Category Archives: sex

Echoes from the Past (Nov 24)

Another long list of interesting news and stuff that I will probably have to neglect dealing with more in depth:

Archaic hominins
Mundo Neandertal: final dating for Australopithecus sediba[es] – who could be our direct ancestor has been dated as precisely as 1.977 ± 0.002 million years ago (that’s very precise!) – see also the paper at Science magazine (ppv).

Smiling Sediba
Human tooth dated to 450,000 years ago found in a Moroccan cave[es] – ABC, the PDF report[fr] also documents remains of a rhinoceros and another more complete H. erectus jaw.

This jaw was found in the same site in 2008 and has a similar date

Update on the above: an academic narrative proposes that these H. erectus senso lato (or H. ergaster) of Morocco might be a last common ancestor between Neanderthals and our species, originating both. Quite controversially, on the same grounds they propose population continuity from these remains up to Aterian culture. The specific evidence is not there that I can see but it’s always interesting to know that such opinion exists. ··> PDF (scroll down for English text), another decades-old ref. in French only by L. Balout.

El Neandertal tonto ¡qué timo!: Backbone curvature and bipedal locomotion in promates[es] – this is big deal instead because it adds to a lot of other anatomical differences between the two big-headed Homo species. See also the paper at AJPA (ppv).
Neanderthals Vanished Because of Their Own Success, Suggests Study | Popular Archaeology – exploring the past – I have read the paper and, honestly, I must disagree with it having any validity other than hypothesis exposition.

Upper paleolithic

The newly found engraving resembles closely others from the same site

Rock art from La Garma cave

Wales: The Kendrick’s Cave horse jawbone « The Heritage Journal. It’s been holographed and a paper has been published for the occasion.

The Kendrick’s Cave decorated horse jaw


The Coa penises: mine is bigger, haw haw!
– a very interesting looking paper that I hope to be able to read in full and comment soon.

Bones kill myth of happy Harappa –  complex story open to interpretation in fact.
Art rocks in Saudi Arabia | Past Horizon – another very interesting material I’d love to mention in a separate entry (date of the art is not know but I’m assuming Neolithic or even more recent from the looks).


Archaeological vandalism and other abuses (often institutional abuses)
Pileta de Prehistoria: Cueva del Tesoro: ten years of abandonment[es]. How the Andalusian authorities ignore important archaeological sites and let them decay and be vandalized.
Pileta de Prehistoria: Chamizo asks again for information on the Chalcolithic Center[es]… of Valencina de la Concepción. The town hall promised such actuations in defense of the megalithic patrimony and has totally just ignored their responsibility and public compromises.

Eliseo Gil
Ostraka euskalduna » Eliseo Gil on trial for three years already[eu] – the former director of the Iruña-Veleia Vasco-Roman site has been on trial for three years already, demanding since day one that physical tests be done in order to confirm the authenticity of the findings and with the chartered provincial government totally ignoring the matter in open disobedience to the court (low rank tribunals in Spain never dare to confront political authority).
Human genetics
PLoS ONE: Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Background Affects LHON, but Not Suspected LHON, in Chinese Patients – what did I say about English and acronyms abuse? LHON stands for “Leber hereditary optic neuropathy”, which is probably as extremely rare as not to matter at all in evolutionary terms.
“False-positive psychology” | john hawks weblog – interesting take on how (not) to deceive yourself when doing scientific research.

Linguistic musings: Adur, Apru and Aphrodite

There’s a lengthy discussion after my latest speculative incursion into the messy field of Linguistics, probably breaking a record in what refers to comments in this blog: 210 so far!
But what brings me to write this note is that in latest comments have partly dealt with the origins of the name of the goddess Aphrodite, also known by her Latin name of Venus, but to Etruscans known as Apru, giving name to the month of April.
La nascita di Venere (Botticelli)
Botticelli famously imagined this way the legend of Aphrodite’s birth
The indoeuropeist hypothesis of Aphrodite’s name says that it comes from aphrós (foam), reflecting her mythological birth out of the sea foam after the severed testicles of Ouranos fell on it. Reader and linguist Octavià Alexandre argued the following purely IE etymology (for aphrós)

from IE *ºnbh-ro-/*ºnbhr-i- ‘rain’, a derivate of *nebh- ‘cloud, mist’

However I protested that rain seems unrelated to foam or surf. And then (not long ago) he provided me with a most valuable tip, that I, ignorant of the subtleties of Classical Greek, could have never figured on my own:

The Greek word can also refer to dribble (Spanish baba). 

