AAA Statement on Race

December 7, 2005

In 1998, the American Anthropological Association issued an official statement declaring that clearly demarcated, biological races don't exist, which is supposed to represent "the contemporary thinking and scholarly positions of a majority of anthropologists". This irresponsible exercise in PC pandering is constantly cited by uninformed people looking to discredit the reality of race.

Here are the three main flaws with the statement:

1) All but the first two paragraphs discuss social aspects of race (i.e. racism), going into detail about racial pseudo-theories and discrimination from colonial times to the Holocaust. It's interesting but it doesn't belong in a statement regarding the scientific aspects of race.

2) The brief paragraph that actually deals with anthropology emphasizes the overlapping across biological populations of single, adaptive traits like skin color and hair form, but it makes no mention whatsoever of skeletal structure and its uses in determining racial affinity in the field of forensic anthropology.

3) The other scientifically oriented paragraph delves into population genetics (not the AAA's field) to argue that large within-group variation renders any between-group variation meaningless. This may have seemed true back in the 70s when the field was still in its infancy, but today it's rejected as Lewontin's fallacy:

In popular articles that play down the genetical differences among human populations, it is often stated that about 85% of the total genetical variation is due to individual differences within populations and only 15% to differences between populations or ethnic groups. It has therefore been proposed that the division of Homo sapiens into these groups is not justified by the genetic data. This conclusion, due to R.C. Lewontin in 1972, is unwarranted because the argument ignores the fact that most of the information that distinguishes populations is hidden in the correlation structure of the data and not simply in the variation of the individual factors.


There is nothing wrong with Lewontin's statistical analysis of variation, only with the belief that it is relevant to classification. It is not true that "racial classification is...of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance". It is not true, as Nature claimed, that "two random individuals from any one group are almost as different as any two random individuals from the entire world", and it is not true, as the New Scientist claimed, that "two individuals are different because they are individuals, not because they belong to different races" and that "you can't predict someone's race by their genes". Such statements might only be true if all the characters studied were independent, which they are not.


This article could, and perhaps should, have been written soon after 1974. Since then many advances have been made in both gene technology and statistical computing that have facilitated the study of population differences from genetic data. The magisterial book of Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi and Piazza (13) took the human story up to 1994, and since then many studies have amply confirmed the validity of the approach. Very recent studies (14,15) have treated individuals in the same way that Cavalli-Sforza and Edwards treated populations in 1963, namely by subjecting their genetic information to a cluster analysis thus revealing genetic affinities that have unsurprising geographic, linguistic and cultural parallels. As the authors of the most extensive of these (15) comment, "it was only in the accumulation of small allele-frequency differences across many loci that population structure was identified."

Here's a collection of recent genetic studies that have identified racial clusters:

Caucasoid Affinities of Somalis

November 20, 2005

It's been well documented that Ethiopians share a substantial amount of their ancestry with Western Eurasians (Caucasoids), but less talked about is the similar position of Somalis. These findings have led researchers to reject recent admixture as a primary explanation, and posit that such elements are indigenous to East Africa.


When the nonadaptive aspects of craniofacial configuration are the basis for assessment, the Somalis cluster with Europeans before showing a tie with the people of West Africa or the Congo Basin.


As our data show, the people of the Horn of Africa are craniofacially less distinct from a spectrum of samples marginally including South Asia and running all the way from the Middle East to northwest Europe than they are to any group in sub-Saharan Africa.

Brace et al. "Clines and Clusters Versus 'Race': A Test in Ancient Egypt and the Case of a Death on the Nile". Year Phys Anthro, 1993.


The most distinct separation is between African and non-African populations. The northeastern-African — that is, the Ethiopian and Somali — populations are located centrally between sub-Saharan African and non-African populations.


The fact that the Ethiopians and Somalis have a subset of the sub-Saharan African haplotype diversity — and that the non-African populations have a subset of the diversity present in Ethiopians and Somalis — makes simple-admixture models less likely; rather, these observations support the hypothesis proposed by other nuclear-genetic studies (Tishkoff et al. 1996a, 1998a, 1998b; Kidd et al. 1998) — that populations in northeastern Africa may have diverged from those in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa early in the history of modern African populations and that a subset of this northeastern-African population migrated out of Africa and populated the rest of the globe.

+ 13 = Somalis
• 1-7 = Sub-Saharan Africans (Negroid)
• 8-11 = Sub-Saharan Africans (Khoisanid)
Δ 22-25 = Caucasoids (N. Europe and Mid-East)

Tishkoff et al. "Short Tandem-Repeat Polymorphism/Alu Haplotype Variation at the PLAT Locus: Implications for Modern Human Origins". Am J Hum Genet, 2000.

