"The results change the perception of who a Viking actually was," said project leader Professor Eske Willerslev.
- A team of international researchers spent years analyzing the DNA of 442 people, most of whom lived during the Viking age.
- It's the largest DNA analysis of Viking remains to date.
- The results show that Vikings were more genetically diverse than previously thought.
An artistic reconstruction of 'Southern European' Vikings emphasising the foreign gene flow into Viking Age Scandinavia.
Credit: Jim Lyngvild<p>The results deal a blow to our modern image of Vikings.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We didn't know genetically what they actually looked like until now," project leader Professor Eske Willerslev, director of The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, University of Copenhagen, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/sjcu-wld091120.php" target="_blank">statement</a>. "We found genetic differences between different Viking populations within Scandinavia which shows Viking groups in the region were far more isolated than previously believed. Our research even debunks the modern image of Vikings with blonde hair as many had brown hair and were influenced by genetic influx from the outside of Scandinavia."</p>
A mass grave of around 50 headless Vikings from a site in Dorset, UK. Some of these remains were used for DNA analysis.
Redefining the 'Viking' identity<p>What's more, some of the people who received Viking burials weren't genetically related to the Vikings, suggesting the term "Viking" might have referred more to a job description or cultural identity rather than genetic heritage.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Importantly our results show that 'Viking' identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry," study co-author Søren Sindbæk, an archaeologist from Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/sjcu-wld091120.php" target="_blank">statement</a>. "Two Orkney skeletons who were buried with Viking swords in Viking style graves are genetically similar to present-day Irish and Scottish people and could be the earliest Pictish genomes ever studied."</p><p>Although Vikings idolized warrior culture, took slaves, and focused much of their energy on conquering Europe, they also <a href="https://www.historyonthenet.com/vikings-as-traders" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">helped expand trade throughout the continent</a>, developed <a href="http://www.sourcinginnovation.com/archaeology/Arch07.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">innovative farming and crafting techniques</a>, and were <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-46194699" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relatively egalitarian in terms of women's rights</a>. Using a genetic framework, the new study adds a deeper layer to history's understanding of the Vikings.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The results change the perception of who a Viking actually was," Willerslev said in the statement. "The history books will need to be updated."</p>
Two anthropologists question the chemical imbalance theory of mental health disorders.
- Two physical anthropologists argue that you cannot pin most mental health disorders on brain chemistry alone.
- As antidepressants will soon be a $16B industry, the chemical imbalance theory suits business interests better than health interests.
- An etiology of depression should include behavioral observation, cross-population comparisons, cultural transmission, and evolutionary theory.
EarthRise 91: Do antidepressants create more mental illness than they cure? (with Robert Whitaker)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f49b126e8733bbd95c21de0476fb1f8"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UnB7tXvztT4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Physical anthropology and evolutionary biology are essential fields of study when contemplating all facets of health. Historical perspective is important. The authors point to a previous battle: in 1900, roughly half of all deaths in the U.S. were attributed to infectious diseases. A century later, the number of deaths due to such diseases was negligible. </p><p>That's because the etiologies of a number of infectious diseases were discovered thanks to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease" target="_blank">germ theory</a>. There has never been a holistic etiology of anxiety or depression, however. Psychiatrists, in coordination with pharmaceutical companies, exploited that fact by creating and marketing a singular etiology—the chemical imbalance theory—and selling the world on pharmacology.