Monday, July 31, 2017

The Natufians and the Origins of Agriculture in the Ancient Near East

The Natufians were a people in the prehistoric Levant from c. 12,500 to 9,500 BC who developed sedentary or semi-sedentary settlements to exploit wild cereals, and experimented in the early domestication of plants. Their descendants then eventually adopted the first agriculture after the Younger Dryas (c. 10,800–9,500 BC).

It is possible that the phenomenon of “plant nurturing” (deliberate actions to increase the reproduction and spread of plants for food) was practised by Pleistocene hunter-gatherers long before agriculture proper was invented (Willcox 2012: 164).

The extent of the Natufian culture can be seen in this map:

The early Natufians went through alternating phases of settled life and more nomadic periods in the Levant as follows:
12,500–10,800 BC – Early Natufian: Natufians in more sedentary phase
10,800–c. 9,500 BC – Late Natufian: Natufians less sedentary and more mobile
from c. 10,000 BC – Natufians shift back into permanent sedentary communities.
From c. 13,000–c. 11,000 BC the Natufians lived in sedentary or semi-sedentary settlements in the Near East and harvested wild cereal plants, along with the usual hunting and gathering (Balter 2010: 404). This coincided with the Bølling-Allerød interstadial (12,700–10,700 BC), the first important warm and moist period after the end of the last glacial era. By this time, the Near East had changed from a treeless steppe during the Ice Age into a forest steppe environment with oak, olive trees, Pistacia atlantica, almond, grasses, and wild cereal vegetation.

But when the earth was plunged into the Younger Dryas (c. 10,800–9,500 BC), the climate became dryer and colder, a process which caused a crisis in the Natufian culture as they experienced a shortage of plant and animal sources of food (Balter 2010: 404).

The older theory on the origins of agriculture that had become a consensus by the late 1980s held that the pressures of the Younger Dryas (c. 10,800–9,500 BC) drove the Natufians to adopt agriculture as a survival strategy (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995; Balter 2010: 404). By the early 2010s, this hypothesis has been rejected by some archaeologists and historians, who see the Natufians of the Younger Dryas as in a transitional stage that was only moving towards agriculture (Balter 2010: 404), in which they experimented with wild plant cultivation. The skeptics think that the more mobile phase of the Late Natufian may actually have delayed full-scale agriculture (Balter 2010: 406). Maher et al. (2011) even argue that the effects of the Younger Dryas may not have been so bad as previously thought in many areas of the Near East.

It is possible that rye was already domesticated around the period 11,000–10,000 BC at the site of Abu Hureyra in modern Syria, and evidence of tilling and cultivating of wild strains of rye and einkorn exists at a near-by site of Mureybit in the same period (Zeder 2011: S224–S225).

At any rate, from 9,700 BC after the end of the Younger Dryas, the Holocene epoch of climate stability – with higher temperatures and regular rainfall – allowed the development of sustained cultivation and a reliable subsistence economy (Willcox 2012: 176–177).

During the early Holocene in the Fertile Crescent, agriculture developed in independent sites where people learned to domesticate local plants (Willcox 2012: 177). There were nine Near Eastern wild plants that were domesticated and cultivated by the early agriculturalists over hundreds of years of artificial selection: emmer wheat, barley, pea, lentil, flax, broad bean, bitter vetch, einkorn wheat and chickpea (Willcox 2012: 166–167).

Either emmer, einkorn, and pulses (and sheep, pigs, cattle, and goats) were first domesticated in the central Fertile Crescent, around the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, or the process of domestication was more decentralised and occurred in multiple places around the Fertile crescent (Zeder 2011: S230).

Hayden, Canuel and Shanse (2013) suggest that one motivation for cultivation of barley, wheat, and rye might have been to produce stable supplies of these cereals for brewing beer, not just making gruels or bread (Hayden, Canuel and Shanse 2013: 141).

It seems that the development of farming also had genetic consequences: whether farmers evolved a higher general intelligence or were less violent than foragers is unclear, but early farmers evolved gluten tolerance (Willcox 2012: 164), and may have evolved lower time preferences (or the ability to delay gratification; see Clark 2007: 186–187) in contrast to hunter gatherers.

A chronology of the Natufian and early agricultural revolution is as follows:
c. 21,000 BC – earliest known gathering of wild wheat and barley in the Near East at the Upper Paleolithic site of Ohalo II

c. 20,000 BC – the site of Ohalo II on Lake Lisan in north Israel is occupied with huts

c. 18,000–17,000 BC – deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere

c. 18,000–c. 10,900 – the Near East changes from a treeless steppe into a forest steppe vegetation of oak, olive trees, Pistacia atlantica, almond, grasses, and wild cereals

c. 18,000–c. 8,500 BC – the Epipaleolithic (or Mesolithic) period, the era after the end of the final glaciation until the Neolithic

c. 18,000–12,500 BC – Kebarian culture of the Levant; this was followed by the Natufian culture

12,700–10,700 BC – Bølling-Allerød interstadial, the first important warm and moist period at the end of the last glacial period; in certain regions, there was a cold period called the Older Dryas during the middle of the Bølling-Allerød interstadial

c. 12,500–9,500 BC – the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture:
c. 12,500–9,500 BC – the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the Levant
10,200–8,800 BC – Khiamian period
c. 9,500–c. 8,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
c. 7,600–c. 6,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
c. 6,100–c. 5,100 BC – the Halaf culture (in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq)
c. 6,500–c. 3,800 BC – the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia
c. 5,500–c. 5,000 BC – the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period in Mesopotamia
5,500–4,800 BC – the Samarra culture in northern Mesopotamia
12,000–10,000 BC – the Natufians have the first known permanent dwellings:
12,500–10,800 BC – Early Natufian, a more sedentary phase
10,800–c. 9,500 BC – Late Natufian, a less sedentary and more mobile phase
11,500–c.10,200 BC – the Natufian site of Abu Hureyra is occupied

c. 11,000–10,000 BC – rye possibly already domesticated at Abu Hureyra in modern Syria, with tilling and cultivating of wild strains of rye and einkorn at Mureybit, the earliest known domestication of crops

10,900–9,700 BC – mini ice age called the Younger Dryas causes sharp decline in temperatures over much of the northern hemisphere. Younger Dryas was triggered by vast meltwater probably from Lake Agassiz flowing into the North Atlantic, which caused disruption to thermohaline circulation

c. 10,900–9,700 BC – the Younger Dryas probably causes problems in Natufian culture from drought; Natufians abandoned settlements and became nomadic; some Natufians may have been driven to early cultivation of cereals

c. 10,000 BC – Jericho is a settlement, and before that a camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups

9,700 BC–present – the Holocene epoch

from 9,700 BC – the Holocene epoch climate stability (with higher temperatures and regular rainfall) allowed the development of sustained cultivation and a reliable subsistence economy probably in northern Syria and Jordan (where wild cereal strands were more difficult to find)

c. 9,500–c. 8,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA):
10,200–8,800 BC – Khiamian period
c. 9,500–c. 8,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
c. 7,600–c. 6,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
c. 6,100–c. 5,100 BC – the Halaf culture (in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq)
c. 6,500–c. 3,800 BC – the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia
c. 5,500–c. 5,000 BC – the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period in Mesopotamia
5,500–4,800 BC – the Samarra culture in northern Mesopotamia
c. 9,500 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic A people in the southern Levant had developed small bins and larger storage silos systems for grain at Dhra’, Gilgal I, Netiv Hagdud, and Wadi Fidan 16

c. 9,500 BC – first phase of construction of the temple complex at Göbekli Tepe

9,500–7,000 BC – Göbekli Tepe in south-east Turkey is pre-pottery Neolithic A settlement with massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected, the world’s oldest known megaliths

c. 9,000–7,000 BC – Abu Hureyra is resettled as a Pre-Pottery Neolithic A site

c. 9,000 – sedentary agriculture develops in the Near East in the Holocene:
c. 7,000 BC – agriculture in the Yangzi and Yellow River basins
7,000–4,000 – agriculture in highland New Guinea
2,500 BC – agriculture in south India
3,000–2,000 BC – agriculture in Andean South America, central Mexico and Africa
2,000–1,000 BC – north-east America
c. 8,500 BC – domesticated cereals such as einkorn, emmer, and barley imported into Cyrus; wild goats and cattle may have been brought in earlier

c. 8,300 BC – domesticated pigs present at Cafer Höyük northeast of Malatya, Turkey; pigs spread to the south Levant by 7,000–6,500 BC, and central Anatolia c. 6,500 BC

c. 8,200 BC – goats domesticated in the region from the east Taurus to the south Zagros and Iranian Plateau

c. 7,600–c. 6,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Near East; this was ended by Bond climatic event 5

c. 6,500–4,000 BC – Neolithic Anatolian farmers from northern Greece and north-western Turkey started migrate into central Europe through the Balkan route and then by the Mediterranean route to the Iberian Peninsula (see here)

c. 6,250–5,050 BC – in China, domesticated millet is farmed in northern China at Xinglonggou, Yuezhang, Dadiwan, Cishan, and several Peiligang sites

6,200 BC – Bond climatic event 5 ends Middle Eastern Neolithic B culture (see Bond event), a sudden cold period lasting 200 to 400 years causing problems to humans worldwide and migrations in search of food and water
Balter, Michael. 2010. “The Tangled Roots of Agriculture,” Science n.s. 327.5964: (January 22): 404–406.

