The Red-Haired Race And The Atlantean Connection

Part II: Amentet and Elysium
Amentet: the mythical land in the West of the Egyptians

City of GoldWith the following look at the goddess Amentet and at Amenty, the Land of the West of the Egyptians, we’ll try to find out whether the Egyptians eventually referred to Atlantis and if so, where they located it.
Amentet (Ament, Amentit, Imentet, Imentit) was the Egyptian goddess and friend of the dead, and the personification of the Land of the West, Amenty – imnty. It was she who welcomed the deceased to their new dwelling place in the netherworld. She was also a goddess who helped with the rebirthing process, and thus a goddess of fertility and rebirth, who regenerated the deceased with food.amentet_wall
According to scholars, the word ‘Amentet’, as used by the Egyptians, was applied to the west bank of the Nile – Egyptian cemeteries and funerary places were all on the west. To the Egyptians, west was a direction linked to death. Amentet was also the name of the underworld – the place where Ra travelled during the night. The place where the sun set was also called by this name, being the entrance to the land of the dead according to Egyptian belief. Amentet – ‘She of the West’ – was therefore the goddess of not only the land of the dead, but also of the entry to the underworld, and of the west itself. (Source: Caroline Seawright).

However, the Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge writes :

“Amenti or Amentet was originally the place where the sun set, but subsequently the name was applied to the cemeteries and tombs which were usually built or hewn in the stony plateaus and mountains on the western bank of the Nile. Some believe that Amenti was, at first, the name of a small district, without either funereal or mythological signification. The Christian Egyptians or Copts used the word Amend to translate the Greek word Hades, to which they attributed all the ideas which their heathen ancestors had associated with the Amenti of The Book of the Dead. ”
(Wallis Budge E.A. 2011, The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum, p. cxxxiii)

So, Amentet was a “western region”, a district from the homeland. In Egyptian writings, Amentet is referred to as the world of the deceased as well as a lost western homeland. This would be a logical way of remembering a sunken continent in the West that maybe constituted the very base of the Egyptian culture itself. In this context it is also interesting to remember that the Egyptian historian Manetho mentioned that the ancient god kings reigned in a foreign land (also see: Manetho’s king list).
The hieroglyphs of set (“foreign land”, or a mountain land, or the world of the deceased, the Underworld) and Amentet are very similar to each other: set looks like a base with three waves, while Amentet looks the same with two dots or half circles over two of the waves. Amentet can mean West, Land of the West or Underworld.


Was the mythical Amentet a legend that changed over time, based on the existence of a landmass that had sunken into the ocean a long time before?

If Atlantis was in the West, and, as Plato states, “beyond the Pillars of Hercules” which was the phrase that was applied in Antiquity to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar – then maybe we have a hint to where Atlantis actually laid: in the ocean today called the Atlantic Ocean, like many people think. This might explain the similarities between the Egyptian and the South- and Mesoamerican cultures: if a landmass, big enough to be called a continent, sank into the Atlantic Ocean, survivors might eventually have arrived on the shores of Western Europe and Africa, as well as on the Eastern coasts of the Americas.

We’ll leave the Americas for later to find out more about the connection between the red-haired people and Atlantis. At this point, it makes sense to have an excursion to ancient Greece before passing on to the American continent, and focus on Amentet’s Greek counterpart: the Isles of the Blessed Hesiod.

Greek mythology: the redheaded ruler of Atlantis

Elysium “is a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life. The Elysian Fields were, according to Homer, located on the western edge of the Earth by the stream of Okeanos.”  (Wikipedia)

In the time of the Greek oral poet Hesiod, Elysium would also be known as the Fortunate Isles or the Isles (or Islands) of the Blessed, located in the western ocean at the end of the earth.Rhadamathus
Again, here we encounter the idea of a land in the West, consisting of several isles, like in the description of Amentet.
The Isles of the Blessed would be reduced to a single island by the Thebean poet Pindar, describing it as having shady parks, with residents indulging their athletic and musical pastimes.
The ruler of Elysium according to Pindar and Hesiod was Cronus but varies from author to author.