This immediately ringed a bell in my mind because there’s a special word in Basque for it: adur. It is special not just because it means saliva or mucosa but because it also has a very special mythological meaning as the magic fluid of the universe. As such it is present in the name of the Basque river Adur (Adour in French) and probably also in English river Adur and the so many rivers in Europe with the pre-Indoeuropean particle dur- in them
However I had not expected this element to show up at all in SE Europe or the Eastern Mediterranean. Even if I am familiar with the classical Gimbutist theory of Old Europe and the alleged importance of the fluid and its zig-zag symbols, particularly common in Vinča culture iconography (but also apparent in other contexts and often associated to female sexuality or birthgiving), I had never suspected a relationship with Basque word and mythic concept Adur.
A few days ago Andalusian archaeology blog Pileta de Prehistoria mentioned (following Discovery News) the finding of a “stone age fertility ritual object” in Poland dated to c. 11,000 years ago. I did not give this finding too much importance at first, even if it is curiously a lot older than the better known Neolithic counterparts, but now I feel the need to add it to the evidence in favor of this Adur-Apru pan-European link.
The fertility meaning is explained because of the zig-zag symbols, which are very much like those of Vinča iconography but also because the body proportions of the human icon are feminine, strongly suggesting the moment of birthgiving, a most important cosmological instance for any religiosity connected with reality  (i.e. not pamphletist dogmatic “revealed” religions, like Judeochristoislamism).
Back to Aphrodite, let’s remember that she is not any Olympian goddess (not sibling or daughter of Zeus) but obviously related to a pre-Olympian cosmology, fully in connection with the early mythical (and terribly Oedipic) struggle between Kronos (Saturn) and Ouranos. Aphrodite is by all accounts a pre-Indoeuropean goddess closer to West Asian goddesses like Astarte, all them associated to the planet we know today as Venus. 
Let’s recall as well that it was Trojan favor for Aphrodite (and not the less sensual and more Indoeuropean-Patriarchal goddesses Hera, the wife, or Athena, the warrior maiden) the mythological trigger of the war as narrated by Homer. Aphrodite is clearly one of the last incarnations of the ancient Mother Goddess that Gimbutas’ often genial intuition found in Old Europe.
So Aphrodite, Apru in Etruscan, might well be the religious embodiment of this perception of the “magic flow” and its sexual and reproductive (“fertility”) implications, so important in Neolithic Europe and preserved till Modernity in the Basque Country (then becoming Satanic iconography in some cases, like the black billy goat, thanks to the Inquisition). 
Therefore Pelasgian-Etruscan Apru, derived into Greek as Aphrós should be foam, salive, and magic fluid in general. The fluid of life. 
Exactly the same as Adur, which is almost for sure a cognate. 
Now, which was first, the chicken of the egg? Is Apru or Adur the oldest term? This I live open to discussion. However the Polish Epipaleolithic finding is highly suggestive of a pre-Neolithic and hence Vasconic origin for this concept, which fits well with the fact that at least the ending of Adur looks very much Vasconic (ur is water in modern Basque).

Important update (Feb 6):

It has been brought to my attention (see comments) that Apru is not the genuine Etruscan name of Venus-Aphrodite, it was Turan instead. Apru was claimed by linguist E. Beneviste as the root of the Etruscan-Latin month of April. In this theory, Apru would not be a genuine Etruscan word but the Etruscan version of Greek Aphrós, shortening of Aphrodite.

So we can pretty much ignore this Etruscan word. Yet all which was said on Aphrós and Adur stand and they are the core of the argumentation here, with Apru being less relevant.


In case anyone has any doubt Octavià does not support this hypothesis of course. I just had to give him credit for opening my eyes to the possible Greek-Basque connection aphrós-adur because I would not have been able to think of it without his suggestions. But he, of course, disagrees with all my conclusions in this entry.


Sex bias in the prehistory of Homo sapiens?