Bar-Yosef, Ofer and Richard H. Meadow. 1995. “The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East,” in T. Douglas Price and Anne-Birgitte Gebauer (eds.), Last Hunters, First Farmers: New Perspectives on the Prehistoric Transition to Agriculture. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, NM. 39–94.

Bryce, Trevor and Jessie Birkett-Rees. 2016. Atlas of the Ancient Near East: From Prehistoric Times to the Roman Imperial Period. Routledge, London and New York.

Clark, Gregory. 2007. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Hayden, Brian, Canuel, Neil and Jennifer Shanse. 2013. “What was Brewing in the Natufian? An Archaeological Assessment of Brewing Technology in the Epipaleolithic,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20.1: 102–150.

Kuijt, Ian, Finlayson, Bill and Ofer Bar-Yosef. 2009. “Evidence for Food Storage and Predomestication Granaries 11,000 Years Ago in the Jordan Valley,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106.27: 10966–10970.

Maher, L., Banning, E., and M. Chazan. 2011. “Oasis or Mirage? Assessing the Role of Abrupt Climate Change in the Prehistory of the Southern Levant,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21: 1–29.

Maher, Lisa A., Richter, Tobias and Jay T. Stock. 2012. “The Pre-Natufian Epipaleolithic: Long-term Behavioral Trends in the Levant,” Evolutionary Anthropology 21.2: 69–81.

Rosen, Arlene M. and Isabel Rivera-Collazo. 2012. “Climate Change, Adaptive Cycles, and the Persistence of Foraging Economies during the Late Pleistocene/Holocene Transition in the Levant,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109.10 (March 6): 3640–3645.

Willcox, George. 2012. “Beginnings of Cereal Cultivation and Domestication in Southwest Asia,” in D. T. Potts (ed.), A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Wiley-Blackwell, Chicester, UK. 163–180.

Zeder, Melinda A. 2011. “The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East,” Current Anthropology 52.S4: S221–S235.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Malthus, Darwin and Evolution

Thomas Robert Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published in 1798. An influential revised edition followed in 1803, and a sixth edition in 1826. In this work, Malthus mulled over the population, social and economic trends that we now call Malthusianism.

Charles Darwin was driven to one of his most important insights into biological evolution by reading Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1838 in the sixth edition, during a terrible depression in England (Desmond and Moore 1991: 264–265; Browne 1995: 385–390). It is dramatised in this documentary:

Darwin began reading Malthus on 28 September 1838. After he finished reading it on 3 October 1838, he soon formulated the principle of natural selection (Browne 1995: 388–390). He also took inspiration from the creation of new breeds of animals by artificial selection, and from the work of Charles Lyell which emphasised the struggle of survival between species.

Darwin seems also to have taken inspiration from Adam Smith’s metaphor of the “invisible hand”: only it was the “invisible hand” of differential survival rates of individuals of the same species in nature, selected for their greater fitness given accidental genetic traits, that was the mechanism for evolution of individual species (Browne 1995: 389).

This was explicitly stated by Darwin both in his autobiography and in a letter to Alfred Russel Wallace of 1859, the relevant quotations from which are reproduced below:
(1) Darwin’s “Autobiography”:

“In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement ‘Malthus on Population,’ and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice, that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it. In June 1842 I first allowed myself the satisfaction of writing a very brief abstract of my theory in pencil in 35 pages; and this was enlarged during the summer of 1844 into one of 230 pages, which I had fairly copied out and still possess.” (Darwin 1911: 68).

(2) Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace, Down, April 6th, 1859:

“I this morning received your pleasant and friendly note of November 30th. ….

You are right, that I came to the conclusion that selection was the principle of change from the study of domesticated productions; and then, reading Malthus, I saw at once how to apply this principle. Geographical distribution and geological relations of extinct to recent inhabitants of South America first led me to the subject: especially the case of the Galapagos Islands. I hope to go to press in the early part of next month. It will be a small volume of about five hundred pages or so. I will of course send you a copy. …. .” (Darwin 1903: 118–119).
Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin: Voyaging. Volume 1 of a Biography. Pimlico, London.

Darwin, Francis (ed.). 1903. More Letters of Charles Darwin: A Record of his Work in a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Letters (vol. 1). John Murray, London.

Darwin, Francis (ed.). 1911. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, including an Autobiographical Chapter (volume 1). D. Appleton and Company, New York and London.

Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. 1991. Darwin. Penguin Books, London.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chronology of Human Evolutionary Prehistory and Early History

I have made this chronology to complement my summaries of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009).

It covers both human evolutionary prehistory and early history:
4 million years ago – emergence of the Australopithecus genus in eastern Africa

2.8–1.5 million years ago – time of Homo habilis

2.6–1.7 million years ago – Oldowan culture, the earliest stone tool archaeological industry of prehistory, in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe

2.58–0 million years ago – Quaternary period:
2,588,000–9,700 BC – the Pleistocene epoch
9,700 BC–present – Holocene epoch
2,586,000–9,700 BC – the Pleistocene era (the Ice Age), the last glacial period

2.58–0 million years ago – Quaternary period:
2.58 million years ago – the Quaternary glaciation (Pleistocene glaciation) started just a few million years ago and continues
2.58–0 million years ago – Quaternary period
2,500,000–c. 8,800 BC – Paleolithic period in Europe

1.9 million–70,000 years ago – time of Homo erectus

1.9 million years ago – Homo erectus migrated out of Africa via the Levantine corridor and Horn of Africa to Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene

1.76 million—100,000 years ago – Acheulean culture, of stone tools in Africa, West Asia, South Asia, and Europe

1.66 million years ago – China was populated by Homo erectus

c. 700,000–200,000 years ago – Homo heidelbergensis inhabited Africa, Europe and western Asia

c. 600,000–370,000 years ago – time of the steppe mammoth, which populated northern Eurasia

c.400,000–8,000 BC – time of the Woolly mammoth

300,000 years ago – Denisovans may have split from Homo heidelbergensis. See the map here

300,000–250,000 – Homo heidelbergensis evolves into Neanderthals outside Africa

c. 250,000–c. 37,000 BC – time of the Neanderthals; by c. 26,000 BC, the last group of Neanderthals disappear from southern Spain

200,000 BC
200,000 years ago – Homo sapiens first appears in East Africa

c. 158,000–38,000 BC – the Mousterian (or Mode III) culture or archaeological industry, of flint tools mainly associated with the Neanderthals, and some early humans, in Eurasia

130,000–114,000 years ago – the ice retreated during the Eemian interglacial

125,000 years ago – Homo sapiens reached the Near East, but evidence suggests they retreated back to Africa, as their settlements were replaced by Neanderthals

120,000–81,000 years ago – Skhul and Qafzeh in modern-day Israel contain evidence that Homo sapiens lived at those sites but then went back to Africa

c. 118,000–c. 88,000 BC – the time of the Abbassia Pluvial when North Africa had a wet and rainy climate, and North Africa had lush vegetation, lakes, swamps, and river systems

108,000–9,700 BC – last Ice Age

113,000–9,700 BC – the Würm glaciation, last glacial period of the Alpine region of Europe. See map here

100,000 BC

100,000–c. 50,000 years ago – dwarf Homo floresiensis (hobbits), which evolved from Homo erectus, lives on the island of Flores in Indonesia

c. 100,000 years ago – Gigantopithecus probably becomes extinct owing to the climate change in the Pleistocene era

c. 73,000 BC (± 900 years) – Lake Toba supervolcanic eruption (in Sumatra, Indonesia). This is the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations: it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make-up of the human world-wide population to the present

75,000 years ago – Homo sapiens left Africa again about across the Bab el Mandib, connecting Ethiopia and Yemen into Middle East

70,000 years ago – cold, dry low point; most of northern Europe and Canada were covered by thick ice sheets

60,000 years ago – humans settle New Guinea

60,000–50,000 BC – outside Africa, Homo sapiens lives in Near East, Greece, south Asia, New Guinea and Australia

c. 58,000 BC – most areas north of the tropics not inhabited by Homo sapiens because of the cold and difficulty of food supply

50,000 years ago – Homo sapiens in South Asia

c. 50,000–40,000 years ago – southeast Asians reach Australia; in Australia by 46,000 years ago at the latest

c. 48,000–28,000 BC – the time of the Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa, with a wet and rainy climate

c. 48,000 BC – the ancestor languages of the Dene Caucasian, Austric, Dravidian, Indo-Pacific, and Australian language families probably established in south Asia, Sunda, and Sahul (Australia-New Guinea continent)

c. 43,000–41,000 BC – Cro-Magnon Homo sapiens reached Europe from the Near East, eventually replacing the Neanderthal population by 40,000 years ago

c. 43,000–c. 38,000 BC – the Châtelperronian culture in central and south-western France and northern Spain

c. 41,000–c. 26,000 BC – the Aurignacian culture is found in Europe (probably associated with GoyetQ116 type people), the archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic; this first appears in Eastern Europe around c. 41,000 BC, and spread into Western Europe c. 38,000 and 34,000 BC, but replaced by the Gravettian culture c. 26,000 to 24,000 BC

