing as a way of life, it will mean that those along rivers that are moved by tens of miles will not develop the same degree of sedentarism.

For reference this map of the Persian gulf shows how much of what is now sea, was then dry land, or a large lake. Fishing peoples would have to move with the changes in coastline, which is why the examples we have from the period are from places where the coast was relatively stable, in Asia, or along the nile with the early Khartoum people. These peoples had pottery, because pottery fits with their need to store, and probably ferment, the catch of the sea. The mountain peoples, since they must travel some distance to their terraces, and do not have water transport, would not see the same value for heavy pottery. More over, since they do not have access to water and clay in the same abundance, what is common to the fishing people, is trouble for a non-draft animal Jerichoan culture. They would have had to acquire the clay, carry it back to their home, reconstitute it with water, itself precious since it was well or carried, and then make pottery. Thus the Jerichoan culture should not be seen as "pre-pottery" but as not fanatically devoted to it enough to integrate it. It just was not worth the trouble for them.

Thus grass type domestication favors hill/mountain people, because they are most easily able to isolate the results. However, the same pressure works against the adoption of pottery, since its weight acts against the daily activity.

The second area of domestication is the area of animals, here recent experiments with the fox, and genetic searches within felines indicates that the key trait is not an SNP – Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, or variation in a single base pair on the DNA – but in fact is a complex of inter-related genes. The key trait is low flight distance, however, in selecting for low flight distance only, a variety of other traits are affected, including coat, development, and morphology. Domestication of animals produced the retention of juvenile features, levels of hormones, and patterns of coloration, even if these are not at all selected for.

This produces a crucial difference between domestication of grains, and the domestication of animals. Animals represent a spectrum of domestication, all that is needed is a low enough flight threshold for use, which means that mixing with wild or feral populations does not ruin the whole, but it takes time, on the order of decades. Contrasting this with grains, which can be culled for domestication almost immediately, but which can be spoilt with cross pollination. The genetics reveals that domestication of animals often happens more than once with a given target species - two and perhaps three times for pigs, twice for sheep, an unknown, but more than once, for dogs – but that grain domestication only happens once or twice for a given target species. Once domesticated, the seeds merely need to be carried and planted, and they can be crossed or hybridized.

From this it can be seen why an explosion of domestication of grain would also produce a domestication environment for grazing animals, they could be isolated on the terraces, both from wild types and from carnivores, fed on the stalks of the threshed grain for part of the year, or on the grain itself. However, it is not necessary that this be so, which allows for other kinds of animal, even meat animal domestication path. There is essentially only one way to domesticate grain, that is, by isolation, however, all that is required for animal domestication is time.

The third kind of domestication is that of trees. Tree domestication requires a relatively high degree of sedenentation, and a high degree of climatic stability. Not all trees require cutting and grafting, for example the almond, though a member of the same genus as the apple and pear, can grow easily from seed. However, while some trees lend themselves to terraced dry agriculture, in general, trees require a higher degree of hydro stability than terracing affords.

From this we can look backward: the dog, flaxseed, rye, and figs represent a not inconsiderable list of domestications. They have not been as easily localized by genetics, making it hard to know where they came from. However, that they predate the "Eden" moment is relatively clear. What is working against these cultures, however, is the shock of the end of the Younger Dryas. The Younger Dryas was cooler and drier, but it was also relatively stable during its course. This stability, as well as the existence of terracing from the previous glacial, or stadial, periods, means that the same process that the post-Holocene Break people would exploit is already occurring. It is of course possible to speculate that had the Younger Dryas not ended, that these people's would have completed the domestication of other grains and animals, but whether they would have or not, climate intervened to change the location of domestication.

What this represents then, is a summary of one prong of the toolkit that was to become middle paleolithic society, it is an important prong, but it is also excessively fetishized – grain being "the most precious possession" – is a result of the role of grain in the 19th century, when modern archeology was being born. Just as with the "Agricultural revolution as analog to industrial revolution" narrative, it is in part the result of people imposing their own conditions on the past.

