September Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Just got the application referees’ evaluation for a job I’ve been hoping for. I’m afraid to read it. Taking a walk first.
  • I’m really tired of this thankless shit. Impatient for December, when I’ll know if I’ll have money to write that castles book or if I should start calling people about a steady job in contract archaeology. The one I stupidly turned down in fucking 1994.
  • Osteologist Rudolf Gustavsson has documented traces of flaying on cat bones that we’ve found at Stensö Castle. Reading the ribald 15th century “Marriage Song” that has just appeared in a new critical edition, I found a passage where the poet warns a father of daughters: “If he has beautiful cats, then my advice is not to invite many furriers to his feast”.
  • Affluent Chinese Swedes who want to throw out the Middle Eastern refugees. I can’t even.
  • Torbjörn Lodén writes something interesting in the latest issue of the Swedish-Chinese Association’s monthly. According to him, the Chinese Communist Party’s continued emphasis on Mao Zedong Sixiang, “Mao Zedong’s Thought” after the man’s death should be read as an implicit step away from his many disastrous actions. Apparently Mao Zedong failed to follow his own Thought.
  • I see flashing knobs!
  • These castle sites really aren’t very rich in pottery. Birgittas udde didn’t yield a single sherd. Skällvik offered only 68 g of Medieval wares and 332 g of Modern stuff.
  • Not-so-great usability. The interface of our front door’s inside lets you do four things. Press the handle, pull the handle, turn the lock knob one way, turn the lock knob the other way. When the door is locked, if you press the handle, the pressure of the door’s rubber insulation seal disables the lock knob. You can then only leave our house if you know that you have to pull the handle first.
  • Sewed the buttons back onto my crappy Lithuanian shirt and imposed Ordnung on the needlework box.
  • Much-needed encouragement: a journalist did a long interview with me about my new book.
  • It’s 100 meters high and several 100 degrees Celsius warm inside. It’s a pile of ashes from a mid-20th century shale oil plant. It’s just outside Örebro.
  • Reasonable commentators unanimously declare Trump unfit for office. Sadly this makes Trump voters unfit for democracy.
I've never tossed a grocery basket onto a roof. Have I really lived at all?
I’ve never tossed a grocery basket onto a roof. Have I really lived at all?

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

46 thoughts on “September Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. Affluent Chinese Swedes who want to throw out the Middle Eastern refugees. I can’t even.

    Friction between different immigrant groups is a common feature of US history. There is also an all-too-common pattern of wanting to close the gate after one’s own family has gotten in.

    Consider the friction in West Side Story between the Jets, who are the children of Polish immigrants, and the Sharks, who have come from Puerto Rico (technically Americans but not always accepted as such). They occupy distinct but adjacent neighborhoods in 1950s Manhattan, and each have to defend their turf from tough guys from the other gang. There are a few formalized rules (e.g., the gym is recognized as neutral territory), but it’s combat nonetheless. Of course, apart from the details of setting it’s basically a remake of Romeo and Juliet.

    And for that matter, we have people like the lawyer in Houston who shot at a bunch of people earlier this week (luckily, he was the only one who was killed). He was apparently a US-born South Asian who was wearing a replica Nazi uniform.


  2. To the extent that anybody who attempts mass murder can be called sane, the Houston fellow sounds more motivated by psychosis than by his ethnic origins or any political ideals.


