Saturday, 30 November 2019

Where did Celts come from? Who were the Druids?

Celts are known for tartan, faeries, druids, bagpipes and the British Isles - but the origins of the Celtic culture lie in the Unetice culture of Bronze age central Europe and it spread out with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. In this history documentary, I look at the genetic evidence for the spread of Celts into Britain and Ireland in the Iron Age, as well as the Galatian Celts into Anatolia. Then I examine some Celtic archaeological artefacts such as the Gundestrup cauldron and the Marlborough bucket and I introduce the viewer to some of the basic aspects of Druidry and the Indo-European religion of the ancient Celts.

Celtic chariot warrrior art by Alex Cristi

Aristocratic Iron age Gaul and Caledonian Death Lord art by Christian Sloan Hall

T-shirts with the Gaul design are available here...

Friday, 22 November 2019

Christmas Origins and pagan themes with Smile Titans

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Genetic Impact of Christianity on Ethnocentrism

A new paper (LINK) has caused quite a stir! Schulz et al 2019 relies on the observation that Europeans are more trusting of outsiders and less nepotistic. I recall a study on the reactions of diverse babies left in the care of people that were markedly different genetically from the baby, with the result that most babies got very upset. The baby that was least upset by this was one from Saxony. Despite the evidence, any study that asserts that Europeans are distinguishable from any other population is likely to raise eyebrows and hair among those in the Humanities (especially a study like this that implies the differences are actually culturally advantageous or superior).

The study attributes this European tendency to the Western Church:

"they focus on how the Church broke down extended kin-based institutions and encouraged a nuclear family structure. To do this, the authors developed measures of historical Church exposure and kin-based institutions across populations."

It argues that the rise of agriculture in the Neolithic favoured kinship based societies in which forms of cousin marriage (not just 1st cousins which would be genetically problematic, but also 3rd and 4th cousins which pose no genetic threat), but that "The Church’s family policies meant that by 1500 CE, and likely centuries earlier in some regions, Europe lacked strong kin-based institutions and was instead dominated by relatively independent and isolated nuclear or stem families."

This church-led social change is thus, they argue, the reason for higher rates of openness to strangers, individualism and independence among Europeans. I have no doubt there is some truth to this but I can see a major flaw, which I will get to later. First let's see how other people reacted. The left wing historians threw their toys out of the pram, of course. Here'e one guy who has blocked me even though I don't know who he is:

He says the scientists should have consulted historians (they obviously did though).
Geneticists seem somewhat bewildered by the reaction of historians...
However, I must say this historian below makes some good points in her counter argument against the geneticists. She throws up numerous obfuscations, which, although a frustrating left wing technique for clouding an argument, actually includes some valid points in this case.
My area is the conversion of the Germanic peoples and I can give the example of how the church banned, as incestuous, the custom among the Norse whereby sons would inherit their step-mothers. That shows a concern with breaking up kinship ties, but it isn't at all related to biological incest. In fact the prohibition against incest was not introduced to the Germanics by the church at all. Although incest occurs in mythological contexts, such as the gods Freya and Frey, or the incestuous relationships among the Volsung clan which were intended to create a supernatural semi-divine being by distilling the blood of Odin through incest. In both cases, the incest is quite a shocking and unusual element and associated with taboos that even gods aren't supposed to break (Loki shames the divine twins Frey and Freya for the alleged incest).

I do not recall any discussion of consanguineous sexual relationships in any of the papers on Viking or Anglo-Saxon DNA I have read. This could easily be determined from existing samples. I doubt incest was at all common even before Christianity arrived. One Germanic region where people have been marrying third or fourth cousins for centuries is Iceland - this occurred out of necessity due to isolation and a small population. 

Icelandic researchers reporting in a 2008 issue of Science, found that marriages between third or fourth cousins in Iceland tended to produce more children and grandchildren than those between completely unrelated individuals. The researchers suggested that marrying third and fourth cousins may be optimal for reproduction because this degree of genetic similarity may produce the best gene pool. Really close relations like siblings and first-cousins would have detrimental inbreeding mutations, whereas couples genetically far-removed from each other could have genetic incompatibilities. Third- and fourth-cousin couples, though, are the goldilocks middle ground genetically, tending to be more genetically compatible while having no serious inbreeding problems.

