Reflections on Palaeolithic Cave Art, Girls at Puberty and the origin of Religion

Abstract

It is not a stretch of imagination to link seclusion of girls at puberty with the Palaeolithic cave art. The widely accepted view about cave art suggests that the cave artists had been shamans. This shamanic origin can imply that the religion emerged in the times when the cave artists were active. It has already been posited in the relevant literature that the Venus figurines representing mobile art of the period suggests their connection to the rites of girls at puberty. This paper explores the possibility that there could have been a link between the cave artists and the girls at puberty. This connection means that the religion might have started with an association to the girls’ puberty rites.

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Introduction

Seclusion of girls at puberty had been discussed by several authours including Frazer (1993)[1], Benedict (1934)[2], Richards (1962) [3] and Lincoln (1981) [4]. However, apart from Frazer, the other authours mainly looked at anthropological importance of this rite of passage. Arachige (2009)[5] discussed the possible significance of these rites to the origin of religions. Even though on its face value this may seem as a long shot, in a previous article Arachige (2010)[6] suggested that there could well be a link between the seclusion of girls at puberty and the Palaeolithic Venus figurines. Arachige (2009, 2012) [7] also argued that the seclusion of girls could have been practised at least 40,000 years as the spread of the motifs of seclusion on a geospatial basis indicates. This opens up the possibility of a substantial continuity of the said puberty rites since the Palaeolithic times[8]. If such continuity can be established, then, finding the roots of religion, as our today’s perspectives on religion allow us to believe, in the seclusion does not seem far-fetched. Arachige (2011)[9] also hypothesised that the seclusion rites related to the Venus figurines might have branched off to other cultural traits in prehistoric Europe. In the present article, it is intended to bring together some of these ideas to form a foundation for a more cohesive hypothesis about the origin of religion.

Road to Religion via Puberty Rites

There is the widely accepted view of the existence of prehistoric shamanism as evidenced by Palaeolithic cave art. All prominent authors in this school, Lewis-Williams, Whitley (2009)[10], Clottes (2011)[11] have discussed this point of view in detail. If it can be shown that there is a connection between the prehistoric art, shamanism and the puberty rites, then, it is not difficult to take the next step of identifying the nexus between religion and girls’ puberty rites.

When it comes to religion, a mechanistic framework with parallels to what is expounded by behaviourist school in psychology is so widespread among anthropological community as evidenced by the following comments of Atran[12] about the supernatural agency. “In all cultures, supernatural agents are readily conjured up”. The reason for this is that “natural selection has trip-wired cognitive schema” to detect external agents. This is more so because of the uncertainty associated with  detecting danger. This impact of uncertainty results in a “hair-triggering of an agency-detection mechanism” lending “itself to supernatural interpretation.” However, the existence of the supernatural is a universal cultural norm and its association to religion is widely accepted.

There are many different views about the origin of religion. Again, according to Atran (2002)[13] religion can be defined as  a community’s costly and hard-to-fake commitment to a counterfactual and counterintuitive world of supernatural agents who master people’s existential anxieties, such as death and deception[14]. The crux of the above definition is the involvement of supernatural agency in religion. The idea of such an agency is minimally counter-intuitive and thus, could take root in our psyche. As the puberty rites and idea of the perceived supernatural abilities of the girls at puberty is so entwined in the minds of many societies that it would seem very worldly, the connection between religion and seclusion of the girls at puberty becomes an overarching possibility. It can be posited that the supernatural agency was not necessarily something conjured up by our cognitive system developed through natural selection. The origin of the religion can be more mundane.  No one would call Darwinism or the Theory of Relativity was a product of natural selection. Despite the fact that we can laboriously find an argument to prove the hand of natural selection, two key individuals conceived these ideas through their gift for synthesis.  Similarly, some gifted individuals had some abilities, which others perceived as extraordinary. A series of behaviours, which resulted from such beliefs, gave rise to the belief in the supernatural among our prehistoric ancestors.

Furthermore, the present author believes that the above cognitive explanation is an attempt to see the religion in a Darwinian perspective in the hope that being able to conceptualize such an agency-detection mechanism and its probable connection to the existence of the supernatural alone can justify such a theory. But let us question how we know that such a universal mechanism can lead people to follow a focal person as we usually encounter in many religions and cults. In other words, how can we explain the specificity through universality, i.e. many followers one founder? In any shamanic culture, all members thus trip-wired by the natural selection would not end up as shamans. Given the status accorded to girls at puberty in early history where written records exist[15], it is very probable that in the prehistoric times too, girls at puberty had also been considered to be “special people”.  It is interesting to note the mention Whitely makes about the girls’ puberty rites in the community of Luseno Indians in southern California.  The young girls at the conclusion of their puberty rites painted their spirit helpers and left hand prints usually in red[16].  As Boas tells us in his book, “The Mind of Primitive Man”, cultural traits such as the above, which “occur sporadically in regions far apart”, should be carefully interpreted to deduce their continuity without change in various cultures from the prehistoric times[17].

The puberty rites in various parts of the world continued to involve the seclusion and the belief of special powers of the girls at puberty. Sir James Frazer treated this liminal state, which placed such girls between heaven (not to see the sun) and earth (not to touch the ground). However, many researchers for various reasons would like to avoid discussing the supernatural aspect of these rites of passage. This attitude reminds of the behaviourist school of psychology, which ignored all subjective concepts not directly observable[18]. However, there had always been a deep involvement of supernatural factors in the life of a girl at puberty, which had been discussed in detail in another article[19]. Even though all girls at puberty can have the potential to become shamans, the current proposition about the girls at puberty being associated with the origin of religion doesn’t require them all to be ‘special persons’. Some of them can always be special due to their special qualities; the rest, perhaps, their retinue. This can be further discussed in the background of possible connection between the founders of religion and their abnormal psychological conditions[20]. Many founders of religions were considered by their contemporaries to have special powers.

One major reason for the attitude of separating the supernatural aspect from the girls’ puberty rites is the presence of puberty rites for boys, which are mainly rites of passage. For girls, there is more to puberty rites than mere celebration of a rite of passage. The perception that considering supernatural explanations is not scientific can be a very daunting factor for the scholastic community. Growing up in a place and time which now seem like a time capsule of cultural traits made the current authour realise how important the supernatural aspect was for the seclusion of pubescent girls (see also De Silva, 1981)[21]. Young girls were instructed not to eat certain oily food and not to wonder about alone in fear of being possessed (Arachige, 2011). When they walk about alone, they were asked to take a piece of iron or something made out of iron (De Silva, 1981; Narayan et al, 2001)[22]. The girls were feared because of ‘bad energy’, carried by them. Unless we are not ready to think like the people whom we are studying or consider the most significant aspects, if not one of the most significant aspects, of their cultural practices, we are throwing out key phenomenological content of our investigations. This may mean being blind to the facts in order to be scientifically acceptable. In the ensuing discussion, I would like to mainly focus on the ‘magical’ world where people whose minds were not affected by the idea of modern day scientific rationalism.

Palaeolithic Shamans, Religion and Cave Art

According to the most widely accepted view of the Palaeolithic art, early shamanic practice can arguably be related to the origin of the earliest-known cave drawings. According to Lewis-Williams (1997)[23], both representational and geometric image making in the Palaeolithic period was done by early shamans in an altered state of consciousness induced, perhaps, by psychedelic plant material. Oxford Dictionary defines shaman as “a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits.” After accepting that the Palaeolithic cave artists were prehistoric shamans, Whitley (2009) argues the case for the association between religion and cave art. He proposes that the shamanic ecstasy as promoted by Mircea Eliade is a myth and the shamans are generally suffering from affective disorders ranging from minor depression to schizoaffective disorders. He believes that given the human nature conditioned by our evolutionary history and cognitive development, as discussed in preceding paragraphs, religion arose from already present cognitive roots through organization of beliefs in prehistoric western Europe. Note the importance of a natural cause to this prehistoric form of shamanism.

In the light of recorded connection between perceived supernatural abilities such as negative impact of the evil eye or touch and the girls at puberty it can be deduced that in the periods prior to the written history girls at puberty were deemed to have suffered from some psychological conditions, which were perceived by others as either as detrimental or beneficial to the community depending on the circumstances and perspectives. These traditions persisted to the historical times after losing its original context. It seems that valuable contributions by them as people with psychic abilities were possibly undermined by the later traditions.

It is interesting to note that in case of unipolar depressive disorder, one of the mood disorders Whitely mentions, there is a well-established gender difference[24] observed in many countries around the world[25]. A WHO Report also mentions that[26]

Despite later onset, some studies report that women experience a higher frequency of hallucinations or more positive psychotic symptoms than men (Lindamer et al. 1999)[27]. Similarly, while the population prevalence rates of bipolar disorder appear not to differ, gender differences occur in the course of the illness. Women are more likely to develop the rapid cycling form of the illness, exhibit more comorbidity (Leibenluft, 1997)[28] and have a greater likelihood of being hospitalized during the manic phase of the disorder (Hendrick, Altschuler, Gitlin et al. 2000)[29].”

Major mood disorders show some major gender differences and the females are susceptible to it at roughly twice the rate of the males[30]. Thus, if the affective disorders helped the emergence of shamans in the Palaeolithic times, the most of them had to be females. As mental diseases cannot be totally stripped off the cultural context, it is not sure how gender bias played its role in those prehistoric times. In historic times, it was the female of the species who communicated with the supernatural[31] or had physical contact[32] with it. As Scientific American puts it, “Extraordinarily for misogynist Greece, the Pythia was a woman and ……the Pythia did not inherit her office through noble family connections.”[33]. Even if an ordinary person smelled the pneuma, the gas arising from a cavern deep down in the earth, which sent the Pythia to her trance, that person didn’t go into the oracular trance. So the Phythia was special. In prehistoric times, this could have been even more prominent and the dark, deep Palaeolithic caves might have served the prehistoric Phythias well[34]. This same misogynist attitude might have left the girls at puberty with only the evil influences. Given the prevalence of female figurine in the Palaeolithic times, it is probable that the women were stripped off their due recognition after an early acceptance.

Shamanic Powers in Women

In the Palaeolithic times, it is believed that the hunter-gatherers roamed the Earth. From observing the hunter gatherer communities which persisted to more recent times, Anthropologists believe that due to the commitment to care and carry the young and the time taken to become a skilful hunter, for women, hunting which provides a high quality diet is not profitable[35]. Usually, women, children and grand children in foraging societies collect plants, shellfish and insects[36]. Thus, women should have had more knowledge about the vegetation that could be consumed and their specific qualities. If this argument extended, it can be easily seen that they had the best opportunity to see which plants were psychedelic and which were edible herbs. Thus, the first shamans, even if they were dependent on such psychedelic plant material, were more likely to be females of the clan. However, women might have had a natural inclination to portray extraordinary behaviours in the minds of the ancients through the perceptions about their puberty. The special treatment attributed to prehistoric women can be further corroborated by the skeletal remains of a woman considered to be a shaman and discovered at Dolni’ Vestonice in eastern Europe[37].

As was discussed by many authours, the place of the female as a person who is supernaturally gifted has been recorded in so many ways. Even though the period referred to by these authours is more recent, the attitudes might have persisted from the Palaeolithic times. One recorded example comes from the studies on trepanning undertaken by the famous Paul Broca and his contemporaries. It is an uncanny tribute to Broca’s brilliance to get an area of the human brain named after him. After studying the skulls from Neolithic Period it was Broca who proposed that the trepanning was performed to cure illnesses such as epileptic seizures. Trepanning, according to him, was done when the patient was young. If the patient withstood the ordeal and survived, then, at death, amulets were made out of such trepanned skulls and were used as a prophylactic against all other diseases[38].  Almost half of the skulls found were females. Contrast the practice of such after-death veneration of the body parts or other aspects of the dead personalities with our belief in the influences of many founders of religion, the Son of God, gods and goddesses or Saints who are not physically present among us. After ignoring the specialities, at least in the spirit of the action, all these have underlying interactions. It also is interesting to note that a special case called T Sincipital was almost exclusive to female skulls[39]. The view is that this procedure was a result of a religious ritual performed over many years.

Given the major emphasis of the puberty rites are on the rather sinister aspect of the supposed supernatural powers of the girls, it is difficult to see how this could have led to admiration which is common in a religious inspiration. The answer can be twofold. The girls were mainly adored for their ability to punish the enemies, who had to be many given the competition for the limited resources. Punishing enemies is a tradition, which continued to Roman Period in Europe[40]. As an example, written evidence was discovered at the temple of Goddess Minerva at Roman Baths in Bath, England, asking her help to curse their enemies[41]. Similarly, it was the statue of a goddess Artemis at Pallenne the gaze of which could be detrimental[42].  Also note that Lincoln[43] considers the Persephone myth is also associated with the puberty rite of seclusion. Persephone and Demeter are the mythic characters associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries in Ancient Greece. This connection between the goddesses and the puberty rites arguably going back to Minoan Civilization of ca. 2000 BC[44], also accentuates the religious tendencies associated with the girls’ puberty. The other possibility is a later revisionist attitude to only focus on the harmful side of their perceived abilities. This can very well be the case as the girls at puberty in Umnak Island were considered as having healing powers and her saliva was used to treat rheumatism[45]. Apache Indians also considered the girls at puberty as a source of supernatural blessing[46].  It is human to shift the focus depending on the prevalent cultural whims. The discovery of psychedelic plants can be such a turning point, which later helped more men to acquire supernatural or shamanic powers. Over time, the power struggle between male and female shamans could have turned the scales in favour of the male shaman. Female shaman who lost her prominent place could not be totally replaced due to her natural gift of “supernatural powers” and continued in the roles like that of the Phythia.

Role Played By the Caves in Puberty Rites

The research done by Sharpe and colleagues, point out that in Rouffignac Cave, out of seven fluters five were women and girls some of whom were only about five years old[47]. These authours also point out that the shamanic hypothesis of Lewis-Williams brakes down as the fluters had to have poked the fingers in instead of fluting the surface, had they tried to get closer to the sacred world lying behind the walls. Furthermore, some fluters were children, who were unlikely to have performed as shamans[48],[49]. Similarly, the analysis of the measurements done on the hand stencils found in El Castilo in Spain and France and Gargas and Pech Merle Caves in France showed a majority to be female hand stencils (about 75%) [50],[51].  This doesn’t prove us that these females were kept in the caves or we can have complete faith on the soundness of the analytical basis of such investigations. But it is not simply a heightened state of imagination. (Clottes, 2011) after many years of researching the caves writes that given the abundance of female motifs in caves, the prehistoric people might have thought the caves to be female[52]. Add this to the female behinds and pubic regions depicted in these caves. Presence of many female contours without heads and feet can be perceived as girls or women sleeping on the side[53]. Gimbutas discussed the “reclining women” found sculpted in relief in the cave of La Madeleine with one arm and both legs upraised[54].  Gimbutas assumed these women were in labour. But, if they were in labour, wouldn’t they be known as “women in labour” rather than “reclining women”? Isn’t the first impression rather than a laboured interpretation more close to the truth? On the other hand, what facts do we have to confirm the birthing practices in prehistoric times were similar to ours? It is well known that both reclining and squatting birthing positions are practised even in modern times. Thus, these women we meet in the La Madeleine Cave can well be reclining and someone else depicted them on the walls. It can well be other women with more skilful hands and imagination who depicted their fellow inmates in such a manner. Also note that another reclining woman opposite a sorcerer was depicted in Gabillou Cave in Dordogne, France. This woman, also without a head was described by Clottes[55]. He also described another reclining female figure in low relief on rock of La Magdelaine des Albis Cave in Tarn, France[56]. Clottes (2011) mention that the female genitals or typically the pubic triangles[57] were represented in European cave art from the Aurignacian on, as the caves were perhaps thought as female[58]. It may well be the case these were drawn by women to mark their territory or just to get rid of boredom. The point is that some libidinous male occupants of the cave did not necessarily do these markings.  It is a possibility that these artists lived in those caves for some span of time[59] when we are look at “seclusion huts” with many women[60].