What seems really striking in this context after everything that has already been said is the fact that Homer mentions Rhadamanthus as the ruler of Atlantis.

In Homer’s description, Radhamanthus was a redhead – or at least, it’s pointed out that he was fair-haired.

Manetho’s god-kings and Plato’s kings of Atlantis

PlatoAlmost everything we heard about Atlantis, was said by Greek philosopher Plato.
According to Plato, the original kings of Atlantis were the ten sons of Poseidon and Cleito. Allegedly, Cleito gave birth five times to a couple of male twins. The first born was Atlas who ruled over all others.
The fact that Cleito should have given birth to just ten males and no female child seemed so incredible to many researchers that this fact is part of Atlantis being considered a result of Plato’s fantasy.
However, not only was the number 10 a very important factor in the rise and fall of Atlantis, but the number 10 for itself and as the number of kingdoms of Atlantis is perpetual in all ancient traditions.

“…‘In the number given by the Bible for the Antediluvian patriarchs we have the first instance of a striking agreement with the traditions of various nations. Other nations, to whatever epoch they carry back their ancestors…are constant to the sacred number of ten… In Chaldea (Babylon), Berosus, writing in the third century BC, numerates ten Antediluvian kings whose fabulous reign extended to thousands of years. The legends of the Iranian race commence with the reign of ten Peisdadien (Poseidon?) kings…. In India we meet with the nine Brahmadikas, who, with Brahma, their founder, make ten, and who are called the Ten Petris, or Fathers. The Chinese count ten emperors, partaking of the divine nature, before the dawn of historical time. The Germans believed in the ten ancestors of Odin, and the Arabs in the ten mythical kings of the Adites”. Although Babylon is supposed to have had ten kings before the Flood, it must be noted that they reigned successively rather than concurrently, as was the case in Atlantis.” (Ancient History of the East, Lenormant and Chevallier, vol. ii)

Egyptian historian and priest Manetho called the first sequence of Egyptian god-kings ‘Auriteans’. So, the idea emerges that Manetho’s god-kings are the same rulers as Plato’s kings of Atlantis.
Plato gives the names of the first ten kings as; Atlas, Gadeiros (Eumolos), Ampheres, Euaimon, Mneseos, Autochthon, Elasippos, Mestor, Azaes, Diaprepres (Critias 114b).
R. Cedric Leonard is convinced that Manetho’s list of Egyptian god-kings is in fact a list of the first kings of Atlantis and expands on this idea on his website.
Is it possible that it’s a mere coincidence that a tale of a world distant in time and place, consisting of 10 kingdoms, is present in so many ancient texts all over the planet? Storytelling over thousands of years may have changed the details, but it seems likely that there’s a common root – maybe the story of a doomed continent or isle the survivors of which reached the coasts of other, still less developed cultures, influencing the evolution of those peoples.
Some very interesting pieces of this puzzle can be found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean:  the Americas.

To be continued

written by Lara Lamberti

The Red-Haired Race And The Atlantean Connection

The Western European DNA of Tutankhamun

In 2011, the Swiss laboratory iGENETA reconstructed the DNA of the mummy of  Tutankhamun. They discovered that more than half of the European population shares a common ancestor with the Egyptian child pharaoh. The genetic profile of Tutankhamun belongs to the haplogroup R1b1a2. Haplogroup_R1b
Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA) is the dominant paternal lineage of Western Europe, with especially high incidence in Spain, Portugal, Western France and Ireland and in parts of sub-Saharan Central Africa (for example around Chad and Cameroon). R1b is also present at lower frequencies throughout Eastern Europe, Western Asia, Central Asia, and parts of North Africa, South Asia, and Siberia.
Today, in Egypt this haplogroup is found only in 1.1 per cent of the modern population, explains Roman Scholz who conducted the tests of iGENETA. For the scientists, there were many different possibilities of which DNA groups could have been found. R1b1a2 is being found in 70 per cent of modern Spanish and 60 per cent of modern French men, therefore the scientists think that the first ancestor lived in the Caucasus around 9,500 years ago and shifted towards South and  West during the first migration period in 7000 BC.