The next post will deal with the archeology of the other half of the goat-fish, that of the fishing peoples of the neo-lithic, and their contribution to human advancement.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Nazinomics - The Holocene Break

As outlined the dominant thesis of the effect of the end of the Younger Dryas and the beginning of the Holocene is derived from Euro-centric narratives modeled on the 18th century's explosive growth of Europe. They include Christendom narratives of "Out of Eden" – which includes the people excavating the important Goeblecki Tepe site – the Aryan derived "cold narrative" of the Younger Dryas, and the Christo-Capitalist narrative modelling the "Agricultural Revolution" on the Industrial revolution. The subsidiary narrative is climatic determinism: the end of the glacial era becomes the stable Holocene and with it the almost inevitability of agriculture and grain.

The problems with these narratives have been outlined: the "Out of Eden" theory is missing large parts of the toolkit which becomes civilization, the "Agricultural Revolution" theory misses just how slow the diffusion of agriculture was. To compare, Homo Erectus spread over Asia at a rate that was about half that of the Agricultural Revolution. Should we speak of a "Paleolithic Revolution." Early indigenous people spread over the Americas at a speed comparable to the supposed "Agricultural Revolution."

However there is another, even more damning, problem with the "Agricultural Revolution" theory, and that is that a second wave of changes would transfigure it beyond recognition. The agriculture of the three domestication cultures established from genetics: Mexican Highlands, Turkish Highlands, Yangtze Highlands, are all dry agriculture. In a very real sense, they are improved foraging. Instead irrigation is a later creation, and it is not mountain people who develop it. Mountain and hill farmers develop terracing, but not irrigation. It is river cultures that develop the sophisticated cultural complex associated with irrigation, a point that will become more important as we reach the monetary section of this arc. Finally, when agriculture is thought of as a modern – long modern – sense, it includes draft animals such as the horse. The donkey and the horse, however, are not improvements to the domestication cultures that produced the grain-grazer complex out of the south-west of Turkey and other places. The Donkey was domesticated along the nile, and the horse on the steppes of asia. The Horse, in particular, creates a horse culture with it, and this horse culture leaves its imprint in the form of the Indo-European languages.

While the "Eden" theory can muster an impressive list of accomplishments, and chant them as a way of overwhelming all opposition, the list of non-accomplishments becomes telling. The Grain-Grazer complex of the Jerichoan culture is missing too many parts, parts which are not invented in their cultural compass later as improvements to it, but which are developed separately.

Many of the missing pieces are found in cultures who pursued a different path to stability: fishing cultures. Of early pottery, we find it not in the city dwellers, but in cave dwellers, and in fishing villages. These people have a semi-permanent base of operations, and are removed from the need to move. They also, since they are not permanent monumental builders, have a different set of storage needs. The Jerichoan culture does not do pottery, because their long term storage needs of bulk grain are better met by storage rooms, with relatively sophisticated understanding of the problems of storage: they elevate the grain off the ground, and they domesticate the cat which is the creature of both home, and will not domesticate until there is a relatively constant supply of vermin.

The cave and fishing cultures, on the other hand, do neither. A cat does less for a fishing culture until they have rat problems, and feeding cats out of fish is a cost. Bearable, but not a compelling reason. Cats had followed humans for sometime, as long as 100,000 years, though probably less, before domestication. Humans, like elephants, trail ecological change behind them, and many of our domestic animals were, at first, camp followers.

It is at this point that two concrete proposals come forward:

1. Ceasing to use the "revolution" terms for narrow parts of the change in human activity.

2. Ceasing to use climatic determinism in a simple sense. While the world generally grew warmer, it was not universally so. However, the change in climate was global, and had effects on virtually every human cluster. Thus, instead, we should be calling this the "Holocene Break" rather than the "Neolithic" or "Agricultural" revolution. What happened was not the creation of a primitive precursor which took over the world, but instead of a series of responses, many of which merged together to form the historical complex of civilization.

Thus the transitions of cultures - from the bushman culture of Australia, which is the the largest major cultural complex to have any record pre-Holocene break, and therefore makes it an important target of study – to the various forms of settlement culture, becomes the focus. Not "how Eden conquered the world" but how humans in a new environment changed, and then how the various important pieces were fused together.