And consider the time taken to get the eyes accustomed to the environment inside a dark cave[61]. If the person lives in the cave for some time, it would be easy for the person to get used to the darkness and do many things by the flicker of a lamp. If the oil lamps were burning all the time the drawings were done, there could have been more carbon dioxide inside the cave making long stays very uncomfortable. On the other hand, burning fat had to blacken the cave roof badly. Similar arguments might help us to believe that the persons who drew on the Palaeolithic cave walls stayed in these caves long enough to get their eyes accustomed to the darkness.

There can also be a supernatural aspect to this. The women hidden in those deep dark caves might have been expected to see without seeing and walk without walking. In these early days, they were expected to see whether the herds of bison or mammoths would come to their vicinity soon; walk to the places where their enemy tribes lived; see the future for the Elders or travel to places where the dead souls of the ancestors roamed[62]. The human nature across the globe when all the trappings, which the culture and socio-economic landscape imposed on it, are peeled off is similar. Diamond[63] vividly explained this about intelligence and civilization. In the prehistoric times all human beings might have thought about various aspects of their lives in a similar light. Frazer[64], Lang[65] and Bastian[66] collected a large number of examples about rituals of primitive people to prove this same fundamental similarity arising from independent development through the psychic unity of mankind. Thus, when removed from the cultural aspects, the rituals and beliefs surrounding the girls’ puberty can show us that the maidens were thought to have special powers to see without seeing and travel without travelling. In the minds of the ancients, there was no place for mental illnesses as they might have thought about these as the afflictions caused by a dead relative or a communication with gods or goddesses. Jaynes[67] describes many examples on how all humans before the breakdown of bicameral mind[68] thought about them as conversing with the gods. A lone mental patient had been easily drowned in such a population-wide phenomenon. The important point is that for our prehistoric ancestors, the voices heard and visions seen through a mental illness could have been mere expression of external agency, not perceived to be ailments. Thus, any mental illness suffered by some adolescent girls due to various socio-cultural factors[69] was very likely to be attributed to the external factors, which we call supernatural. This can be well within the sphere of shamanism. In another article, the special place of women in shamanic practices was discussed by the present authour[70]. Thus, it is very probable that the cave dwelling women were supposed to perform a special task for the clan.

Concluding Remarks

One major point, current author considers with some reservations is the reality of “Creative Explosion” which took place in the Palaeolithic times about 40,000 years ago. How could we be so certain that long before the humans drew on cave walls they didn’t draw on sand, bark or rock which disappeared in the passage of time? How could we be so certain that for ages they had a taboo imposed on them not to represent the nature in any other form? How could we be sure some new socio-cultural change didn’t lead them to see the animate and inanimate world around them in a different light? As the archaeological findings show, our ancestors had used shells, indicating their ability to grasp symbolism, at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought[71]. Could the cave art, thus, be the product of a cultural revolution rather than a creative explosion?

Whatever the reasons for the emergence of both mobile and parietal art in the Palaeolithic Europe were, it is very probable what we see today could be due to a system of thinking involving the supernatural abilities of the players in this drama. Scholars proposing the shamanic practices as the cause of cave art as well as the ones suggesting the involvement of mental disorders are trying to uncover an abnormality such as hallucinations to trigger the action. Some even proposed the mind of these ancient artists showed some limitations, which were evident in autistic people before they acquire language skills[72]. In summary, the current prevalent thinking places the importance on some form of abnormality of the prehistoric person. The proposition explained in the present article is not contradicted by the role played by perceived abnormalities of the girls at puberty. These perceived abnormalities were bordering on the supernatural abilities attributable to external agency in modern parlance. Think of the belief that a simple look from a girl at puberty could make weather turn bad[73]. In the mind of the our prehistoric relatives, she could be treated among those with shamanic powers. It is interesting to note that the gender of shamans was not just male. There is evidence as given in the preceding sections that the majority or equal proportion of shamanic practitioners could have been females. There could have been a significant impact of girls at puberty on the population of shamans or the future shamans as the persistence of puberty rites very similar in symbolism prevailed over time and space. If the religion was shamanic in origin, the contribution of the girls at puberty should be very substantial as many artefacts representing the prehistoric Venuses can be thought of as associated with the pubertal rites of girls in their origin.

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Arachige, D (2015) Reflections on Palaeolithic Cave Art, Girls at Puberty and the origin of Religion, www.thelureofnoma.com

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[1] Frazer, J 1993 (1922) The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, Wordsworth Reference, Ware

[2] Benedict, R 2005 (1934) The patterns of culture, Mariner Books, New York

[3] Richards, A. I 1982 Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia, Routledge, London

[4] Lincoln, B 1981 Emerging From The Chrysalis, Studies in Rituals of Women’s Initiation, Harvard University Press

[5] Arachige, D 2009 The lure of noma: on the elegance of religion, Ocean Publishing, Perth

[6] Arachige, D 2010 Prehistoric Venuses and Puberty Rite, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

[7] See 5 above and Arachige, D 2012 Antiquity of Secluding Girls at Puberty. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2173172 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2173172

[8] p. 10-21. Froese, T. 2013 Altered States and the Prehistoric Ritualisation of the Modern Human Mind. In: C. Adams, A. Waldstein, B. Sessa, D. Luke & D. King (eds.), Breaking Convention: Essays on Psychedelic Consciousness, London, UK: Strange Attractor Press

[9] Arachige, D 2011 Witches, Shamans and the Girls at Puberty. Available at: http://www.thelureofnoma.com

[10] Chapter 7. Whitley, David. S. 2009. Cave paintings and the human spirit, Prometheus Books, New York (Kindle Edition)

[11] p24-25. Clottes, J 2011 Cave Art, Phaidon, Reprint

[12] p71. Atran, S 2002 In Gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion, Oxford University Press, New York

[13] p4. ibid.

[14] The existence of the “supernatural agent” is even more prevalent in modern science. For an example, Charles Darwin is treated as the great genius, who discovered evolution “for the first time”. For many great biologists, he is almost the supernatural genius who deposed God. This exemplifies how human behaviour accords people who stand above others in the eyes of the majority a ‘supernatural’ status and gathers followers.  Thus, a following doesn’t ensue from an ordinary person. A focal person, a Transcendental Social like an Elder from a tribe, a celebrity can only gather people around them. Any person deemed not to be special cannot be different to the rest in the eyes of the ordinary people and thus, is not worthy of a following. The present author discussed some of these ideas in the chapter 3 of “The Lure of NOMA”, (Arachige 2009)

[15] Pliny. The Natural History. Quoted on p606.  Frazer, J 1993 (1922) The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, Wordsworth Reference, Ware

[16] Chapter 4. Whitley, D. S 2009 Cave paintings and the human spirit, Prometheus Books, New York (Kindle Edition)

[17] Chapter 9. “Early Cultural Traits” in Franz, B 1938. The Mind of Primitive Man, The Macmillan Company, New York

[18] p63. Fromm, E 1973 The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Pimlico, London

[19] Arachige, D 2010 Prehistoric Venuses and Puberty Rite, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

[20] Chapter 3. Arachige, D 2009 The lure of noma: on the elegance of religion, Ocean Publishing, Perth

[21] p35-36. De Silva, D W 1981 Puberty rites for the Sinhalese female. Lambda Alpha Journal of Man, 13. Available at: http://soar.wichita.edu/dspace/bitstream/10057/1764/1/LAJ+V+13_p35-46.pdf

[22] p225-238. Narayan, K.A, D.K. Srinivasa, P.J. Pelto and S. Veerammal 2001 Puberty rituals, reproductive knowledge and health of adolescent schoolgirls in South India, Asia-Pacific Population Journal 16(2).

[23] p321-342. Lewis-Williams, J. D 1997 Harnessing the Brain: Vision and Shamanism in Upper

Palaeolithic Western Europe, in Beyond Art: Pleistocene Image and Symbol, Proceedings of a Paul L. and Phyllis Wattis Foundation Endowment Symposium, ed. by Margaret W. Conkey, Olga Soffer, Deborah Stratmann & Nina C Jablonski, Wattis Symposium Series in Anthropology, Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences, No. 23, University of California Press, California

[24] World Health Organization, Gender disparities and mental health, Retrieved on 9 July 2015. Available at:

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

[25] p248-249. Carson R. C, Butcher, J. N, Mineka, S and Hooley, J.M 2007 Abnormal Psychology, 13th Edition, Pearson, New Delhi

[26] Psychologist Julian Jaynes believe that it is easier for women to become oracles, as their brains are less localized than those of men. p344. Jaynes, J 1990 The Origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, Penguin, London

[27] p61-67. Lindamer, L.A et al 1999 Gender-related clinical differences in older patients with schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60

[28] p163-173. Leibenluft, E 1997 Women with bipolar illness: clinical and research issues. American Journal of Psychiatry, (153)

[29] p393-396. Hendrick V, Altshuler L.L, and M.J. Gitlin et al 2000 Gender and bipolar illness. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, (61)

[30] p675-689. Pitychoutis P.M, Papadopoulou-Daifoti, Z 2010 Of depression and immunity: does sex matter? The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 13

[31] See the historical reports on Pythia, Cybills etc.

[32] Herodotus, Book 1.181-182

[33] Hale J. R., de Boer J. Z, Chanton J. P and H. A. Spiller 2003 Questioning the Delphic Oralce, Scientific American

[34] Many authours including Lewis-Williams and Wheatley finds the air quality within the Palaeolithic caves to be poor.

[35] p156-185. Kaplan H, Hill K, Lancaster J, Hurtado, A. M, 2000 A theory of human life history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity, Evolutionary Anthropology, 9:4

[36] http://www.britannica.com/topic/hunting-and-gathering-culture. However, according to some authours, this formulation also based on observing the present day societies, suffers from lack of direct evidence as much as the other view of larger participation of the female in hunting.  See p.82 of Adovasio J.M, Soffer, O and Page J 2007. The Invisible Sex, Smithsonian Books, Ney York

[37] Tedlock, B 2005 The woman in the shaman’s body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine, Batman, NY (Kindle Edition)

[38] p223-228. Munro, R. 1897 Prehistoric Problems, William Blackwood and Sons, available at http://books.google.com/

[39] p236-238. See above publication.

[40] Even in recent past, in Sri Lanka, there were people who were highly admired for their ability to write poetic curses, cast black magical spell on someone’s enemies. These same people could do the exact opposite when asked by a client.

[41] See http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/walkthroughs/roman-worship (Retrieved on 27 July 2015)

[42] p131. Ginzburg, C 1992 Ecstasies: Deciphering the witches’ Sabbath, Penguin Books, London

[43] p71-90. Lincoln, B 1981 Emerging From The Chrysalis, Studies in Rituals of Women’s Initiation, Harvard University Press

[44] p75. ibid.

[45] “During this time the girl is believed to have healing powers. An old man with rheumatism was brought to the author’s informant during her confinement so that she could rub his aching knees with her saliva, which is said to have stopped the pain.”-p145-148. Shade, C. I 1953 The Girls’ Puberty Ceremony of Umnak, Aleutian Islands, American Anthropologist, 53(1). Available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1525/aa.1951.53.1.02a00380/pdf

[46] p22.  Benedict, R 2002 The Diversity of CulturesCultural Sociology ed. by Lyn Spillman. Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

[47] p937-947. Sharpe, K & Van Gelder, L 2008 Women and girls as Upper Paleolithic Cave ‘Artists’: Deciphering the sexes of finger fluters in Rouffignac Cave. Available at http://www.ksharpe.com/word/AR107.htm; Sharpe, K & Van Gelder, L. 2006 Evidence for Cave Marking by Paleolithic Children. Antiquity 80:310.

[48] Sharpe, K & Van Gelder, L. 2006 a Human Uniqueness and Upper Paleolithic ‘Art’: An Arachaelogist’s reaction to Wentzel Van Huyssteen’s Gifford Lectures. Available at http://www.ksharpe.com/Word/AR97.htm

[49] Cambridge Archaeologist Jess Clooney proposed through her research the most prolific fluters in in Rouffignac Cave was a three-year-old female child. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15109188 retrieved on 27 July 2015

[50] The article published in National Geographic News on 16 June 2009. “Prehistoric European Cave Artists Were Female”, at news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/photogalleries/cave-handprints-actually-women-missions-pictures/

[51] p746-761. Snow, D 2013 Sexual Dimorphism in European Upper Paleolithic Cave Art, American Antiquity, Number 4 / October 2013, (16). Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.7183/0002-7316.78.4.746

[52] p147. Clottes, J 2011 Cave Art, Phaidon, Reprint

[53] p214-215. Also see p218. Note that there is more than one such silhouette in the same place. Clottes, J 2011 Cave Art, Phaidon, Reprint

[54] p105. Gimbutas, M. 1991 The Language of The Godess, HarperSanFrancisco

[55] p124. Clottes, J 2011. Cave Art, Phaidon, Reprint

[56] p262. ibid

[57] The pubic triangle is the popular belief about these motifs. Arachige questioning this interpretation in one blog post asks whether these triangles can be thought of as motifs representing chastity or promises of chastity or a chastity belt (see http://thelureofnoma.com/posts-are-here/page/2/). Or it may also be a motif for menstrual women or the pubertal girls.

[58] p147 and p255. ibid

[59] The paper mentioned below hints at an interesting possibility that Bolombas cave being a place associated with the girls’ seclusion as the presence of red ochre suggests, despite being a weak argument to connect the two. p.10-21. Froese, T. 2013 Altered States and the Prehistoric Ritualisation of the Modern Human Mind. In: C. Adams, A. Waldstein, B. Sessa, D. Luke & D. King (eds.), Breaking Convention: Essays on Psychedelic Consciousness, London, UK: Strange Attractor Press.

[60] DuPlooy, S 2006 Female initiation: becoming a woman among the Basotho, M.Sc.Sc Thesis, Department of Anthropology, the University of the Free State, South Africa (available at http://etd.uovs.ac.za/ETD-db//theses/available/etd-08102007-142005/unrestricted/DuPlooyS.pdf)

[61] Note that the 19th century scholars didn’t want to believe that prehistoric people due to the darkness inside these caves did the cave art. Only after the discovery of sandstone lamps inside the caves, they decided to accept the view.

[62] In the place, the present author grew up young maidens who were not bitten by a dog were sought after by the shamans. Such women were supposed to have some shamanic powers.  At night after a series of ritualistic chants, these maidens were supposed to divine with a blackened surface of a saucer on which a flicker of an oil lamp danced. Not every such maiden could perform the task. Some women were supposed to have an innate ability. They were supposed to seek help from Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, or Anjanam Devi (Goddess of Anjanam) in their psychic travels. Hanuman or Anjanam Devi was supposed to take the seeker to places so that she could perform her tasks.

[63] p15-32. Diamond, J 2005 Guns, Germs and Steel, Vintage, London

[64] Frazer, J 1993 (1922) The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, Ware: Wordsworth Reference

[65] Lang, A 1900 The Making of Religion, 2nd Edition, Project Gutenburg

[66] p30-38. Lowie, R 1937 The History of Ethnological Theory, Farrar & Rinehart Inc, New York

[67] Jaynes, J 1990 The Origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, Penguin, London

[68] Note that the bicameral mind hypothesis is not a widely accepted viewpoint. However, the examples on hallucinogenic nature of the mind are the key consideration for the current topic.

[69] We don’t have any prehistoric evidence to this.  But a crude deduction from the modern times makes the assumption of mental illness of the adolescents somewhat realistic.