Racial Types

'Star Wars' Stereotypes

November 12, 2005

Amusing Flash page parodying the ethnically questionable characters from the most recent Star Wars trilogy:

Most Violent Countries

September 21, 2005

Scotland tops list of world's most violent countries

By Katrina Tweedie
Times Online

September 19, 2005

A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.

England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

The attacks have been fuelled by a "booze and blades" culture in the west of Scotland which has claimed more than 160 lives over the past five years. Since January there have been 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1,100 serious assaults involving knives in the west of Scotland. The problem is made worse by sectarian violence, with hospitals reporting higher admissions following Old Firm matches.

David Ritchie, an accident and emergency consultant at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary, said that the figures were a national disgrace. "I am embarrassed as a Scot that we are seeing this level of violence. Politicians must do something about this problem. This is a serious public health issue. Violence is a cancer in this part of the world," he said.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Strathclyde Police's violence reduction unit, said the problem was chronic and restricting access to drink and limiting the sale of knives would at least reduce the problem.

The study, by the UN's crime research institute, found that 3 per cent of Scots had been victims of assault compared with 1.2 per cent in America and just 0.1 per cent in Japan, 0.2 per cent in Italy and 0.8 per cent in Austria. In England and Wales the figure was 2.8 per cent.

Scotland was eighth for total crime, 13th for property crime, 12th for robbery and 14th for sexual assault. New Zealand had the most property crimes and sexual assaults, while Poland had the most robberies.

Chief Constable Peter Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, questioned the figures. "It must be near impossible to compare assault figures from one country to the next based on phone calls," he said.

"We have been doing extensive research into violent crime in Scotland for some years now and this has shown that in the vast majority of cases, victims of violent crime are known to each other. We do accept, however, that, despite your chances of being a victim of assault being low in Scotland, a problem does exist."


Argentinean Italians Are Mostly Southern

September 9, 2005

Migration from Southern Italy to Argentina: Calabrians and Sicilians (1880-1930)

Cacopardo et al. (1990)
Studi Emigr

ABSTRACT: The study analyzes Italian emigration to Argentina from Sicily and Calabria between 1880-1930, compared with out-migration flows from Piedmont. The concepts of cultural patrimony and of migratory strategy are used to measure the different potentials and job opportunities in the Argentinean labor market as well as in the Italian context for those returning home. Considering the high proportion of returnees, a positive or negative correlation between region of origin and of destination can be proposed. Southern Italians indicate a more permanent settlement. The authors conclude that the Argentinean society in its Italian component is the result of Southern rather than Northern influences.


Here are some photos of the Calabrian community in Argentina (click to enlarge):


More on the King Tut Reconstructions

September 1, 2005

We've seen the recent French reconstruction of King Tut. Now let's compare it to the Egyptian and American ones done at the same time, the latter with no prior knowledge of the race or identity of the individual being reconstructed. They're the first ever Tut reconstructions based on CT scans of his mummy, and therefore considered to be the most accurate to date.

Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass notes that "The results of the three teams were identical or very similar in the basic shape of the face, the size, shape and setting of the eyes, and the proportion of the skull." All three teams identify Tut as a Caucasoid North African, and Hawass remarks on the striking resemblance their models bear to ancient portraits of the boy pharaoh.

[ click images to enlarge ]

French Reconstruction

Egyptian Reconstruction

American "Blind" Reconstruction


- Jean-Noël Vignal, forensic expert, Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale, Paris
- Elisabeth Daynes, anthropological sculptor, Atelier Daynes, Paris

- Khaled Elsaid, biomedical engineer and team leader

- Susan Antón, physical anthropologist, New York University, New York City
- Michael Anderson, forensic sculptor, Yale Peabody Museum, New Haven, Connecticut

Guns, Germs & Steel on PBS

August 12, 2005

PBS just aired a three-part documentary based on Jared Diamond's best-selling book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which outlines the role geography has played in shaping human history. You should try to catch it in reruns because it's very thought-provoking. But if you can't, there's a lot of information available at the show's website, including detailed summaries, full transcripts and a neat section called "The World" that analyzes global climates and resources by continent.

Episode One: Out of Eden

Diamond believes the blueprint for global inequality lies within the land itself, its crops and animals. [...] [He] realized that the development of successful and productive farming, starting nearly 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, was the critical turning point in the origins of global inequality. From this point on, one group of people — the natives of Eurasia — would have a head start on the path to civilization.

Successful farming provides a food surplus, and allows some people to leave the farm behind and develop specialized skills — such as metal-working, writing, trade, politics, and war-making. Plus, the simple geography of the continent of Eurasia — one coherent landmass spread on an east-west axis, with universal latitudes and climates — allowed these technologies and ideas to spread beyond the Middle East with ease.