39,000–37,000 BC – Neanderthals die out in Europe

c. 38,000 BC – humans start to settle the northern Eurasian regions

c. 38,000 BC – time of the proposed proto-language that developed into the proto-Amerind and proto-Eurasiatic languages spoken around the northeast coast of Asia; the linguist Joseph Greenberg dates this to 13,000 to 9,000 BC; this proposed proto-language might have been descended from proto-Austric or proto-Sino-Tibetan

c. 38,000 BC – earliest proposed date for the beginning of human settlement of Alaska and north America via the Bering straits

c. 38,000 BC – Paleolithic hunter-gatherers live in Japan

35,000–12,000 BC – European hunter-gatherers descend from a single ancestral population with no significant genetic inflow from other regions

c. 29,000–c. 22,000 BC – the Gravettian tool-making culture of the European Upper Paleolithic of Vestonice cluster type people; ice age glaciation seems to have wiped out Gravettian culture people c. 22,000 BC

28,000 BC – East Asia was reached by Homo sapiens

28,000–13,000 BC – last cool phase of the Ice age; humans withdraw from north Eurasia to more southerly areas

c. 27,000–18,000 BC – Last Glacial Maximum (when the ice sheets were at their greatest extension) c. 24,500 BC; deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere gradually from c. 18,000 to 17,000 BC

26,000 BC – last group of Neanderthals disappear from southern Spain

c. 22,000–13,000 BC – Mal’ta-Buret’ culture on the upper Angara River in the area west of Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia. These people were important for the genetic ancestry of Siberians, Native Americans and Bronze Age Yamnaya people. The Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) population was either the people of the Mal’ta-Buret’ culture or a closely-related population

20,000 BC
c. 20,000–15,000 BC – Solutrean industry in France and southern Spain, a flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe. See the map here

c. 18,000–17,000 BC – deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere

c. 18,000–12,500 BC – Kebarian culture of the Levant; this was followed by the Natufian culture. Some think the Kebarian culture was associated with speakers of the Proto-Nostratic language

c. 17,000 BC – as the Ice Age ended in Europe, people (of the El Miron cluster type, with admixture of GoyetQ116 and the Villabruna branch) from the southwest and Spain re-migrated and expanded over Europe. These people are associated with the Magdalenian culture

c. 16,000–c. 10,000 BC – time of Proto-Afroasiatic, with its homeland in Levant, Red Sea/Horn of Africa, or North Africa

c. 15,000–10,000 BC – the Magdalenian culture, a culture of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe

c. 14,300 BC – Homo sapiens reach North America? (c. 16,500–13,000 years ago)

c. 14,000–c. 13,000 BC – the Oldest Dryas, a cold period

before 13,000 BC – the possible date of the hypothetical Proto-Dené-Caucasian language, which gave rise to the Dené-Caucasian languages including
Vasconic languages (Aquitanian, Iberian, Tartessian?, modern Basque)
Tyrsenian (disputed) (Etruscan, Raetic, Lemnian, Camunic?)
Paleo-Sardinian languages of the Balares and Iolaei
Sicanian language of Sicily
Hurro-Urartian (Hurrian, Urartian, Kassite?)
North Caucasian languages
Sumerian (disputed)

Na-Dené (in north America, including Athabaskan, Eyak, and Tlingit languages)

Sino-Tibetan (Tibetan, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Wu, Burmese, Karen, Bodo)
This language family is probably older than the Eurasiatic family, and Dené-Caucasian spread in a first migration, and was later overrun by Eurasiatic. See the family tree here. A proposed homeland is the Sino-Tibetan homeland in south China c. 30,000 BC. Proto-Dené-Caucasian speakers might have migrated into the steppe, east and west, and to the west along the Silk Road into Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and Europe. Original connections between the East and West Dene-Caucasian groups are probably older than 10,000 years

c. 13,000 BC – spread of the proposed proto-Eurasiatic language (of Joseph Greenberg, Indo-European and its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Stanford, 2000) giving rise to the Eurasiatic language family, possibly from a refuge area in the Last Glacial Maximum, including
Uralic (or Uralic-Yukaghir)
Altaic (Mongolic, Tungusic and Turkic)
Dravidian (now largely rejected or disputed)
Kartvelian (now largely rejected or disputed)
See here. Amerind is possibly a sister language group of the Eurasiatic languages, and some scholars date proto-Eurasiatic to c. 38,000 BC and place its homeland in the north Pacific coast of Asia, with proto-Amerind; proto-Amerind then spread into America and Eurasiatic langauges into central Asia through the steppe. Proto-Eurasiatic might have descended from proto-Nilo-Saharan, proto-Afroasiatic, proto-Dravidian, proto-Dene-Caucasian, or proto-Austric. Austric may be the parent language of proto-Eurasiatic, and migrations of Eurasiatic speakers displaced earlier Dené–Caucasian languages

c. 13,000 BC – proto-Na-Dene speaking people move into Alaska from Asia

12,800 BC – Amerindians reach Patagonia in southern Chile

12,700–10,700 BC – Bølling-Allerød interstadial, the first important warm and moist period at the end of the last glacial period; in certain regions, there was a cold period called the Older Dryas during the middle of the Bølling-Allerød interstadial

12,500–9,500 BC – the Natufian culture in the Levant; harvesting of wild plants allows more free time; Natufians may have spoken a proto-Afroasiatic language, but others disagree

c. 12,180–11,780 BC – possibly a great migration to Europe from the west via Italy?; Villabruna branch ancestry people spread out; during this time after the Ice Age, there was population movement into Europe from either the Near East or the Balkans of the Villabruna Cluster people, some of whom had a genetic affinity to east Asians (Fu, Posth et al. 2016)

c. 12,100–c. 11,700 – the Older Dryas, a cold period

12,000 BC

12,000 BC onwards – Europeans are Western hunter gatherers

c. 12,000 BC – beginning of possible migration from the Near East or the Balkans of the Villabruna Cluster people into Europe

after c. 12,000 BC – a subset of European hunter-gatherers of the Villabruna branch people have some East Asian-related DNA (possible migration of Dene Caucasian speakers into Europe and the Caucasus and Anatolia?)

12,000–8,000 BC – most mammoths die out; small population of 500–1000 woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island until 1,650 BC

c. 12,000 BC – dogs probably domesticated by the Natufians in the Near East

12,000–300 BC – the hunter-gatherer Jōmon culture in Japan; some estimates put it as early as 14,500 BC

c.11,200–10,000 BC – the prehistoric Paleo-Indian Clovis culture in North America; Clovis culture ended by the Younger Dryas (10,900–9,700 BC) and associated dust storms

11,000 BC
c. 11,000–8,000 BC – the Late Glacial or Tardiglacial, the beginning of the warm period when the Northern Hemisphere warmed substantially with significant accelerated deglaciation after the Last Glacial Maximum (c. 23,000–11,000 years ago). Human beings in refuge areas started to repopulate northern Europe and Eurasia. See the map here

c. 11,000 BC – the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (now underwater plateaus south-east of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf) were glaciated during the last glacial maximum, but left exposed as the ice sheets melt

c. 11,000 BC – outflow of water from Lake Agassiz (which may have been the largest lake on Earth then) into the Arctic Ocean

11,000–9,000 BC – the Ahrensburg culture (Ahrensburgian culture), a late Upper Paleolithic nomadic hunter culture in north-central Europe during the Younger Dryas

c. 11,000–9,000 BC – Windermere interstadial in Britain, the warm phase at the end of the last glaciation preceding the Younger Dryas; perhaps it began 12,000 BC

10,900–9,700 BC – mini ice age called the Younger Dryas causes sharp decline in temperatures over much of the northern hemisphere. Younger Dryas was triggered by vast meltwater probably from Lake Agassiz flowing into the North Atlantic, which caused disruption to thermohaline circulation

c. 10,900–9,700 BC – the Younger Dryas causes severe problems in Natufian culture from drought; Natufians abandoned settlements and became nomadic; on the shores of disappearing lake Galilee, Natufians began farming; others began herding

c. 10,700 BC – extinction of the North American megafauna, including giant sloths, American lion, giant tortoises, Smilodon, dire wolves, giant beaver, giant Columbian mammoth, woolly mammoth, mastodons, American cheetah, scimitar cats (Homotherium), American camels, and American horses

10,000 BC – possible human population at 4 million
c. 10,000 BC – Jericho is a settlement, and before that a camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups

c. 10,000 BC – the Komsa culture (Komsakulturen), a Mesolithic culture of hunter-gatherers in Northern Norway, in which the Komsa people settled the Norwegian coastline as glaciation receded at the end of the last ice age (11,000 and 8000 BC); the Komsa may be proto-Saami speakers

9,700 BC–present – the Holocene epoch

after 9,700 BC – after the end of Younger Dryas, climate in Near East perfect for farming, which then spreads with combination of farming and herding

c. 9,500 BC – first phase of construction of the temple complex at Göbekli Tepe

9,000 BC

c. 8,800 – 4,900 BC – Mesolithic period in Europe

c. 8,000 BC – end of the Quaternary extinction event of the megafauna, which was a long process from the mid-Pleistocene

c. 8,000 BC – wall of Jericho constructed; domestication of goats in the Near East; domestication of dogs from wolves in Asia