[70] Arachige, D 2011 Witches, Shamans and the Girls at Puberty, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

[71]p307-314. Bar-Yosef Mayer, Daniella E., Vandermeersch, Bernard & Bar-Yosef, Ofer 2009 Shells and ochre in Middle Paleolithic Skhul and Qafzeh, Israel: indications for modern behavior. Journal of Human Evolution, (56)

See also Henshilwood, C.S., d’Errico, F., Vanhaeren, M., van Niekerk, K. and Jacobs, Z 2004 Middle stone age shell beads from South Africa, Science 304: 404. Also note the modern discoveries about the use of symbolically meaningful objects by the Neanderthals.

[72] p. 165-91. Humphrey, N 1998 Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 8:2

[73] A Chinook Indian belief. p599 of Frazer 1993.

 

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Punctuated Equilibrium, Gradualism and Hominid Cranial Capacity Data

Arachige D (2015) An Analysis of Hominin Cranial Capacity Data Using Simulations. Anthropol 3: 157. doi: 10.4172/2332-0915.1000157

Arachige, Darshi, Simulation-Based Analysis of Hominin Cranial Capacity Data (July 20, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2531589 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2531589

What did the reviews say?

I am really in debt to all the people who spent their time to read the above paper and comment on it. Thank you very much. Many comments were negative. However, I don’t see a strong argument against what my analysis pointed at: a possibility that the cranial capacity data pointing at punctuated equilibrium rather than gradualism. What I set out to do was to investigate the claim by Henneberg et al about the gradualism.  What I find is that the gradualism is not supported by their data. My effort was totally directed at being unbiased. At the end I believe there is no evidence in cranial capacity data to send Gould and Co to oblivion. Readers can also see whether the gradualist arguments hold any water. I believe that the readers wouldn’t let a argument to stand in the way of observed data.

I only intend to respond to a few reviews I received on this paper as they are the strongest arguments against my conclusions. In general, I am amused by the tendency of the scientific community to discredit the above paper on precariously weak logic. If the paper were difficult to follow and hence, the misunderstandings arise, I have to totally accept the blame. However,I sometimes wonder whether science at times is about people’s entrenched beliefs rather than the factual evidence.  When the undeniable arguments presented on a topic, human nature sometimes tend to rationalise the reasons for ignoring them due to the preconceived ideas about the person presenting them and the accepted opinions about the topic itself. I wonder this had something to do with the opinions expressed below as they are weak arguments against another set of data driven arguments. This opinion does not diminish in any sense the gratitude the author has for the people who made these comments.  I only can say a big “Thank you’ to show my sincere gratitude. The unedited comments from the reviewers appear below in bold letters.

I don’t find this paper sufficiently convincing to have me believe it makes an important advance in our understanding of brain size evolution. The author does a novel analysis of the fossil cranial capacity data, and concludes that there is evidence for two periods of change, with the changeover at ~1 MYA.I believe there are enough questions about the author’s statistical analysis that this conclusion is not any more or less convincing than previous studies coming to the same conclusion.

-This is a claim one would not consider sufficiently convincing to dismiss the paper. The review acknowledges the fact that the author used a novel analysis. Then the statistical analysis is dismissed as not convincing. Let us look at the objections to the analysis.

It is hard to follow all the statistical steps the author makes, to be sure they aren’t creating an effect where there isn’t actually one.As one example:

What would happen if you created simulated data that was based solely on the gradual curve that Henneberg et al. give as their best fit for hominin cranial capacities over time, and then did the K-means clustering on that? Would one get the same result (where assuming there are 2 groups gives the biggest drop in within-group SS)? In other words, is k-means making a 2 group solution because of its mathematics, and not necessarily because there actually where 2 groups?

-It is very strange for someone who is wondering whether the author’s conclusions are based on mathematical artefacts, to ask the authour to simulate data based on the Henneberg’s gradual curve and test for groupings. If authour were to simulate gradual change using Henneberg’s model, is the author looking at the real data or the artificial data? Would the conclusions then be based on the reality or mathematical artefacts? To simulate the data one has to make assumptions about the simulations so that the simulations are ‘grounded’ on reality. In the present analysis the author made assumptions about the distributions of the measurements on the cranial capacity of an individual skull. This is more grounded in reality than creating a simulated data sequence across all skull specimens. Should someone do further grouping on artificial data or the observed data? Also note that the paper uses unsupervised learning to identify the two groups while looking at the stability of such groups under simulations.

Secondly, isn’t it the case that any time you split data like this into two parts, and fit curves to these independently, you are going to get a better fit, no matter what? This is because you are able to capitalize on the unique variance characteristics of each segment. Given this, showing that the estimates are better for the two parts is not a good demonstration that there really are two evolutionary trajectories.The author could have tested this by arbitrarily splitting the data at random points (not using his preferred k-means clustering method), and see if the lines estimated for the two sections are also different. If they are (as I suspect they will be), then showing the differences between the k-means clustering derived sections is not particularly convincing (it would be an artefact of ANY split of the data).

-The above is a claim totally against statistical reality. Why do people test single regression line against multiple lines etc for the same data if they always get statistically significant good fit when the data were split? I don’t claim myself to be a brilliant statistician. However,  if there is no statistical evidence, a statistician will not accept that the multiple lines are better than a single line. This author did a statistical test to validate this. I am a pragmatist and like to do my statistics on the observed data.  This inclination prevents me from opting for tangential excursions into artificial sophistication.Why should someone split the data randomly and test whether splits are different?  Note that the author used a kind of a scree diagram which is equivalent to splitting the data from 2 groups to 15 groups. The K- means algorithm is used as an unsupervised learning technique in many areas in statistics including data mining. If this shows the evidence of some group structure, which has some back-up evidence, statisticians don’t go hunting for other groups unless the person is looking for groups with a hidden agenda. Even if this is the case, it is very difficult to justify a series of artificial splits. Any practicing data miner will confirm this. It is strange to suggest artificial splits on one hand and warn about artificial splits on another circumstance.
Thirdly, the actual split is at 1 MYA, not .5 MYA, yet the author focuses on the later.Yes, at that point, using his (possibly artifactual) second curve, the rate of change is greater than earlier. But it is by definition (in his model) part of one ‘process’ defined by that second curve which starts at 1 MYA.So how does this fit with supposed hominin species?And what about the problematic nature of hominin species, which are based on anatomical considerations that are under fairly constant reassessment? This reassessment means that our ability to place a particular fossil in a particular taxon (or even to define the taxa sampled in the first place) is more of a best-guess based on the limited data at any given point in time. I worry that the author is placing too much confidence in this placement of taxa in particular categories.If you look at plots of the actual data points (which the author does not include), it is very hard to believe one can prove that a two-curve model is truly better, particularly if you ignore the tentative species assignments that the specimens have been placed in. Henneberg’s graph of the actual data, as I remember, makes this pretty clear.

-The actual split is one million year according to the data unless the people who collected the data didn’t measure the skulls to make sure that was the case. The author emphasised the last half million years as that part showed a rapid increase. Any model is an artificial fit to the data and agrees with the general trend with ‘errors’ around it. If the authour fits a different model the things may look different. However, this is a model fitted by eminent anthropologist/s and discussed by many people and even accepted by the textbook authours. If the model is good enough to prove that the data follow the Darwinian gradualism why is it not good enough when it can also be used to show that the cranial capacity data does not necessarily follow the gradualism? Even after doing away with the tit-for-tat part of the above point, we are left with an intuitive analysis of same data not supporting the original claim of gradualism..

So I don’t find this paper sufficiently convincing to make it an important advance in our understanding of brain size evolution. People have indeed made the claim that punctuation can be inferred from the fossil cranial capacity data, and others have made the opposite (or have called into question our ability to know given the current data set). This paper applies a new set of analyses that claims to support some sort of change in brain size evolution at ~1 MYA. However, I don’t believe the analysis is strong enough to support that claim.

– The argument I posited in my paper was that the original authours didn’t have strong evidence to reject the punctuated equilibrium. I guess there should be something more than a personal belief to reject the claim made in the paper about non-gradual increase of cranial capacity.

This manuscript attempts to apply simulation methods to the problem of analyzing the evolutionary history of hominin cranial capacity.  The methods used do not strike me as particularly appropriate to the data.  For example, the use of k-means on what are essentially time series data is extremely unusual.  I have not searched the literature for whether there is a previous application, but I highly doubt that one could find any kind of cluster analysis where one of the variables is time. The notation, or at least the explanation of it, used in the manuscript is also poor.  For example, the equation for Hamming’s distance and its explanation does not seem correct.  It can’t be that we are looking for cases that are in a particular cluster five _and only_ five times or 995 and _and only_ 995 times, correct? But this is a really moot, because as I said, cluster analysis for time series data does not make much sense.

– This is another claim, which sounds weak. A technique not being used on time series doesn’t mean that the use of it in this instance is not logical. The cranial capacity data does not represent a true time series. If it were, time series wizards world over would have developed with hundreds of models to predict future cranial capacity.  The techniques in the paper were used not on the raw data as every statistician knows the clustering is usually done on a distance measure and in this case, Euclidean distance. As the time gaps and the cranial measurements do not follow a linear trend, until a trend was imposed using a model, the interrelationships between individual specimens and their time of existence can be looked at using the distances on two dimensions. This may not be ideal, as there would be some influence of time trend. But it is not easy to see the reason for the two groups solution. With regard to the Hamming Distance, I only ask the reader to be the judge. What I do at the end is adding up string of 1 and 0 to get the distance. And I was not looking at cluster five or 995 only. What I did was to find 25% and 975% cluster solutions out of the total simulated and if they are the same then the solution is more stable.

The description on page 6 of the simulation is a bit hard to follow. “R” has both rlnorm() which simulates “raw scale” random deviates given a log mean and log standard deviation and rnorm() which could be used to simulate log scale deviates given a log mean and log standard deviation. Simplest would be to convert cranial capacities to log scale “up front” and then find the necessary statistics (specimen means and sd where available) in the log scale.  And simulate in the log scale using rnorm().  Is that what was done?

-I don’t disagree with the above review. This was in fact what was done in the following manner to give one example.

summarydat4<-ddply(summarydat3, .(id,time) , transform, value=(rlnorm(1,mean,sd)))

Any one interested in duplicating what the author has done are more than welcome to drop in a note requesting the underlying data.

 

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Language Instinct, Elephant’s Trunk and Spandrels

‘The Language Instinct’ by Prof. Steven Pinker is a very thought-provoking read, which discusses the language as a gene-modulated evolutionary process tied to natural selection. Professor Pinker’s erudition and the astounding grasp of niceties of English language brightly shine through the book. It was a great piece of writing through and through which can adore any array of dazzling books on a bookshelf.  Irrespective of whether this writer is up to the task of criticizing an intellectual of Prof. Pinker’s caliber, I would like to pick on one or two points that troubled me about the book. If the reader were an arrogant Darwinist, taking all of it on faith, there would be little or no unanswered questions about the material discussed in the book. However, for a doubting Thomas like the writer of this article, the tone of the book is an unsettling eulogy of a one-sided world-view, which seems to scorn even the slightest hint of dissent on the orthodoxy of modern synthesis of evolution.

Professor Pinker’s key arguments about the unique features in animal kingdom arising from the slow natural selection process can be found in a chapter on the essence of Darwinian ideas (Chapter 11 The Big Bang). Unfortunately, the current writer was not convinced about the relevance of those arguments and counter-arguments about the process that gave rise to Language Instinct through the natural selection.  Furthermore, the logical foundation of these arguments seems to be more relevant to a philosophical discussion rather than to a persuasive scientific reasoning. Despite our physiological summersault, which could have well been fatal, of sending food and drinks over the opening to the trachea, to the food pipe, the language skills have evolved. The main point is about the process, which like the Elephants’ trunk, unique in the animal kingdom, produced physiological infrastructure required for our ability to talk.

Prof. Pinker acknowledges that the difference of Language from other animals’ communication systems is as obvious “as the elephant’s trunk is different from other animals’ nostrils (p334: Pinker 1994).” He further says that uniquely human language instinct is no more of a paradox than a trunk of the modern elephant (p342: Pinker 1994). Thus, we are apparently supposed to acknowledge the possibility of a process analogous to, in its uniqueness, what gave rise to the trunk, offering us our unique ability to communicate. This view is inadvertently trying to use an argument of “analogy”, namely, the uniqueness about language skills of humans and the evolutionary path of the elephant’s trunk.  This analogy about these functionally different characteristics does not seem to prove that the language is not a spandrel. On the other hand, each and every species is unique and the uniqueness itself can only support Prof. Pinker’s point to the extent that completely unique evolutionary adaptations can arise. If the elephant could talk like a parrot with the help of  its trunk, it would have been a far more reasonable comparison.

Taking a shot at the work of Professors Gould and Lewontins on spandrels, perhaps latently provoked by their dismissal of “just-so-stories” coming from evolutionary psychology, or dismissing Professor Chomsky ‘s more measured views may not hold any substance as a scientific device.  I do not think for a moment that Professor Chomsky, a true genius insightful enough to propose the widely accepted theory of inborn universal grammar, didn’t master the Darwinian views. He only tiptoed on a topic, which many Dogmatic Darwinists are inclined to believe as the absolute truth. Even if the natural selection produced the elephant’s trunk, there’s no guarantee that the same is true for human language.

Prof. Pinker agrees that “Gould and Lewontin’s essays have been influential in the cognitive sciences, and Chomsky’s skepticism that natural selection can explain human language is in the spirit of their critique (p359: Pinker 1994).”

This is obviously the case when Chomsky writes, as quoted in Prof. Pinker’s book, “These skills (for example, learning a grammar) may well have arisen as a concomitant of structural properties of the brain that developed for other reasons (p362: Pinker 1994).” This clearly is a mention of a spandrel, which may be a more natural treatment of the origin of language. This writer couldn’t find an argument in the book to defend a direct adaptation. Prof. Pinker himself says that only suggestive evidence for a grammar gene is available and its locus, given such a gene exists, is completely unknown (p.325: Pinker 1994). Lai, C.S. et al. (2001), identified a gene FOXP2 as the gene responsible for the language impairment of London Family known as KE family. To their credit, this may be the gene Prof. Pinker’s collaborator, Prof. Myrna Gopnik and Prof. Pinker postulated. However, more likely scenario would be what Jon Cohen says in his article ‘The Genetics of Language’: problems such as language impairment “are caused by subtle aberrations in genes and networks of genes working in concert[1]. But it is still not known whether FOXP2 affects the neurons processing the language or the ones controlling the speech muscles[2]. Until the discovery of such a gene or a network of genes and their direct involvement through natural selection it is more logical to agree with Prof. Chomsky, is it not? The Language faculty may well be a by-product of the encephalization process which accompanied the making of human. If analogy is a good argument, why didn’t natural selection work for talking birds, who can pick our speech and vocalize it so well, to develop language faculty, which is simply “an adaptation for the communication of knowledge and intentions (Pinker and Jackendoff 2005)”?  If they mastered vocalization like our language how well it would serve their survival and dispersion. Their communal behaviours may not be as complex as ours but a complex language beyond a mating or territorial call will still help. We know this from Vervet monkeys who possess a repertoire of alarm calls.

The point I am trying to make here is that the origin of language should not be pigeonholed to a Neo-Darwinian mould without enough supportive evidence. Such procrustean view may lead to wrong conclusions and a hold-up of further development of visionary ideas. This brings me to a story, about the mammoths, that I recently read. It tells the story brought in by the Russian explorers who met the Dolgan, a tribe of reindeer herders, centuries ago. They warned the explorers about the giant moles that avoided sunlight and fresh air. As soon as they broke through the ice cover they died instantly (p 53: Firestone et al). This is an example of the use of the rule of thumb logic by these tribesmen reminding of conceptual similarities to homology; the subterranean life of furry mole and the ice covered bodies of wooly mammoths. The limited knowledge the tribesmen had about their surrounding was extended to a novel situation based on vague similarities between mammoths and known creatures. In the shadow of the status of our current knowledge, such may be the connection between Language Instinct and the effect of the known genetic basis. At this point in time, the experts don’t know any better. But, there is no doubt that Prof. Pinker’s book is an insightful book to read.

