Language is the best example of a cultural evolutionary system, able to retain a phylogenetic signal over many thousands of years. The temporal stability (conservatism) of basic vocabulary is relatively well understood, but the stability of the structural properties of language (phonology, morphology, syntax) is still unclear. Here we report an extensive Bayesian phylogenetic investigation of the structural stability of numerous features across many language families and we introduce a novel method for analyzing the relationships between the "stability profiles" of language families. We found that there is a strong universal component across language families, suggesting the existence of universal linguistic, cognitive and genetic constraints. Against this background, however, each language family has a distinct stability profile, and these profiles cluster by geographic area and likely deep genealogical relationships. These stability profiles seem to show, for example, the ancient historical relationships between the Siberian and American language families, presumed to be separated by at least 12,000 years, and possible connections between the Eurasian families. We also found preliminary support for the punctuated evolution of structural features of language across families, types of features and geographic areas. Thus, such higher-level properties of language seen as an evolutionary system might allow the investigation of ancient connections between languages and shed light on the peopling of the world.
Cites: Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Feb 7;278(1704):474-920810441
Cites: Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2010 Dec 12;365(1559):3903-1221041214
Cites: Nature. 2011 May 5;473(7345):79-8221490599
Cites: Hum Biol. 2011 Apr;83(2):279-9621615290
Cites: Science. 2011 Oct 21;334(6054):351-322021854
Cites: Science. 2011 Mar 25;331(6024):1599-60321436451
Cites: Science. 2001 Dec 14;294(5550):2310-411743192
Cites: Bioinformatics. 2003 Aug 12;19(12):1572-412912839
The use of teeth as tools provides clues to past subsistence patterns and cultural practices. Five Holocene period hunter-fisher-gatherer mortuary sites from the south-western region of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russian Federation, are observed for activity-induced dental modification (AIDM) to further characterize their adaptive regimes. Grooves on the occlusal surfaces of teeth are observed in 25 out of 123 individuals (20.3%) and were most likely produced during the processing of fibers from plants and animals, for making items such as nets and cordage. Regional variation in the frequency of individuals with occlusal grooves is found in riverine versus lakeshore sites. This variation suggests that production of material culture items differed, perhaps in relation to different fishing practices. There is also variation in the distribution of grooves by sex: grooves are found predominately in females, except at the Late Neolithic-Bronze Age river site of Ust'-Ida I where grooves are found exclusively in males. Occlusal grooves were cast using polyvinylsiloxane and maxillary canine impressions were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to determine striation patterns. Variation in striae orientation suggests that a variety of activities, and/or different manufacturing techniques, were involved in groove production. Overall, the variability in occlusal groove frequency, sex and regional distribution, and microscopic striae patterns, points to the multiplicity of activities and ways in which people used their mouths and teeth in cultural activities.
For the confirmation of Ag 85 in ancient and recent ECM of native macerated human bone, five cases were investigated. In three individuals, highly positive results for Ag 85 were identified in Western blot: 1) a male from Arzhan, South Siberia, dating from the 7th century BC, 2) a male from Kirchberg in Hesse, Germany, dating from the 10th - 12th century AD and 3) a recent female with a proven diagnosis of TB. As a negative control, a recent male is presented who did not suffer from TB. In another recent male, Ag 85 could be identified only very weakly. From cases in the literature it is well-known that highly positive results for Ag 85 indicate active TB, however, weakly positive results indicate a silent initial infection with Mtb. Thus, apparently, also in ancient individuals, it might well be possible to differentiate between diseased persons and disease carriers using paleoproteomic techniques.
Aspartic acid racemization analysis of a tooth from an Alaskan mummy yielded an age at death of 53 (+/- 5) years, which correlates well with earlier estimates based on morphological features. This study illustrates the value of integrative approaches to paleopathologic problems and the importance of preserving rare specimens for the application of new techniques.
From: Fortuine, Robert et al. 1993. The Health of the Inuit of North America: A Bibliography from the Earliest Times through 1990. University of Alaska Anchorage. Citation number 179.
In this paper conventional X-ray analysis of cattle metapodials is used to study the age structure of slaughtered cattle at Eketorp ringfort on the island of Öland, Sweden. The X-ray analyses suggest that several animals in both phases were slaughtered aged 4-8 years. More oxen/bulls than cows reached the advanced age of over 8 years, yet in phase III more oxen/bulls seem to have been slaughtered between the ages of 2 and 8 years. These differences may reflect a change in demand for meat related to the character of the site. The results also show a correlation between metapodials with a pathology connected to biomechanical stress and older animals. This suggests that male cattle were used both in meat production and as draught animals. Asymmetry in male metatarsals such as distal broadening of the lateral part of the medial trochlea was visible on the X-ray images. The bone element also indicates a denser outer cortex of the medial diaphysis in comparison to the inner medulla. This could be the result of repetitive mechanical stress. Two metatarsals from cows were documented with distal asymmetry indicating that cows were also used as working animals. Bone elements with changes in the articular surfaces were more common in metapodials from cows with an X-ray age of over 3-4 years. These results highlighted the slaughter age difference between oxen/bulls and cows, enabling a better understanding of animal husbandry and the selection of draught cattle at Eketorp ringfort.
Cites: J Anim Sci. 1991 Mar;69(3):1243-542061254
Cites: J Anim Sci. 1992 Jun;70(6):1661-61634389
Cites: Sports Med. 1995 Feb;19(2):103-227747001
Cites: J Dairy Sci. 1997 Jul;80(7):1269-809241589
Cites: J Nutr. 1957 Apr 10;61(4):597-60913416977
Cites: Nat Protoc. 2006;1(3):1057-6517406387
Cites: Vet J. 2011 Jun;188(3):295-30021570662
Cites: PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e2074821731623
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 19;108(29):11790-321730180
This paper analyzes the age pattern of effective fecundability from populations with no evidence of deliberate fertility control using a new convolution model of fecundability. The analysis is based on a sample of Hutterite birth histories from the mid-20th century, and birth histories of French Canadians from the 17th and 18th centuries. The main findings are as follows: 1) the level of effective fecundability is higher among the French Canadians compared to the Hutterites; 2) effective fecundability peaks at age 20 for the Hutterites, and in the early to mid-20s for the French Canadians; 3) Hutterite effective fecundability declines almost linearly from age 20 to 45, and French Canadian effective fecundability declines slowly from its peak to the early 30s, and more rapidly at older ages; and 4) the duration of postpartum amenorrhea is longer for the French Canadians than for the Hutterites. Because of the shorter periods of postpartum amenorrhea the Hutterites have about the same average number of children as the French Canadians, even though the French Canadians have higher effective fecundability.