Iceland not only produces more published authors per capita than anywhere else, but also more of the world's strongest men! Their breeding practices have certainly not hurt them, in fact they seem to have been beneficial and if these marriages result in more children, then those who favour them will outcompete those who don't in terms of number of children. That suggests selective pressure FOR consanguineous marriages, at least in Iceland...and the church did not break them up.

I am sure some right wing pagans would like to use this study as evidence for how the church destroys ethnic identities and prepares the world for globalism but I am not sure that this has been proven. I believe these prohibitions against close inbreeding were always there in many places in Northern Europe, that third cousin marriages still occurred long after conversion and that kinship networks were not maintained by third cousin marriages anyway, but by complicated rituals of gift exchange, and feasting.

It may surprise the reader to learn I dislike Western chauvinism, particularly arguments for the uniqueness of Western civilisation based on our supposedly more progressive outlook. But if we accept this premise, we must also conclude that the aforementioned tendencies of openness, individualism and independence, are higher in the North than the South of Europe, despite the North being the last place to receive the Christian doctrine. Clearly the argument falls flat. I personally consider such traits to be socially disadvantageous (in the current environment) mutations that actually emerged long before Christianity arrived in Europe, and which are more likely adaptations for small populations distributed over large areas in harsh regions of Northern Europe, where there was a selective pressure favouring those willing to cooperate with whoever they came across and also for more independent and individualistic people who would find long periods of isolation more tolerable.


Friday, 8 November 2019

Ancient Roman DNA

New Ancient Roman/Italy Paper Summary:

A new paper has been published which finally confirms what many have thought about the genetics of Ancient Rome (however it is behind a paywall so I am going only on the preview supplementary data and what geneticists have said publicly about it). The following summary is based not only on what the paper itself says, but rather what it SHOWS but not does not say.
  •  Neolithic Italy had no steppe DNA - people were genetically like Sardinians/Etruscans
  • 11 pre-Imperial Roman samples plot as more Northern than modern Italians or Neolithic ones - They resemble people from Southern France - which means a significantly more Northern shifted (than modern french people) population entered the Italian peninsula, mixed over the Iron Age with natives and redefined the ethnic character of the region throughout the Roman Republic.
  • The paper doesn't specify the most likely sources of this northerly population which is the Bell Beaker and/or Urnfield cultures. In the supplementary info they mention 99%  of Bell Beaker folk carried R1b M269 paternal haplogroup (present in Italy too). Instead of saying how Bell Beaker DNA entered Italy they just say "Steppe-related" people went to Italy in the Bronze age. This is misleading since they had left the steppe some 1000 years earlier and were now ethnically Central Europeans.
  • The chronology of genetic change indicates the Urnfield expansion into Italy may mark arrival of Italic languages rather than the earlier Bell Beakers - they are related anyway so its likely two waves into Italy.
  • Imperial Roman samples show a major shift toward MENA populations like Egyptians/ Carthaginians/ Syrians etc. The Roman Empire certainly made Italian people less European by attracting Middle Eastern migrants. People have said this for centuries.
  • Italy became more European again after the Roman Empire. The paper suggests that the resurgence of European ancestry and reduction of Near Eastern admixture starting in Late antiquity and ending in the Middle Ages is due to migration into Italy from Central Europe (Celtic and Germanic invasions for eg?)

The most interesting thing from my perspective is what the paper doesn't discuss, which is which population from North of the Alps brought Indo-European languages to Italy.

Somebody made this which is interesting - they map the genetic shifts in Italy to the religious shifts - showing that the rise of near eastern cults like that of Cybele corresponds with a rise in Near Eastern admixture. What is labelled here as "European" should properly be labelled "Indo-European"

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

In Search of the Earth-Mother of Anatolia

"In Search of the Earth-Mother of Anatolia" A documentary which looks at the root of the Earth Mother goddess common to European pagan religions; call her Cybele, Rhea, Ceres, or whatever - she comes from Anatolia and spread out in various forms from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. One late form was Artemis of Ephesus, an Anatolian version of a Greek goddess who was then sent back to Europe in her new form. This film focuses mainly on the Lycians, who were an early Indo-European people in Anatolia who seem to have preserved more of the pre-Indo-European Anatolian religion and culture than most.

'Leto transforms the Lycian peasants to frogs' painting by Alex Cristi