Citations

Pinker, Steven 1994 The Language Instinct, Penguin Books

Firestone, R., A. West, and S. Warwick-Smith 2006 The cycle of cosmic catastrophes, Bear and Company, Rochester

Lai, C.S. et al. 2001 A forkhead-domain gene is mutated in a severe speech and language disorder. Nature 413: 519–523

Pinker, Steven and Ray Jackendoff. 2005 The Faculty of Language: What’s Special About It? Cognition 95: 201–236

 

 

[1] Cohen, Jon (2007) The Genetics of Language, MIT Technology Reviewhttp://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/409215/the-genetics-of-language/page/3/

[2] Prof. Richard Huganir as quoted by Pennisi, Elizabeth (2013) ‘Language Gene’ has a partner,http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2013/10/language-gene-has-partner

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Memory, Consciousness and “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander

During my Christmas Holidays, I enthusiastically read the book “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, (Pan Macmillan Australia, 2012).  This book having been on the bestseller list, despite what its title says, does not provide even an inkling of a proof of the existence of Heaven or God. It only shows the personal journey of Mr Alexander, in a coma, through his mind over a seven day period.  In fairness to good surgeon, it should be mentioned he himself didn’t like the title. The book attracted many accolades as well as heavy criticism. He was exposed as a person who lost his surgeon’s licence and hadn’t been practicing for several years.  He was finger-pointed as a medical professional who altered medical records of a patient suing him for negligence.

The crux of the matter is, as Mr Alexander rightly pointed out, he only wanted to tell his personal experience which was not relevant to all the peripheral mud-slinging unless his detractors wanted to brand him as a dishonest person cooking up a story to make money. It should also be acknowledged that he had to seek assistance from many people around him to write the story in the world around a person in coma. So everything in the book may not be up to the scrutiny. It is up to the scientific community to see through his central claims rather than spending time undermining his personal credibility. It is easy to be a sceptic or critic and find faults with someone or something not shedding much light on the issue at hand. That process, in my opinion, doesn’t make our views any scientific or more logical. In any case, Mr Alexander’s story is very unconvincing proof of a NDE as he didn’t even claim to have encountered any provable experience like an out of body view of the world. An out-of-body experience at least tells us something that would be very difficult for the person to otherwise perceive.

According to Prof. Edelman, the consciousness is what abandons us every evening when we go to sleep to reappear in the morning as we wake up. Immediate memory is supposed to be consciousness itself. If the NDE which Dr. Alexander experienced had been an unconscious phenomenon, how, as Dr. Michael Shermer asked, could he remember it? Did he see a dream just before he woke up? Memory is thought to be mainly a physiological process. If it weren’t, why do we remember our sensory perceptions that we paid attention to and not everything that simply passed by us? How can, then, our immediate memories record things which elude us immediately afterward? For an example, take subliminal messages. As Mr. Alexander even couldn’t recognize, at once, the angel who helped him as his dead, biological sister, he didn’t experience anything out of ordinary but a simple dream-like-state? No definitive answer!

Our memory may well be a more complex process than we believe.  According to Prof. Antonio Damasio, the mind is not just the brain but the interacting system of the brain and whole human organism. Perhaps, our body may record our experiences which don’t register in our consciousness. We don’t know for sure. This enquiry can also lead us to the age old idea of a soul. Is there an entity external to our physical reality? Or the memory and consciousness may be individual-specific external micro-organisms interacting with our bodies; a part of an extended organism. This externality rules us when we are asleep and interacts with us when we are awake? Was Mr Alexander’s coma such a state?

Thus, Mr Alexander’s encounter with a NDE doesn’t add much value to our understanding of spiritual concept of Heaven or God. In similar vein, his critics could neither add anything substantial to the debate on NDEs. This is more so as I don’t believe in hiding the head in the sand and refuse to see what may be real unless proven otherwise.

All the questions and doubts I had before reading “Proof of Heaven” and various reviews of it, I still harbour in my mind. However, I profoundly congratulate Mr. Alexander for coming out with his story to strengthen the case for research into NDEs. When taken into consideration all the wasted resources on many exotic topics in main stream science, investigating something relevant to human experience in a space avoided by serious science should always be applauded.

At the end, I tend to agree with the following statement Mr. Alexander made in his book.  In my mind, it takes us to the core of humanity and the essence of some of our religions.

“Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.” p71

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Farming and Seclusion of Girls at Puberty

The following is based on the email correspondence between the admin of this website and a learned blogger on  Anthropology.  The intention of publishing these excerpts is to answer some questions various people may have in mind about the topic of seclusion of girls. (Please note that some high-lighting and footnotes were added for the purpose of this post. Some spelling mistakes in the original emails were also corrected.)

 Anthropology Website: “I don’t believe there was any “seclusion of girls at puberty”: it’s before farming! All those repressive ideas arrived with farming, herding and therefore incipient forms of slavery as in patriarchy.

Hunter-gatherer societies do not have such absurd ideas: not a single one of them! There are of course cultural variants but they are invariably communist, egalitarian and democratic.”

 Admin: “Please let me quote you without your name in my blog and answer this critique. I consider it to be a good point to be answered. I also like to discuss this in my current work.”

 Anthropology Website: “Feel free to quote if you think it’s useful. It is in any case just my opinion but I feel justified based on the anthropology of hunter-gatherers. Please, do not confuse with  “primitive” farmers such as Papuans or most Native American peoples, it is a common misunderstanding that causes the wrong kind of conclusions: when studying hunter-gatherers, be certain that their economy is or was until very recently exclusively about foraging, “mixed” economies with some farming/herding and some foraging should be classified always as farmer economies.”

Admin: “I don’t intend to waste your time. I beg to differ as the practice may be 40Kyr old as I  reasoned in the attached working paper. If you have 60 secs, this may give you the flavour. Aboriginal people never had farming. At least it shows a new perspective. (Reference to Antiquity of Secluding Girls at Puberty)

Anthropology Website: “Pretty interesting. I was not aware that such practices existed among Australian Aborigines.

However, before I can conclude that the practice was widespread in Eurasia, I would have to know of it existing among some other Asian hunter-gatherers, of which there are quite a few (in South, SE and North Asia, as well as among the Native Americans). Otherwise it may well be a cultural founder effect exclusive of Australasia.  

Admin:”…….. There were many other people practising seclusion including SAN people of South Africa.  For additional stuff, I can refer you to Sir G.J.Frazer’s ‘Balder The Beautiful’ or ‘The Golden Bough’. My web site has some references, too. Perhaps, you may see why your opinion about the nexus between slavery and seclusion doesn’t hold. Rather, as I reason in my other ‘working’ papers, Seclusion exalted girl’s position.” (G.J. Frazer should be corrected to J.G.Frazer – Admin)

Anthropology Website: “”The Golden Bough” was written in 1890. I don’t reject it’s interest but it’s like studying Anthropology on Engels’ “The Origin of Family, Private Property and State” (1884) or its main source “Ancient Society” of Lewis H. Morgan (1877). They are great works for their age but one wonders if all what is in them is correct (sometimes not quite). I would appreciate more recent field studies or at the very least critical reviews.

The main problem I see with these all-encompassing theoretical anthropologists is that they never actually made themselves the field work whose results they used. So for me it would be much more credible if the seclusion practices were referred to the original field study and, even better, if later studies have confirmed this practice.   I’m not saying it’s some sort of erudite myth but I would really like to have a stronger confirmation, really. Certainly a lot of societies, ancient and modern alike, never had such “purity” taboos, so it’s obvious that they could break free from such superstitions.

 One problem I find to seclusion is that hunter-gatherers are generally on the move, so keeping people in one place for weeks or months is extremely impractical[1]. And at the very least other hunter-gatherers do not practice any such rites. Some of them do not even dispose of their dead, what directly challenges the somewhat “religious” ideas on the so-called “modern human behavior” organized around an alleged symbolism (art, beliefs and rites) that is often non-existent or very tenuous in fact. Another reason is that their societies normally only have spontaneous hierarchies, so I find extremely difficult for them to enforce any rule unless there is a very strong consensus on it, and, even then, not if the affected individual rebels. Not just “spontaneous” (emotional) violence (sometimes with result of death) is relatively common inside hunter-gatherer groups but also “voting with the feet”, i.e. moving to another camp or even to a new territory altogether[2]. Keeping the group together therefore requires a continuous work of creation and reinforcement of consensus and emotional bonds, what implies that you can’t force almost anything on others. Of course kids of that age are probably manipulated by their elders and the community’s superstitions but I’m in any case in disbelief about this kind of practices being widespread. I may be wrong, of course.”

 Admin: “Thanks for the lengthy response. I can appreciate your concern about the old books and importance of field work. I grew up in a country where seclusion was practised so heavily. But when I visit there now, the practice is almost dead. Over the years, due to shrinking of distance around the globe, traditions started to die. Thus, to me, The Golden Bough is a time capsule. I do not wish to comment on Engle’s work as his was a political statement. In Engle’s case, he had dialectical laws to fit the world into. As he said in Anti-Duhring, ‘the same laws…form the thread running through the history of development of human thought’. If Frazer had an agenda, it had perhaps been to find examples for Bastian’s ideas. Thus, I would treat Frazer’s work as far more facts-based anthropological investigations than Engle’s. Interpretation of Frazer’s work can be done by anyone using his facts though his interpretations, in phenomenological sense, have a better chance to be very close to what the people in the original plot thought. I like these old writings without modernist interpretations because I fear twisted worldviews which are shaped by Evolutionist view or some other kind of point of view like a feminist view, far removed from the simplicity and reality of the bygone era. Here, I can see parallels to processual and post-processual debate. No amount of fieldwork on this subject can bring you back what had passed by. Sometimes, an armchair investigator can have the insights which the original researcher didn’t have. The reason is simple. Nobody can claim the monopoly of good insights. I believe that the value of an insight is about how well it explains the facts known and coming to light in future; not how much field work the person with insight did undertake. It is easy for a person working in the field to strike upon a great insight even though it wouldn’t be guaranteed. It is also true that from a distance, you can see the picture in a different light which eludes the painter. “

 

 

 



[1] I didn’t bother myself answering this. It is generally accepted that the movements of hunter-gatherers are seasonal to some extent.  Here, I shall only refer to Dr. Richard B. Lee who wrote about !Kung Bushman of Botzwana that “the Bushmen typically occupy a camp for weeks or months and literally eat their way out of it”. They stayed in the same camp site even after exhausting the nearby resources. From their usual camp site, they would simply travel beyond the nearby area for new food sources. It is noteworthy that, according to Lee,!Kung during 1960’s were confined to less resourceful lands than what they had before, making them more likely to move around yet staying put for longer times.  There may not be picture perfect similarity between these modern hunter-gatherers and pre-historic people who might have scavenged as well. However, as accepted by many, some behaviours can still be deemed as relevant.
[2] Again I would like to refer to Lee, leaving the question about authority for another time. Bushmen he studied had camps around wells. The composition of these camps changed frequently over the year and even day-to-day. Even if person or a group leaves to another territory, staying in the new location would be dependent on local resources which should not necessarily result in regular movement.

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The Ancient Coins in Arnhem Land Expedition

Summing up a talk by Wolfgang Pauli on his work with Werner Heisenberg ,  Niels Bohr once questioned whether their theory was crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.  Niels Bohr is very highly placed to comment on crazy ideas as a pioneer of Quantum mechanics who proposed the complementarity principle.  Even though not on the same scale, one would wonder whether launching an archaeological expedition to learn more about few ancient coins found on the shore of a small uninhabited island can also be a crazy idea.  As Bohr implied, sometimes crazy ideas can work wonders.  Similarly, if there are some interesting artefacts to be uncovered in Wessel Islands, it may lead to a revision of Australian History.  The Kilwa coins are thought to be about 1000 years old. It would be far more interesting if the process which landed the coins on the beach was as ancient.  Would there be any clues to provide answers to this question?  Any sound archaeological evidence about movement of seafaring vessels around that time closer to the northern Australia would also make an encounter between Indians and Australians a few hundred years before then little more plausible[1] as they had been very active in the region. Thus, the importance of this expedition is far more than what it seems.

Prof.  Ian McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University, is leading the expedition to study more about Kilwa Coins which were found by Maurice Isenberg, an Australian soldier stationed on Australia’s uninhabited Wessel Islands during World War II. In 1979

In a statement released to a paper, he stated “Multiple theses have been put forward by noted scholars, and the major goal is to piece together more of the puzzle. Is a shipwreck involved? Are there more coins? All options are on the table, but only the proposed expedition can help us answer some of these perplexing questions[2]

There is a facebook page dedicated to the expedition which can be found at the following address:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Past-Masters/301882649948002



[1] Arachige, Darshi, Do the Estimated Admixture Times Confirm the Proposed Holocene Gene Flow from India to Australia? (March 10, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2231116

[2] Zoe Mintz, “African Coins Found In Australia: 1,000-Year-Old Discovery May Rewrite Country’s History, Was James Cook The First’?” at http://www.ibtimes.com/african-coins-found-australia-1000-year-old-discovery-may-rewrite-countrys-history-was-james-cook, Published on 20/5/2013

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Were Baijini from India?

The topic of this post is from an internet search phrase. Let us look at this question assuming that the Baijini were not a figment of imagination.  In my previous post, the possibility for an Indian connection to Baijini was speculated.  This addendum is not to substantiate it but rather to point out few points that could drive somebody to similar speculation.

According to mainstream view, Baijini were gypsies[1]. Here, the noun “gypsy” was used to infer itinerant nature of Baijini.  Were they really itinerant?  Same document contradicts this view.  The Baijini constructed stone houses, wove cloth, tended small gardens and cultivated rice.  If they had been a wandering community, why did they build stone houses which would be a way for a group of people who wanted a sedentary life?  Why did the wandering people tend gardens or grow rice? To cultivate rice, they had to use unhusked rice. They had to bring it in their vessels.  Why did an itinerant group of people take unhusked rice on their travels?  Could it be for them to settle down somewhere and start cultivating rice varieties they used to grow in the place where they started their journey from?  Did they resemble more to a group of settlers who lost their way? Did the shipwreck mention in the lore of Aboriginal people make any sense? From recorded history, it is known that this part of the world had been very active with Indenisation about 2000BP. If Baijini were Chinese people, it would be bit inappropriate to refer to them as “copper-coloured”.

With a remarkable lucidity, Stephen Jay-Gould points out that “Science, as actually practiced, is a complex dialogue between data and preconceptions.[2]” This remarkably honest insight about the way of Science by a superb scientist of our time shows us the direction the next phase of this journey of facing real Baijini should turn.  To shed a bit more light on this, in the absence of Archaeological data, Population Geneticists are the ones equipped with the required tools. Carefully revisiting the  genetic data without preconceived ideas can lead to an unprejudiced outcome to settle the question whether a plausible genetic admixture between Indians and Aboriginal Australians happened closer to 1000AD or 4000BP. Without prior prejudice or preconceptions, in order to partially answer the question asked at the very outset, let us implore someone with the ready access to data, to try a confirmatory analysis or a meta-analysis.



[1]Possibility C Baijini, National Museum of Australia available at http://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/340571/AHM_21-36.pdf

[2] P.244. Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Hutchinson Radius, London (1989)

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Do the estimated admixture times confirm the proposed Holocene Gene flow from India to Australia?