Episode Two: Conquest

So, when presented with a copy of the Bible on November 16th, 1532, Atahuallpa throws the alien object to the floor, prompting a furious and surprise attack from the conquistadors. The combined impact of mounted troops, gunpowder and sharpened steel lead to a massacre, and Atahuallpa is personally seized by Pizarro himself.

In a matter of hours, the Inca Empire lies in ruins. But the story of Eurasian triumph isn't over. [...] Native Americans fell victim to European germs — infections which they had never encountered before. And Diamond realizes that European diseases like smallpox were a fatal inheritance of thousands of years of mammal domestication — the lethal gift of livestock.


Episode Three: Into the Tropics

As the settlers traveled further north, life suddenly became a lot harder. The foundations of their success, their crops and animals, refused to grow. They were forced to barter for food from their neighbours. And they started to fall ill with a mysterious and terrifying fever. It was a complete reversal of the usual pattern of European conquest.

Jared realizes that, unlike elsewhere in the world — where Europeans had landed in a temperate zone and traveled from east to west, maintaining similar climates — here in Africa, Europeans landed in the south and migrated north, moving through latitude zones and experiencing radically different climates. [...] Temperate crops such as wheat simply can't survive in a tropical climate. Nor can European animals — plagued by the diseases which thrive in the Tropics.


Uselessness of Blood Groups

August 5, 2005

Certain people continue to draw conclusions about ancestry from frequencies of blood groups and other blood-related genes, a common practice decades ago when the field of population genetics was still in its infancy. However, David Goldstein, Professor of Genetics at Duke University, stated in a recent interview that "blood groups are not now considered a good marker for population relationships, and they provide very little information about individual ancestry."

Here are four blood markers once used to measure African admixture in Southern Europeans, and the specific reasons why they aren't reliable for this purpose:

HbS (sickle cell)

African admixture in Sicily has been long suspected because of the presence of the sickle gene. Nevertheless, the degree of African admixture cannot be derived from the study of HbS frequency, since this gene was most likely expanded by the selective pressure of malaria, for a long time endemic to the region. We have examined 142 individuals from the Sicilian town of Butera (12% sickle trait) to search for other markers of the globin gene cluster less likely to be selected for by malaria. The TaqI polymorphism in the intervening sequences between the two gamma genes is informative. We have found only two instances of this African marker (TaqI(-)) among 267 normal chromosomes, demonstrating that the admixture occurred at a much lower level than previously thought. [Ragusa et al. 1992]

Fy(a-b-) (Duffy-null)

The Duffy system is also a single locus with two antigens, Fy a and Fy b. The only rare phenotype is Fy(a-b-), which has a higher frequency in countries where there is a high incidence of Plasmodium falciparium malaria. This phenotype gives a degree of immunity to the disease because the malarial parasite requires Duffy antigens to enter the red cells. Duffy antibodies are almost exclusively IgG. This system is named after the family of the antibody producer, Duffy. []

GM and KM allotypes

Fulani and Masaleit, sympatric tribes in eastern Sudan, are characterized by marked differences in susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum malaria. To determine whether the two tribes differ in the frequency of immunoglobulin GM/KM allotypes, which are associated with immunity to several pathogens, serum samples from 50 Fulani and 50 age- and sex-matched Masaleit subjects were allotyped for several GM/KM determinants. The distribution of GM phenotypes as a whole, as well as a particular combination of KM and GM phenotypes, differed significantly between the two tribes (P = 0.03). These data suggest that GM allotypes may contribute to the genetic aetiology of malaria. [Pandey et al. 2007]

cDe (Rhesus)

But note that the cDe gene is nevertheless present in a fraction of the gene pool almost everywhere in the world. [...] Does it follow that once upon a time everybody in sub-Saharan Africa was homozygous for cDe, and in the rest of the world nobody had this gene? Should Europeans, Asiatics, and Americans who carry the cDe gene be presumed to have some Negro ancestry? There is no basis whatsoever to think so. The gene cDe is almost cosmopolitan in distribution, though for some unknown reason it reaches its highest frequency in Africa. [Dobzhansky, 1962]

Frequencies of the cDe gene in various populations (after Mourant 1954):


Spaniards ..... 3.7%
English ....... 2.8%
Germans ....... 2.6%
Danes ......... 1.8%
Italians ...... 1.6%
Basques ....... 0.5%


Bushmen ...... 89.0%
Hutu ......... 62.9%
Shona ........ 62.7%
S.A. Bantu ... 59.6%
Kikuyu ....... 59.5%
Egyptians .... 17.3%


S. Chinese .... 4.1%
E. Pakistan ... 3.9%


Aborigines .... 8.5%
Javanese ...... 6.5%
Papuans ....... 2.0%
Marshallese ... 0.5%


Navajo ....... 28.0%
Eskimos ....... 2.1%

Updated 11/03/2009

Cavalli-Sforza Believes in Race

July 31, 2005

Geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sfroza likes to toe the left-wing party line by denying the existence of race and promoting anti-racism with oft-quoted statements like these:

The classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise. [...] [My research is] expected to undermine the popular belief that there are clearly defined races, [and] to contribute to the elimination of racism. [...] The idea of race in the human species serves no purpose.

