Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The woman with blue eyes

This is a bone figurine with lapis lazuli eyes, from Egypt, Early Predynastic period, Naqada I, 4000-3600 BCE.


The choice of material used for this figurine suggests that the artist specifically wanted to depict a white woman with blues eyes. That this is a depiction of a real woman and not a goddess of any kind can be seen from the fact that this is just one of many similar figurines found in Naqada sites, all depicting white women of various shapes and sizes and different eye colors. 


But who would be portraying white women in Egypt 6000 years ago? 

Well maybe the redhead people who lived in Egypt at that time. They buried their their dead in the sand, where their bodies were naturally mummified. The oldest known group of such mummies is known as Gebelein predynastic mummies. They date to approximately 3400 BC from the Late Predynastic period of Ancient Egypt. The first excavated body is on display in the British Museum. This body was originally nicknamed 'Ginger' due to his red hair...



The depictions of people with blue eyes as well as mummies with blond, red and brown straight and wavy (Caucasian) hair continue to be found through out the Ancient Egypt's history. 

What is going on here? 

Have a look at this map from Eupedia:


This map shows distribution of the the R1b haplogroup across the world. 

R1b is the most common haplogroup in Western Europe, reaching over 80% of the population in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, western Wales, the Atlantic fringe of France, the Basque country and Catalonia. It is also common in Anatolia and around the Caucasus, in parts of Russia and in Central and South Asia.

Besides the Atlantic and North Sea coast of Europe, hotspots include the Po valley in north-central Italy (over 70%), Armenia (35%), the Bashkirs of the Urals region of Russia (50%), Turkmenistan (over 35%), the Hazara people of Afghanistan (35%), the Uyghurs of North-West China (20%) and the Newars of Nepal (11%). 

A small percentages (1 to 4%) of R1b-V88 is found in almost every country in  Africa north of the equator. Higher frequency in Egypt (5%) along the Nile, among Berbers from the Egypt-Libya border (23%), among the Sudanese Copts (15%), the Hausa people of Sudan (40%), the the Fulani people of the Sahel (54% in Niger and Cameroon), and Chadic tribes of northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon (especially among the Kirdi), where it is observed at a frequency ranging from 30% to 95% of men.

Is it possible that the people who made a statuette of a white woman with blue eyes in Egipt 6000 years ago, were themselves white people with blue eyes who belonged to the R1b haplogroup? 

I believe so. 

But how and when did these R1b people arrive to Africa? I recently found an interesting article about this on "Cradle of civilization" blog. The article is entitled "The origin and development of the African haplogroup R1b" and here is the important bit: 

Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years ago). This haplogroup has been identified in the remains of a 24,000 year-old boy from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia. This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.

Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have contributed mostly to the ancestry of modern Europeans and South Asians, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).

The oldest forms of R1b (M343, P25, L389) are found dispersed at very low frequencies from Western Europe to India, a vast region where the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers could have roamed during the Ice Age. The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East.

The southern branch, R1b1c (V88), is found mostly in the Levant and Africa. The northern branch, R1b1a (P297), seems to have originated around the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia, then to have crossed over the Caucasus, from where they would have invaded Europe and Central Asia. R1b1b (M335) has only been found in Anatolia.

It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago. R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs.

With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals.

The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming. Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence.

The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.

The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each others. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.

The early R1b cattle herders would have split in at least three groups. One branch (M335) remained in Anatolia, but judging from its extreme rarity today wasn’t very successful, perhaps due to the heavy competition with other Neolithic populations in Anatolia, or to the scarcity of pastures in this mountainous environment.

A second branch migrated south to the Levant, where it became the V88 branch. Some of them searched for new lands south in Africa, first in Egypt, then colonising most of northern Africa, from the Mediterranean coast to the Sahel.

The third branch (P297), crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.

It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In the latter case, M73 might not be an Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.

R1b-M269 (the most common form in Europe) is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent, which comprised almost all Europe (except Finland, Sardinia and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, European Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably in Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, northern India and Nepal. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others.

Like its northern counterpart (R1b-M269), R1b-V88 is associated with the domestication of cattle in northern Mesopotamia. Both branches of R1b probably split soon after cattle were domesticated, approximately 10,500 years ago (8,500 BCE). R1b-V88 migrated south towards the Levant and Egypt.