Arachige, Darshi, Do the Estimated Admixture Times Confirm the Proposed Holocene Gene Flow from India to Australia? (March 10, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2231116

Abstract

 This paper argues that the current estimates for the time of influx of Indian genes into some sections of Australian Aboriginal population during Holocene bear large uncertainties which make elimination of the probability of a more recent gene flow less likely.  It also highlights that indications for the plausibility of a later gene flow exist and can also be placed in a likely archaeological perspective.

 

 

Introduction

 

In the recent proceedings of the national academy of sciences, a team from Max Plank Institute published a research paper to confirm the recent genetic connection between Indians and Aboriginal Australians (Pugach et al, 2013). The team based their conclusion on a study involving single-nucleotide polymorphism. This research paper generated much interest and was widely written about (The Economist, Jan 2013; Nature, Jan 2013). The authours concluded that there was a gene flow from Indian Subcontinent as late as 4230 years ago.  This confirmation of the previous research by Redd et al (2002) and Redd and Stoneking (1999) can become crucial in establishing this gene flow hypothesis as fact. In this investigation, it will be attempted to have an unbiased look at their analyses and conclusions by comparing them with other relevant studies.  It would also be argued that an Indian genomic influence more recent than the proposed one is not improbable if the available analyses and arguments are further looked into. One of supportive arguments, i.e. the time of admixture, which can be used to exclude this possibility, can be shown as inadequate due to the reasons pointed out in the first few sections of the present paper.  Two key points that will be looked at are the sample selection and the results from the Principal Component Analysis as they might have had an adverse impact on the estimation of the time of gene flow, demanding some error calculation around the estimate.  The possibility of a similar gene flow taking place in a more recent time will also be explored. This later investigation will use the errors associated with various estimated times for the proposed genomic contact to argue for a more recent encounter between Indian visitors and Australian Aboriginal people.

Sample of the Pugach Study

Pugach et al (2013), following similar studies prior to theirs, assembled data from published sources including the HapMap Project.  The samples used include twenty individuals from each of the following groups:  Yorubans from Ibadan, Nigeria (YRI); the individuals of northern and western European ancestry living in Utah (CEU); Han Chinese individuals from Beijing, China (CHB); and Gujarati Indians from Houston, TX (GIH).  The study used twelve Aboriginal Australians from Northern Territory (AUA) and twenty five individuals from the highlands of Papua New Guinea (NGH).   Looking at the samples from various populations as presented in the Fig S1, one cannot stop wondering about the unusually homogeneous samples representing Europeans (CEU), Chinese (CHB) and Africans (YRI). To see such tightly packed clusters in Principal Component plots, the original data points for individual contributors, if representative of the wider population, should have very slight variability which is not explained in the paper or the coefficients from a principal component are having variable impacts on different elements of the data vectors to give similar overall scores for the small number of individuals in the group. This begs caution when interpreting the PCA plots.

Furthermore, it is good to be conscious of what the International HapMap 3 Consortium (2010) has to say: “None of the sample sets can be considered completely representative of a larger population, nor certainly of an entire continent.  Thus, for example, references to the “African,” “Asian,” or “European” “populations” should be avoided when referring to these samples.” Thus, it requires caution before concluding the link between the broader Aboriginal Australia and Indian subcontinent.  The people from prehistoric archaeological sites where the early inhabitants of Australia (McEvoy, 2010) were discovered had not been included in the investigation.  Thus, the conclusions from Pugach et al (2013) should not be applicable to all of Australia.

Analytical results

It is also important for one to look at the analyses which helped the authours to arrive at the link between Indian genomes and the Australian ones. This would help us interpret the robustness of the estimate, given in the paper, of the time to admixture in the proper context.

Thus, as the authours relied on the first principal axes from a series of Principal Component Analyses (PCAs) for dimensionality reduction in the time estimation phase via stepPCO (Pugach et al, 2011), the estimation of admixture times might have been impacted by the less clear signals coming from these repeated PCAs.   The robustness of these repeated PCA results can be distantly judged from the related analyses where they employed PCA. The following review, emphasising each PC, is an attempt to see the rigour of the results from such related analyses.

Based on one of the initial PCAs, interpreting Fig S1, Pugach et al (2013) commented:

AUA are close to NGH but extend toward the European/Indian/Asian grouping, suggesting a common origin with the former and admixture with the latter.”

This comment seems to set the tone for the arguments, the paper is addressing.  More obvious deduction from Fig S1 is that given the size of Eigen values, the first two principal components are the important ones.  To use a broader generalization, PC1 is clearly representing Australian and New Guinean cluster versus the others while PC2 is polarised as African/Australian/ New Guinean and others. When the two components are taken together, we have three distinct clusters, namely, African as a stand-alone cluster, Australian/New Guinean cluster and Chinese/Dravidian/Gujarati/European cluster. Any further interpretation may amount to treading on unstable ground. As interpreting diagrammatic representations can be associated with a degree of subjectivity, the thesis about admixture and common origin based on these PCs seems a tenuous deduction.

In an immediate sentence, the authours made another comment;

AUA and NGH are separated along PC4, after the separation of CEU and CHB along PC3  (Fig. S1B). The prior separation of CEU and CHB could suggest that AUA and NGH diverged after European and Asian populations,..”  Given the Eigen value distribution, it might be reasonable for the authours to look at PC3. However, in the light of large dimensionality of the dataset which makes identification of contributing dimensions hard, it is very difficult to understand the inclusion of PC4, which is almost similar to PC5 in magnitude. Furthermore, it may not be justifiable to interpret PC3 and PC4 in a temporal sense i.e. AUA and NGH diverged after European and Asian populations.  In Fig S1C, PC1 shows the separation between AUA/NGH groups from other groups.  If we wish to include PC2 as well, the conclusion would be the separation of AUA and Pilipino Negrito (MWA) groups from the South East Asia and New Guinea groups.  If both PC1 and PC2 are considered together, then, there are five clusters to be seen such that AUA, NGH and MWA clusters individually stand out from the rest. Looking at Fig 3A, obvious conclusion based on PC1 which is associated with the most substantial Eigen value, is the differentiation between AUA/NGH and other groups. PC2 which is substantially less important, place Indians, Australians and New Guineans together.  All the PC graphs indicate the closeness of AUA and NGH groups more than anything else.

 

Furthermore, if we carefully look at Fig S8 A, it is obvious that PC1 separates Indian/European cluster from the Chinese/South East Asian/New Guinean/Australian cluster obscured by the individuals from Nysha. PC2 does not seem to be interesting unless the Eigen values, which are not given, show otherwise. If we carry through the arguments put forward by the authours in the previous sections of the article, the scores spread along PC1 shows more affinity between South East Asian and Australian samples which are closer together.

When using similar analyses, it is always good to remember the advice by the statistician F.M.C. Marriott.

“It must be emphasised that no mathematical method is, or could be, designed to give physically meaningful results. If a mathematical expression of this sort has an obvious physical meaning, it must be attributed to a lucky chance, or to the fact that the data have a strongly marked structure that shows up in the analysis. Even in the latter case, quite small sampling fluctuations can upset the interpretation..” (as quoted in p.53, Everitt and Dunn, 1991).

 

Main thesis Pugach et al (2013) are trying to establish is a Holocene gene flow from India to Australia which did not pass through South East Asian region[1] or Papua New Guinea. However, PCA graphs alone do not seem to carry the thrust of the argument in the paper as the closeness of NGH and AUA is very pronounced.  Thus, the use of PCA for dimensionality reduction in the context of further deductions i.e. admixture time should be treated with some caution due to possible differences in expected and observed information contents.

 

Time of the Indian Gene Flow

Furthermore, the Australian sample used is from an area very vulnerable to external influences. Population in the area had been in contact, for an example, with Indonesians for a long time so that their periodic arrival in boats were woven into the Aboriginal culture in Northern Australia (p412-420: Mulvaney and Kamminga, 1999).  Thus, conclusions drawn from the study should be confined to the parts of Australia contributing the study sample, i.e. Northern Territory and should be viewed in perspective to sampling limitations. As the authours assert, Fig 3B, the ADMIXTURE chart for four group scenario, showing colour signals from Indian samples spreading into AUA sample can be interpreted as indicative of the admixture between Indian visitors and Australian people living in the area. Thus, the next step of determining the possible time during which such admixture could have taken place naturally follows the above.

Turning to the issue of time of admixture between Indian genomes and Australian genomes, Pugach et al (2013) claimed that it took place 141 generations or 4230 years ago.  The authours used 30 years as the length of a generation.  Another study addressing the same issue about Indian – Australian gene flow (Redd et al, 2002) used a generation length of 25 years. If we use this in Pugach study, we end up with an admixture time of 3525 years, which is 700 years later. The estimate done by Pugach team is smaller than 4875 years which was estimated using Y chromosomal data and a Bayesian method by Redd et al (2002). As usual with Bayesian methods, this Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor estimate is based on prior information, a value for effective population size, an unknown.  The 95% CIs for two methods Redd et al (2002) employed were: (300–2,775 years)[2] and (1,255–13,300 years). The first estimate was based on the assumption of a linear trend and the second was based on the Bayesian method. According to Redd et al (2002), the widely used linear trend method is considered as a robust method to estimate times of divergence.  It is also noteworthy that the authours hadn’t used any sample from the Aboriginal populations who were less exposed to northern neighbours. One of the pioneering papers to promote the idea of gene flow from the Indian subcontinent was written by Redd and Stoneking (1999). They used the Multidimensional Scaling, which under some circumstances can be equivalent to PCA, and tree diagrams to investigate the proximity of Australian and Indian groups.  The estimates for the time of separation for Australian and Indian populations were (1,686–5,093 years) based on net genetic divergence estimate of 0.03% (+/-0.03%).  Note the large standard error associated with the genetic divergence estimate[3].  Now we can clearly see, apart from Pugach et al (2013), the other two teams provide confidence intervals for their estimates which are substantially wide.  Noting that the wavelet method uses first principal component, which only captures a part of the variability from the available SNP information, it is not unreasonable to expect a range of values rather than the absolute estimate of 4230 years.

 

Form a statistical point of view if we choose a time point between 1700 and 2000 years prior to present generation, that time point would sit snugly within any of those confidence intervals. This is especially so when Y chromosomal data and the linear time trends are used (i.e. 95% CI: 300–2,775 years) or a slightly faster mutation rate is used with the divergence values from Redd and Stoneking (1999).  For the following discussion let us focus on 1700 years prior to the study generation. Now we have to see whether there is other evidence provided to support the proposed Holocene gene flow hypothesis.

 

Holocene contacts between India and Australia

 

All three research teams, namely, Pugach et al (2013), Redd et al (2002) and Redd and Stoneking (1999) use the same set of archaeological evidence to support their theory.

  1. change in stone implements technology during Holocene
  2. new ways of food processing
  3. appearance of dingo in Australia
  4. the expansion of the Pama-Nyungan languages

However, none of the authours could directly link these changes to Indian influence.  There would be many questions one would like to ask. For an example, if the Indians could come to Australia by-passing South East Asia during the proposed times in Holocene, they had to have very good navigational skills perhaps ahead of their times[4]. What did cause such a navigational adventure? According to the proponents of the theory, Dingo had to come on board a vessel (Redd et al, 2002) navigated by those early Indians. Why did such an advanced group of people only bring small tool technology when they themselves had emerged out of Stone Age in their homeland? Did Indians detoxify and use cycads as food, the way the Aboriginal Australians did?

 

According to Morwood (2002), some 5000 years ago dingo was introduced to Australia presumably from Timor. Dingo like skeletal remains of this age had been found in Timor (p22). Furthermore,

The dingo originated from a population of East Asian dogs. Type A29 was one of several domestic dog mtDNA types brought into Island Southeast Asia, but only A29 reached Australia. The dingo population was probably founded from a small number of animals, as the last trickle of domestic dogs through a series of bottlenecks, or even by a single chance event and has since remained effectively isolated from other dog populations. The dingoes may have arrived in connection with the expansion, starting ?6,000 yr ago, from south China into Island Southeast Asia of the Austronesian culture (Savolainen et al, 2004).” Their results were further confirmed by Ardalan et al (2012) stating that on genetic evidence, dingo had to come via Papua New Guinea.  It would be going against the evidence based on genetic studies to conclude that dingo originated from a dog with an Indian ancestry and arrived in Australia on a boat. Morwood further assures that the most aspects of cultural change over the past 5000 years can be explained in terms of indigenous Australian developments (p.24: Morwood,2002). Let alone the Indian influence, Mulvaney and Kamminga (1999) claim that new implement types, arrival of dingo and detoxyfication of cycads lack evidence as “a single cultural package from overseas (p258).” Thus, it is very unlikely that there exists an irrefutable connection between the aforementioned changes and purported Indian influence during the proposed time in Holocene. Thus, the aforesaid cultural changes alone do not substantiate a Holocene gene flow of the said nature.

 

More Recent Contacts

 

It is also noteworthy that Kumar et al (2009) finding a link between the M42 haplogroup specific to Australian Aboriginal people and seven mitochondrial genomes identified from 966 individuals belonging to  twenty six relic tribes of India concluded:

“The divergence of the Indian and Australian M42 coding region sequences suggests an early colonization of Australia,~60 to 50 kyBP, quite in agreement with archaeological evidences.“.

In a later study, McEvoy et al (2010) used a sample of Aboriginal people from Riverine Region of Australia which includes Lake Mungo to carry out a genome-wide study of SNP diversity. This study found that Australian Aboriginal people from the Riverine Region had a deep link to Papua New Guineans and Melanesians. They couldn’t detect genetic evidence for any substantial migration prior to European colonisation of Australia. This result has been further confirmed by Rasmussen et al (2011) using a genomic sequence which was obtained from a 100-year-old lock of hair donated by a Western Australian Aboriginal person in the early 20th century. These results prove that the validity of inferring a Holocene Indian gene flow covering the continent of Australia is, in the least, questionable. However, this does not exclude the possibility that there was an admixture between Indian and Australian genomes in a localised fashion in more recent times as Pugach et al (2013), Redd et al (2002) and, Redd and Stoneking (1999) deduced through their research.

 

The analyses by the authours other than Pugach et al (2013) demonstrate that the date of such an admixture can be more recent as the confidence intervals around the divergence times are relatively wide. Therefore, we can go back about 17 centuries still agreeing with the estimated confidence limits calculations.  Do we have any evidence, though vague, for Indian presence in the region closer to the above time frame?

 

Baijini

 

Based on the Song Cycles of Aboriginal people in the Arnhem Land, the anthropologists, Berndt and Berndt (1954) described the encounters between the natives and a group of foreign visitors identified as Baijini who came to their shores before Macassan traders. According to the description by Berndt and Berndt (1954), Baijini visited the Arnhem Land in ships, brought their families (with kids[5]), cultivated rice, built stone dwellings and stayed for long periods. The women wore colourful sarongs and cultivated rice. Berndt and Berndt (p36: 1954) mentioned about references to a shipwreck as the reason for the first landing of the Baijini. They are considered as an Indonesian contact which happened in the early sixteenth century (p15: Berndt and Berndt, 1954)[6]. Aboriginal people particularly remember the Baijini apart from Macassans due to their golden copper-coloured skin and presence of women.  Women manufactured cloths for their own use. Some historians say that these are about the experiences of Aboriginal people who went to the lands of Macassans on their return trips back home (p421: Mulvaney and Kamminga, 1999). No one knows for sure who these people were or whether they really existed.  A detailed discussion on various viewpoints about Baijini can be found in Turner (2006).

 

Do we ignore the song cycle about Baijini as yarns about imaginary beings or mixed-up cultural memories? Or do we take their historical presence serious as Berndt and Berndt (1954) did? The answer seems to depend on what we wish to do. However trivial or unlikely these cultural memories may sound, is it fitting for us to discredit them as ‘time-wasters’ out of hand? Believing that the Baijini had been real can lead one to more hypotheses about the past that can be further explored. Few important characteristics of the Baijini worth repeating here are their entry into Arnhem Land’s oral history before Macassans, travelling with their families, their golden copper skin colour, rice cultivation and manufacture of cloth.

