Saturday, March 30, 2013

Roger Pearson's "The Greek Face" completely debunked.

Roger Pearson is a neo-Nordicist writer and co founder of two peer reviewed academic journals known as Mankind Quarterly and The Journal of Indo-European Studies. I for one do not consider those journals to be necessarily bad, even though both (and in particular Mankind Quarterly) have come under heavy attack by the more politically correct mainstream. Pearson himself is a known eugenicist and racialist; however he has not contributed to or edited either of those journals in decades, and both journals have featured plenty of accredited and prestigious anthropologists and linguists such as J.P. Mallory. 

      However, I do have a particular problem with an article by Pearson titled The Greek Face made back from 1974 which I continue to see surface and referenced on the web from time to time. Unlike Pearson's early delves into racial history where he simply re-tells (literally word for word) old Hans F.K. Guenther fantasies, this article attempts to reference the actual scientific work of other well respected anthropologists and scientists who have studied the question hands on. The article made by Pearson concerns the racial affiliation of ancient and aristocratic class Greeks, and he focuses primarily on the Eupatridaes of ancient Athens. The problem with the article is Pearson completely distorts and outright lies about the sources he attempts to use to support his Nordicist premise.

Pearson's premise can be basically outlined as follows.

1. The Proto Indo-European speakers lived in the North Pontic Steppe region, and thus Indo-Europeanization of Greece happened during the Bronze age.

2. The populations who Indo-Europeanized Greece had full genetic continuity with the Proto Indo-European speakers.

3. The Eupatridaes of classical Athens had full genetic continuity from the populations who Indo-Europeanized Greece, while the commoners of Athens and Greece in general were not descended from them at all or very little. Thus there was a racial caste system in classical Athens amongst the Athenians themselves.

     I'll start right off by saying premise 1 which was originally put forth by archeologist Marija Gimbutas is still very much up for debate. Regarding premise 1, I certainly wont delve into that question in this blog entry since I nor really anyone else at the moment has any hope in either outright refuting it or outright proving it. Also, since the anthropologists Pearson attempts to use as sources [in Particular J. Lawrence Angel] followed that model of PIE homeland and timescale breakdown, I'll just comply with it for the sake of making a long story short. But lets deal in particular with premises 2 and 3 since they deal with biological and not linguistic matters. Let's firstly deal with Premise 2.

Pearson writes
    "Several attempts have been made to discuss the physical anthropology of Greece from the point of view ol the available skeletal evidence. Some early references were made by pioneers such as Ripley (1899), Schuchhardt (1926), and J.L. Myres (1930). More recently Coon (1954) and Angel (1944, 1945, 1946 [a] [b]) have added considerable information. In his most recent work on the subject, a detailed analysis of the numerous skeletal remains found in different cemeteries in the excavations at Lerna, Angel (1971) concludes that the immigrant Hellenic or Indo-European population reflected a 'Nordic' type which probably arrived from the Danubian area, and also a related 'Iranic' type. This latter appears to reflect a separate Indo-European invasion from the direction of Anatolia, although Angel assumes that both these related types originated ultimately from the area of the Pontic steppes."

Now this is what I call a blatant distortion. Angel believed that the Indo-Europeanizers of Greece were partially descended from North Pontic Steppes populations. However, Angel also said that they had morphological overlap and genetic heritage from "Balkan mountain peoples" and Near Eastern "Iranians"!

The real quote from Angel (1971)
    "My subjective and extremely speculative survey suggests that origins of the population were mostly local, derived from the Neolithic and later pre-Greek populations, with the Near East and Upper Paleolithic Central and Eastern Europe as ultimate sources. But altogether too sketchy data for the period before 2,000 B.C. Plus an analysis of the Middle Bronze Age do suggest a double intrusion of peoples who must have introduced Indo-European languages : from the east (originating in Iran and the steppe country) and from the north (also originating in the steppe country and from among Balkan mountain peoples)."

So according to Angel the North Pontic Steppes was not the only genetic source for the earliest Greek speakers, but also the Near East and the Balkans.