  3. During the campaigning period before the election of the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong (i.e. The Boss), both candidates (there was a third, but he was just a joke ‘dummy’ candidate) were revealed to have broken the law, in that both had been found to have made illegal additions to their domestic premises. One had dug a whole basement under his house, of which he denied all knowledge – he blamed it on his wife, who dutifully stood up and shouldered the blame, but it is simply not credible that he knew nothing about it. The other (a building surveyor by profession, so precisely the sort of person who should be fully conversant with the law on such things) had made structural additions to his place without the necessary prior approval from the Building Authority – he claimed ignorance of the law, i.e. he said he didn’t know what he had done was illegal. Again, not credible. In any case, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    At that point, in my view, the election should have been called void, as both candidates had been found to be unfit persons to govern Hong Kong – they had both been found to have broken the law, and either did it knowingly, or showed such ignorance of Hong Kong law that they were revealed to be unsuitable for the job, one of the prime duties of which is to uphold the Laws of Hong Kong (and to be clear, illegal construction is a massive problem in Hong Kong, and one that the government authorities should be doing far more to try to combat). A fresh election should have been called, with different candidates. Of course, that didn’t happen, the second guy got elected, and he has been by far the most unpopular CE since the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty; Hong Kong has stumbled to a virtual economic and development standstill due to political and public opposition to everything he does, including concerted blocking in the Legislative Council, and large scale public protests. People are so pissed off that now an “independent Hong Kong” movement has emerged, which is ridiculous – Hong Kong cannot function as an independent country like Singapore; not possibly.

    I see the current election campaign in America a bit the same way – in my view, both Clinton and Trump have been revealed to be unelectable (Clinton is a corrupt, militaristic and hegemonistic liar who is in the pockets of the big corporations, and possibly too old and sick, and Trump is just a ridiculous buffoon), and a rational move would be to extend Obama’s presidency long enough to call a fresh election with different candidates. That will not happen, of course; legally it probably can’t happen. But whoever is elected, America and the world will suffer for it.

    I don’t think that means American voters are unfit for democracy at all. I just think they have not been given a credible choice.

    American voters demonstrated their sanity and wisdom when they elected Barack Obama, twice. This time, I would really hate to be in their shoes. Actually, I’m hating just having to watch the process.


  4. I’m not even going here:

    I’m not going to read it; at least, not now. I’m not interested in modern genetic structure within Europe, any more than I am interested in my own genealogy. To put it in plain terms, I am not my grandfathers or great-grandfathers; they are as foreign to me as any stranger in a crowd of other strangers. My interest in human origins is in ancient origins; once I get past the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, I kind of blank out. And ultimately, if you trace human origins back far enough from there, you reach a bottleneck that was the speciation of modern humans in Africa, from whom we are all descended, with small amounts of archaic admixture.

    I will probably get around to reading it some time, but not now. I am too disillusioned with the ‘differences’ that modern people see and seem to be obsessed with. I find such obsession to be ultimately disgusting and pointless.


  5. Whereas I find this more interesting – due to the ability to map uniparental markers, it is possible to map male migrations separately from female migrations, and historically these have often been the same, or different, depending on the nature of the migration.

    So, stated succinctly here: “In short, it looks like the population of Northern Europe derives from a fusion of males from the steppe, and native females, who themselves arose out of a group of peoples which synthesized the ancestry of European hunter-gatherers and West Asian farmers.”

    Even more succinctly, the title of the paper being blogged: “Familial migration of the Neolithic contrasts massive male migration during Bronze Age in Europe inferred from ancient X chromosomes.”

    So, in other words, Europe was originally populated by hunter gatherers who had recolonised Europe from refugia in southern Europe after the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, when large areas of Europe became habitable again. (Evidence for genetic continuity across the LGM is sparse to non-existent, i.e. the people who occupied Europe after the first migration of modern humans into Europe, who probably genetically swamped/swallowed up the remaining Neanderthals, were mostly not the same people who reinhabited Europe again after the LGM.)

    This was followed by the mass migration of West Eurasian farmers into Europe after the advent of agriculture, but this was migration of whole families. The hunter gatherers were either marginalised or interbred with incoming farmers (in which case, due to the population imbalance between the hunter gatherers and the much more numerous farmers, the hunter gatherers would tend to be ‘swamped’ genetically within a few generations. So this was a ‘folk migration’.