8,000 BC – world population is possibly around 5,000,000

c. 8,000–7,000 BC – the hypothetical Austric proto-langauge is spoken in the Burma-Yunnan frontier. The proposed Austric macrofamily has two subgroups:
(1) Hmong-Mien and

(2) a proto-langauge that gave rise to
(i) Austroasiatic and
(ii) Austro-Tai including Austronesian and Tai-Kadai (e.g., Thai and Lao; see map here).
See here.

c. 7,600–c. 6,000 BC – Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Near East; this was ended by Bond climatic event 5

c. 7,500 BC – Mesolithic hunter-gatherers reach Ireland

c. 7,500–3,500/3000 BC – Neolithic Subpluvial (Holocene Wet Phase), a period of wet and rainy conditions in the climatic history of northern Africa

c. 7,200 BC – Çayönü, a Neolithic settlement in southeastern Turkey, is the site where emmer wheat is first cultivated, and where the first domestic cattle and pigs are domesticated

7,000 BC
c. 7,000–2,000 BC – time of the Proto-Uralic language, ancestral to the Uralic language family; the Proto-Uralic homeland may have been around the Kama River, close to the Great Volga Bend and the Ural Mountains; Proto-Uralic language diverged into Proto-Samoyedic and Proto-Finno-Ugric:
(1) Finno-Ugric
(i) Finnic
Baltic Finnic
Sami (Lapp languages)
(ii) Ugric
Ob Ugric
(2) Samoyedic
c. 7,000 BC – farming spreads into Elam

7,000–3,000 / c. 1,700 BC – Neolithic Europe; 7,000–3,000 BC in southeast Europe; c. 4,500–1,700 BC in northwest Europe

c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC – Neolithic Anatolian farmers from northern Greece and north-western Turkey started migrating into central Europe through the Balkan route and then by the Mediterranean route to the Iberian Peninsula (see here)

c. 6,500–3,800 BC – Ubaid period, a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia
c. 5,300 and 4,300 BC – Ubaid period in North Mesopotamia
c. 6,500 BC – first known settlement in southern Mesopotamia established at Eridu by farmers with the Hadji Muhammed culture, which was derived from the Samarran culture of north Mesopotamia; the archaeological history of Sumer:
6,500–4,100 BC – Ubaid period (Neolithic to Chalcolithic pottery)
4,100–2,900 BC – Uruk period (Late Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age I)
4,100–3,300 BC – Uruk XIV–V
3,300–3,100 BC – Uruk IV period
3,100–2,900 BC – Jemdet Nasr period (Uruk III)
2,900–2,800 BC – Early Dynastic I period
2,800–2,600 BC – Early Dynastic II period
2,600–2,500 BC – Early Dynastic IIIa period
c. 2,500–2,334 BC – Early Dynastic IIIb period
c. 2,334–2,218 BC – Akkadian Empire period
c. 2,218–2,047 BC – Gutian period
c. 2047–1940 BC – Ur III period
c. 6,400 BC – the Black Sea, until this time a fresh water lake, is connected to the Mediterranean Sea, perhaps in a flood

6,250–5,050 BC – in China, domesticated millet is farmed in northern China at Xinglonggou, Yuezhang, Dadiwan, Cishan, and several Peiligang sites

6,200 BC – Bond climatic event 5 ends Middle Eastern Neolithic B culture (see Bond event), a sudden cold period lasting 200 to 400 years causing problems to humans worldwide and migrations in search of food and water

c. 6,100 BC – the Storegga Slide

c. 6,100 BC – Britain gradually becomes an island after a tsunami from the underwater Storegga Slide and the later bursting of Lake Agassiz (which flooded the oceans and caused sea levels to rise in the space of two years) permanently floods Doggerland (Dogger Bank, an upland area of Doggerland, is believed to have remained as an island until at least 5000 BC)

6,000–5,000 BC – the time of the Proto-Altaic language with its homeland in Central Asian steppes. The Altaic languages:
6,000 BC – the Copper Age begins in the Fertile Crescent; the Torres Strait (separating Australia from New Guinea) is formed as sea levels rise

c. 6,000 BC – the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (underwater plateaus south-east of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf) are submerged by rising sea levels

6,000 BC

c. 6,000 BC – the ancestors of the Austronesians migrate from South China to Taiwan

5,700–4,500 BC – time of the Vinča culture (the Turdaș culture or Turdaș-Vinča culture), a Neolithic archaeological culture in Central Europe and Southeastern Europe, of Old Europe

c. 5,500–4,800 BC – Samarra culture in Mesopotamia

c. 5,500 BC – agriculture spreads throughout ancient Egypt

5,500 BC – copper technology (e.g., a copper axe) used in Serbia

5,000 BC

c. 5,000 BC – speakers of pre-proto-Indo-European migrate into the regions north of the Black Sea from central Asia

5,000–3,500 BC – Danube Valley civilization (or Vinča culture)

5,000–4,000 BC – the Sahara in its wet phase may have been home to the proto-Semitic speakers

4,300–3,300 BC – Chalcolithic age in the Near East

4,000 BC – possible human population at 7 million

c. 4,000–3,000 BC – beginning of migrations of the Austronesian-speaking people from Taiwan to the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia and the Pacific islands (see map here).

c. 4,000 BC – the Proto-Sino-Tibetan language still undifferentiated; the Proto-Sino-Tibetan homeland was possibly around the sources of the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Salween, and Irrawaddy rivers

4,000–3,000 BC – time of the Proto-Dravidian language in India; some scholars think that Dravidian and the ancient Elamite language form the Elamo-Dravidian language family

4,000–2,000 BC – possible date of the Proto-Kartvelian language, which was spoken in the western and central areas of the Lesser Caucasus

c. 4,000–3,100 BC – the Uruk period in Mesopotamia

c. 3,900 BC – 5.9 kiloyear event (Bond event 4), which intense aridification of various regions

c. 3,900 BC – the Sahara becomes a desert during Bond event 4 or the 5.9 kiloyear event. A severe drought occurs ending the Ubaid period and a migration of people from the Sahara in search of food and water to Egypt

c. 3,800–3,500 BC – possible emergence of Proto-Semitic language group

c. 3,800–c. 3,350 BC – the Middle Chalcolithic Ghassulian culture in the Southern Levant

3,700–3,600 BC – Minoan culture emerges in Crete

3,500–1,700 BC – Chalcolithic Europe (Copper Age) period of prehistoric Europe

3,500–2,340 BC – cities develop in Sumeria

3,500–2,300 BC – Yamna (or Pit Grave Culture) culture of Indo-European-speakers in the Pontic-Caspian, a late Copper Age/early Bronze Age culture; followed by north: Corded Ware culture (c. 2,900–2,350 BC); west: Catacomb culture (c. 2800–2200 BC); east: Poltavka culture (2,700–2,100 BC), Srubna culture

c. 3,500 BC – the Sahara becomes a desert and Proto-Semites may have emigrated into the Nile Delta and Palestine; the collapse of the Ghassulian culture in Palestine c. 3,300 BC may have been caused by this migration

c. 3,400—c. 2,000 BC – the Kura–Araxes culture (or early trans-Caucasian culture) spread from the Ararat plain north into the Caucasus by 3,000 BC, and then south Caucasus, northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and Syria; these people were ancestors of Hurrian, Urartian and Northeast Caucasian language speakers; (see map here); most probably home of proto-Hurro-Urartian, which developed into Hurrian, Urartian and possibly the Kassite language. See the map here. Also dated to 3,500 to 2,450 BC

c. 3,300–1,200 BC – Bronze Age in Near East

3,300–2,800 BC – Early Harappan Ravi Phase of the Indus Valley civilisation

c. 3,300 BC – Ötzi the Iceman dies (on border of modern Austria and Italy); his body discovered in 1991 in a glacier of the Ötztal Alps

3,300–2,500 BC – Afanasevo culture in the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains

c. 3,200–600 BC – Bronze Age in Europe

c. 3,200–c. 2,000 BC – Cycladic culture, an Early Bronze Age culture of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea

c. 3,100–1,900 BC – Corded Ware culture in central and eastern Europe

c. 3,100 BC – Narmer Palette

c. 3,100 BC – earliest phase of Stonehenge

3,100–2,600 BC – time of the archaic Sumerian language

3,000–2,000 BC – Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people swept into Europe from the Russian steppe

c. 3,000 BC – Akkadians migrate into northern Babylonia?