Thus, there was no "Agricultural Revolution" as we think of it, but, instead, there was a "Holocene Break" and from this break several important complexes formed, including the Grain-Grazer complex which would form an important, but by no means the only, component of civilization, and also of the other cultural complex responses.

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.

Fraud.

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.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Nazinomics - The Younger Dryas

The Younger Dryas – name for the plant that was observed to mark its beginning an ending, and the last of three cold snap periods – is a period that more people are going to know about in the coming decades: it is a dramatic cold snap to near ice age conditions that both began and ended quickly. It was roughly 1300 years, and in Africa, Europe, and Asia, it began with a rapid onset, and ended just as quickly, perhaps in less than 20 years for each. The temperature reduction ranged from 15C in Greenland, to 5 degrees in Europe. Based on present dating, it began 12,800 years ago – 12.8 Ka BP in the language of climate studies for 12.8 Kilo-annum Before Present – and ended 11.5 KaBP. Or in historical language 10,800 BCE to 9,500 BCE.

There is still argument over what caused these cold snaps, with the carbon layer present at the beginning being used as an argument for an impact generated cooling. However, in the last decade, solar forcing has been looked at more closely, since the rapidity of onset has much in common with other, closer to historical, events. Carbon layers would be explained by deforestation and fire, that is, as a consequence, and if the volcanic-magnetism thesis is accepted – that a solar minimum leads to an expansion of the earth's magnetic field, which heats magma closer to the surface, and both releases more icehouse gases, and dust from eruptions – then forest fires are the result of cooling and vulcanism, not the sign of an external impact. By 2003, the question was in the climatalogical community that solar forcing of the Younger Dryas had an impact on human life.

There are two predominant theories about the relationship between the Younger Dryas, one can be termed "the cold made humans evolve technology" and the other being the "agriculture started only after the Younger Dyras ended."

An example of the first is found in the work of Gordon Hillman who has published or co-authored several papers on agriculture and development before the end of the Younger Dryas. It is not a new theory to say that the adversity brought on by the Younger Dryas brought on improvements in pottery, stone tools, and gathering. Hillman has argued that rye and other grain crops show evidence of domestication in what is now called "the fertile crescent" starting as early as 13 KaBP. It is not a new theory: it shows up in texts from the 1920's, and is occasionally regarded as suspect because it is associated with the idea of European exceptionalism. Basically, people from a cold climate arguing that cold makes us better. One crucial paper is on the origins of rye which began Hillman on the arc of arguing that while the known staples came from a single period of the middle east, rye did not come from the neo-lithic domesticatin wave, and therefore was a window to another road into the history of domestication. The puzzling absence of rye from the historical record was addressed much later.

However, let's spin out the narrative, accepting that the people who created it had ideological issues, just as we do now, but that the idea must stand or fall on its own merits. The Younger Dryas produced a rapid onset, with effects noticeable within years. For comparison, the warming produced by human activities since 1950, is one tenth as fast the probable rate of the Younger Dryas. Plant ranges changed quickly, and this is especially true of trees, which do not move quickly in most cases. Forests contracted. We can see this from pollen samples from the period in the Levant: forests disappeared quickly.

The Younger Dryas as prod theory points to the beginnings of sedentation: villages, a religious site, and signs of cultivation of a monoculture of rye. Rye then, because it is a wild grass that is close to being usable as domestication, was domesticated early, but largely abandoned when other, more promising, grains and legumes became available. In the paradigm of dryas as prod, the mesolithic culture, rather than being purely transitional as a response to changing conditions, laid the ground work for agriculture by creating zones of limited movement and long inhabitation.

The Younger Dryas ending as the explosive event is now the more predominant theory. In this paradigm, while many pre-agricultural activities were present in human populations, including language, the transition from unstable, cool, and dry, conditions of the Younger Dryas, to the warmer, wetter, and above all, more stable conditions of the present era led to the domestication of, in some order: cattle, barley, wheat, and legumes. In this view, in one, or perhaps two, events, the major props of stable agriculture were created: cereals, vegetables, and herd animals to produce meat, hides, milk, and muscle power.