    Then Europe was invaded by a series of invaders from the steppe, who were all male or heavily male dominated, probably as armed war bands, who then mated with the females already in Europe. This looks to have been a series of invasive events, not a single large invasion, large scale armies not being in existence by that time, but it resulted in large scale population turnover. These people were animal herders, and likely to have brought Indo-European languages to Europe (they also extended to the south-west, resulting in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language tree).

    You can read the blog post and access the paper here, but the history of the peopling of Europe now seems to be beyond dispute.

    Mapping uniparental migrations can be interesting – there are some historical cases where the males migrated in one direction while the females were migrating in a different direction. In such cases, mapping just one or the other can give a very misleading picture. Also, whether migrations were ‘folk migrations’ with movement of whole families, or whether they were male-dominated migrations, gives a very strong clue to the nature of the migration event; male-only migrations did pretty much the same thing everywhere that they occurred – killed or drove off the resident males (and presumably also the older people generally), and mated with the resident young females. This pattern was likely repeated in the progressive southerly migrations of the Han in China, displacing or interbreeding with the previously resident Austronesian peoples.


  6. For those who are wary of going to the admittedly crackpot infested Unz Review site, David of the Eurogenes blog has also blogged the Amy Goldberg paper, although with a lot less (actually none) commentary than Razib Khan has provided:

    A lot of people have suggested to Razib Khan that he is doing himself no favours by hanging out at the Unz Review, and he has acknowledged that it probably puts off a lot of potential readership, but he is interested in quality of comments, not just hits or people clicking ‘like’, and the terms of engagement suit him, i.e. he gets paid to blog there. But he is a voice of reason and rationality in among the largely crackpot babble, and he ought to think about moving sooner or later.


  7. These data are a little dated, but directly across the river from where we live there is a colony of water birds where the following have been mapped:

    19 nests of Great Egret
    12 nests of Little Egret
    5 nests of Black Crowned Night Heron
    6 nests of Chinese Pond Heron

    We also get periodic visits from a solitary Grey Heron, which have gone on for all of the years I have lived here (5 going on 6) but I have no way of telling if it is the same bird that keeps coming back. I presume it is.

    This side of the river we are infested (probably the wrong word, although too much sparrow shit can get you down) with a wide variety of smaller birds, but on/above the water and on the other bank is dominated by the water birds.

    Welcome to our concrete (cough) jungle.


  8. Career-wise, I’m empathising like crazy, BTW. Just because I don’t verbalise it doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. But also, me empathising doesn’t help. I can’t even offer any useful advice. I’m also currently staring down the barrel of a much less happy career direction/development than I have had for the past two years. That doesn’t help either. I feel your pain. I share your misery, for what that is worth, which is probably not a hell of a lot.

    My daughter took a bit of exception to #4, BTW. She thought he overdid the ‘métis’ thing to the point of being somewhat insulting, or off the point, or something. Yes, I don’t think Durocher nailed it in that article, and he did overdo the name-calling. I just thought it was moderately interesting in some of the things it says. And, as in the example he gave of the white American child raised in France, you don’t need to be a recent genetic mix to feel that dislocation of having to spend your life navigating between two very different cultures. I’ve been doing that for the past 35 years, and will always.


  9. I think Durocher is wrong, BTW. Data that I have seen suggest that young people who are the product of first generation outbreeding suffer less mental illness, not more. And logically, it should be so. I think there he is referring only to one or two specific groups, which do not include European/East Asian, and the problems he refers to derive from family dislocation, i.e. they are environmental.


  10. My daughter sent me a photo of an old geezer in the Mainland who has collected 1,250 different editions of “Dream of the Red Chamber.” He has a whole large and well set out library, all devoted to a single work of classical Chinese literature. No idea why.

    Trying to be funny, I asked my daughter is he has read them all.

    I will reproduce her reply, partly because it says some nice things about Zhejiang women, and partly because it addresses some of the things in #4 that I posted earlier. Plus it illustrates what a funny girl my daughter is, with her eclectic tastes and general derision for Australian culture.)

    I thought her comments might be of some passing interest to Yusie. No idea, but I’m guessing. So here goes.