King Tut: the child of brother and sister

TutDNATutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and one of Akhenaten’s sisters, or perhaps one of his cousins As a prince he was known as Tutankhate. He ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine or ten, taking the throne name Nebkheperur. His wet-nurse was a woman called Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara.
In 2008, it turned out that Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister: a team of researchers investigated the DNA research of Tutankhamun and the mummified remains of other members of his family. The results from the DNA samples finally put to rest questions about Tutankhamun’s lineage, proving that his father was Akhenaten, but that his mother was not one of Akhenaten’s known wives. His mother was one of his father’s five sisters, although it is not known which one. The team was able to establish with a probability of better than 99.99 percent that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun. The young king’s mother was found through the DNA testing of a mummy designated as ‘The Younger Lady’ (KV35YL), which was found lying beside Queen Tiye in the alcove of KV35. Her DNA proved that, like his father, she was a child of Amenhotep III and Tiye; thus, Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister.
Queen Tiye (Tia, Tyre) had blonde or red hair.

R1b1a2 and the myth of red hair in Egypt

So, was the lineage of pharaohs the same lineage that represents over 50 per cent of modern European men?
800px-Bm-ginger.img_assist_custom-600x450Interestingly, a mysterious race of redheaded mummies is being found all over the globe, including Egypt. Although some people argue that the blonde hair might in some cases be the result of mummification or that the people might have dyed their hair, the coincidence seems almost incredible, considering that the Irish are part of the same haplogroup as the lineage of the pharaohs.


Is there anything about redheads in ancient Egypt that has been documented?
redhairedmummye3-126x165Queen Hetop-Heres II, of the Fourth Dynasty, the daughter of Cheops, the builder of the great pyramid, is shown in the colored bas reliefs of her tomb to have been a distinct blonde. Her hair is painted a bright yellow stippled with little red horizontal lines, and her skin is white.
A book that mentions red hair in conjunction with ancient Egypt is James Frazer’s “The Golden Bough.” In it he states that red-haired men were burnt and sacrificed by the Egyptians:
“With regard to the ancient Egyptians we have it on the authority of Manetho that they used to burn red-haired men and scatter their ashes with winnowing fans, and it is highly significant that this barbarous sacrifice was offered by the kings at the grave of Osiris. We may conjecture that the victims represented Osiris himself, who was annually slain, dismembered, and buried in their persons that he might quicken the seed in the earth.”
Later in the book he elaborates on this:
“Again the theory that the pig, originally Osiris himself, afterwards came to be regarded as an embodiment of his enemy Typhon, is supported by the similar relation of red-haired men and red oxen to Typhon. For in regards to the red-haired men who were burned and whose ashes were scattered with winnowing-fans, we have seen fair grounds for believing that originally, like the red-haired puppies killed at Rome in the spring, they were representatives of the corn-spirit himself, that is, of Osiris, and were slain for the express purpose of making the corn turn red or golden.”
Given this information it’s interesting to note that we now know that many pharaohs of ancient Egypt were red-haired, including Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great. In fact the number of red-haired mummies unearthed seems strikingly disproportionate, especially given the climate in Egypt.
However, what is striking about Ramses II, who was the 3rd pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, is that his father was Seti I. Seti means “the follower of Seth”, who in Egyptian mythology is in fact the god who murdered Osiris.
Seth was a redhead.