But his less-often quoted description of the genetic map from his book The History and Geography of Human Genes belies the "official" position he publicly endorses:

The color map of the world shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red). The map does not show well the strong Caucasoid component in northern Africa, but it does show the unity of the other Caucasoids from Europe, and in West, South, and much of Central Asia.

There may be other scientists who put up a PC front like this to keep controversy at bay. But unfortunately, they provide ammunition to uninformed laymen with an anti-race agenda.


Out of Asia?

Study: Human Ancestors Originated in Asia

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News, May 31, 2005

Three newly discovered primate species that lived 30 million years ago suggest that our first ancestors originated in Asia and not in Africa, challenging the well-known "Out of Africa" theory about human evolution.

The actuality could be something a bit more complicated, such as "Out of Asia into Africa and Back to Asia," since some researchers now think Asian primates journeyed to Africa, where they evolved into humans, who then traveled both in and out of Africa.

According to a study published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, numerous fossil teeth for the three new anthropoids were found in the Bugti Hills of central Pakistan.

Scientists believe our world-traveling animal cousins were anthropoids, which means "apes" and refers to the group of primates from which humans evolved.

"The Oligocene period (30-25 million years ago) in South Asia was so far totally undocumented paleontologically," said Laurent Marivaux, lead author of the paper.

"So, it is not surprising that the discovery of fossilized animals from this period is totally new for science, and that they (may) change or modify substantially our previous view on mammal evolution, notably here, the evolutionary history of anthropoid primates."

He added, "The evolutionary history of these old anthropoid lineages represents the beginnings of the evolutionary history of humans."

Marivaux and his team named the new anthropoids Bugtipithecus inexpectans, Phileosimias kamali and Phileosimias brahuiorum. They were tiny and somewhat similar to today's lemurs, according to Marivaux, who is a paleontologist at the Institute of Evolutionary Science at Montpellier II University in France.

Their small, underdeveloped teeth reveal that the primates probably ate insects and fruit. Climate records for this period suggest that the animals lived in a warm, humid tropical rainforest.

Fossil remains for other animals indicate the primates shared the Asian rainforest with more than 20 different species of rodents, bats, carnivores, deer-like animals, pigs, a rhino-like creature, called Baluchitherium, and other primates.

Remains for later primates similar to the new anthropoids previously were found in China, Burma and Thailand. The newly excavated teeth now indicate that anthropoids had a larger range in Asia than thought, since the animals made their way to Pakistan.

Christopher Beard, curator and head of the Section of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, told Discovery News that he generally agreed with the new conclusions.

"Together, the fossil anthropoid primates that are known from China, Thailand, Myanmar and now Pakistan constitute an impressive amount of data indicating that the 'higher primate' lineage that today includes all monkeys, apes, and humans must have originated in Asia, not in Africa as earlier scientists believed," Beard said.

He added that the new evidence, to him, indicated that "an early member of this (anthropoid Asian group) made its way to Africa, where they continued to evolve and diversify, eventually giving rise to living monkeys, apes and humans."

Christopher Wills, professor of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego, agreed that early anthropoid evolution likely did not just occur in Africa.

Wills told Discovery News that the evolution probably included "substantial migrations over long distances, in and out of Africa perhaps."

Beard and Marivaux said the early anthropoids that stayed in Asia continued to evolve too, but not in a direction that led to apes and humans. The consensus among most experts is that humans only emerged in Africa.


Racial Clusters Manifested Again

June 22, 2005

Two recent autosomal DNA studies (Rosenberg et al. 2002 and Hua Tang et al. 2005) have established a genetic basis for traditional racial categories. Here's another, similar study that adds to the growing body of evidence:

Analisi di 5 microsatelliti nelle tre maggiori isole del Mediterraneo Occidentale

Calò et al. (2001)

ABSTRACT: About 360 unrelated individuals from the three largest islands of the Western Mediterranean: Sardinia (Italy), Sicily (Italy) and Corsica (France) were examined. The DNA was amplified by means of PCR and the fragments were separated using a polyacrylamide gel. The microsatellites analysed in the present work are: GABRB3, D15S108, LIPC, D13S115, D13S270. The allele frequencies distribution showed significant differences between the islands. The 5 microsatellites have a high discrimination power (PD) and a high Polymorphic Information Content (PIC). The highest discrimination power was found for GABRB3 and secondarily for D13S115, which also showed the highest values of PIC. The comparison with other populations underlined the populations from the same continent cluster together. Particularly Europeans shows a less genetic heterogeneity than other continents. The results demonstrate that these microsatellites are useful in the study of genetic variability of the human populations and in forensic analysis.