    Daughter: “I would bet he has read it many, many times. There is an actual thing called “Redology”, believe it or not.

    I am too scared to read it in any language — to give an impression of its length and scope, the Penguin translation is twice as long as “War and Peace”, and the actual story contains over 300 main characters. It all seems rather excessive.

    I can’t imagine what I would do with 1,250 copies.

    I just settle for the Shaoxing opera film version, which is probably inadequate because it is only 2.5 h long (thankfully; even with that length, I am emotionally exhausted by the end) and was performed by illiterate women from rural Zhejiang (wondrously inventive in their own way though they may have been). It has the odd distinction of being one of the very early colour films made in communist China. Interestingly, the very first colour film made in communist China was also a Shaoxing opera film, so successful was this art form in the early post-Liberation days. I seem to have got onto one of my pet topics now, so I had better end by saying that the historical development of this particular form of opera is rather interesting, as its rise was tied to the rising status of women in republican-era Shanghai, and it holds the distinction of being uniquely feminine art form (much better performed by an all female-cast, in the way that Beijing opera is better when performed by an all-male cast — there are developmental reasons for this). There is a probably a whole range of social developments in China that could be investigated through the lens of this particular art form, and there is a book which I would very much like to read which seems to do exactly this (the abstract is rather compelling: It seems that, once freed of certain societal shackles, the peasant women of Zhejiang rose to demonstrate astonishing ingenuity and leadership. Their influence spread far beyond the area around Shanghai; the Shaw Bros even plagiarised scripts and copied certain aesthetics, e.g. female crossdressing (though I will note that Shaoxing opera was not the only victim of this shameful, commercially-driven behaviour).

    Of course, I consider myself merely a casual fan — for example, I am not familiar with all the different schools of singing, firstly, because I am too distracted by all my other musical interests; secondly, because I am already fixated on certain “favourites” of mine; and thirdly, because the film and music recordings are not readily and cheaply available in Hong Kong as they are in China.

    I could spend a lifetime uncovering all the cultural treasures of China, yet my time is split not only amongst various provinces of China, but bluegrass, Gaelic song, prog rock, and many, many more. And that is just music. It vexes me that I have no time (or endless funds — I would require an entire library of books and multimedia) to understand any of these in great depth. Each of these areas could produce many, many theses, though why tax money should be wasted on such studies, I cannot say. It might explain why I have no time left over to investigate Australian culture — probably dead last on my list, if not for the existence of New Zealand and various primitive parts of the world. Or should I be content with Tame Impala, Gotye, and the Seekers?


  11. #9: Thank you, John. I had a pretty positive outlook at the start of 2016. But most of my hopes have gone down the toilet in quite a spectacular fashion, taking my trust in academia as meritocracy with them. The one thing that’s gone really well for me this year, in the professional arena that is, was the Skällvik excavation.

    #12: John, I’ve forwarded your comment to YuSie. As for Australian / NZ culture, I recommend the movie “Turbo Kid” and the rock acts Pond, Architecture in Helsinki, Spookyland and Courtney Barnett.


  12. Martin – in the case of Oz/NZ culture, it’s a lost cause. My daughter feels too much “pull of the blood” to China and her desire to dig deeply into the vast realms of Chinese traditional culture. Modern Oz culture is 1) deeply unattractive and uninteresting to her, 2) a minor and irritating pimple on the arse of the behemoth of Chinese civilisation.

    I’ll try her with those suggestions, but she’s a very harsh judge.


  13. In my experience, almost all Chinese attempts in Western musical styles are hopelessly saccharine, really simply misunderstood on a deep level. After a few weeks in China, what I usually really miss isn’t Western food or Western faces. It’s Western music.


  14. #15 – I agree with you, and so does my daughter. That is why I specifically said Chinese traditional culture. And she loathes anything ‘fusion’, whereas I quite like something like this:

    The exception is that she likes to sing 1930s Mandarin songs, the stuff that was hot in Shanghai pre-Japanese occupation, and she’s good at it.