The Atlantean connection

It is documented that red-haired people were known to many of the peoples of the ancient world, but they always constituted a minority in every population. Their appearance in areas like Egypt and Peru surprises us for the climate, but the location in South America surprises us even more for the distance of the alleged source.
Did they really arrive from the Caucasus? Or did they come from Western territories, maybe from a sunken continent?
Plato was certainly not the only one who mentioned the existence of the mythical Atlantis. There’s in fact reason to believe that Plato gathered much of his knowledge as well as the tale of Atlantis from his visits in Egypt.
The Egyptians probably mentioned Atlantis in their writings – the writings about the mysterious land “Amentet”, the Land of the West.

To be continued

Written by Lara Lamberti


Sources: Wikipedia, The Myths and History of Red Hair, Burlington News, Science Frontiers.
James Frazer: The Golden Bough. England 1890.
Many thanks to José Da Silveira.
Image credits:,, Eupedia

The Curse Of The Red-Headed Mummy

By Heather Pringle
©2001 By Heather Pringle

How could an ancient mummy found in remote China have red hair and caucasian features? The answer has sparked a battle over smuggled DNA, Western imperialism, and history as we know it.

Until he first encountered the mummies of Xinjiang, Victor Mair was known mainly as a brilliant, if eccentric, translator of obscure Chinese texts, a fine sinologist with a few controversial ideas about the origins of Chinese culture, and a scathing critic prone to penning stern reviews of sloppy scholarship. Mair’s pronouncements on the striking resemblance between some characters inscribed on the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Chinese symbols were intensely debated by researchers. His magnum opus on the origins of Chinese writing, a work he had been toiling away at for years in his office at the University of Pennsylvania, was eagerly anticipated. But in 1988, something profound happened to Mair, something that would touch a nerve in both the East and the West, raising troubling questions about race, racism, and the nature of history itself.

That year, Mair had led a group of American travellers through a small museum in Ürümchi, the capital of China’s remote northwesternmost province, Xinjiang. Mair had visited the museum several times before, but on this occasion a new sign pointed to a back room. “It said something like ‘Mummy Exhibition,’ ” recalled Mair, “and I had the strangest kind of weird feeling because it was very dark. There were curtains, I think. Going in, you felt like you were entering another world.”

In a glass display case so poorly lit that visitors needed to use flashlights to look at its contents, Mair spied a bizarre sight. It was the outstretched body of a man just under six feet tall, dressed in an elegantly tailored wool tunic and matching pants, the colour of red wine. Covering the man’s legs were striped leggings in riotous shades of yellow, red, and blue, attire so outrageous it could have come straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss. But it was not so much the man’s clothing that first riveted Mair’s attention. It was the face. It was narrow and pale ivory in colour, with high cheekbones, full lips, and a long nose. Locks of ginger-coloured hair and a greying beard framed the parchment-like skin. He looked very Caucasian: indeed he resembled someone Mair knew intimately. “He looked like my brother Dave sleeping there, and that’s what really got me. I just kept looking at him, looking at his closed eyes. I couldn’t tear myself away, and I went around his glass case again and again and again. I stayed in there for several hours. I was supposed to be leading our group. I just forgot about them for two or three hours.”

Local archaeologists had come across the body a few years earlier while excavating in the Tarim Basin, an immense barren of sand and rock in southern Xinjiang. The region was not the kind of place that generally attracted well-dressed strangers. At the height of summer, temperatures in the basin soared to a scorching 125 degrees Fahrenheit, without so much as a whisper of humidity, and in winter, they frequently plunged far below freezing. The desert at the basin’s heart was one of the most parched places on Earth, and its very name, the Taklamakhan, was popularly said to mean “go in and you won’t come out.” Over the years, the Chinese government had found various uses for all this bleakness. It had set aside part of it as a nuclear testing range, conducting its blasts far from prying eyes. It had also built labour camps there, certain that no prisoner in his right mind would try to escape.