Another thing, in Angel's taxa system they were not morphologically "Nordic" as Pearson's lies claim they were. They were a morphological mix of Nordic-Iranian, Eastern Alpine, European Alpine, and Dinaroid. As the very next sentence from Angel states.
    "They seem to have been themselves mixed and newly forming groups, and they produced slight trends in Nordic-Iranian plus Eastern and European Alpine and Dinaroid directions."

If I order a pizza with "extra cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms" and when the pizza man gives me my pizza there is only extra cheese on it, did they get my order wrong? Yes, they did get my order wrong. So Pearson is simply reporting fraudulent information. Either that or he's grossly incompetent.

Pearson also lies and makes silly and unfounded "racial purity" claims about the early Indo-European Greek speakers when he says this.
    "In the course of some five or six millennia of expansion and conquest, an expanding IE upper caste may undoubtedly have preserved a high degree of genetic continuity, while simply superimposing itself upon the autochthonous populations."

How can he make such a claim when that was proven wrong by his own scientific source? Maybe I need to paste the the quote from Angel again.
    "They seem to have been themselves mixed and newly forming groups, and they produced slight trends in Nordic-Iranian plus Eastern and European Alpine and Dinaroid directions."

Key words : "mixed" and "newly forming". So the earliest Greeks certainly weren't undiluted remnants of the alleged Proto Indo-European Steppe populations, they only had partial ancestry from them. The point is the earliest Greeks didn't just develop their own unique culture and dialectical language from the Proto Indo-European culture and language (which would have preceded them by thousands of years) they had formed their own new and distinct genetic identity as well, and were sitting on a land pretty distant from the North Pontic Steppe. These early Bronze age Greeks then in turn mixed with and Hellenized the remainder of Greece soon forming Mycenaean and much later Classical Greek culture and genetic identities.

SOURCE for Angel's analysis (same sourced used by Pearson) : Angel, J. Lawrence, 1971, The people of Lerna; analysis of a prehistoric Aegean population (page 111), American School of Classical Studies, Athens.


Now as far as Premise 3 is concerned, Pearson states that the Eurapatrids in classical Athens would have been a racially distinct caste compared to the commoners based on supposed "Indo-European derived ancestry" (whatever that means) as compared to non Indo-European derived ancestry for the commoners.
    "From the point of view of physical anthropology the ethnic complexity of Greek society during the first millennium B.C. prohibits any attempt at a generalized statement of physical type based upon statistical averages of data derived from the available skeletal material. Substantial caste-like stratification, accompanied by relatively strict principles of caste endogamy separated the Indo-European-derived Eupatrids from the freemen and slave classes among whom the genetic influence of the autochthonous 'Pelasgian' population may have predominated. In addition the persistence of cremation among so very many of the aristocratic families from the time of Homer to well into the Classical period destroyed much of the physical evidence concerning this latter strata."

Firstly Pearson is somewhat misguided in saying that the freemen and slave classes in classical Athens would have descended from an autochthonous 'Pelasgian' [ie pre Greek] genetic strata. As Angel (1944) himself points out
"The Mycenaean blend seems to be fundamental in all later Greek populations down to the present day. Its formation was principally absorption of Middle Bronze Age intrusive strains by the pre-Greek racial substratum."
SOURCE : Angel, J. Lawrence, 1944, A racial analysis of the ancient Greeks: An essay on the use of morphological types, American Journal of Physical Anthropology


Angel deduced based on skeletal analysis that the Mycenaean racial blend was a mixture and synthesis of a pre Greek [ie Neolithic and often called 'Pelasgian'] and intrusive Bronze age genetic strains (from the North and East) which brought Indo-European speech to Greece. Not only that, but the Mycenaean racial blend was still the fundamental blend of the later classical Greek population whom Pearson is talking about. It's important to note that Angel's skeletal analysis here is not on aristocratic Greeks, so the commoners in classical Athens would have been a mixture of the two genetic elements, and so would have not descended only from the Neolithic pre Greek genetic strata. Weird how Pearson sources this same study from Angel but he seems to ignore that, maybe because it doesn't fit his race fantasies? Ehh, who knows.