eu = Europeans (N Italy, N Europe, Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Basques)
as = Asians (China, Japan and Cambodia)
af = Africans (C.A.R., Gabon, Zaire — mostly Pygmies)
oc = Oceanians (Solomon Islands, New Guinea and Australia)
am = Americans (Indians from Mexico and Brazil)

Link (PDF - in Italian)

The True Face of King Tut

May 12, 2005

King Tut's Face Reconstructed

National Geographic News
May 10, 2005

Is this the true face of Tut? This silicone-skinned bust is billed as the most accurate forensic reconstruction ever of ancient Egypt's Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It was based on recent 3-D CT scans of the mummy of the "boy king," who is believed to have been about 19 when he died some 3,300 years ago.

Led by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, a National Geographic Society team commissioned French experts to create the lifelike bust. Using the CT scans, French forensic anthropologist Jean-Noël Vignal determined the basic measurements and features of Tutankhamun's face. Vignal deduced that Tutankhamun had a narrow nose, buck teeth, a receding chin, and Caucasian features. Such features are typical of European, North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian peoples.

Paris-based forensic sculptor Elisabeth Daynès then created the bust shown above. She used Vignal's estimates of skin thickness and other data, plus wooden sculptures of Tut made in his youth. Soft-tissue features, such as the nose and ears, had to be guessed at, though within a scientifically determined range. Daynès based the skin tone on an average shade of Egyptians today and added the eyeliner that the king would have worn in life.

Finally, National Geographic gave the CT data to a U.S. forensic team, who were to work "blind" — not knowing who the subject was. Their findings validated the French team's conclusions. And their plaster cast, a photo of which will be published on the National Geographic magazine Web site later this month, turned out remarkably similar to the silicon bust.

The reconstruction will be featured in the June issue of National Geographic, in the touring exhibit "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," and on the National Geographic Channel's King Tut's Final Secrets, airing Sunday night.

— Ted Chamberlain

Link (with full story and more photos)

Howells and FORDISC Vindicated

April 21, 2005

Afrocentrists who don't like the work of W.W. Howells on the non-African racial character of pre-historic East Africans often cite research attempting to discredit his methods of classifying crania. But a new paper demonstrates that inaccurate results yielded by computer programs used for this purpose are the result of human error, vindicating Howells and silencing his critics.

The truth is out there: how NOT to use FORDISC

Freid et al. (2005)

FORDISC is an interactive computer program designed to classify an unknown adult cranium based on the reference samples in its database. FORDISC uses discriminant functions to construct a classification matrix and assign group membership of the unknown cranium into one of the selected reference groups. The researcher guides the analysis by choosing the populations against which to classify the unknown, choosing from eleven population samples from the Forensic Anthropology Data Bank or twenty-eight population samples from Howells' (1989) worldwide database. The utility and efficacy of FORDISC has been criticized for providing 'incorrect' classifications, however these disputed results are often due to inappropriate reference samples and failure to properly evaluate the typicality and posterior probabilities provided by the program. In this paper, unknown crania from populations known not to belong to any of the reference samples will be analyzed, demonstrating the interpretation of posterior and typicality probabilities provided in the FORDISC output and the importance of the use of an appropriate reference sample.


Study Clarification III

March 23, 2005

Here's an old paper from the 80s that "estimates" between 10% and 34% Negroid gene flow into Sicily based on what essentially amounts to 4 African L mtDNA markers found in a single sample of 90 people.


Mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms in Italy. III. Population data from Sicily: a possible quantitation of maternal African ancestry

Semino et al. (1989)
Ann Hum Genet

Link to Abstract

Misused Quotes:

Of particular interest is that the HpaI-3/AvaII-3 complex, which is unique to groups of African ancestry, was found in Sicily at a frequency of 4.4%. For the first time an estimate of the amount of gene flow from Blacks to the Sicilian gene pool could be obtained. […] Using the weighted mean of the frequencies of the HpaI-3/AvaII-3 marker in Senegalese and in Bantu as representative of the parental African population, the total amount of gene migration (M) from Blacks into the Sicilians was estimated according to the method of Bernstein (1931) and a value of 0.108 ± 0.053 was obtained.