The Taklamakhan’s merciless climate had one advantage, however. It tended to preserve human bodies. The archaeologists who discovered the stranger in the striped leggings marvelled at the state of his cadaver. He looked almost alive. They named him Cherchen Man, after the county in which he was found, and when they set about carbon dating his body, they discovered that he was very, very old. Indeed, the tests showed that he had probably roamed the Tarim Basin as early as the eleventh century bc. When Mair learned this, he was astonished. If the mummy was indeed European in origin, this would undermine one of the keystones of Chinese history.

Scholars had long believed that the first contacts between China and Europe occurred relatively late in world history — sometime shortly after the mid-second century bc, when the Chinese emperor Wudi sent an emissary west. According to contemporary texts, Wudi had grown tired of the marauding Huns, a nomadic people whose homeland lay in what is now southwest Mongolia. The Huns were continually raiding the richest villages of his empire, stealing its grain and making off with its women. So Wudi decided to propose a military alliance with a kingdom far to the west, beyond Mongolia, in order to crush a common foe. In 139 bc, the emperor sent one of his attendants, Zhang Qian, on the long trek across Asia. Zhang Qian failed to obtain the alliance his master coveted, but the route he took became part of the legendary Silk Road to Europe. In the years that followed, hundreds of trading caravans and Caucasians plied this route, carrying bundles of ivory, gold, pomegranates, safflowers, jade, furs, porcelain, and silk between Rome and the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an.

Nationalists in China were very fond of this version of history. It strongly suggested that Chinese civilization, which had flowered long before Zhang Qian headed west, must have blossomed in isolation, free of European influence, and it cast early Chinese achievements in a particularly glorious light. In one popular book, The Cradle of the East, Chinese historian Ping-ti Ho proudly claimed that the hallmarks of early Chinese civilization — including the chariot, bronze metallurgy, and a system of writing — were all products of Chinese genius alone. According to Ping-ti Ho, those living in the ancient Celestial Kingdom had never stooped to borrowing the ideas of others and their inventive genius surpassed that of the West.

Mair, a professor of Chinese in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, had long doubted this version of history. He suspected that the Chinese had encountered Westerners from Europe long before the emperor Wudi dreamed up his military alliance. Several early Chinese books, for example, described tall men with green eyes and red hair that resembled the fur of rhesus monkeys. Most scholars dismissed these accounts as legendary, but Mair wasn’t so sure. He thought they were descriptions of Caucasian men. During his studies of Chinese mythology, he had found stories strikingly similar to those in early Greek and Roman tales. The parallels were too frequent to be mere coincidences. And he kept stumbling across words in early Chinese texts that seemed to have been borrowed from ancient languages far to the west. Among these were the words for dog, cow, goose, grape, and wheel. But though Mair repeatedly argued the case for early trade and contact between China and the West, he had no hard archaeological evidence of contact, and no one took him very seriously. “People would laugh at me. I said that East and West were communicating back in the Bronze Age and people just said, ‘Oh yeah? Interesting, but prove it.’ ”

Never for a moment did Mair expect to find the kind of flesh-and-blood vindication that Cherchen Man promised. Still, he was wary of a hoax. The man’s tailored woollen clothing, with all the complex textile technology it implied, was unlike anything Mair had ever seen from ancient Asia, let alone a remote outpost like Xinjiang. The mummy itself seemed almost too perfectly preserved to be true. “I thought it was part of a wax museum or something, a ploy to get more tourists. How could they have such advanced textile technology three thousand years ago? I couldn’t put it into any historical context. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

Mair began asking his Chinese colleagues about Cherchen Man. He learned that European scholars had unearthed several similar bodies in the Tarim Basin almost a century before but had regarded them as little more than oddities. In 1895, for example, the British-Hungarian scholar Marc Aurel Stein exhumed a few Caucasian bodies while searching for antiquities and old Central Asian texts in the Tarim Basin. “It was a strange sensation,” noted Stein in his later writings, “to look down on figures which but for the parched skin seemed like those of men asleep.” However, Stein and the Europeans who followed him were far more interested in classical-era ruins than in mummified bodies, and failed to investigate further.

