sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Politics of Race

No, it's not all about being African American. These days you can become African with spray-on tan and a Sideshow Bob hairdo and the progressive left embraces it as being "diversity". (check the link for more on that) and it's NAACP certified. That's not what I want to discuss with you all today.

The issues of race run a lot deeper than that, though, because in some cases, it bears on your right to own a casino on "homeland" soil. The Umatilla tribe of American Indians are still angry about the discovery of Kennewick Man on their land (under the suzerainty of the Army Corps of Engineers) and the disclosure that he was not of their race. Yes it's true that after several DNA tests, researchers have found common links with Indians (Kennewick man had five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot - and the Native Americans tend to have the same number).
The Umatilla argue that their oral history goes back 10,000 years and say that their people have been present on their historical territory since the dawn of time. Kennewick Man was found to have lived at their dawn of time and, inconveniently, he's not from their band of Indians.
Clay bust of Kennewick Man - yes, he looks
disturbingly like the actor Patrick Stewart
The political battles over Kennewick Man were/are framed in a large part by people who want to know to what "race" he belongs. Yet, the evidence reflected in the Kennewick materials is further proof that race is not what we think it is. The Kennewick man, and most of the Paleo-Indian and archaic human skeletal materials that researchers found to date are not "Indian," nor are they "European." They don't fit into ANY category that we currently define as a "race." Those terms are meaningless in prehistory as long ago as 9,000 years--and in fact, if you want to know the truth, there are NO clearcut scientific definitions of "race."

But the Kennewick man problem isn't that simple; he represents a part of a problem which archaeologists have yet to solve. For the past thirty years or so, we've believed that the peopling of the American continent took place around 12,000 years ago, in three separate waves, from three separate parts of the world. But recent evidence has begun to indicate a vastly more complicated settlement pattern, a steady influx of small groups from different parts of the world, and probably somewhat earlier than we had assumed. Some of these groups lived, some may have died out. We just don't know.

Apart from the Kennewick Man debate is archeological evidence of temples and grave mounds in South America that date back to over 20,000 BC. Archeologists are forced back to the drawing table, trying to decide when people first came to South America and where they came from, because you create theories to explain facts and not the other way around.

Even the Africans are Upset

There is an interesting series on PBS about early man that is now airing. I don't think that it's the end of the discussion about early man because as was discussed on this blog last week (OUT OF ISRAEL?) Tel Aviv University archaeologists have uncovered evidence that Homo sapiens roamed the land now called Israel as early as 400,000 years ago. According to researchers, the discoveries made in the Qesem Cave may overturn the theory that modern humans originated on the continent of Africa. In recent years, archaeological evidence and human skeletons found in Spain and China also undermined this proposition, but the Qesem Cave findings because of their early age is an unprecedented discovery.

Add to that the genetic fact that is your ancestors come from Europe or Asia, between 1% and 3% of your DNA comes from Neanderthals. Human and Neanderthal were sexually compatible and they made the most of that arrangement. It falls to us do decide what all of that means, if it means anything. The only people without Neanderthal DNA come from Africa.


6 comments:

  1. Don't know if this helps.
    http://www.heritagedaily.com/2015/06/kennewick-man-solving-a-scientific-controversy/107464

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    1. I did read the latest study. Some believe that it was released to pander to a racial pressure group. Irrespective, the matter of race as currently identified, doesn't apply when you've moved back 9,000 years.

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  2. The participants admitted getting usable DNA was a problem. I've always believed the oceans were no barrier to travel. If anything, probably made long trips easier.

    Oddities abound. One example, Japanese speakers and Oregon Klamath speakers can easily understand each other.

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    1. Thor Heyerdahl's expeditions proved that ancient peoples could cross the Atlantic or Pacific on boats constructed of reeds. I've been to the museum in Norway (impressive). The Vikings, Irish monks, etc. transited the Atlantic and all of the people living on the Pacific Islands arrived there by boat pre-historically.

      If Kennewick Man's DA was Japanese it doesn't prove anything anyway. As you note, people traveled and migrated from the point that they could figure out how to do it. Engineering in the ancient world went from 0 to magnificent as the pyramids in the Americas, in Iraq and in Egypt attest.

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  3. I find this fascinating, and have to wonder if there's a whole new species, "Episcopal Church Man," or "Homo Episcopus." As I understand it, this breed of hominid evolved separately from the rest of us an are now a distinct species.

    I know, I know, how can one species evolve into another? Well, no one's fully worked it out, but it seems to have happened. Truth, sometimes, is stranger than fiction.

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    1. You are in the middle of an entire tribe of them there at Comicon...

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