The Negroid component could have been transmitted directly through the introduction of groups of Negro slaves into the island by Phoenicians and Romans and/or indirectly through Arabic migrations. […] The only Arabs for which data on mtDNA polymorphisms are available, are from Israel (Bonnk-Tamir et al. 1986). These show an incidence of the combination of interest of 12.8%, a frequency which is compatible with a Negro contribution in the Arabic gene pool of about 30%. […] If one assumes that Negro genes arrived in Sicily only through Arabs, a 0.344 ± 0.049 value would be obtained for the amount of Arab gene migration (M).

Although the actual genetic contribution from African populations could only be estimated as lying in between the two M values we calculated, this work shows that, whichever way these genes arrived, a substantial Negro component is present in the Sicilian gene pool.


This is an old study and the marker being used is not an actual haplogroup but a restriction enzyme. And the way that admixture is being "estimated" isn't very common practice in population genetics. Not only is it imprecise and unreliable, as the authors freely admit, but in this case it's based on an unusually high frequency (4.4%) of African mtDNA in Sicily, as we'll see below.

But even disregarding all that, the lower limit estimated has a margin of error of ± 5.3, so it could be as little as 5.5% (i.e. 2.75% total admixture), and the upper limit assumes huge levels of Arab admixture that are not born out by any research. Moreover, the Arab reference sample is composed of Palestinians, whom the authors "estimate" have received 30% African gene flow. Yet when Palestinians were tested with the STRUCTURE admixture program using 377 autosomal microsatellite loci, they only had 2% total African admixture (Rosenberg et al. 2002; Table 2 in the Supplementary Information), and when the same sample was typed at 642,690 SNPs, they showed no African admixture at all (Li et al. 2008; Table S1). That's a powerful example of the limitations of this study's outdated estimates.

Another study from more than a decade later, Vona et al. (2001), addressed some of these issues and the old Semino paper directly, showing that with a different sample and method, different results are obtained:

In work carried out with restriction enzymes on mtDNA in a sample of Sicilians, Semino et al. (1989) indicated the presence (4.4%) of the African complex HpaI-3/AvaII-3 (40% in Senegal and in the Bantu of South Africa). The authors hypothesized a migration of genes from Africa to Sicily, estimated at about 10%, which was introduced into the Sicilian gene pool by Black slaves brought by the Phoenicians and the Romans and/or by Arab migrations. Results at the mtDNA sequencing level, however, show no Black African influence in the Sicilian population.

Two years after that, a definitive analysis of Sicilian mtDNA was conducted by Romano et al. (2003), using a much larger sample and seven different locations. Unlike Vona et al., this study did find some Negroid maternal DNA in Sicily, but at a rate of only 0.65% (3 sequences in the sample of 465).

If we pool all of the above data — which is always a good idea — we get 7 sequences in a sample of 604, which is 1.16% maternal admixture (or 0.58% total admixture), a figure that's extremely low and comparable to admixture levels elsewhere in Europe.

This result, together with the absence of Negroid Y-chromosomes in Sicily, discredits claims that Sicilians have a Black African racial component.

Updated 11/13/2009

North African Y-chromosomes

March 7, 2005

A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for Y-Chromosomal DNA Variation in North Africa

Arredi et al. (2004)
Am J Hum Genet

ABSTRACT: We have typed 275 men from five populations in Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt with a set of 119 binary markers and 15 microsatellites from the Y chromosome, and we have analyzed the results together with published data from Moroccan populations. North African Y-chromosomal diversity is geographically structured and fits the pattern expected under an isolation-by-distance model. Autocorrelation analyses reveal an east-west cline of genetic variation that extends into the Middle East and is compatible with a hypothesis of demic expansion. This expansion must have involved relatively small numbers of Y chromosomes to account for the reduction in gene diversity towards the West that accompanied the frequency increase of Y haplogroup E3b2, but gene flow must have been maintained to explain the observed pattern of isolation-by-distance. Since the estimates of the times to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCAs) of the most common haplogroups are quite recent, we suggest that the North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation is largely of Neolithic origin. Thus, we propose that the Neolithic transition in this part of the world was accompanied by demic diffusion of Afro-Asiatic-speaking pastoralists from the Middle East.


Y-chromosomal studies are potentially highly informative about the origin of male-specific lineages, because of the detailed haplotypes that can be obtained and their high geographical specificity (Jobling and Tyler-Smith 2003), but previous studies have been restricted to limited regions of North Africa (Bosch et al. 1999, 2001; Flores et al. 2001; Manni et al. 2002; Luis et al. 2004). Together, these genetic analyses highlighted the similarity between northeastern Africa and the Middle East and the clear genetic differentiation between northwestern Africa and both sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, including Iberia. The Sahara and Mediterranean, despite the narrow width of the Strait of Gibraltar, seem to have acted as effective long-term barriers to Y-chromosomal gene flow.