 

Indian Gene Flow

 

The possibility of a Holocene gene flow in the manner proposed in the above papers is generally doubted as the external evidence are lacking; arrival of dingoes, detoxification of cycads and small stone tool technology cannot be directly linked with such an admixture.  Research conducted by Pugach et al (2013), Redd et al (2002) and Redd and Stoneking (1999) show some evidence as to a localised genomic exchange between Dravidians from Indian subcontinent and Australian Aboriginal people from some parts of Australia. Had Dravidians been near the northern shores of Australia in historical times? In fact, around 17 centuries ago, they were in South East Asia as archaeological records confirm.  Javanese chroniclers mention Indians as the colonisers of their land. According to a chronicle in the possession of a Javanese ruler, the king of India sent twenty thousand families to Java who became first successful inhabitants of the land (p78: Raffles, 1830). On the other hand there is evidence for a flourishing Hinduised society in West Java in the 5th Century AD (p83: Sastri, 1949). A five letter stone inscription in a script similar to one used by the Pallavas, found in East Java has been dated to the 5th Century AD (Sarkar, 1969; p83-84: Sastri, 1949). Sastri (1949) stated that the relics of the Mahakam valley from Borneo had been among the earliest known and dating from about 400 AD (p.106). The above dating due to Jean Philippe Vogel is not challenged by more recent researchers (Supomo, 1995);

 

“The oldest known inscriptions of the Indonesian archipelago are those on seven stone pillars, or y?pa (“sacrificial posts”), found in the area of Kutai, East Kalimantan, some twenty miles from the Makassar Straits. Written in the early Pallava script, these Sanskrit inscriptions were erected to commemorate sacrifices held by a King M?lawarman, and are datable on palaeographical grounds to the second half of the fourth century AD …… but they are the most important evidence that we have that testifies to the emergence of an Indianized state in the Indonesian archipelago prior to AD 400 (p.310)”. Thus, we have very strong evidence to argue that there had been a substantial Dravidian presence a little further to Australia’s northern coast about 17 centuries ago.

 

As now we know that Dravidians were in the vicinity of Makassar, it would have been very easy for them to visit Arnhem Land or Kimberley region with the help of the northwest monsoonal winds (p.410-411: Mulvaney and Kamminga , 1999).  Thus, if Haviks and Mukris (Redd and Stoneking ,1999) who are usual inhabitants of the western side of Indian subcontinent could genetically contribute to the Australian Aboriginal genome, as the researchers suggested, the Dravidians who might have started from Coromandel Coast (p62: Banerjee, 1921) also stood a similar chance of  such a contribution in rather recent historical times. Thus, given the archaeological evidence from the region and the genetic connection discussed above, the probability of a Dravidian contact around the 4th Century AD is very high.

 

The other important part of the equation to see whether Baijini gave away anything to show some semblance to Dravidian culture is to look for clues among the Aboriginal people who talked about them. At least from the perspective of oral traditions, encounters that took place long time ago can only be a distant memory tangled with manufactured events, places and people.  As no archaeological evidence has so far been uncovered, the following discussion is about a few possibilities which are mainly speculative.

 

Similar to Javanese people who thought about Indians as the first settlers in their land, the Aboriginal people placed the Baijini in the distant past. Baijini travelled with their families in a similar fashion to the Indians. It may be a ship full of such migrant families to South East Asia from India ended up in the northern shores of Australia with their weapons, cooking utensils, unhusked rice, cotton wool (?), their spinning wheels, looms, pots for dyeing and various tools for cultivating and to work with stones etc during one north-west monsoonal period. It is also noteworthy that Basedow reported having seen a stone phallus (page x: Basedow, 1925) on one of his trips to the far north western corner of Australia in 1916[7]. If we assume that the Aboriginal people inherited the veneration of phallus from the Baijini, then the mythical Baijini had a very strong connection to the Dravidians who visited from India. Note what Sastri (1949) says about lingam worship in Kalimantan:

There is also a mukhalinga of the sarvasama type in which the square Brahmabh?ga (below), the octagonal Visnubh?ga (middle), and the cylindrical Sivabh?gha (above) are of equal length; the linga comes from Sepaoek in the Sintang division of West Borneo.” p106

According to Sastri (1949), placing lingams in shrines in Java transitioned to shrines with figures only in the 9th and 10th centuries (p.64).  If the migrant families landed in Australia, by chance or not, it would not be surprising to see them, bringing along their objects of worship to Australia. And they, perhaps, came before the said transitionary period[8].  It is not difficult to imagine that the brown skinned people from the subcontinent were seen as copper-coloured. Traditionally, planting and harvesting rice had been women’s work in South Asia. Dravidian women could also have manufactured cloths[9].

 

It should be noted that it was not attempted in this paper to prove the Baijini legend to be true or otherwise.  What was intended was to show that a recent gene flow between India and Australia is more than or, at least, equally plausible as, the Holocene one proposed in the Literature and the Baijini legend may have some meaning in a historical context.

 

 

Conclusion

 

In the preceding discussion, it was shown that the possibility of a Holocene gene flow between Indian people and Australian Aboriginal people is real. However, the external evidence quoted to support the thesis of such genomic fusion around four thousand years ago is inadequate and does not enjoy the support of many experts in the field. Given the errors associated with the estimated times of a localised admixture between these populations, it is not impossible to find a more recent time for an encounter between South Indian migrants to South East Asia and Aboriginal people from northern parts of Australia. Such an encounter is far more plausible from the archaeological evidence available in the neighbouring islands. Even though it is not possible to link the Baijini gypsies with the Dravidians due to flimsiness of the available information about the former, it is a possibility worth pursuing.

 

References

 

Ardalan, A., Oskarsson, M., Natanaelsson, C.,  Wilton, A.N., Ahmadian,A. and  Savolainen,P (2012) Narrow genetic basis for the Australian dingo confirmed through analysis of paternal ancestry, Genetica, 140:65–73 doi 10.1007/s10709-012-9658-5

 

Banerjee, Gauranganath (1921) India as known to the ancient world, Oxford University Press, Culcutta: available at http://books.google.com/

 

Basedow, Herbert (1929) The Australian Aboriginal, F.W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide

 

Berndt, Ronald and Berndt, Catherine (1954) Arnhem Land: Its History and Its People, Cheshire, Melbourne

 

Bonatto, S.L. and  Salzano, F.M (1997) Diversity and age of the four major mtDNA haplogroups, and their implications for the peopling of the New World. Am J Hum Genet 61: 1413–1423

 

Everitt, Brian S. and Dunn,G. (1991) Applied Multivariate Data Analysis, Edward Arnold, London

 

Geiger, Wilhelm (1912) Mahavamsa, The Pali Text Society, London: available at http://mahavamsa.org/

 

Genomes link aboriginal Australians to Indians: Nature News & Comment (2013) Nature, doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12219

 

Issacs, Jennifer (1980) Australian dreaming: 40,000 years of Aboriginal History, Lansdowne Press, Sydney

 

Kumar, S., Ravuri, R.R., Koneru, P., Urade, B.P., Sarkar, B.N., Chandrasekar, A and Rao, V.R

(2009) Reconstructing Indian-Australian phylogenetic link, BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:173 doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-173

 

Malvaney, John and Kamminga, Johan (1999) Prehistory of Australia, Allen and Unwin

 

McEvoy, B.P., Lind, J. M., Wang, E.T., Moyzis, R.K.,Visscher, P.M.,van Holst Pellekaan, S.M and Wilton, A.N (2010) Whole-Genome Genetic Diversity in a Sample of Australians with Deep Aboriginal Ancestry,  Am. J. Hum. Genet. 87, 297–305

 

 

Morwood, M. J. (2002) Visions from the past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington

 

Pugach, I., Delfin, F., Gunnarsdóttir, E., Kayser, M. and Stoneking, M (2013) Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1211927110

 

Pugach , I., Matveyev, R., Wollstein, A., Kayser, M. and Stoneking, M (2011) Dating the age of admixture via wavelet transform analysis of genome-wide data, Genome Biology, 12:R19: available at http://genomebiology.com/content/12/2/R19

 

Prehistoric migration: An Antipodean Raj (2013), The Economist, 17 Jan

 

Raffles, Thomas S. (1830) The History of Java, Vol II, John Murray, London:  available at http://books.google.com/

 

Rasmussen, M. et al. (2011) An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia Science 334, 94–98

 

Redd, A.J., Roberts-Thomson, J., Karafet, T., Bamshad, M.,  Jorde, L.B., Naidu, J.M., Walsh, B and Hammer, M.F  (2002) Gene Flow from the Indian Subcontinent to Australia: Evidence from the Y Chromosome, Curr. Biol. 12, 673–677

 

Redd, A. J. and Stoneking, M (1999) Peopling of Sahul: mtDNA Variation in Aboriginal Australian and Papua New Guinean Populations M. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 65, 808–828

 

Savolainen, P., Leitner, T., Wilton, A.N., Matisoo-Smith, E. and Lundeberg, J (2004) A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0401814101

 

Supomo, S (1995) Indic Transformation: TheSanskritization of Jawa and the Javanization of the Bharata in The Austronesians Historical and Comparative Perspectives edited by P. Bellwood, J. J. Fox

and D. Tryon, ANU Press, Canberra: available at http://epress.anu.edu.au

 

Swain, Tony (1993) A place for strangers: Towards a History of Australian Aboriginal Being, Cambridge University Press

 

Tamura, K and Nei, M (1993) Estimation of the number of nucleotide substitutions in the control region of mitochondrial DNA in humans and chimpanzees. Mol Biol Evol 10: 512–526

 

The International HapMap 3 Consortium (2010) Integrating common and rare genetic variation in diverse human populations, Nature 467(7311):52–58

 

Turner, Phyllis (2006) The colonisation of Australia prior to European settlement, the Degree of Master of Science Thesis, University of Adelaide

 



[1] From the discussion in the following sections, the question would arise why the samples from SE Asian region didn’t show clear Indian admixture while the historical evidence show presence of Indians in this part of the world for several centuries.

[2] Computed using average divergence between Australian and Indian C* Chromosomes (0.256) with its standard error (0.105). i.e. 0.256+/- 1.96*0.105 which was translated to a time of divergence based on mutation rate of 2.08E-03.

[3] The authours reported a mean of 3390 years which was based on net average divergence/mutation rate (=0.0003/ 8.85E-08). The net divergence was calculated using Tamura & Nei (1993). Also note that the use of the faster mutation rate for HSV1+HSV11 regions as quoted in Bonatto et al. (1997)  (i.e. 11.5E-08) with the same coefficient of variation as derivable from the corresponding CI calculation in Redd and Stoneking (1999)  yields following  95% CIs (1298 – 3920 years)

[4] Even around 5th century BC, Indians were likely to have navigated close to the land. As narrated in Mahavamsa, the 700 men deported from Bengal landed near Bombay first and then, after embarking from there, in Lanka. (p.xxxvi & p54: Geiger, 1912). Their women and children deported separately also landed in islands near the Indian coast.

[5] See p171 of Swain (1993). The poem has the following:” from the young Baijini playing?”

[6]  This assertion by Berndts is contentious as, following Macknight, Mulvaney and Kamminga (p415: 1999) place Macassans’ arrival around 1700 AD. If Baijini were before Macassans, how did they find themselves with an Aboriginal name with a Macassan root meaning women (p 170: Swain, 1993; p16: Berndt and Berndt, 1954). The way this was possible is by Baijini being contemporary with Macassans or by Song Cycle being post-Macassan or by the Aboriginal name being not of Macassan origin. If, instead of accepting and contradicting it, we accept the Aboriginal myth that the Baijini had been there in the time of the mythical ancestors, Djanggawul sisters and Laindjung (p170-171: Swain, 1999), the origin of the name ‘Baijini’ or ‘Baiini (p261: Issacs, 1980)’ is less likely to be Macassan.

[7] Note that he saw a stone phallus erected in the ground and “surrounded by a cleared cirque where much blood had been spilt at a recent ceremony (p x.: Basedow, 1929).” Similarly he had seen another vertically standing three feet long stone placed in the ground by replacing a natural stone, in the Gleneleg district of the north western corner of Australia(p.288:  Basedow,1925). Basedow discussed seeing the phallus worship in other parts of the continent in the form of using the phallic symbols in ritualistic dancing etc (p.282-283:  Basedow, 1925). However, nothing came close to a worship than the one described in the preface to his book. According to him, phallus worship slips away from new generations. But if what was practised in the past was similar to what he saw, then the above stands out as more devout way of worshiping it; probably similar in spirit to what Hindus did. However, with much blood around what he had seen could also represent a form of sacrificial post similar to yupa stambas in Kalimantan.

[8] In the poem quoted in Swain (1993) we find “..hiding the ladle beneath our arm. It is sacred (p.171)”. Thus, according to the legend, the Aboriginal people had used things left out by Baijini and treated them as sacred.

[9] In a fifth century compilation of earlier works called Mahavamsa, there is mention about a native woman of Lanka spinning when the first Sinhalese people arrived in the island (p56: Geiger, 1912). According to the Chronicles this should have taken place around the 5th century BC. Traditionally, women in the subcontinent might have been manufacturing cloth.

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From Eros to Gaia by Freeman Dyson, Penguin Books, 1992

I do not remember many books after reading which I felt really lucky to have read them. The above book by Freeman Dyson was certainly one of those books.  I find that From Eros to Gaia is a rare book about the process and personalities of science, written by one of the foremost physicists, who had been very active in the last century, in lucid and accessible language.  There aren’t that many scientists who candidly discuss how science works in practice. In his book, Freeman Dyson has shown us a glimpse.

His essay titled “The importance of being unpredictable” is a great lesson in scientific honesty that is uncanny.  Not giving in to his personal prejudice, Freeman Dyson admits to be wrong, at times, in his views about the future of science. When he met Francis Crick at Fanum House after WWII, Crick pointed out that the most exciting science for next twenty years would be biology.  Then, twenty two year old Dyson was so sure physics would lead for another twenty years.  Crick who left physics for biology ended up sharing Noble Prize for the discovery of structure of DNA.  He also talks about an incident involving Patrick Blackett who won a Noble Prize for his work in particle physics. After the WWII he gave a talk in London. Freeman Dyson attended the talk to listen to exciting things about particle physics. Instead, Blackett talked about measuring magnetization in the mud on the ocean bottom.  Dyson was very disappointed.  After seventeen years from then, Blackett’s work helped to prove Wagner’s theory of continental drift and start the new science of plate tectonics.  The fact that a brilliant scientist like Freeman Dyson who reconciled the opinions of Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Sin Itiro Tomonaga on quantum electrodynamics, can make wrong judgement calls makes us think about science as a human affair.

He also talks about big blunders, committed by scientists, like the “White Oliphant” accelerator built in Birmingham. The point is that unless scientists are equally conscious about their successes and failures, science would become a falsely prejudicial enterprise. He elegantly touches on the simple science done using brilliant ideas.  One example for simple science is, despite controversy surrounding his Nobel Prize, about the radio telescope built in a Cambridge field by Anthony Hewish.  The lesson we can learn from the book is that the importance of a discovery or a theory should lie in its brilliance, not in the way it was discovered or proposed as long as scientific reasoning is sound.