</p><p>Think about the basic framework of this proposition: an animal that has evolved for millions of years, roughly 350,000 in the present form, experiences its greatest century to date in terms of population expansion, while simultaneously billions of our brains are suddenly chemically compromised. This narrative boggles the mind, yet it's exactly what's being sold by psychiatrists and medical doctors around the world. </p><p>As the authors write, the chemical imbalance theory, first widely discussed in the late forties, became part of a public health campaign designed to destigmatize mental health issues in the aughts. In reality, the campaign accomplished the opposite. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"First, a systematic review found that an endorsement of biogenetic causes of mental disorders does not reduce stigma and, in fact, might even increase stigmatizing attitudes among mental health professionals and the mentally ill themselves. Second, there is little evidence that psychopharmaceuticals correct specific chemical imbalances or neurobiological deficits."</p><p>While mental health is a broad term with numerous categories, the authors divide disorders into <a href="https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/08/anthropologists-question-legitimacy-mental-disorders/" target="_blank">four subsets</a>: </p><ul><li>Disorders which are genetic-based developmental dysfunctions</li><li>Disorders associated with senescence/aging</li><li>Disorders caused by a mismatch between modern and ancestral environments</li><li>Disorders which are adaptive responses to adversity, however undesirable</li></ul>
Photo: Everett Collection / Shutterstock<p>The first two account for many common diseases, such as dementia, autism, and schizophrenia. The second pair represent disorders that modern psychiatry has exploited. By failing to consider environmental, racial, economic, familial, and societal forces, we've been sold a story that we're broken from birth. </p><p>This story serves a purpose: the global antidepressant industry is <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/antidepressant-drugs-market-to-reach-15-98-bn-by-2023-globally-at-2-1-cagr-says-allied-market-research-873540700.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">expected to reach</a> $16B by 2023. Thanks to concerted marketing and lobbying efforts, an uptick in prescriptions coincides with an increasing number of disorders—and increasing numbers of children on these drugs. When one market is exploited, create another. </p><p>Pharmacological interventions for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and autism might be valuable to patients of these disorders. The problem isn't with drug development, which is a necessary field of research for combating such confounding diseases. As has long been known—since at least the 19th century, though likely much longer—most anxiety and depression alleviates with time, especially when interventions such as <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/your-diet-might-be-causing-anxiety-and-depression" target="_self">proper diet</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/exercise-mental-health" target="_self" rel="dofollow">exercise</a>, and <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/depression-universal-basic-income" target="_self">improved economic conditions</a> are put into place. As Syme and Hagan conclude, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"A final group of disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, have low heritability, are caused by adversity, and involve symptoms that seem to be adaptive responses to adversity. Because they are relatively common throughout adult life, they account for a substantial fraction of disease burden attributable to mental illness. These might not be disorders at all, however, but instead aversive yet adaptive responses to adversity."</p><p>That is, anxiety and depression are largely social problems, not medical disorders. The authors write that it would be unethical to prescribe pain medication for a broken bone without first setting the bone. Why then do psychiatrists and doctors churn out scripts without identifying the source of suffering that brought the patient into the office in the first place?</p><p>Though we don't yet have reliable etiologies of most mental health disorders, the authors conclude that they could be within reach. Their discovery relies not on brain chemistry alone, but on epigenetics, behavioral observation, cross-population comparisons, cultural transmission, evolutionary theory, and much more. </p><p>Humans are complex animals. Perhaps Occam's razor isn't as sharp as we believe.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Having lots of kids is great for the success of the species. But there's a hitch.
Artifacts uncovered in southeast Asia offer clues on early complex human cultures.
- Archaeologists discovered a trove of bone tools used roughly 48,000 years ago in a Sri Lankan cave.
- Uncovered artifacts include the earliest known bow-and-arrow devices found out of Africa, weaving utensils, and decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells.
- The findings underline the necessity of looking for early Homo sapien innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa or Europe, where much of the research has been focused.