First, as shown in fig. 1B, the lineages that are most prevalent in North Africa are distinct from those in the regions to the immediate north and south: Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. [...] Such a finding is not surprising, in the light of the earlier genetic studies, but has an important implication: despite haplogroups shared at low frequency, suggesting limited gene flow, North African populations have a genetic history largely distinct from both Europe and sub-Saharan Africa over the timescales needed for the Y-chromosomal differentiation to develop.


Indeed, the positions of the samples in the MDS plot describe a latitudinal axis, from North Africa and the Middle East in the upper part to Central and southern Africa in the lower part. Furthermore, the pattern of genetic affinities among the North African samples parallels the west-east orientation quite precisely, from Morocco on the left-hand side to Egypt and the Middle East on the right.


In conclusion, we propose that the Y-chromosomal genetic structure observed in North Africa is mainly the result of an expansion of early food-producing societies. [...] Since most of the languages spoken in North Africa and in nearby parts of Asia belong to the Afro-Asiatic family (Ruhlen 1991), this expansion could have involved people speaking a proto-Afro-Asiatic language. These people could have carried, among others, the E3b and J lineages, after which the M81 mutation arose within North Africa and expanded along with the Neolithic population into an environment containing few humans.


There's No Arguing with a True Believer

February 23, 2005

This insightful passage from a review of Mary Lefkowitz' Not Out of Africa details the futility of trying to debate an Afrocentrist or other true believer. The writer could easily have included Nordicism among the many other "-isms" cited as examples.

It is not an accident that the students of Afrocentrism and catastrophism act more like disciples of a guru than students of a scientific teacher. They are on a mission, not a quest. And, as with many before them with noble goals, they believe the end justifies the means. Hence, it is nearly futile to engage them in debate. Scholars have difficulty debating opponents such as Afrocentrists, catastrophists, creationists or even anti-abortionists, because they expect their opponents to be civil and play by the rules of scholarly evidence. They mistakenly believe they have entered an arena where all sides are in quest of the same truth. What they are actually getting into is a street fight, where the goal is to defeat and humiliate your enemy. Their opponents don't follow traditional standards of evidence in their printed arguments and diatribes, so why expect them to be any different in a public debate? If you challenge their accuracy, they will question your integrity. If you ask for evidence, they will insult you. If you challenge their sources, you will be asked to prove the absolute certainty of your sources. You think the arena is an intellectual one where the combatants use wit and intelligence to score points, but while you are looking above your opponent's shoulders, he will kick you in the groin. You may have the evidence and the arguments on your side but your opponent doesn't care about the evidence and is not interested in your arguments. He already knows the truth.


"Best of Sicily" Fraud

February 14, 2005

On the surface, Best of Sicily (BoS) looks like a harmless travel and tourism site. But dig a little deeper and you'll find references to Sicily as "African" and Sicilians as "descended from Arabs". Move on to the site's History section and the editors' multi-cultural and multi-racial agenda becomes overtly clear. They've turned Sicily into a diverse island whose inhabitants are an even mix of all of its different settlers and conquerors over the centuries, ignoring cultural factors that may have acted as barriers to intermarriage with certain groups, and projecting their own modern obsession with "cultural harmony" onto ancient and medieval populations.

Upon being confronted with contemporary scientific data on Sicilian Origins that shatters their unsupported fantasies, the site's editors, instead of welcoming the new information, responded with a long-winded exercise in denial called Genetics & Anthropology in Sicily. Not surprisingly, it applies all of the old tricks Nordicists and Afrocentrists use to prove what isn't true, like referencing outdated material on sickle cell and other blood groups (they call a 1978 study "the best kind of research currently available"), giving precedence to speculations based on historical records, and rationalizing it all with vague half-truths and tirades against people with dissenting opinions. Whatever it takes to avoid the facts I've collected, of which they've been well aware for some time now.

You see, they have found my site useful for some things, like obtaining photos of Sicilian models to pretty up their Genetics page. But they don't dare divulge the source, and they absolutely will not post any of the relevant genetic data—though they're quick to dismiss it indirectly, going so far as to warn their readers against "[t]he existence of other, seemingly conflicting, studies, seeking to identify other gene markers possibly irrelevant to migration history, or incompletely documented, or cited out of context". Can you smell the desperation?

The reason they do all this is obvious: They know the available evidence categorically disproves their propaganda, and they can't risk their visitors being exposed to the truth, or even to any interpretation that threatens to undo the elaborate myth they've created. To put it plainly, they're liars and cowards, no different from the Neo-Nazi and Black Power revisionists targeted by my website (who, incidentally, often quote from BoS to further their agendas). But they get away with it by wrapping their politics in a deceptively neutral package. The average visitor to the site inevitably falls for it, but there's no reason you should.