In his book “Trouble with Physics”, Lee Smolin talks about the fall-from-grace of String Theory in a very matter-of-fact style.  But Freeman Dyson’s honest admissions about his own wrong judgements go even further to humanize scientists. There aren’t many scientists candidly talking about their own failures. Discussing people like Sophus Lie and Hermann Grassmann, he points out that the science is not all about fashionable personalities or ideas:”.. unfashionable people and unfashionable ideas have often been of decisive importance to the progress of science (p168)”. He also looks at the prejudices the modern education carries with it.  He openly questions the unequivocal value of PhD to do science; he reckons that this rigid practice prevents ordinary, bright Americans choosing science as a career path. He admits failure of his forty year effort to change this attitude of American academia.  Who can be certain that, even without a scheme to lessen the importance of it, given the massive number of degrees being offered every year, the symbolic status of PhD will not naturally go through what G. H. Hardy[1] intended to do by trivializing tripos at Cambridge?   In modern world, let alone the chance of a Freeman Dyson who joined Institute of Advanced Studies with just a Bachelor’s degree, the chance of a Michael Faraday is no greater than zero.

In my opinion, the importance of Freeman Dysons’ book is its attempt to give science a human face; he shows it is not a robotic machine running with clock-work precision; after all it is only another human endeavour.  One recent example to strengthen his case comes from the repetition of the classic sexual selection study conducted by Angus Bateman in early last century. The authors of this new repetition say:

“Here we show that Bateman’s methodology violated an assumption crucial to the reliability of

his inferences: the methodology obscured some observations so that some matings that occurred were not counted, thus overestimating the number of subjects with no mates to an unknown

degree and underestimating the number of subjects with one or more mates, also to an unknown degree. (Gowaty,   Pactricia Adair et al, at www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1207851109)

 

True to the spirit of the above example, Freeman Dyson rather acknowledges science as a self-correcting process[2] and implicitly accepts its contingencies. “When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete, and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will only half-understood. To everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation that does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope (p106)”.

He  is bold enough not to simply tow the line of mainstream science to be treated as a ‘true believer’; unlike many true-blue scientists, he sees the value of Gaia hypothesis and its relevance to our survival as a species. Every individual, existing on the time scale of years is connected with the “whole web of life on our planet” on the time scale of eons.  To secure the long term survival of the web of life on our planet, we must pay our homage to Gaia, the concept. Science, Religion and everything else in the universe we see through the coloured glass of being human.  Before we fight and self-destruct, it is paramount for us to see all that exists in the planet as components of a greater web. From Eros to Gaia is a book which subtly lifts us towards that higher goal.

 



[1] Prof. Hardy himself was a great human being with a large heart who was magnanimous enough to read the letters he received from an insignificant Indian clerk who had no recognized qualification in mathematics. If not for Prof. Hardy, the genius of Srinivas Ramanujan might have been lost to the world forever.

[2] For an example, he says on the mystery of missing carbon – the destiny of half the carbon we are burning;

” Either the oceanographers are wrong or the botanists are wrong. Perhaps both are wrong. What we need in order to solve the mystery is more observations (p134).

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Antiquity of Secluding Girls at Puberty

The following is an article I should have written three years ago. Due to various reasons, I have been avoiding penning down my ideas about the antiquity of seclusion in detail. With the realization of its’ importance, I was forced to gather my thoughts in a cohesive way which would help a reader to understand where I was heading in my previous writings. This and all other articles relating to this topic can be found in .pdf form in this website or also at www.scribd.com. To find the .pdf file of this article please scroll down.

Antiquity of Secluding Girls at Puberty

Abstract

In this article, it is pointed out that the seclusion of girls at puberty could have existed for more than 40,000 years. The more likely mechanism of diffusion of the ideas around seclusion was the migration of our ancestors not the cultural transmission itself. The customs of Australian Aboriginal people provide a window into the past and some basis for fathoming the antiquity of the girls’ puberty rites.

Introduction

Seclusion of girls at puberty had been discussed by several authours including Frazer (1993), Benedict (1934) and Richards (1962). However, apart from Frazer, the other authours mainly looked at anthropological importance of this rite of passage. Arachige (2009) discussed the possible significance of these rites as a precursor to modern religions. Even though on its face value this may seem as a long shot, in a previous article Arachige (2010) suggested that there may be a link between the seclusion of girls at puberty and the Paleolithic Venus figurines. If this link is real then, finding the root of religion in the seclusion does not seem far-fetched. As a deduction independent of the antiquity of Venus Figurines, Arachige (2009) also hypothesised that the seclusion rites might have started at least 40,000 years ago. The present article makes a further case for the claim.

Plausible Modes of Spread

As Arachige (2010, 2011) pointed out, the seclusion of girls may take us to the prehistoric Europe. These rites had also been practised in many parts of the world. It is not unnatural to assign the reason for the spread of ideas of seclusion of girls around the world to a form of demic diffusion like of which helped the migratory population from the Middle East to carry their farming practices along to Europe. This mechanism of diffusion seems to be the more accepted way for the spread of farming to Europe from Middle East (Cavalli-Sforza, 2001)[1]. The idea of diffusion is in direct contrast to the view of independent development of customs and concepts proposed by Adolf Bastian in the nineteenth century. Proponents of the independent development view believe that there is a universal psychic unity of mankind which gives rise to “elementary ideas”. This can perhaps lead to “archetypical concepts” such as spirits or reincarnation. However, I believe that this cannot be applied to a cultural practice like seclusion of girls at puberty as the puberty rites of girls are certainly a multitude of key ideas and events such as the first menstruation, need for seclusion including a shade, restricted movements, superstitions such as food taboos or mystical belefs about blood, not seeing males or not being seen by the males and later admittance to normal adult society. All these physical manifestations and mental constructs making the rites around seclusion of girls should come together in a synchronic and coherent structure, which then have to amount to a rather composite archetype. Why should these separate components come together as a universal? At present, there doesn’t seem to have a reasonable explanation. Secondly, it is not easy to see why the ideas around seclusion of girls should be universals. All the cultures, whose members practised seclusion at one time or another, do not have to feel the same about first menstruation; some can be shameful while others rejoice in it as readiness, for example, toward betrothal. One tribe could have secluded the pubescent girl while another tribe could have paraded her around. Thus, if there can exist a unity of theme among all the apparent diversity, it is difficult to assume that these societies made certain choices from a set of all possibilities independently, resulting in a custom with certain similarities across many societies in many lands. Without argument, we have to accept the fact that there can be various nuances and variations, introduced in a diachronic manner as well as across various geographies and cultures, to what originally was a pure form of a custom. This should be the case irrespective of the manner by which a culture acquired a certain practice. As Levi-Strauss pointed out,

Ethnographical observation does not,..,oblige us to choose between…either a plastic mind passively shaped by outside influences; or universal psychological laws that everywhere give rise to and invite the same properties regardless of history and of the particular environment[2]

Thus, there is no sound reason for us to exclude the possibility of diffusion of the practice of seclusion of girls at puberty even though there can be wide-ranging differences between various cultures around the same rudimentary set of ideas. As Levi-Strauss emphasises “each culture is a unique situation..”.

As can be seen from the geographies which Sir James Frazer described in his book, The Golden Bough, with regard to the prevalence of girls’ puberty rites and the elements common across many of these geographies, it is not impossible to believe that there had been a diffusion of these rites from some region. Given the prevalence of these rites in Africa, for an  example, among Zulus[3]  and  the San people[4] whose Khoisan language[5] is among southern African click languages, it is likely that these rites had an African origin.   If we assume that the diffusion of cultural elements of seclusion took place along with the migratory trends of the ancient people, the ancestors of Australian Aborigines had to take it with them on their way to Australian continent at least 40,000 years ago. Genetically, Papua New Guineans are the closest to Australians (Cavalli-Sforza 2001, p144) and thus, should be separated from the common ancestor more than 40,000 years ago (Zimmer 2001, p299; Cavalli-Sforza 2001, p169;Pettitt 2009, p128 ). The date based on Mungo man’s remains is consensually about 40,000+/- 2,000 years and human presence in the Lake Mungo region is 50,000 to 46,000 years old[6]. Let us take the most recent consensus as the reference point for the settlement in Australia. How plausible is the diffusion through migration? Can it just be cultural diffusion which helped spread the seclusion of girls? Despite the fact that it is difficult to deduce the exact mechanism of diffusion, we investigate a few likely scenarios in next parts of this article.

A more recent cultural acquisition?

Given the prevalence of seclusion in Northern Territory, Torres Strait Islands, Cape York region, Papua New Guinea and New Ireland etc (Frazer 1993), one might assume that the seclusion at puberty have come to Australia from the northern neighbours in recent historical times[7]. It may be possible that the people who spoke Austronesian languages[8] brought these rites to New Guinea and Oceania. New Guineans had Austronesian influence marked by the introduction of pigs, chicken etc around 1600 BC[9]. Despite their innate suspicions, it is possible that various Aboriginal communities had exchanged goods and had other trade links over a long period of time[10]. Such exchanges might also have opened up opportunities for cultural contacts including the practice of puberty rites for girls. Around 500 AD, these rites might have gone westward to Madagascar with the Austronesian travellers and from there to continental Africa. However, it is difficult to imagine the influence of a band of travellers to Africa from the island of Madagascar to which Austronesian languages in African region are currently confined. In any case, this is a very unlikely scenario as diffusion of seclusion of girls was evident not only in Africa but also in Americas. More accepted view about spread of modern humans to America was through Bearing Strait about 15,000 to 35,000 years ago. Thus, a recent cultural exchange cannot explain the existence of puberty rites in various parts of the new world which were not known to have been colonized by people speaking Austronesian languages[11], or in the primitive cultures like San culture in Africa.

 

Lessons from Australia’s first settlers

Australian Aboriginal culture provides a very valuable window into early hunter gatherer societies as the Aboriginal people

had a basically uninterrupted history. There are no signs of any sharp breaks in the economy and technology, no indications that outsiders might have disrupted local patterns of development[12]”.

The same can be assumed to be true for their cultural history as cultural changes are not completely detached from technological and environmental changes. Thus, for our purpose, the Australian Aboriginal people can supply a wealth of information.

Havemeyer (1886) reported

“.. if one turns from physical criteria to their manners and customs it is only to find fresh evidence of their isolation. While their neighbours, the Malays, Papuans and Polynesians, all cultivate the soil, and build substantial huts and houses, the Australian natives do neither. Pottery, common to Malays and Papuans, the bows and arrows of the latter, and the elaborate canoes of all three races, are unknown to the Australians[13]”.

Even though this is a dated statement, apart from Copeland Island in northern Australia where the archaeological site Barlambidj provided some evidence of pottery and glass, on archaeological evidence, the most of Australian continent seemed to have been in isolation from south Asia for almost all of its early existence (Bellwood and Hiscock, 2009)[14]. After the subsidence of the Greater Australian land bridges, in more recent times, the periodic visits of Macassans had a lasting influence on the Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land. The influence of these visitors had been woven into the Aboriginal cultural life in the parts of the land where those contacts prevailed. However, it is doubtful that these interactions and cultural integrations spread across the rest of the continent. Given Australia’s cultural isolation, it is not unreasonable to assume that even though there had been Indonesian and Papuan influence in parts of Australian continent such as Arnhem Land and Cape York ,”these influences did not penetrate into the rest of the continent” (Aborigines in Australian Society, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2001). For an example, absence of agriculture among Australian Aboriginal communities in the mainland Australia, despite having evidence of practice of agriculture by northern neighbours and people in some of Torres Strait Islands, doesn’t lend support to the possibility of cultural diffusion through foreign contact. According to Clarke (2003),

it was the combination of the adaptability [of] Aboriginal hunting and gathering lifestyle and the variable Australian climate, rather than lack of knowledge, that prohibited sedentary food-producing practices spreading south into mainland Australia[15]”.

Even though agriculture or farming is different to a cultural practice like puberty rites, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the influence of geography and climate, and lack of assimilation between the tribes and their new contacts could have restricted the cultural transmission, too. There might have been other reasons as well.

Apart from the restrictions imposed by the rigid marriage system of Aboriginal people, another reason for such differences among Aboriginal tribes can perhaps be found in the following observation:

“The Australian Aborigines in their wild state are not only suspicious of treachery in their neighbours, but often have a superstitious terror of distant tribes, with whose existence they are only acquainted by report[16]”.

There are other reasons, such as the one described below, which also provide explanations. Among hunter-gatherers it was usually the woman who married outside her community.  Thus, the transmission of cultural traits should have happened through such marriages. However, it is questionable that there had been enough critical mass for cultural traits coming from a distant community through maternal lines to be transmitted. This lack of opportunity for such traits to prevail could have arisen from the place of women in Aboriginal society in the pre-colonisation times. The standing of women among some Aboriginal tribes is evident from the following quote:

Mr. Howitt says, “ these  (south-eastern) aborigines, even while counting descent—that is, counting the class names—through the mother, never for a moment feel any doubt, according to my experience, that the children originate solely from the male parent, and only owe their infantine nurture to their mother.” Mr. Howitt also quotes “the remark made to me in several cases, that a woman is only a nurse who takes care of a man’s children for him[17]”.

In such a social environment, a cultural practice brought in by a woman through marriage could only have a very limited opportunity to spread. In general, cultural transmission would facilitate the ideas that (1) help solve environmental problems (2) can be easily memorised and processed by our brains and (3) are conducive to retain and understand variable and difficult ideas which are useful or important[18]. Assuming that the above categories of ideas really influence the transmission of cultural elements, it is difficult to place girls’ puberty rites among them, especially, in a tribal society which in the historical times, seemed to have held women in low esteem.

Belief of Reincarnation

Especially, regarding the penetration of beliefs, we can have a look at the Aboriginal groups in Australia among whose beliefs there are well-documented local variations of interest. Among such local variations was the belief in reincarnation. The belief of perpetual reincarnation of the primal spirits as babies prevalent among Arunta and Kaitish could not be found among south-eastern tribes.[19] With many Australian tribes, the child inherits the totem from the mother or the farther. But for Arunta and Kaitish, the child inherits the totem of the locality where mother became aware of the life of the child. Here, it is important to note that there are two types of totemic categories; social totemism and cult totemism. The above Arunta local totemism, which was also a conception totemism, is a cult totemism, usually having no impact on marriage classes[20]. Social totemism which was used to promote exogamy among Aboriginal Australians[21] makes more sense with patrilineal or matrilineal inheritance.   These Arunta beliefs, apart from their belief in the attachment of such reincarnating spirits to certain haunted stones, were also shared by the tribes in the north and centre. The Euahlayi tribe from north-western New South Wales, with views about spirits not of primal origin, believed in a reincarnation of the uninitiated who died young[22].  Arunta belief system consisting of the acceptance of reincarnation and non-inherited totem was considered by Andrew Lang to be socially more advanced than that of south eastern Aborigines[23]. Sir James Frazer, without discriminating between cult and social totemism, had the totally opposite view about the Arunta practices:

“This [Arunta] mode of determining the totem has all the appearance of extreme antiquity. For it ignores altogether the intercourse of the sexes as the cause of offspring, and further, it ignores the tie of blood on the maternal as well as the paternal side, substituting for it a purely local bond, since the members of a totem stock are merely those who gave the first sign of life in the womb at one or other of certain definite spots[24]”.