3,000 BC – possible human population at 14 million

c. 3,000–1,000 BC – common Proto-Balto-Slavic language in eastern Poland, Russia and the Ukraine

2,900–2,350 BC – Early Dynastic period in Mesopotamia (Middle Chronology; 2800–2230 BC under Short Chronology)

c. 2,700—2,100 BC – the Poltavka culture, a middle Bronze Age culture of the middle Volga near Don-Volga canal into north of present Kazakhstan; Proto-Indo-Iranian speakers

c. 2,686–c. 2,181 BC – Old Kingdom of Egypt

c. 2,667–2,648 BC – step pyramid of Djoser

c.2,600 BC – large urban centres appear in the Indus Valley civilisation at Harappa, Ganeriwala, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Rupar, and Lothal; c. 1,052 cities and settlements develop

2,600–1,900 BC – height of the Indus Valley civilisation

2,400–2,000/1,700 BC – Indo-Europeans speakers arrive in Greece bringing with them the Proto-Greek language that would evolve into Mycenaean Greek and then the later Greek dialects of Classical Greece

2,340–2,316 BC – reign of Lugalzagesi (Lugalzaggesi; c. 2,294–2,270 BC under short chronology); the last Sumerian king who began his rule from Umma, and who conquered Sumer as king of the third dynasty of Uruk; he conquered Kish, Lagash, Ur, Nippur, Larsa, and Uruk. He made Uruk his new capital (see the map here)

c. 2,340–c. 2,284 BC – Sargon of Akkad, first ruler of the Akkadian empire

2,350–2,170 BC – Akkadian empire (Middle Chronology; 2230–2050 BC under Short Chronology)

c. 2,300 BC – the Hattians are attested in Anatolia in the Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of Sargon of Akkad; the Hattians may be descendants of Anatolian farmers

c. 2,266–c. 1,761 BC – Third Kingdom of Mari

2,200 BC – the Bond Event 3 (or 4.2 kiloyear event) causes the collapse of the Egyptian Old Kingdom and the Akkadian Empire

c. 2,181–c. 2,055 BC – First Intermediate Period of Egypt

c. 2,150 BC – invasion of Mesopotamia by the Guti?; defeat of Ur-Utu of Uruk

c. 2,115 BC – conquest of Akkad by the Guti?

c. 2,154 BC–c.2,112 BC – Gutian dynasty of Sumer (Middle Chronology)

2,112–2,004 BC – Third Dynasty of Ur (Middle Chronology; 2055–1940 BC under Short Chronology)

2,100–1,800 BC – the Sintashta culture of Indo-European proto-Indo-Iranian speakers, a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the north Eurasian steppe; the earliest known chariots found in Sintashta burials (see map here)

2,100–1,800 BC – Amorite migration into Mesopotamia

c. 2,100–1,700 BC – time of the use of Cretan hieroglyphic on Crete

c. 2,055–c. 1,650 BC – Middle Kingdom of Egypt

2,025–1,378 BC – Old Assyrian Empire

before c. 2,000 BC – migration of Hittites into Anatolia, either from Balkans or the Caspian Sea, possibly from 3,000 to 2,000 BC. Some scholars put the arrival as early as c.4,000 BC. For Sturtevant’s Indo-Hittite hypothesis (1926) which places the split of Indo-Hittite from Pre-Proto-Indo-European language as early as 7,000 BC, see here. For another view, see here

2,000 BC – possible human population at 27 million

c. 2,000–900 BC – the Andronovo culture, a Bronze Age culture in western Siberia and the west Asiatic steppe; the culture of the Indo-Iranians; Andronovo culture gave rise to the Saka (Scythians), Sarmatians and Alans.

c. 2,000 BC – Stonehenge completed

c. 2,000–700 BC – Bronze Age in China

c. 2,000 BC – early Proto-German develops in northern Germany and in southern Scandinavia

c. 2,000 BC – last woolly mammoths go extinct on Wrangel island, an island in the Arctic Ocean

c. 1,900 BC – Minoan Old Palace (or Protopalatial) period begins in Crete

1,894–1,595 BC – the Amorite Dynasty of Babylon

c. 1,830 BC – Mari becomes the seat of the Amorite Lim dynasty under king Yaggid-Lim

c. 1,809–c. 1,776 BC – Shamshi-Adad I, an Amorite king of the Old Assyrian Empire, conquers a large area in north Mesopotamia

1,800–1,300 BC – Troy VI archaeological period

1,800–1,600 BC – the Indo-European speakers of India split off from Indo-Iranian language

c. 1,800–1,450 BC – period of use of Linear A script on Crete for the Minoan language, which was also used on the Aegean islands (Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera) and Greek mainland (Laconia)

c. 1,795 BC – Shamshi-Adad I occupied Mari

c. 1,792–1,750 BC – rule of Hammurabi in Babylonia (middle chronology)

1,700–1,600 BC – height of the Minoan civilization

c. 1,732–1,460 BC – Sealand Dynasty in southern Mesopotamia

c. 1,650–1,550 BC – Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

c. 1,650 BC – Hyksos conquest of Memphis and the collapse of the 13th Dynasty of Egypt

c. 1,642–c. 1,540 BC – Minoan eruption of Thera (Santorini eruption)

c. 1,600–after c. 1,180 BC – Hittite empire

c. 1,600–1,100 BC – Mycenaean Greece

1,595 BC – Hittites sack Babylon and end Old Babylonian Kingdom

1,595–1,155 BC – Kassite Dynasty of Babylon

c. 1,550 BC – Ahmose I (ruled c. 1,539–1,514 BC) expelled the Hyksos and their last king Khamudi from Egypt

c. 1,550–c. 1,077 BC – New Kingdom of Egypt

c. 1,500 BC – migration of Indo-Iranians into Iran and northern Mesopotamia who become the elite of the Mitanni kingdom

c. 1,500 BC – migration of Indo-European speakers into northern India (Vedic people)

c. 1,500–1,300 BC – kingdom of the Mitanni, a Hurrian-speaking state in north Syria and southeast Anatolia, ruled by a Indo-Iranian elite (see map)

c. 1,490 BC – Mycenaean conquest of the Minoans

1,450 BC – the oldest Mycenaean writing, derived from the older Linear A, which remains the undeciphered earlier script of the Minoan language

c. 1,450–1,200 BC – period of the use of Linear B script for Mycenaean Greek, found in Crete (Knossos) and mainland Greece (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns)

1,392–934 BC – Middle Assyrian Empire

c. 1,340–1,100 BC – Minoan Warm Period

c. 1,300–c. 750 BC – Urnfield culture, late Bronze Age culture of central Europe, within which was the Proto-Italo-Celtic homeland

1,279–1,213 BC – reign of Ramesses II

1,277 BC – an attack of the Sherden (or Shardana) on the Nile Delta repulsed and defeated by Ramesses II

c. 1,258 BC – the Treaty of Kadesh between the Hittite ruler Hattusili III and Rameses II

1,250 BC – Troy VI probably destroyed by an earthquake

c. 1,207–1,178 BC – the reign of Suppiluliuma II (the son of Tudhaliya IV), the last known king of the New Kingdom of the Hittite Empire (on short chronology)

1,200–c. 900 BC – the Proto-Villanovan culture in Italy (either early Etruscan or proto-Italic); possibly two waves of Tyrsenian-speakers came to Italy from north-west Anatolia c.1,100 BC and 900 BC; and c. 800 BC to Lemnos

c. 1,184 BC – Troy VIIa destroyed by war: there is evidence of fire and slaughter, which brought Troy VIIa to an end

c. 1,180 BC – the Hittite capital Hattusa burnt to the ground after invasions by the Kaskans, Phrygians and Bryges

c. 1,178 BC – invasion of Sea peoples during the battle of Djahy, between the forces of Ramesses III, fought in Djahy or modern day southern Lebanon

c. 1,155–1,025 BC – Dynasty IV of Babylon (from Isin)

c.1,150 – final destruction of citadel of Mycenae

c. 1,126–1,103 BC – reign of Nebuchadnezzar I

c. 1,100 BC – great Bronze Age civilizations collapse, probably by a severe drought; end of the Minoan Warm Period

c.1,100–1,000 – gradual invasion or migration of Dorians into mainland Greece (perhaps from c.1,000–900)

c. 1,069–c. 664 BC – Third Intermediate Period of Egypt
1069–945 BC – the 21th Dynasty of Egypt (ruled from Tanis)
945–720 BC – the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt (originally ruled from Bubastis), Meshwesh Libyans
837–728 BC – the 23rd Dynasty of Egypt, Meshwesh Libyan kings in Upper Egypt
732–720 BC – the 24th Dynasty of Egypt (ruled from Sais)
760–656 BC – the 25th Dynasty of Egypt (or the Nubian Dynasty or Kushite Empire)
c. 1,050–950 BC – migration of Ionians to the islands and west Anatolia

1,006–965 BC – traditional date of David, king of the ancient Israelites

1,000 BC

1,000–750 BC – the Dark Age in Greece

c. 1000 BC – proto-Thracians in the Balkans from which Dacians and Thracians develop

c. 950–900 BC – migration of Arameans and Suteans into Babylonia; in the late 10th or early 9th century BC the Chaldeans followed

965–925 BC – traditional date of Solomon, king of the ancient Israelites

945–720 BC – the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt (the Bubastite Dynasty), which originally ruled from the city of Bubastis

911–612 BC – the Neo-Assyrian Empire:
Kings of Assyria
911–891 BC – Adad-nirari II
891–884 BC – Tukulti-Ninurta II
883–859 BC – Ashurnasirpal II
859–824 BC – Shalmaneser III
824–811 BC – Shamshi-Adad V
811– 808 BC – Shammurāmat (or Sammuramat), regent
811–783 BC – Adad-nirari III
783–773 BC – Shalmaneser IV
772–755 BC – Ashur-dan III
755–745 BC – Ashur-nirari V
745–727 BC – Tiglath-Pileser III
727–722 BC – Shalmaneser V
722–705 BC – Sargon II
705–681 BC – Sennacherib
681–669 BC – Esarhaddon
668–c. 627 BC – Ashurbanipal
c. 631–c. 627 BC – Ashur-etil-ilani
626 BC – Sin-shumu-lishir
c. 627 – 612 BC – Sinsharishkun
612–c. 609 BC – Ashur-uballit II (ruled from the city of Harran)
900 BC

c. 900–700 BC – time of the Villanovan culture proper (Villanovan II), which developed to Etruscan culture

c. 900–800 BC – Scythians (Eastern Iranian speakers) migrate into southern Russia

860–590 BC – the era of the kingdom of Urartu (or Kingdom of Ararat or Van), an Iron Age kingdom situated on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. See map

859–824 BC – reign of Shalmaneser III

850 BC – the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III conquers Babylon and makes it king subject to Assyria

837–728 BC – the 23rd Dynasty of Egypt, of Meshwesh Libyan kings, who ruled Upper Egypt at the same time as the 22nd Dynasty

811–808 BC – Shammurāmat (or Sammuramat) is regent of Assyria for her son Adad-nirari III; she becomes the legendary queen Semiramis in Greek myth

800 BC
c. 800 BC – possible migration of Tyrsenian-speakers from north-west Anatolia to Lemnos (with the Lemnian language)

800–500 BC – Tyrsenian culture on Lemnos

c. 800–c. 500 BC – Hallstatt culture in Western and Central Europe, within which was the Proto-Celtic homeland

c. 800 BC – Iranian speakers who became the Medes and Persians migrate into Iran?