Pearson is correct in pointing out that by the time of Classical Greece the Athenian aristocrats practiced cremation (strangely, this is very different than the "Kurgan mound" burial method of the alleged Proto Indo-European Steppe populations practiced) and that any known physical remains of them are scanty. However, even John V. Day is forced to admit that nearly a thousand years earlier in Mycenaean times that the Greek aristocrats were racially similar to the commoners. Unlike the Classic era Athenians, The Mycenaean Greek aristocrats didn't practice cremation, they buried their dead in Shaft Graves. Not only does John V. Day give a summary of Angel's analysis of them (who hypothesized based on the data he had they were racially similar to the commoners), he also sources a more modern multidimensional cranio-metric analysis of the Mycenaean aristocrats as compared to the commoners of the Bronze Age.
     "On balance though, he attributes their size to a diet with plenty of meat and (as their teeth show) to good health, and to upwardly mobile rulers usually being larger and stronger than average (Angel 1973:386-7, 393;ef Xirotiris 1979a: 78; 1979b: 166). Angel concludes that 'except for their greater size and muscularity they differ from their subjects only in having relatively lower heads, probably relatively longer heads, and perhaps longer noses and more projecting mouths'  (1973:393). Others have tested Angel's hypothesis that the nobles in Grave Circle B resemble their subjects. Musgave and Evans carry out a principal component analysis on the Mycenae Grave Circle B series and 15 other eastern Mediterranean series [firgure 2.2]. Because Grave Circle B clusters so well with the two Early and Middle Bronze Age Greek series. Musgrave and Evans argue that 'these Bronze Age Greeks from Attica and the Argolid belonged to a single, homogeneous population.'"
Musgrave, J.H., Evans S.P., 1981, By strangers honor’d: a statistical study of ancient crania from Crete, mainland Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, Journal of Mediterranean Anthropology and Archaeology, 1(1), pp. 50-107

SOURCE : Day, J.V., 2000, Indo-European Origins: the Anthropological Evidence (page 198), Institute for the Study of Man, Washington D.C.


So, how can Classical era Ancient Athenian aristocrats descend from a distinct racial caste which genetically derive from the (supposed) Proto Indo-European steppe groups when we know

A. The Indo-Europeanization of Greece dates back at latest to the beginning of the second millennium B.C. [ie around 2,000 B.C. at latest].

B. J. Lawrence Angel who followed Majira Gimbutas' theory of the PIE homeland and timescale breakdown already believed the earliest Indo-European speakers in Greece were genetically descended in partial from not just Steppe groups but also Balkan mountain people and Near Easterners. Thus the earliest Indo-Europeans around the Aegean did not have complete genetic continuity from the alleged Proto Indo-Europeans of the North Pontic Steppe, only partial. The Proto Greeks were genetically "mixed" and "Newly formed" and were morphologically diverse.

C. The Mycenaean Greek racial blend itself didn't have complete genetic continuity with the earliest Greeks / Indo-Europeans around the Aegean, only partial. It predominated in all later Greeks and itself was just a synthesis of Proto Greek / Indo-European Bronze age intrusive strains with a Neolithic [pre Greek/'Pelasgian'] genetic substratum.   

D. The earliest Greek elites known are from the Mycenaean era and are proven to cranio-metrically tie to the commoners of the early and Middle Bronze Age.

E. Classical Athens post dates Mycenaean times by nearly a thousand years.

As we can see, Pearson is just a non objective, non empirical, pseudo scientific, dishonest and distorting ideologue. I think discrediting him by just shouting "Nordicist" or "Neo Nazi" is weak, but the proof is in the pudding that anything he says on the racial history of any ancient people is not to be taken with vigilant skepticism.