  15. In my experience, almost all Chinese attempts in Western musical styles are hopelessly saccharine, really simply misunderstood on a deep level.

    In fairness to the Chinese, a large fraction of Western popular music is hopelessly saccharine as well. (Not to mention J-pop and K-pop.) So it may be that rather than misunderstanding it, they understand it all too well. The tendency of East Asian cultures to emphasize cuteness (most prominent in Japan, but the Chinese are not immune) doesn’t help.

    In one of the hotels I stayed in when I visited Beijing, the breakfast room had Muzak-style versions of Western songs. There were obviously some cultural mishaps (e.g., playing “Let It Snow” in July), but it wasn’t that different from a Western hotel of comparable quality.


  16. “Friction between different immigrant groups is a common feature of US history. There is also an all-too-common pattern of wanting to close the gate after one’s own family has gotten in.”

    Scorcese’s Gangs of New York.


  17. Today is “cinnamon bun day” in Sweden.

    In my version of history (see “truthiness” in Wikipedia) this tradition got started when the vikings were done killing enemies in autumn, and celebrated with a jar of mead and cinnamon buns while looking out over the forest of pikes with impaled heads.


  18. #24 – Yeah. The data suggest a second wave of migration, after the Lapita, who were Papuan males. That is kind of curious, actually – why suddenly a wave of migration of Papuan males, after they had been in New Guinea for a very long time without showing any interest in migrating.


  19. why suddenly a wave of migration of Papuan males, after they had been in New Guinea for a very long time without showing any interest in migrating

    The migration may not have been entirely voluntary–some group may have been displaced by another group, and being on an island, had nowhere to go but some other island. Or it could have been a group of males that couldn’t find mates locally and went looking overseas, mail-order bride services being unavailable at the time.

    For a long time linguistic clues have pointed to a Taiwanese origin to the various Pacific Island peoples. The family to which these languages belong has four subfamilies. Three of these subfamilies are found only in Taiwan. The Pacific Island languages, from Malagasy to Hawaiian, all belong to the fourth.


  20. Papuans are very warlike. Their daily lives are built around constant warfare with neighbouring tribes, with killing of men and absconding with women. They’ve been doing it for a very long time.

    It would not surprise me if a load of Papuan males decided to go on an invasion/wife grabbing expedition. They were just island hopping after all – they still have sea-going catamaran-style canoes that are easily capable of undertaking these kinds of sea journeys without difficulty.

    So the wave of Lapita happened, and the invasion force of Papuan males followed. It seems to me to be a credible scenario.

    Or your alternative theory could also work, Eric – a load of Papuan males who were displaced and dispossessed, so set off to find a new home and source of wives.

    Or maybe it was just a slow trickle, like a trading system between Papuans and Lapita islanders.


  21. No – my understanding is that the first wave of Austronesian settlers belonged to the Lapita pottery culture, or it to them. So I make the mistake no archæologist would make and call them the Lapita people, when I’m actually referring to the people who made and traded Lapita pottery.

    As I understand it, they settled the coastal regions and close lying islands of Papua New Guinea, where they traded with and interbred with Papuans, but they also kept going and settled the islands of Melanesia. Then subsequently a wave of male Papuans arrived at the Melanesian islands and interbred with the Austronesian females, resulting in the modern Melanesian people that we know of today.

    This is the ‘new’ finding by Pontus Skoglund et al. Previously, people thought the Austronesians had interbred with Papuans to make ‘Melanesian people’ and it was these people who settled the Melanesian islands. But Skoglund et al. have shown by testing DNA from the earliest human remains on the Melanesian islands that they were ‘pure’ Austronesian people who had derived from Taiwan.

    The Austronesians were the world’s greatest sea faring explorers – they also progressively populated all of the Pacific Islands, becoming the modern Polynesians. And they made it clear across the Indian Ocean to land first in mainland Africa, and then to settle Madagascar, where they variously interbred with African people from the mainland.