776 BC – traditional date of the first Olympic Games

760–656 BC – the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty of Egypt (or the Nubian Dynasty or the Kushite Empire), the last dynasty of the Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt

760–740 BC – time of Eumelus of Corinth, a semi-legendary early Greek poet, who supposedly wrote the Titanomachy, Corinthiaca, Europia (Bougonia), and Return from Troy

750–650 BC – time of Hesiod, author of Works and Days, Theogony, and Shield of Heracles

750–480 BC – the Archaic Period in Greece

750–700 BC – Homeric poems the Iliad and Odyssey written down

747–721 BC – rule of Piye, the Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty of Egypt who ruled from Napata in Nubia

743–724 BC – the First Messenian War between Messenia and Sparta

738 BC – Tiglath-Pileser III occupies Philistia and invaded Israel

732 BC – Assyria takes the Aramean state of Damascus, deporting many of its inhabitants

c. 728 – the Kushite Nubian ruler Piye invades Upper and Lower Egypt

727 BC – Babylonia becomes independent of Assyria

722 BC – Shalmaneser V dies during the siege of Samaria; Sargon II takes Samaria, ending the northern Kingdom of Israel and deporting 27,000 people into captivity

716–678 BC – rule of Gyges, founder of the Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings

c. 714 BC – the Cimmerians (from the Pontic steppe) attacked Urartu

c. 710–650 BC – the Lelantine War, the war between Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea over the control of the fertile Lelantine Plain on the island of Euboea; many other city states join in

705 BC – the Cimmerians defeated by Assyrian forces under Sargon II; the Cimmerians conquered Phrygia in 696/5

700 BC

c. 700 BC – dating of Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony

687 BC – office of archon is established in Athens

685–668 BC – the Second Messenian War between Messenia and Sparta, after a helot slave rebellion

679 BC – Cimmerians and Scythians cross the Taurus Mountains and attack Assyrian colonies in Cilicia

677 BC – Esarhaddon sacks Sidon

673 BC – Esarhaddon raids Egypt

671 BC – Assyrian invasion of Egypt by Esarhaddon; Esarhaddon drives Pharaoh Taharqa back to Nubia

664–610 BC – rule of Psamtik I (Psammeticus), the first of Saite or Twenty-Sixth Dynasty of Egypt

663 BC – Assyrian invasion of Egypt; sack of Thebes

654 or 652 – Gyges of Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians; the Cimmerians sack Sardis, and plunder Ionian colonies

645–560 BC – Sparta fights wars with Tegea

644 – the Cimmerians occupy Sardis

632 BC – the Athenian aristocrat Cylon invades Attica from Megara

626–539 BC – Neo-Babylonian empire

626 – accession of Nabopolassar
626–605 – Nabopolassar
605–562 – Nebuchadnezzar II
562–560 – Amel-Marduk
560–556 – Nergal-shar-usur
556 – Labashi-Marduk
556–539 – Nabonidus
c. 619 BC – the Cimmerians are defeated by Alyattes of Lydia

612 BC – alliance of Medes, Babylonians and Susianians conquer the Assyrian capital Nineveh

610–595 BC – the reign of Necho II, a Pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty

609 BC – battle of Carchemish

c. 609 BC – Necho II (610–595) constructs a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea; he also founds Tell el-Maskhuta

c. 605–c. 562 BC – reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire

600 BC

590–580 BC – the reforms of Solon (c. 638–c.558 BC) in ancient Athens

559–530 BC – reign of Cyrus the Great:
559–530 – Cyrus the Great
530–522 – Cambyses
522 – Bardiya (Gaumata)
522–486 – Darius I
485–465 – Xerxes I
465–424 – Artaxerxes I
424 – Xerxes II
424–423 – Sogdianus
424–404 – Darius II
404–358 – Artaxerxes II
358–338 – Artaxerxes III
338–336 – Artaxerxes IV
336–330 – Darius III
546–528/27 BC – the tyrant Peisistratos controlled Athens

539 BC – Babylon conquered by Cyrus the Great

528/27 BC–514 BC – rule of the tyrant Hipparchus (528/27 BC–514 BC) and Hippias (528/27 BC–511/10 BC) in Athens

September 522–October 486 – reign of Darius I

514 BC – assassination of the Athenain tyrant Hipparchus

511/10 BC – the tyrant Hippias from Athens expelled by the Spartans

507–501 BC – Cleisthenes takes power and reforms Athenian democracy

500 BC
October 486–August 465 – reign of Xerxes I

480–322 BC – the Greek Classical Period

480–479 BC – the Persian invasion of Greece
Copper Age
c. 3,500–1,700 BC – Chalcolithic Europe (Copper Age)
4,300–3,300 BC – Chalcolithic age in the Near East

Bronze Age
c. 3,300–1,200 BC – Bronze Age in Near East
c. 3,200–600 BC – Bronze Age in Europe
c. 3,000–1200 BC – Bronze Age in South Asia

Iron Age
1,200 BC–500 BC – Iron Age in Ancient Near East
1,200 BC–1 BC – Iron Age in Europe
1,200 BC–200 BC – Iron Age in India
600 BC–200 BC – Iron Age in China

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, Chapter 1: A Summary

Chapter 1 of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (2007) is called “The Sixteen-Page Economic History of the World,” which briefly summaries the broad, long-run economic history of humanity.

Gregory Clark contends that the most important long-run, historical reality of world history can be summed up in two ideas:
(1) from the earliest times of hunter-gatherers until roughly 1800 humanity was stuck in a long-run Malthusian trap: per capita wealth may have varied somewhat in different times and places, but there was no sustained, great upward trend in global per capita wealth. While some societies managed short-run economic growth even in per capita terms (and here the phrase “short-run” might mean as long as a century or so), nevertheless, in the long run, advances in per capita wealth by means of technological or other advantages were inevitably lost because of population growth.

(2) after 1800 the power of Western science, technology and the Industrial Revolution ended the Malthusian trap for Europeans and most of their colonial societies, and for much of humanity (Clark 2007: 1), though the Malthusian trap persists in some places.
The “broad-brush” economic history of the world, in the two ideas above, can be seen in this graph (which can be opened in a new window):

Clark (2007: 2) argues that, for the average person in 1800 (even in a place like Britain), life was not much better than in Stone Age hunter gatherer societies, a claim I find a bit absurd and exaggerated.

Nevertheless, the broad points about the historically important limitations of the Malthusian trap through much of history seem sound.

Clark (2007: 3) contends that, even today, in much of sub-Saharan Africa, the introduction of Western technology has not allowed all societies there to escape the Malthusian trap because of excessive population growth. Paradoxically, the Industrial Revolution has created a Great Divergence between the richest, industrialised nations and the poorest nations of the Third World (Clark 2007: 3).

Clark’s A Farewell to Alms seeks to answer three questions:
(1) Why did humanity remain trapped in a Malthusian world for so long?;

(2) Why did the first escape from the Malthusian trap happen in England? (and spreading to other countries in Europe);

(3) Why did the Great Divergence happen and persist? (Clark 2007: 3).
Humanity was trapped in a Malthusian world before 1800 because the rate of technological innovation was too low: perhaps the pre-1800, average rate of technological advancement was considerably below 0.05% per year (Clark 2007: 5).

Paradoxically – in a pre-modern world subject to Malthusianism – prosperous periods of peace, order, stability, public health, welfare to the poor, and economic growth stimulated the population growth that ultimately impoverished those societies and reduced per capita wealth (Clark 2007: 5). Hence fertility control was a major driver of improved material prosperity in pre-industrial societies (Clark 2007: 5).

Clark points to an important principle that is also stressed by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: humanity was still subject to Darwinian evolution by natural selection in the Malthusian era, and even after the development of old agrarian societies after the Neolithic Revolution from 10,000 BC (Clark 2007: 6).