Enough of the science, my two cents

     There exists 0 evidence that the upper classes in ancient Greece differed in race from the commoners, certainly none in classical Athens. The remainder of his article he just posts pictures of busts of Athenian aristocrats as compared to people who were not of aristocratic birth. The funny thing is, other than Socrates, Archilochus, and Menander... none of the people whom he considers "non Indo-European" and "racially distinct" from the Athenian aristocrats are even Greeks! A Phoenician named Zeno, an Ethiopian named Memnon, a Cilician named Chrysippus, some crappy picture of some Anatolian slave named Aesop. And in my opinion Archilochus and Menande look fine among the Athenian aristocrats, they could fit right in. Menande would just have to grow some facial hair. Only Socrates who's physical ugliness was well documented looked strange. Generally upper classes of any people are finer featured and better looking than the average population. Socrates was homely, so what? I don't see the "racial caste system" Pearson is conjuring up.

     Now, looking elsewhere the ancient Spartans did eventually turn themselves into a master caste in the Peloponessus after they had conquered the Messenians in the Messenian Wars, enslaving the bulk of Messenians turning them into Helots. But this didn't happen until about the 8th century B.C. Also these differences would have probably been more 'ethnic' as the Spartans descended from Doric Greeks who had first entered the Peloponnese during the Greek dark ages, while the Messenians were of earlier pre Doric Greek stock. I doubt there was much bigger racial difference between those two groups than there was between the Latini descended Romans and the Samnites in Italy who waged wars against one another. 

(EDIT 2017) Mycenaean Genomes

A recent full genome wide study using ancient DNA on the origins of the Mycenaeans has confirmed what Larry Angel and Musgrave & Evans stated decades ago.
"The Minoans could be modelled as a mixture of the Anatolia Neolithic-related substratum with additional ‘eastern’ ancestry, but the other two groups had additional ancestry: the Mycenaeans had approximately 4–16% ancestry from a ‘northern’ ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia (Table 1), while the Bronze Age southwestern Anatolians may have had ~ 6% ancestry related to Neolithic Levantine populations. The elite Mycenaean individual from the ‘royal’ tomb at Peristeria in the western Peloponnese did not differ genetically from the other three Mycenaean individuals buried in common graves."

Also, it appears as if Angel's inferences of migration were broadly correct, and that the Aegean did see an influx from people from the North and East during the Early Bronze Age. 
"To identify more proximate sources ofthe distinctive eastern European/north Eurasian-related ancestry in Mycenaeans, we included later populations as candidate sources, and could model Mycenaeans as a mixture of the Anatolian Neolithic and Chalcolithic-to-Bronze Age populations from Armenia. Populations from Armenia possessed some ancestry related to eastern European hunter–gatherers so they, or similar unsampled populations of western Asia, could have contributed it to populations of the Aegean. This model makes geographical sense, since a population movement from the vicinity of Armenia could have admixed with Anatolian Neolithic-related farmers on either side of the Aegean. However, Mycenaeans can also be modelled as a mixture of Minoans and Bronze Age steppe populations, suggesting that, alternatively, ‘eastern’ ancestry arrived in both Crete and mainland Greece, followed by about 13–18% admixture with a ‘northern’ steppe population in mainland Greece only. Such a scenario is also plausible: first, it provides a genetic correlate for the distribution of shared toponyms in Crete, mainland Greece, and Anatolia discovered second, it postulates a single migration from the east; third, it proposes some gene flow from geographically contiguous areas to the northwhere steppe ancestry was present since at least the mid-third millennium."

So the average Mycenaean carried a small but definitely noticeable and important 13-18% Steppe ancestral component that entered mainland Greece during the Early Bronze Age. However, this ancestry was present at the same rate in the elite sample as it was in the 3 commoner samples. It wasn't present at close to 100% in the elites and totally lacking in the commoners as Pearson's wild fantasies would have us believe. The bulk of both aristocrat and commoner ancestry (>75%) goes back to Early Aegean-Anatolian Neolithic farmers. 

The idea that Athenian aristocrats nearly a millennia later somehow had this discrepancy in ancestral components seems to be near impossible. In short, Pearson's racialist conjectures about ancient Greece have yet to display any empirical or scientific credence about the past. 

SOURCE : Lazaridis, I., Mittnik, A., Patterson, N., Mallick, S., Rohland, N., Pfrengle, S., ... & McGeorge, P. J. P. (2017). Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans. Nature, 548(7666), 214


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