So if you happen to come across a website that endorses BoS, I would urge you to send the webmaster a link to this blog entry, with a carbon copy to the BoS editors. Or you could just e-mail the link directly to the editors with an expression of disapproval (but don't expect a reply). Also, if you see their site referenced in a forum as support for some outrageous claim, you might want to direct the offender(s) to this page as well. The BoS crew has done such a thorough job of maintaining its deception that this is the only way to get the truth out.

Here are some keywords to make sure that when this blog item gets indexed, it'll appear with Best of Sicily in search results: Palermo, Catania, Messina, Siracusa, Agrigento, Cefalù, Monreale, Taormina film festival, Mount Etna, cities, towns, culture, society, trip, vacation, car rentals, hotels, restaurants, cuisine, food, wine, arts, books, heritage, genealogy, ethnology, Saracens, Moors, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Normans, online magazine, Italy, Italians.

Asselar Man

February 5, 2005

A tall, clearly Negroid skeleton (Asselar Man) has been dated to 6500 B.P. (Camp 1974:241; Coon 1962:649-650).


Extinct human known from a skeleton found in 1927 near the French military post of Asselar, French Sudan (now Mali), by M.V. Besnard and Théodore Monod. Asselar man is believed to belong to the Holocene or Recent Epoch; some scholars consider it the oldest known skeleton of an African black.


Africa Wasn't Negroid Until Historic Times

January 25, 2005

Here's some important information about the racial history of Africa stated clearly and succinctly:

"True" Black Africans appear as a recent adaptive radiation in the above dendrograms, apparently branching off from an ancestral Pygmy population — a line of ancestry also indicated by osteological data (Coon 1962:651-656; Watson et al. 1996). This radiation seems to have occurred somewhere in West Africa. Before the Bantu expansion about 3,000 years ago, true Black Africans were absent from the continent's central, eastern, and southern regions (Cavalli-Sforza 1986:361-362; Oliver 1966). They were also absent from the middle Nile until about 4,000 years ago, at which time they begin to appear in paintings from Pharaonic Egypt and in skeletal remains from Nubia (Junker 1921).


For more detailed information about the racial differences between pre-historic and modern sub-Saharan Africans, see the work of anthropologist W.W. Howells.

Genghis Khan & the Making of the Modern World

January 5, 2005

Embrace the inner Genghis

A new biography argues that the maligned ruler of the Mongols was a great entrepreneur and social reformer

By Gregory M. Lamb
The Christian Science Monitor
March 23, 2004

He was a sadistic hedonist hiding beneath a fur-rimmed hat. A prairie bandit sporting a Fu Manchu moustache and a nasty disposition who set loose a horde of barbarians to loot the civilized world.

No, no, all wrong. That's what happens when you let your enemies define you, as modern-day political candidates know. The Mongols were always secretive about their revered leader, the man called Genghis Khan. To this day, his burial site has not been found. Over the years, as the Mongols' political influence subsided, anti-Genghis, anti-Mongol propaganda worsened. It became so bad that by the early 20th century the followers of the dubious science of eugenics coined "Mongoloid" as a term to describe retarded children, who, they surmised, must have inherited defective Mongol traits.


In "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" [scholar Jack Weatherford] aims to set the record straight. Take the Renaissance, for example. You probably think it was Europe rediscovering the lost knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome? Well, yes, a little. But it was really the paper, printing, gunpowder, and compass brought from the east by Mongols that set Europeans' thinking caps atwirl. Mongols even changed fashion, convincing European men to abandon their silly robes and put on practical pants.


"On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation," Weatherford enthuses.

He has plenty to say to back up that statement. In 25 years under Khan, the Mongol army, never bigger than 100,000, conquered more lands and people than the Romans did in 400 years. All other military geniuses — Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon — pale before the great Mongol leader, who developed innovative fighting techniques and elicited total loyalty from his troops.


Beyond the battlefield, Genghis established religious freedom throughout his realm (many Christians were family members or held high positions, along with Buddhists, Muslims, and others). He created a free-trade zone between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He ran a meritocracy: He held the wealthy and high-born to the same standard of justice as peasants, not hesitating to promote shepherds and camel tenders to generals. He judged people on their individual merits and loyalty, not by family, ethnic, or religious ties — a revolutionary act in the family-centric Mongol society, Weatherford says.

True, Mongols didn't create much of anything themselves. But they were oh-so-modern as disciples of the Knowledge Economy. They treated people who had learning and skills as important commodities to be acquired and utilized. They had no interest in turning conquered peoples into Mongols. Instead, they made sure that goods, ideas, and people traveled safely across most of the known world, unleashing an era of unprecedented innovation and prosperity.