New discoveries<p>The study was led by Michelle Langley, an archaeologist at Australia's Griffith University, along with other researchers from Griffith, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), and the Sri Lankan Government's Department of Archaeology.</p><p>The scientists examined tools and artifacts used between 48,000 and 4,000 years ago that were discovered in the Fa-Hien Lena cave site located in Sri Lanka's southwest tropical forests, an area that has become one of the most important archaeological sites in South Asia since the 1980s. The assemblage of artifacts included 130 of the earliest known bone-arrow tips found out of Africa along with 29 utensils likely used to make clothing or bags. Also excavated were decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells and the world's oldest known beads made of red ochre — an ancient pigment used for a variety of things from body paint to sunscreen.</p><p>Archaeologists believe that these tools correspond to four phases of ancient human habitation of the site. Using radiocarbon technology to date thirty items from the site, researchers were able to create a timeline detailing how the tools evolved to become more sophisticated over time.</p><p>"Most of these tools were made out of monkey bone, and many of them appear to have been carefully shaped into arrowheads," <a href="https://experts.griffith.edu.au/8914-michelle-langley" target="_blank">Langley</a> told Tim Vernimmen of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/tools-human-early-migration-rainforest-sri-lanka/" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>. "They are too small and light to have been spearheads, which need some weight to gain force, and too heavy and blunt to have been blow darts."</p><p>On close inspection, the size, forms and fractures found on many of the bone points led the researchers to believe that they were used as arrow tips for bow-and-arrow hunting to catch swift and nimble rainforest prey like monkeys and other tree-dwelling creatures. The arrow points increased in length over time for the purpose of hunting larger mammals like deer. If the researcher's conclusions are correct, this finding marks the earliest definitive proof of high-powered projectile hunting in a tropical rainforest environment.</p><p>Additionally, the team uncovered a range of other bone and tooth tools used for scraping and piercing. They were likely used for making nets and working animal skins or plant fibers in the tropical environment.</p><p>"Evidence for the construction of nets is extremely scarce in artifacts many thousands of years old, making this aspect of the Fa-Hien Lena assemblage a startling find," Langley said in <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">a Griffith University press release</a>. Because this wasn't a cold region, the authors opine that the clothing made with the assemblage of tools may have been used for protection from insect-borne diseases.</p><p>Other tools discovered at the site were identified as implements probably associated with freshwater fishing.</p>
Out of Africa and into the rainforest<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMDExMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ3NjQ4N30.6JVTKeCHRhzvg5lejtnsxf-2y0n1pHAch0MrxJSre1Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="56032" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a86a57e2bb25a4caa3d1777fbcd060b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="assortment of bone arrowheads and tools" />
"Bone projectile points (A to H) and scrapers (I to K) from Fa-Hien Lena. (A and B) Geometric bipoints, with (B) coming from phase D context 146; (C and F) hilted bipoint, red arrows indicate cut notches; (D and E) hilted unipoints, red arrows and red circle indicate wear indicating fixed hafting; (G and H) symmetrical bipoints"
Langley et al., 2020<p>Before the great migration out of Africa, smaller groups of humans began to leave the continent between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago eventually migrating into South Asia. These findings offer clues as to how our ancient ancestors adapted to diverse, precarious environments during their global expansion, such as the tropical rainforest. Though the early humans of South Asia likely didn't make their abode in the densely vegetated forest right away, opting instead for the coast, their decedents eventually would. And that move required some nifty new survival technology. </p><p>The researchers pointed out that their discoveries of these ancient tools underline the necessity of looking for early <em>Homo sapien</em> innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa, or Europe where much of the research has been focused.</p><p>"[T]his traditional focus has meant that other parts of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas have often been sidelined in discussions of the origins of material culture, such as novel projectile hunting methods or cultural innovations associated with our species," <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">said Patrick Roberts</a> from MPI-SHH. </p>
Complex human societies<p>The shell beads that the team found indicate that the ancient forest dwellers traded with the populations that stayed along the coast. The beads were rounded and pierced, suggesting that they were strung. Earlier dated beads (around 8,700 years old) were made from red ochre nodules. The ancient jewelry is gauged to be similar in age to other "social signaling" materials found in Eurasia and Southeast Asia, according to the authors, which was around 45,000 years ago. This highlights the importance of establishing social connections for these early people through trade and symbol. </p><p>"Together, these artifacts reveal a rich human culture in the tropics of South Asia which was creating and utilizing complex hunting and social technologies to not only survive, but thrive, in demanding rainforest environments," concluded study co-author Patrick Roberts, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Queensland.</p>
Inbreeding leads to a problematically small gene pool.