The migration of R1b people can be followed archaeologically through the presence of domesticated cattle, which appear in central Syria around 8,000-7,500 BCE (late Mureybet period), then in the Southern Levant and Egypt around 7,000-6,500 BCE (e.g. at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba).

Cattle herders subsequently spread across most of northern and eastern Africa. The Sahara desert would have been more humid during the Neolithic Subpluvial period (c. 7250-3250 BCE), and would have been a vast savannah full of grass, an ideal environment for cattle herding.

Evidence of cow herding during the Neolithic has shown up at Uan Muhuggiag in central Libya around 5500 BCE, at the Capeletti Cave in northern Algeria and in Tassili n’Ajjer in southern Algeria  around 4500 BCE.

After reaching the Maghreb, R1b-V88 cattle herders could have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Iberia, probably accompanied by G2 farmers, J1 and T1a goat herders and native Maghreban E-M81 lineages. These Maghreban Neolithic farmers/herders could have been the ones who established the Almagra Pottery culture in Andalusia in the 6th millennium BCE.

R1b-V88 would have crossed the Sahara between 7,200 BCE and 3,600 BCE, and is most probably associated with the diffusion of Chadic languages, a branch of the Afroasiatic languages. R1b-V88 is not only present among Chadic speakers, but also among Senegambian speakers (Fula-Hausa) and Semitic speakers (Berbers, Arabs).

V88 would have migrated from Egypt to Sudan, then expanded along the Sahel until northern Cameroon and Nigeria. Another possibility is that R1b-V88 people migrated to central Africa straight down from central Sahara, escaping southward from the emerging desert. 

Today R1b-V88 is found among the native populations of Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau. The wide distribution of V88 in all parts of Africa, its incidence among herding tribes, and the coalescence age of the haplogroup all support a Neolithic dispersal. In any case, a later migration out of Egypt would be improbable since it would have brought haplogroups that came to Egypt during the Bronze Age, such as J1, J2, R1a or R1b-L23.

When the Sahara started turning into a desert, during the first part of the 4th millennium BC, people living in its eastern fringes started settling around the Nile valley. The concentration of large number of people in this relatively small area created the need for increasingly stronger organization in order to control and protect the access to limited resources. And the Egyptian culture was born...

Is it possible that the people who kick started this culture were R1b cattle herders? And that it was them who made the statuette of a white woman with blue eyes?

Interestingly only few days ago researchers from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History had published a report which states that "Ancient Egyptians were more closely related to Europeans than modern Egyptians". 

The result was published after scientists managed, for the first time, to obtain full genome sequences of Ancient Egyptians. The mummies were taken from a single archaeological site on the River Nile, Abusir el-Meleq, which was inhabited from 3250 BC to 700AD and was home to a cult of Osiris, the god of the dead, making it a good place to be buried. 

A complete genome sequence was obtained for three mummies and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed through the female line, was obtained from 90 individuals. They were dated to between about 1,400BC and 400AD.

The researchers, writing in the journal Nature Communications, admitted their sample “may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt”. Nevertheless, they concluded the mummified people were “distinct from modern Egyptians, and closer towards Near Eastern and European samples”.

And they added: “We find that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and modern and ancient European populations". 

In contrast to the changes between the ancient and modern period, the researchers, from Cambridge University and institutions in Germany, Poland and Australia, found the genetic make-up of the mummies was remarkably constant despite the arrival of the Romans and other foreign powers.

Dr Wolfgang Haak, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said: “The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,800-year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule.”

What do you think about all this?


2 comments:

  1. I enjoy all your blog posts especially this one. It is very interesting and draws me to the conclusion that North Africa was populated by Caucasian people from the late Paleolithic and perhaps earlier. The extinct Guanches in the Canary islands are also Caucasian type described as Mechtoid which is a North African form of CroMagnon.
    I have heard that in Roman times that European Gothic tribes fled into North Africa seeking sanctuary. Perhaps it was common knowledge back in the European past that people who looked like them lived across the Mediterranean Sea to the South.
    In 1800 to 1830, my ancestor and all his brothers left Harris County Georgia and moved to only two locations....southeast Alabama and East Texas. The reason for the choice of locations for the younger siblings was that older brothers had pioneered it for them and word came back to Georgia that they were successful.
    I can imagine this is how it always has been the system by which tribes have migrated.
    It also demonstrates the phenomena of Caucasian pioneers who, after centuries of building a civilization, attract people of other lineages and collapse is the result.

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  2. Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

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