  22. Interesting article on inter-specific breeding (including humans) pointed to by John Hawks:

    Incidentally, from what I have seen, John Hawks is about the best palæoanthropologist around, and everything he produces is well written, easily comprehensible to lay persons, and well founded/considered. He really does write very well, and he knows his old bones. He also grocks modern genomics.



    So, no genetic explanation for the alleged ‘cultural explosion’ 50,000 years ago, then.

    I have never believed in any sudden cultural explosion anyway – if anything did happen to accelerate the development of human material culture, climate change seems a more likely candidate.

    And all of the white supremacists who were sure that Neanderthal introgression 50,000 years ago was what made non-Africans so much smarter/more advanced than sub-Saharan Africans have had their stupid theories totally trashed by this, if they hadn’t been already.


  24. Trump Chose Chinese Steel Over American Steel -Behold the super-patriot. Really, he could rob a litte old lady on camera, and his fans would find an excuse reason to praise him.
    — — –
    Thailand Bars Entry To Teenage Hong Kong Activist All Because Of China


  25. #36 – I feel genuinely unlucky that Joshua Wong did not just disappear. Cross-threading, if you plotted his IQ on a Gaussian distribution of global IQs, he would be occupying the far left of the left tail.

    And while I’m being picky, I object to the Huffington Post’s description of Hong Kong as a “Chinese-ruled city.” No it isn’t. 1. It’s not a city, it’s a Special Administrative Region of China. 2. The Basic Law, agreed between the UK and China when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, stipulates that “Hong Kong people will rule Hong Kong” (unlike under the British administration, when it was ruled by a British Governor and the British Foreign Office.) And China honours the Basic Law. Hong Kong has autonomy over all of its own internal affairs, its own independent legal system and set of laws, and it’s own international representation (as you can note from the IMO referenced by Martin on another thread, or as you could have noted at the 2016 Olympic Games, had you been paying attention to that point. And no, we didn’t do much good – the only Olympic gold medal ever won by Hong Kong was won by the much-loved lady Lee Lai-shan, known ubiquitously as San-san, for wind-surfing in 1996).

    China is responsible for Hong Kong’s external security, just as the British military were before 1 July 1997.


  26. #29 – Comment by a commenter who knows his stuff, on another blog: “The Lapita culture pioneering the colonization of Polynesia lacked the Papuan/Australian admixture of modern Polynesians.”

    I think that answers your question. In the present, the % of Papuan admixture in Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians progressively recedes as you move eastwards from Papua New Guinea across the Pacific. So, the new finding explains how that happened – the first wave of migration was by Austronesian people associated with the Lapita pottery culture. This was followed some time later by a wave of migration of what appears to be Papuan males only, which petered out as it moved further eastwards away from Papua New Guinea.

    Papuan languages are nothing like Polynesian languages so, I don’t know, but I presume that Polynesian languages derived from the first wave of migration of Austronesian people who are identified with the Lapita culture.


  27. But you can tell he’s not an archæologist, because he’s made the same mistake – referring to “the Lapita culture” as if that was a group of people, instead of it being a material culture.

    Wikipedia does the same thing.

    Anyway, it answers the question – the people who had the Lapita culture spoke Austronesian languages, and these languages were spread around the Pacific:

    “Archaeologists and linguists currently agree that the POc-speaking community more or less coincides with the Lapita culture.” POc = Proto-Oceanic, which was an Austronesian language which they think was spoken in the Bismark Archipelago after it was settled by the people who had the Lapita culture, i.e. they were Austronesian people who derived originally from Taiwan.


  28. Re 33,
    A lot of cultures experimented with horticulture without settling down. It looks like a lot of factors hav to be just right for people to go on a trajectory that led out of the paleolithic.

    I am reminded of the “Rare Earth” hypothesis . Some transitions are really difficult. And when conditions were right, agriculture erupted across the world


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