There is a somewhat interesting new paper that finds some gender bias irregularities in the prehistory of our species:
Emery et al., Estimators of the Human Effective Sex Ratio Detect Sex Biases on Different Timescales, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2010), doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2010.10.021
Fig. 3
They argue that there is a “female bias” (greater female transmitted diversity) in Africans and a “male bias” in non-Africans (Eurasians hereafter).
I broadly agree. But I think it needs a qualification: Africans in particular must be always studied with their whole structure, so any study that ignores the branches best represented by Khoisan and Pygmies is itself biased (it applies to many other papers, not just this one).
Similarly Eurasians are studied only in the two standard HapMap samples, whose representativeness for all non-Africans is more than questionable (South Asian and Negrito/Papuan/Australian Aboriginal, as well as Native American samples are also needed).
I’ll explain here the bias in my own terms (all the necessary simplifications should be taken with the  lassitude they deserve):
First bifurcation:
  • Southern branch (Khoisan-plus): no bias
    • Y-DNA A
    • mtDNA L0
  • Main branch (all others): no bias (yet)
    • Y-DNA B’CDEF, aka Y(xA)
    • mtDNA L1″6
Second bifurcation (main group):
  • Western branch (Pygmy-plus): no bias
    • Y-DNA B
    • mtDNA L1
  • Main branch (all others):no bias (yet)
    • Y-DNA CDEF, aka Y(xA,B)
    • mtDNA L2″6
Third bifurcation (main group):
  • Major African branch: female bias
    • Y-DNA DE (E)
    • mtDNA L2″6 (again, all sublineages in Africa)
  • Eurasian branch: no clear bias (possible male bias)
    • Y-DNA CF and DE (D)
    • mtDNA M and N (< L3 < L3’4 < L3’4’6 < L2’3’4’6 < L2″6)
I understand that what is apparent in this third bifurcation, where there is a concentration of a particular male lineage, E (this is called female bias). In parallel there is a possible (but rather unclear, also rather mild a signal in the paper, see fig. 4).
It is very intriguing but hard to explain how this extinction of all male branch lineages between CDEF and DE (or rather E) in Africa happened, because there are nothing less than 16 coding region mutations between L2″6 and L3, what implies a lengthy period (but see PS below), and four clear successive branches in the line to L3 (L5, L2, L6 and L4).
We can maybe discard L5, L6 and L4 because they are small but L2 is not small at all, so there must have been some structure already in Central/East Africa in this period within the L2″6 population. 
Even if we totally ignore the Eurasian branches, there is something odd with that African male-only bottleneck.
The authors explain this by polygyny, while Dienekes rejects this and offers in turn the same explanation by another name: 

… an alternative explanation is that the higher female/male ratio in Africans is due to the fact that they are descended from a relatively small number of males who overwhelmed the pre-existing African gene pool. 

Hmmm, how is that different from polygyny?
I’m not really sure, sincerely, but what about the L2″6 population coalescing in a relatively small area (roughly Chad-Sudan-Ethiopia in my reconstruction) and this allowing for a case of male-biased drift that did probably have some component of that polygyny/overwhelming macho element in it, along with drift/founder effects?

PS – While there are 16 mutations between L2″6 and L3, most of them are upstream of the L2’3’4’6 node (i.e. after tiny lineage L5 branched out). Between L2’3’4’6 and L3 there are “only” 7 coding region mutational steps, less than half, the 16 mentioned above, and therefore also less than half the time. The branch leading to L5 can surely be safely ignored for this purpose, it is L2, L4 and the internal diversity of L3 which really cause the contradiction: the female gender bias.


Pleasure, not calories, reduces stress

Experimental research with rats showed that those able to access occasionally sources of pleasure, such as sweet solution treats or sexually receptive partners, have lower stress levels than those who cannot, even if the same amount of calories was fed directly to stomach.
Full story at Science Daily.
This finding (somewhat self-evident, I’d dare say) left me wondering about why so many religious sects repress pleasure and I must conclude that the real reason is to create perpetually stressed adepts. Now, what’s the advantage (for the sect) of perpetual stress among its flock? Are perpetually unsatisfied people more easily manipulable? I will presume so even if the exact mechanism eludes me.

Posted by on November 13, 2010 in pleasure, psychology, sex