Not being an anthropologist, it is not my preference to be judgemental. However, if we pay some attention to the fact that migration of first Australians occurred while the Australian continent had been joined to the Asian neighbours via land bridges which were severed about 9600 BC[25], it would be easy to conceive the antiquity of the central tribes. As the migrants arrived in to the mainland from Australia’s northern neighbours, perhaps, via East Timor, it is very likely that the ancestors of Aboriginal people first came to the northern parts of the continent. They are also believed to have reached western parts of Australia around 50,000-46,000[26] years ago. Then, with a high likelihood, they had to migrate towards the centre to be around Lake Mungo area by 40,000 years ago. Given the nature of their geographic location, the central tribes had a little chance to absorb the influences arising from possible exogenous contacts such as the northern tribes influenced by Asian neighbours or the Cape York tribes whose culture was modified by the New Guinean contact. Thus, it is very probable that Arunta represent a more primitive culture than the northern or coastal cultures. Another important fact about Arunta is their mythical tradition describing female ancestors who were frequently more powerful than the male figures[27]. Tribes in the Great Victorian Desert and the Arnhem Land had similar myths extolling more powerful female ancestors who had controlled the sacred rites. If the ideas of a prehistoric earth goddess and matrilineal descent as discussed by scholars such as J.J. Bachofen and Marija Gimbutas are believable and universal, then myths which we just discussed should point to an era before the dominance of the male in Aboriginal society. On the other hand, for our purpose, we don’t need to find the most primitive tribe whose practices involved seclusion of girls at puberty. If the seclusion was widespread enough, in the relative absence of dominant cultural exchanges, it is very likely that it had a very long history. If Arunta were the followers of most ancient practices, then, they practicing seclusion of girls only vouch to the antiquity of the practice.

Seclusion of girls among Aboriginal Australians

Berndt & Berndt (1988) discussed girls’ puberty rites under “Initiation of Girls” in their highly regarded book The World of the First Australians.

“ Speaking very generally, at the first sign of puberty a girl leaves the main camp, and spends several days in a little hut or shelter some distance away from it. She may have to observe certain food tabus at this time[28]”.

Berndt & Berndt (1988) do not discern the difference between pure puberty rites such as seclusion from other forms of initiation rites such as cutting genitalia of girls and defloration by many men. For our purpose, we are only concerned about the rites involving seclusion[29]. Girls’ puberty rites might have been subject to change over time. Thus, whatever reported by early ethnographers might be the remnants of much wider and elaborate practice. As we discussed earlier, Andrew Lang considered South Eastern tribes as more primitive. An early ethnographer, Howitt (1904), who wrote a book about south eastern tribes of Australia, didn’t pay attention to female pubertal rites. There can be several reasons.  What Hamilton (1987) wrote in a more recent context can still be relevant in a wider meaning too:

“What is apparent from Munn’s account is that men have intruded in various ways into the realm of women’s rituals. These are no longer exclusively and secretly a possession of women…[30]”.

Thus, Howitt (1904) might not have given much importance to these practices in south eastern tribes due to the fact that the male rituals dominated the Aboriginal life and the female rituals were held in conjunction with male rituals. These ethnographers might not have had direct contact with the native women who had more genuine knowledge about these rites and might have considered them or some of them as sacred secrets.

On the other hand, the puberty rites that the early ethnographers reported might have retained all the basic characteristics without much change from their prehistoric origins. Spencer and Gillen (1899) reported seclusion of girls among Central Australian Aborigines. Earlier, we considered Frazer’s point of view according to which Arunta subscribed to a more primitive belief system. If that is the case, the following practice of seclusion of girls among Arunta should be a more primitive or as primitive as the customs practised by other tribes.

“In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes a girl at the first time of menstruation is taken by her mother to a spot close to, but apart from, the Erlukwirra or women’s camp, near to which no man ever goes. A fire is made and a camp formed by the mother, the girl being told to dig a hole about a foot or eighteen inches deep, over which she sits attended by her own and some other tribal Mia , who provide her with food, one or other of them being always with her, and sleeping by her side at night time. No children of either sex are allowed to go near to her or to speak to her. During the first two days she is supposed to sit over the hole without stirring away; after that she may be taken out by one or other of the old women hunting for food. When the flow ceases she is told to fill in the hole. She now becomes what is called Wunpa , returns to the women’s camp, and shortly afterwards undergoes the rite of Atna-ariltha[31] , and is handed over to the man to whom she has been allotted. She remains Wunpa until such time as her breasts assume the pendent form so characteristic of the native women who have borne one or more children, after which she is spoken of as Arakutja , the name for a fully-grown woman[32].

This cultural practice might have existed in a similarly veiled form in other parts of the land as the following account by Langloh Parker about the Euahlayi Tribe of north western New South Wales reminds us:

“A girl’s initiation into womanhood is as follows. Her granny probably, or some old woman relation, takes her from the big camp into the scrub where they make a bough shade. As soon as this is made, the old woman sets fire to a thick heap of Budtha leaves and makes the girl swallow the smoke. She then bids her lie down in a scooped-out hollow she has made in the earth, saying to her, ‘You are to be made a young woman now. No more must you run about as you please. Here must you stay with me, doing as I say. Then in two moons’ time you shall go and claim your husband, to do for ever what he bids you. You must not sleep as you lie there in the day time, nor must you go to sleep at night until those in the camp are at rest. I will put food ready for you. Honey you must not eat again for four moons. At first streak of day you must get up, and eat the food I have placed for you……..

Girls have told me that they got very tired of being away with only the old woman for so long, and were glad enough when she told them they were to move to a new camp, nearer to the big one, which the women had prepared for them[33]”.

Note that the last paragraph of the above quote. Such inconveniences might have resulted in changes to the original form of pubertal rites.

According to Frazer in The Balder the Beautiful, in Cape York Peninsular area, tribes such as Otati, the tribal people in the western part of Cape York Peninsula and Kia people in eastern Queensland dig a hole or a pit for girls at first menstruation to spend time away from the camp[34]. Uiyumkwi tribe in Red Island, an island of Torres Strait, would keep the girl at her first menstruation in a shallow trench dug in the foreshore. Thus in essence, many Aboriginal groups, including Arunta and Euahlayi, follow the same basic structure and  pattern of responding to puberty. These tribes would seclude the girl, keep in a hollow dug in the ground and provide a temporary shade. Sitting in a hole dug in the ground restrict the girl’s movement. The aboriginal people of the Pennefather River area in the Cape York make the girl sit cross legged while Uiyumkwi girl, as mentioned, lies at full length in the trench. This simply exemplifies the possibility of variations around a fundamental theme among different tribes. Confining the girl to a hole or trench is restricting her movement which the rule of “not to touch the ground” with her feet symbolically achieve[35].  If someone has no feet, that person should be carried around, crawl or stay put. Similarly, if someone is allowed to walk only upon something covering the ground or permitted to walk only without touching the earth; i.e. wearing bark sandals[36], then, the freedom of movement would suffer.   All these scenarios can only result in restricting the movement of the subject. Seclusion in a temporary shade covers the girl from sun in a symbolic gesture and make sure she is not seen by others. Thus, we can still see the elementary manifestation of rules, not seeing the sun and not touching the ground which might have been what the migrants brought with their ancestral roots. On the other hand, these rudimentary manifestations might have also been a result of a cultural adaptation influenced by geographical and climatic realities of the Australian landscape.  It is also possible that, in prehistoric times, the seclusion of girls which had been practised in more elaborate form, had vanished later from cultural memory due to the influence of overbearing male initiation rites which had even absorbed some elements of female ceremonies and the dominance of males in general. Given the accounts in the published material near the dawn of last century, the initiation of boys had a far greater influence in their culture (Spencer and Gillen 2009[37]; Havemeyer 1886). Revealing the secrets of boys’ initiation to women was a punishable offence for South Eastern tribes (Howitt 1904). In essence, it is difficult to determine whether these rites were handed down to recent generations in a form, which was closer to the original or was transformed by the local conditions and cultural constraints to a conformal practice.

Conclusion

It is not unreasonable to assume that the girls’ puberty rites diffused across vast spaces of land with the migration of our ancestors.  Seclusion of girls at puberty is very likely to have reached various parts of Australia with the arrival of ancestors of Australian Aboriginal people at least 40,000 years ago.  Among Australian Aboriginal people, the puberty rites had become part of broader initiation of girls. These rites might have changed over the long history of Aboriginal people. However far back into the past the Aboriginal customs would relate to, the seclusion at puberty, at least, until the times of European encounters, retained many structural elements from the broader practice as described by Sir James Frazer in his monumental work The Golden Bough. Thus, to reach Australia, at least 40,000 years ago, these rites should have started their journey long before. With such an antiquity it is not unlikely that the girls’ puberty rites existed while Paleolithic Europe experienced its creative explosion.

References

Arachige, D. (2009) The lure of noma: on the elegance of religion, Perth: Ocean Publishing

Arachige, D. (2010) Prehistoric Venuses and Puberty Rite, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

Arachige, D. (2011) Witches, Shamans and Girls at Puberty, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

Atran, Scott (2002) In Gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion, Oxford University Press, New York

Bellwood, Peter and Peter Hiscock (2009) Holocene Australia and the pacific basin in The Human Past ed. by Chris Scarre, Thames & Hudson, London

Benedict, R. 2005 (1934) The patterns of culture, Mariner Books: New York

Berndt, Ronald. M. and Catherine H. Berndt (1988) The world of the first Australians: Aboriginal Traditional Life: Past and Present, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra

Bowler, James. M. et al (2003) New ages for human occupation and climatic change at Lake Mungo, Australia. Nature 421:837–40. doi:10.1038/nature01383

Brough Smyth, R. (1878) The Aborigines of Victoria, Vol II, Government Printer, London- available at http://books.google.com/

Cavali-Sforza, Luigi L. (2001) Genes, Peoples & Languages, Penguin

Clarke, Paul (2003) Where the ancestors walked, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW

Diamond, Jared (2005) Guns, Germs and Steel, Vintage

Frazer, James (1993) The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, Ware: Wordsworth Reference

Freud, Sigmund (1918) Totem and Taboo, Moffat, Yard and Company, New York – available at http://books.google.com/

Gould, Richard. A. (1969) Yiwara, Foragers of the Australian Desert, Chrles Scribner’s Sons, New York

Hamilton, Annette (1987) Dual Social System: Technology, Labour and Womens’ Secret Rites in the Eastern Western Australia in Traditional Aboriginal Society: A Reader ed. by W.H. Edwards, The Macmillan Company of Australia, Melbourne

Havemeyer, Loomis and Albert Galloway Keller (1917)  Ethnography; a partial and preliminary description of the races of man, Press of the Wilson H. Lee Company, New Haven, Conn Kindle edition available at www.archive.org/

Howitt, A. W. (1904) The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, Macmillan & Co Ltd, London available at books.google.com.au

Lang, Andrew (1905) The Secret of The Totem, Longmans, Green & Co, London- available at http://books.google.com/

Langloh Parker, K. (1905) The Euahlayi Tribe: A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia, online at www.gutenberg.net

Levi-Strauss, Claude (1992) Structuralism and Echology in The view from afar, The University of Chicago Press, USA

Lewis-Williams, J. D and M. Biesele (1978) Eland hunting rituals among northern and southern San groups: striking similarities, Africa, 48 (2):117-134

Lewis-Williams, J. D 1980. Remarks on Southern San Religion and Art, Religion in South Africa, Vol.1 (2):19-32

Richards, A. I. (1982) Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia, Routledge, London

Pettitt, Paul (2009) The Rise of Modern Humans in The Human Past ed. by Chris Scarre, Thames & Hudson, London

Spencer, Baldwin and F.J. Gillen (1899) The native Tribes of Central Australia, Macmillan, London; Retrieved from http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/spencer/baldwin/s74n/

Veeramah, Krishna R.  et al (2012)  An Early Divergence of KhoeSan Ancestors from Those of Other Modern Humans Is Supported by an ABC-Based Analysis of Autosomal Resequencing Data, Mol Biol Evol (2012) 29 (2): 617-630. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr212

 

 

 

Referencing this article:

Arachige, D. 2012, Antiquity of Secluding Girls at Puberty, http://www.thelureofnoma.com

 

This article can be copied and distributed as it appears above, inclusive of the copyright warnings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] p101-103. Cavali-Sforza, Luigi L. (2001)

[2] p104. Levi-Strauss (1992)

[3] p595. Frazer, J (1993)

[4] Lewis-Williams and Biesele (1978); Lewis-Williams (1980)

[5] Veeramah, Krishna. R. et al (2012) “We find substantial support for a model of an early divergence of KhoeSan ancestors from a proto-Pygmy-non-Pygmy NKs group ?110 thousand years ago..”

[6] Bowler, James. M. et al (2003)

[7] People from South East Asia might have come to Australia bringing the dingo with them between 4000 to 3500 years ago (Clarke, 2003).

[8] Austronesian languages are supposed to have originated in southern China. Then, these languages spread to Taiwan through migration. p280 of Bellwood and Hiscock (2009).

[9] p347. Diamond (2005). According to p277 of Bellwood and Hiscock (2009) pigs were introduced around 1000 BC.

[10] p273. Bellwood and Hiscock (2009)

[11] Austronesian languages have only been traced back to Easter Islands.

[12] p57. Gould (1969)

[13] Havemeyer and Keller (1917) Kindle Locations 1677-1680.

[14] p275. Bellwood and Hiscock (2009)

[15] p186. Clarke (2003)

[16] Brough Smyth. (1878)

[17] in Chapter 11, Mr. Frazer’s Theory of Totemism, Lang, Andrew (1905)

[18] p246, Atran (2002)

[19] “So far, however, I have not been able to find that the Dieri have the Arunta belief in the reincarnation of the ancestor, nor have I found any trace of it in the tribes of South-east Australia” in Chapter 7, Medicine men and Magic, Howitt (1904)

[20] p235-238.  Berndt and Berndt (1988)

[21] p6. Freud (1918)

[22] “..the Euahlayi the spirits are new freshly created beings, not reincarnations of ancestral souls, as among the Arunta” in Chapter VII. Birth-Betrothal-An Aboriginal Girl from Infancy to Womanhood, Langloh Parker (1905)

[23] The south-eastern tribes …. socially less advanced than the Arunta, have not the Arunta nescience of the facts of procreation, a nescience which I regard as merely the consequence and corollary of the Arunta philosophy of reincarnation”  Andrew Lang in the introduction to  Langloh Parker (1905)

[24] Andrew Lang in the introduction to  Langloh Parker (1905)

[25] p265. Bellwood and Hiscock (2009)

[26] Bowler, James. M. et al (2003)

[27] p257.  Berndt and Berndt (1988)

[28] p180.  Berndt and Berndt (1988)

[29] However, it is accepted that counting the seclusion among initiation rites is the more appropriate treatment. Just for the topic of the present article, it was thought to view seclusion in isolation for the ease of grasping the contextual basis.

[30] p47.  Hamilton (1987). This comment is about the ceremonies of Walbiri women which previously performed along endogamous moieties had apparently changed over a period of twenty years to be performed by women related via a male.

[31] It is interesting to note that, according to Spencer and Gillen (1899), Aboriginal myths linked this practice to subincision of men. They also discussed the custom of ‘promoting the growth of the breasts’ under “MEN PAINTING THE BREASTS OF A GIRL WITH FAT AND RED OCHRE AFTER CHARMING IT — TO BE REGARDED AS A CEREMONY OF INITIATION” . Taken together these two customs of stimulating the growth of breasts and the Atna-ariltha, we can speculate that had Arunta had the required skills and had they had imagined capturing them in three-dimension, they would have symbolically represented these two features as big breasts and prominently displayed pubic triangles of Paleolithic Venuses.

[32] Chapter 12, Spencer and Gillen (1899)

[33] Langloh Parker (1905)

[34] Frazer, J. G. in The Balder the Beautiful (Seclusion of girls at puberty in Nothern Australia)

[35] Another way to restrict movement in some societies was to introduce a piece of iron which had to be carried wherever the girl went. In the past, Sri Lankan and South Indian puberty rites dictated such a practice. Another way to restrict movement is to prohibit someone to be alone (see Arachige 2010).

[36] According to p27 of Gould (1969), the Aboriginal women of Gibson Desert used to make bark sandals even in recent times.  The point considered here is that the possibility of wearing such sandals by girls at puberty could have been a practice which was later abandoned and history never recorded.

[37] Chapters 7, 8 and 9 of Spencer and Gillen (1899)

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