As an aside, it is very interesting that Charles Darwin was driven to one of his most important insights into biological evolution by reading Thomas Robert Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population (first published in 1798; revised 2nd edn. 1803; 6th edn. 1826) in 1838 in the sixth edition (Desmond and Moore 1991: 264–265), during a terrible depression in England:

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) read Malthus while in the Spice Islands in 1858 – and made the same deduction as Darwin, and in the process developing a theory of evolution too (Desmond and Moore 1991: 468).

Darwin and Wallace discovered evolution by natural selection not long before the horrors of the Malthusian world were finally ending for the European peoples.

And this leads us directly to Clark’s thought-provoking hypothesis about the possible evolution that people in England experienced from 1250–1800:
(1) because of wealth inequality and the emergence of a rich productive middle class, economic success in England translated into powerful reproductive success;

(2) since in England the richest families generally had twice as many surviving children as the poorest families, the poor in Malthusian England gradually died out through differential birth and survival rates (a simple foundational principle of evolution);

(3) pre-industrial England was therefore a society of constant downward mobility, in the sense that the children of the elite and wealthier classes, on average, moved downwards in the social hierarchy in order to live and find work (Clark 2007: 7).
So therefore the general genetic traits of the wealthier classes in England – plausibly likely to be higher intelligence, patience, hard work, innovativeness, and low time preference – were thus spreading genetically throughout the population for centuries as a pre-condition for the Industrial Revolution (Clark 2007: 8).

The same type of genetic changes may well have happened in other mercantile, commercial societies where the success of people with given biological traits led to long-run reproductive advantage and general evolutionary change.

As the Industrial Revolution – with its application of major technological advances to production – transformed European societies, fertility declined. This can be seen in the graph below:

As we can see, there was a sharp fall in the fertility rate throughout the West from the 1870s, but this accelerated the declines that were already underway after about 1800. Shockingly, some nations like Britain and Germany even had sub-replacement fertility rates below the magic rate of 2.1 even by the 1920s/1930s.

As Clark points out, it was not just the rapid and historically unparalleled economic growth that broke the Malthusian trap for Europeans, the falling fertility rate also was a major factor in the rising real per capita GDP and wealth of the West (Clark 2007: 8).

Clark also argues that the explanation for the emergence of the Industrial Revolution in England requires a complex set of factors in the long-run from 1250–1860 (Clark 2007: 10).

Crucially, Clark even argues that the whole economic history of humanity must be set within possible differential evolution of human beings in different societies, not only in terms of culture, but also under different selective pressures. Above all, Old Agricultural Societies may have produced people with different genetic and behavioural traits from other peoples (Clark 2007: 10).

Why did an Industrial Revolution occur in England in the time it happened, and not in China or Japan? Whether natural resource advantages in coal, or colonies, or cultural changes of the Protestant Reformation contributed, Clark thinks that evolutionary change brought about by demographic trends in England, both in culture and possibly genetics, created a people who were also a fundamental condition for the Industrial Revolution (Clark 2007: 11).

Finally, Clark turns to the Great Divergence and the persistence of failed economic growth in parts of the Third World, and thinks that failure to adapt to the cultural values and institutions of the industrialised societies are major factors. Here the discussion suffers from Clark’s ignorance of left heterodox and Post Keynesian economics.

Clark, Gregory. 2007. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. 1991. Darwin. Penguin Books, London.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Conclusion: A Summary

The conclusion of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) sums up the major hypotheses of the book as follows:
(1) genetic change and evolution have been preconditions for cultural change (one clear example being the expansion of hominid brains that led to speech and advanced tool making), even though cultural change is powerful and can be an independent force;

(2) genetic evolution and cultural evolution can also be inter-dependent, and influence one another in feedback loops;

(3) about 40,000 years ago human beings experienced a creative revolution during the Upper Paleolithic period in both Europe and northern Asia, which was driven by underlying biological and cognitive changes in Homo sapiens outside of Africa through new genes acquired by interbreeding with Neanderthals and possibly other archaic humans (e.g., the Denisovans);

(4) agriculture caused a 10,000 year explosion: it resulted in the acceleration of both cultural and biological evolution from much larger populations with a higher rate of mutation, in the new environments created by agriculture. Farmers evolved to be significantly different from hunter gatherers both in metabolism and cognition.

(5) evolution has continued until the present, because our environments have generally not been stable or static;

(6) biological and evolutionary change in human beings has also been a neglected but crucial driving force of human history, e.g., the epic expansion of the Indo-Europeans owing to their mutation allowing lactose tolerance into adulthood, the European settlement of the Americas, the failure of Europeans to penetrate Africa until the 1880s, and the evolution of the Ashkenazim in Europe (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 225–227).
Cochran and Harpending (2009: 207) conclude by speculating that perhaps even the industrial revolution and the rise of science have underlying biological or evolutionary influences not yet understood.

To sum up, we can also review how genetic/genotypic and hence phenotypic change can be driven in human societies, in accordance with standard principles of Darwinian evolution:
(1) direct adaptation, in which selection acts on individuals with (i) pre-existing individual genetic variation owing to sexual reproduction or (ii) with mutations;

(2) exaptation (some prior adaptation then “re-designed” to solve a different adaptive problem);

(3) as a by-product (or spandrel);

(4) sexual selection;

(5) genetic drift;

(6) genetic change caused by Malthusianism or differential survival rates, or elite reproductive advantage;

(7) genetic change induced by the policies and practices of governments and state-societies;

(8) genetic change induced by founder effects;

(9) unique genetic change induced by extraordinary events (e.g., plague, genocide, an ethnic minority subject to persecution), which might cause bottleneck effects, founder effects, etc.

(10) higher-level group evolutionary changes might be driven by inter-group competition and differences in group fitness (e.g., an analogy from the animal kingdom is evolutionary arms races).
Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 7: A Summary

Chapter 7 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “Medieval Evolution: How the Ashkenazi Jews got their Smarts,” and looks at the evolution of the Ashkenazi minority within Europe over the past 1,500 years.

The chapter is based in part on earlier work in Cochran, Hardy and Harpending (2006).

The Ashkenazim were a Diaspora Jewish community that was first based in northern France and Germany in the 8th–9th centuries AD, but were descended from a Diaspora community in southern Europe during the Roman empire in which a significant number of the men of the founder population took European wives (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 204–205; Costa et al. 2013).

The Ashkenazim were therefore, by origin, a cline (admixture) of Middle East Jews and some European women. This is still evident today in modern Ashkenazim, who have about 40% European DNA (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 204). However, after the early founder admixture, the Ashkenazim became highly endogamous (that is, marrying only within their group) and genetically isolated (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 205, 219).

From the later Middle Ages the Ashkenazim began moving into Eastern Europe and Russia, and modern Ashkenazim are present in America, Israel and Europe.

The Ashkenazim have an average IQ that lies somewhere in the 107–115 range, the highest average IQ of any ethnic group in the world. The average IQ of Europeans, by contrast, is 100.

In the modern world, the Ashkenazim are significantly overrepresented in certain higher professions requiring a high IQ, such as the natural and social sciences (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 188–190). In particular, while the Ashkenazim are less than 0.2% of the world population, they are about 22% of Nobel laureates (though most are men, as you can easily see here).

Cochran and Harpending argue that this high average IQ was driven by genetic changes in the Ashkenazim over about a thousand years while living as a persecuted minority in Europe.

In essence, their thesis is as follows:
(1) because of vicious and terrible Christian persecution, the ban on usury between Christians and their exclusion from Christian societies, the Ashkenazim were driven into certain professions, such as being merchants, bankers and financiers for much of the Middle Ages, and in Eastern Europe also tax-farmers, toll-farmers, and estate managers and other middle-men for Christian rulers. These professions or trades require a high IQ, and especially a high verbal and mathematical IQ;

(2) the most successful Ashkenazim in their trades tended to have more children who survived to adulthood, because they were affluent, and so they had a greater reproductive fitness than other, less successful members of their own community;

(3) because of the very high rates of endogamy (marrying only within the group), the differential success and higher birth rates of the most successful Ashkenazim, over time, led to a kind of elite reproductive advantage with genetic effects on the general population, which gradually raised the average IQ of the Ashkenazim as a group (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 191–220, 222–223).
The high average Ashkenazi IQ is therefore largely genetic, and the product of an unusual evolution over the past 1,000 years or so. Further evidence in favour of this is that – in Israel with its First World economic development, education and health care system – the Ashkenazim continue to have an average IQ higher than both Sephardic and Oriental Jewish groups, who have had a different evolutionary history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 212–213).

The by-product of the evolution of high Ashkenazi IQ was probably a number of unusual genetic diseases in the Ashkenazim, such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease, familial dysautonomia, and two forms of hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2). These diseases are about 100 times more common in Ashkenazim than in European populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 188), and they are characterised by affecting two specific metabolic pathways, the first of which is probably related to the central nervous system and neuron development, namely, sphingolipid storage disorders (causing Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease, Niemann-Pick disease, mucolipidosis, type IV) (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 214, 220).

As Cochran and Harpending (2009: 190–191) point out, the high average IQ of the Ashkenazim has greatly contributed to modern science, and – in a sense – has changed human history because Western science has been significantly advanced by high IQ Ashkenazi men: we need only think of Albert Einstein, Max Born, John von Neumann, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Murray Gell-Mann and numerous others who have changed the course of Western science.