A kink in this view of a single, or closely related, domestication period, is the domestication of sheep, which, from the genetic evidence, happened more than once, and from different populations. There were two major disbursals of domesticated sheep, with the first hanging on in the edges of human settlement. However, rye and sheep aside, the Younger Dryas end theory presents a power series of settlements, domestications, and archeological data. What they argue is that almost like a shot, within 1000 years, of the end of the Younger Dryas, a recognizable civilization complex had arisen, with fields, masonry, religion, and a wide range of domestications. It is hard to argue with "the dawn of civilization." The theory then is that climatic stabilization led from the meso-lithic to the neo-lithic, and that by allowing settlement, it kicked off the gradual evolution of city life and the urban-rural duality of human society.

But several sites do argue that, while there was a moment around 9000 BCE, within a few hundred years of the end of the Younger Dryas, that it was not completely de novo. In particular, inhabitation, domestication, and pottery, were all present, as was religion and ritual. The site that has attracted attention in particular, because it straddles the climatic moment, is Tell Qaramel. There are several stratification layers which show that it was occupied across the boundary of the Younger Dryas.

So what is the truth? The truth is that the end of the Younger Dryas clearly spurred civilization, and that rapidly afterwards, regardless of whether there were sendentary activities before the boundary, ignition happened with the change in epoch. However, we should not under-estimate how much of the pre-civilization tool kit was present, nor ignore that human populations had already long since dispersed, so this was not the case of peoples entering an area and taking over open spaces, but, instead, people who were already moving through, and occasionally settling in these spaces, assimilating, or being assimilated into, a series of cultures.

What these cultures do addresses the first question of this essay: was there money, was there sovereignty, and did sovereignty produce money. According to nazinomics: the sovereign produces money in its three aspects, and it should evolve from there. According to these essay's first counter-thesis, money evolves from a host of human activities, and the creation of sovereign control comes later, when simplification of mechanism, and surplus sufficient to support centralization, become possible. In this thesis, the first money's are peer to peer, and the top-down structure is a later innovation.

There are two other points to be made here. One is the "Post-America" thesis: that major civilization changes are driven by climate changes, and the second is to undermine the common paradigm that older civilizations are "primitive precursors." Instead, while humans of the past may not have been as technologically advanced, or even as intelligent as today from lesser nutrition and shorter life span, they were as sophisticated in their pursuit of what they did. We should see them as an evolved version of themselves, rather than an unevolved version of today. What they did is not a proof of market economics, socialism, biblicalism, or anything else, as a best or worst practice. Instead, it was as it was, and the lessons to be drawn from it, as with Vale to Babylon is that human patterns recur, and with them insights, but these are descriptive, and prescription is a different art.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Off Topic - Types of roadsters

Simple matrix:

Large/Small
Heavy/Light

Large and Heavy - Boat. Archetypical boats are the Mercedes SL, and SLK, the Dodge Viper, the current 'vette, the Bentley Continental. Typified by using grunt to overcome weight, they deliver crushing straight line performance combined with enough traction to pretend to handling. Best uses: road cruiser.

Large and Light - Track Dog. Typified by the Lotus family of vehicles, they sacrifice comfort, interior style, and general survivability in the headlong rush to point and shoot terror weapon status. These are cars that can accelerate into almost any curve on the planet. Ferrari wobbles between boats and dogs.

Small and Heavy - The Bomb. Typified by almost any sports car with a "Z" in the name, BMW Z3 and Z4, Datsun and Nissan Z, also the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, as well as the Audi TT. Of course, the Porsche 911 is the bomb, to which all others aspire to. The Nissan Z-bomb in particular. What they are, is sawed off muscle cars, with heavy engines that deliver plenty of torque and horsepower. Often come with handling dynamics that are best described as neo-lithic, which is not to say they can't take the corners, but instead that there is a heavy uncommunicative under-steer dynamic.

Small and light - The Spyder. In its best form, the Porsche Boxster/Cayman, a point an shoot dynamic, which is often underpowered for its size, and prone to a ruthless oversteer which penalizes the unwary driver. Other examples include the Mazda MX-5 NA, the Triumph spitfire – whose code name was "the bomb."

If you want to drive performance automobile, learn your type, and drive it.