Thursday, September 25, 2014

Clips from the Cutting Room Floor

"He brushed the snow from a stand of Queen Anne's Lace, then bent the flowers' stems to show them to her. "See how they branch, time and again, each according to the same pattern?"

Lyta came timidly beside him. She took one of the dried pods and carefully opened it, revealing last summer's blooms. "Each flower is a thousand white ones, but at their center lies a tiny red, a flower within a flower, the whole contained within itself." She held it out to him, and their fingers brushed as he accepted it.

"Nature has such an extravagance of beauty that she must put flowers within flowers," he said, but his eyes never left hers, and she felt as though he weren't talking about plants at all."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ashkenazi Origens

DNA ties Ashkenazi Jews to group of just 330 people from Middle Ages

From the article:
"All of the Ashkenazi Jews alive today can trace their roots to a group of about 330 people who lived 600 to 800 years ago..."

I've been following this story for some time. I've seen other genetic anthropologists disagree with parts of this article--for example, that the estimates of generation length are too short, and perhaps some other estimates of genetic drift or with the choice of comparison population. Different but seemingly reasonable interpretations of the same data also give us 440 people about 1,000 or 1,200 years ago, which gets us into the correct ballpark for the actually documented historical migration of Jewish people from Italy to the Ashkenazi heartland.

This was about the same time the Germans moved into a lot of these areas, too, btw. Germans settled western Germany was settled long before eastern Germany. I don't have the exact dates at hand, but many German cities were founded surprisingly (to me, at least, except for the part where it exactly confirmed a theory I'd developed based on regional temperaments,) late. To be clear, the Jews had lived in many areas for just as long as everyone else, and if they arrived later, it was often by invitation of the local elites, who believed the Ashkenazim would improve their economies.

If the later date estimates are correct, they imply a tremendous tragedy.

Ashkenazi Y-DNA (that is, ancestral men,) appears largely Middle Eastern. The MtDNA (from the mother's side,) appears largely Italian. That is, initial Jewish migrants from the Middle East to Italy were mostly men. They married Italian women, and their descendants--perhaps 330 to 440 of them--later moved to the area later known as Germany.

This rather destroys the whole "Khazar" theory of Ashkenazi origins.

I think it is a mistake to conclude that the Askenazi did not marry Germans based on this data, though. I suspect that the children of German-Jewish unions tended to chose due to social oppression to embrace the opportunities afforded by their Gentile-side and entered the general German population. Likewise, people who self-identify as Basque show little of the ancestry that is probably common to the original Indo-European speakers, while Spaniards do have that ancestry. You might conclude that Basques and Spaniards haven't mixed, but Spaniards show some Basque ancestry--people who were half-Basque/half-Spaniard have probably tended to identify as Spaniard instead of Basque.

Today, of course, the Jewish demographic situation is changing rapidly, but that's a subject for another day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All the Art

I download all of these lovely pictures to share with you, and then I get busy and forget the details behind them. So forgive me for these being a little low on explanation. (BTW, these are all in the public domain.)

Mademoiselle Aïssé, c.1694 – 13 March 1733. The daughter of a Circassian chief, she was kidnapped by the Turks (Ottomans?), sold into slavery, and was bought by the French ambassador to Constantinople, who took her back to France, where she grew up.

Sheretluko Kyzbech Tughuzique, Guz Beg, the "Lion of Circassia," 1777-1840.

Lezginka Kabardian--Adyghe Traditional Dagger Dance, Wikimedia Commons

Circassian Noblewoman

Map of the Cumans

Kabardin dance

The Terraces of Tiflis

Circassian Horsemanship

Circassian Coast Battle

Pyotr Nikolayevich Gruzinsky: The Mountaineers Leave the Aul

Is your hair pathetically blond? Try Circassian hair dye!
Looking like a Circassian was once considered very fashionable, because Europeans thought Cirassians were beautiful folks. Unfortunately, as noted above, this resulted in (or was the result of) many Circassian women and children being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Cuman Camp, by Ivan Bilibin

Forced emigration of the Kalmyks to China in 1771 ( Charles Michel Geoffroy, 1845).

Khazar State (The Khazar state was officially Jewish for a while, leading to various, now-disproven theories about Jewish origins.)

Some Muslim art. I think I've posted this before.

On a different cultural note, have some masquerades. Heironymus Francken, Carnival in Venice with Dancing

Umberto Brunelleschi, 1913

This is not a masquerade. One of these men just happens to have a dog's head.

The French Revolution, Calvinist Rabbis, and the Little Ice Age

In my Further Explorations of History, I was recently reading about the teachings of some Eastern European Rabbis from the 1700s (a dismal time for Jews due to persecution,) and the fire-and-brimstone approach of "You slackers need to fast and pray more!" reminded me rather strongly of similar attitudes among Calvinist and other protestant preachers. (For the record, this line of thinking appears to have been later rejected in Judaism, by teachers like the Baal Shem Tov, so it should not be taken as indicating anything about modern Jewish thought.)

Then I recalled that this was also about the time of the French Revolution (late 1700s), which I ascribe largely to the effects of a particular nadir in the Little Ice Age. (I had a post about that a while back with graphs.) A bad hail storm also happened to wipe out a large % of France's crops right before the French Revolution kicked off--when a few years of bad harvests have completely depleted your savings, and then a hail storm destroys the harvest, your attitude towards paying taxes will turn distinctly sour. You might even behead a monarch or two and try to redistribute all of the land in a desperate attempt to not starve.

I wouldn't be surprised if similarly bad weather over in Eastern Europe prompted both increased antisemitism and gloominess--I know I'd feel pretty depressed if my crops failed and then someone burned down my house.

Another nadir in the Little Ice Age occurred in the 1600s. I don't know the history of the 1600s well enough to speak intelligently about it, but I speculate that this nadir was responsible for the English Civil War and the triumph of ultra-depressing Puritanism in England during that period.

I further speculate that multi-year crop failures (or single-year mega-calamities) ought to be strongly tied to religious pessimism and political revolutions/rebellions in a way that historians could probably even quantify and make predictions with. An end to the lean times ought to promote the emergence of more cheerful philosophies, politics, or religious teachings.