The social consequence of a higher average IQ group is that this increases the sheer numbers of the group on the right-hand side of their bell curve distribution: this means that with an average IQ of 100 for Europeans and an average IQ of 110 for Ashkenazim, there will be about 4 per 1,000 Europeans with an IQ greater than 140, but 23 per 1,000 Ashkenazim with an IQ greater than 140 (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 211). In an egalitarian society, this explains why a high-IQ minority group will be highly overrepresented in professions requiring a high IQ. And as Steven Pinker points out in the videos below, this is a straightforward, even banal, scientific explanation which can be used to combat and refute far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. So truth can help counter the modern Far Right, just as biological truths can be used to counter modern SJWs and their unhinged denial of biological gender differences.

Finally, even the Liberal American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, in an April 2008 lecture, has pointed out that this hypothesis is not unreasonable, and, above all, can be tested, and will be vindicated or falsified soon enough:

There is also a question and answer session here.

Cochran, Gregory, Hardy, Jason and Henry Harpending. 2006. “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” Journal of Biosocial Science 38.5: 659–693.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Costa, Marta D. et al. 2013. “A Substantial Prehistoric European Ancestry amongst Ashkenazi Maternal Lineages,” Nature Communications 4.2543

Monday, July 24, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 6: A Summary

Chapter 6 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “Expansions,” and examines the genetic effects of large-scale migrations of human beings.

History is filled with examples of certain population groups that conquer, migrate into, or spread over large areas and replace other groups, or replace other groups with some mixing.

Cochran and Harpending (2009: 156) accept that cultural and technological advantages have played a large role in the success of such movements, but also contend that sometimes, in important cases, evolutionary genetic traits have also been a factor. In this respect, as in normal evolutionary theory, we must look at group fitness, and not just individual fitness, as factors in human history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 158).

Three major examples are analysed in Chapter 6: (1) the success of Europeans in the New World, (2) early European attempts to colonise sub-Saharan Africa, and (3) the astonishing success of the prehistoric Indo-European-speaking peoples.

1. Europeans in the New World
The first example Cochran and Harpending point to was the European colonisation and conquest of the New World.

We know that the Native Americans faced a severe group disadvantage caused by differential evolution: namely, their inability to resist or have immunity to new diseases brought by Europeans like smallpox (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 158–159). The HLA gene alleles, in various forms, protect human beings against infectious disease by regulating the nature and strength of the immune system. But the Amerindians had an unusual distribution of HLA alleles – evolved from their distinct evolutionary history in the Americas – and a much weaker immune system, because they were simply not exposed to the same type and variety of pathogens as the farming peoples of the Old World (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 160–161, citing Cavalli-Sforza and Paolo Menozzi 1994). But the weaker immune systems of Amerindians had an advantage in their distinctive environment: they were much less subject to autoimmune diseases than other peoples with stronger immune systems (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 161).

But when Europeans brought infectious diseases such as measles, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, leprosy, and bubonic plague, the consequences for Amerindians were horrific: there is some evidence that the Amerindian population of the New World suffered a stunning 90% fall in just a few centuries – and most of the deaths were caused by exposure to these diseases introduced by Europeans which Amerindians could not resist because of their different evolutionary history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 162, citing Cook 1998). For instance, while only about 30% of Europeans might die in smallpox epidemics, a shocking 90% of Amerindians would die from the disease (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 167). This terrible series of plagues obviously aided the European conquest of the Americas, and even with superior European technology, was a factor in the success of the Conquistadors.

For example, the conquest of the Incan Empire by Francisco Pizarro was facilitated by a smallpox epidemic (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 163), as described in this video:

As an aside, it’s curious that this documentary based on Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel does not explicitly acknowledge the biological and evolutionary implications of the New World epidemics, because the truly terrible and tragic deaths of millions of Amerindians was the result of different kinds of group genotypes and phenotypes between Amerindians and Europeans, and hence different kinds of group fitness, caused by differential, regional evolution.

As late as the 20th century, isolated populations of Amerindians have suffered the same fate: in instances where first contacts occurred between Amerindians and European-descended people in the 20th century the same European diseases have killed 33–50% of the natives (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 167).

The same kinds of biological differences caused terrible epidemics and mass deaths of Australian Aborigines and Polynesians when Europeans invaded or colonised their homelands as well (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 169).

As Cochran and Harpending (2009: 169) emphasise, anybody who refuses to understand the fundamental role of biological differences between human populations as a factor in European conquest of these regions is in effect denying the reality of Darwinian evolution.

2. Europeans and sub-Saharan Africa
Early attempts to conquer or colonise Africa, even just for trading purposes, encountered a severe difficulty: Europeans discovered that the diseases of Africa had a devastating effect on them. The European people in early expeditions, trading missions and settlements suffered an extremely high death rate from Africa diseases which they had not evolved immunity to (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 171). For example, British soldiers in the Gold Coast died at a rate of 50% (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 171). Right up until the early and mid-19th century, a European conquest of Africa – despite the staggering technological and scientific superiority Europeans had – just wasn’t possible in the way that Europeans conquered the New World. The only major area where colonisation worked was South Africa, and this was because of the temperate climate and the difference in the prevalence of diseases.

Once again, the reason was biological, and was simply the lack of immunity and a different evolutionary history: whereas Africans had evolved their immunity to local diseases and pathogens over thousands of years, Europeans had no such immunity.

It was only with the discovery of drug treatment with quinine in the 1800s that Europeans had a defence against falciparum malaria, and, as scientific medicine began to deal with other tropical diseases, Europeans were able to conquer most of Africa from the 1880s (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 173).

2. The Indo-European Waves of Migration
One of the greatest successes of prehistory was the large-scale Indo-European migrations and conquests in which, over thousands of years, Indo-European people of the Yamnaya culture north of the Black Sea, spread out in all directions (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171; Balter and Gibbons 2015).

There was for many years a scholarly debate about the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans with scholars like Colin Renfrew proposing that the homeland lay in ancient Anatolia (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 178). However, it is now widely accepted that the original Indo-European homeland was in what is now southern Russia above the Black sea (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 179).

For example, from 3,000 to 2,000 BC, there was massive Indo-European migration of people from the South Russian steppe into central Europe, and then into northern and western Europe, and now virtually everybody in Europe speaks an Indo-European language. But modern Iranian and Hindi and Urdu – the major languages of the Indian subcontinent – are also Indo-European. The Indo-Europeans probably had a phenotype with brown eyes, pale skin, and taller height (but interbreeding with other population groups has changed this phenotype, especially in India).

The Indo-European language family was so successful that it now has about 3 billion native speakers, or about 50% of the human race (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 174).

We can see the spread of the Indo-European peoples through the spread of their languages, as illustrated (apart from a few minor mistakes here and there) in the video below:

So why were they so successful?

The Indo-Europeans were not only farmers but also cattle herders, and raised cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, and they may have domesticated the horse (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 176). They seem to have had wheeled carts and chariots, at least in the later stages of history.

But Cochran and Harpending argue that the crucial biological trait that the Indo-Europeans had was lactose tolerance into adulthood, caused by the 13910-T allele, which allows the continued synthesis of lactase (an enzyme that digests milk sugar) past chidlhood (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 180–181; Allentoft et al. 2015: 171). This, they argue, was why the Indo-European peoples were so successful and expanded so many times in thousands of years of history.

At the time, most Europeans (and many other peoples of that time) were lactose intolerant into adulthood:

With their lactose tolerance into adulthood, Indo-Europeans could become highly effective dairying pastoralists, as well as farmers, and could actually produce more high-quality food on a given amount of land than other pastoralists (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 181). In effect, Proto-Indo-European pastoralism had great advantages in inter-group competition, and there was a biological basis to this (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 182).

Indo-Europeans could also abandon farming and become mobile pastoralists, a style of life which has clear military advantages, in contrast to sedentary farmers (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 182). Their dairy-rich diet also gave them greater height, and they soon developed a warlike society (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 183).

So, first of all, Indo-Europeans spread all over the steppe near their homelands, and then into Europe, where they had the edge in inter-group competition and in group fitness against the early European farmers (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 184). Indo-Europeans seem to have conquered or displaced many earlier Europeans, but, perhaps more generally, ruled as an elite and imposed their languages on the native populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 184). Interbreeding with Indo-Europeans and gene sweeps then allowed modern Europeans to acquire the trait of lactose tolerance (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171).

Indo-Europeans also spread out eastwards into Central Asia, Iran and even into India.

Underlying this astonishing history of success was the mutation, or mutations, that produced their adult lactose tolerance.

Finally, in the years after 2009 (the year The 10,000 Year Explosion was published), much new genetic evidence has emerged from the revolution in the sequencing of ancient genomes from bones and other remains, which has vindicated Cochran and Harpending’s thesis on the Indo-Europeans:
Andrew Curry, “Archaeology: The Milk Revolution,” Nature, 31 July 2013.

Ann Gibbons, “Nomadic Herders left a Strong Genetic Mark on Europeans and Asians,” Science, 10 June 2015.

Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.
Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.

Balter, Michael and Ann Gibbons. 2015. “Indo-European Languages tied to Herders,” Science 347.6224: 814–815.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca and Alberto Piazza Paolo Menozzi. 1994. The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Cook, Noble David. 1998. Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492–1650. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Diamond, Jared M. 2005. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Vintage, London.