Early Chinese archaeologists in the region also came across some of the bodies, but they were no more interested than the Europeans. They thought it likely that a few ancient foreigners had strayed into this outlying territory of ancient China by chance. But in the 1970s, while surveying along proposed routes for pipelines and rail lines in Xinjiang, Chinese archaeologists happened upon scores of the parched cadavers, so many that they couldn’t excavate them all. Most of the bodies were very Caucasian-looking — a major discovery that went unreported outside a small circle of archaeologists in China. The mummies had blond, red, or auburn hair. They had deep-set eyes, long noses, thick beards, and tall, often gangly, frames. Some wore woollens of what looked like Celtic plaid and sported strangely familiar forms of Western haberdashery: conical black witches’ hats, tam-o’-shanters, and Robin Hood caps. Others were dressed only in fur moccasins, woollen wraps, and feathered caps, and buried with small baskets of grain. This last group, it transpired, contained the oldest of the Caucasians. According to radiocarbon-dating tests, they roamed the northwestern corner of China in the twenty-first century bc, the height of the Bronze Age, just as Mair had long been suggesting.

Not only had they wandered the Tarim Basin, they had also settled there for a very long time. Cherchen Man had walked the Tarim deserts in the eleventh century bc, a millennium after the earliest Caucasians. Moreover, murals from the region depict people with fair hair and long noses in the seventh century ad, while some local texts of the same era are inscribed in a lost European language known as Tocharian. If the writers were descendants of the Caucasian-looking people who arrived in Xinjiang nearly 2,800 years earlier, one can only conclude that this was a very successful colony.

Convinced now of the authenticity of the mummies, Mair began puzzling over their meaning. Who were these ancient invaders, he wondered, and where exactly had they come from?

Victor Mair is a big, rugged- looking man in his mid-fifties, a shade over six foot one, with size-fourteen feet and the clean-cut good looks that one often sees in former pro-football players. The American-born son of an Austrian immigrant, he stands nearly a head taller than most of his colleagues in China, a physical advantage that he often tries to minimize in group photographs by stepping down off a curb or onto a lower step. He has short, neatly combed grey hair, a large aquiline nose, observant blue eyes, and a jesting wit he uses to particularly good effect, laughter being the best way of bridging any awkward cultural gap. He neither smokes nor drinks, and never did, and is, by his own admission, a born leader. Possessed of an uncommon self-confidence, which sometimes comes across as arrogance, he is also a man of many surprising quirks.

I got my first glimpse of this quirkiness in a downpour in Shanghai, in June of 1999. I had arranged to meet Mair in the Chinese city, where, eleven years after first seeing the mummies, he was hoping to begin a new round of dna testing on them. In our early phone conversations, Mair had told me that he would be travelling with a geneticist who hoped to take tissue samples from the Tarim Basin mummies stored at the Natural History Museum in Shanghai.

It sounded as if everything had been arranged. But as I quickly discovered upon my arrival in Shanghai, Mair was still a long way from gathering the samples. Housed in a small guest house for foreign lecturers at Fudan University, he strode the hallways like a weary giant. He had just spent two full days in meetings with his Chinese colleagues, trying to hammer out a deal. But the talks were stalling. To clear his head, Mair invited me to join him for a walk. In the downpour, I struggled to keep up with him, dodging flocks of cyclists in their shiny yellow rain slickers, and black pools of nearly invisible potholes. Mair wove around them absently. Instead of a raincoat, he wore two long-sleeved plaid shirts, one inside the other. He didn’t seem to care that he was getting soaked.

Nothing, he explained as we walked in the rain, was ever simple when it came to the Xinjiang mummies. Dead as they had been for thousands of years, they still managed to stir strong feelings among the living. In China, a restive ethnic minority known as the Uyghurs had stepped forward to claim the mummies as their own. Numbering nearly seven million, the Uyghurs viewed the Tarim Basin as their homeland. Largely Muslim, they had become a subjugated people in the late nineteenth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, their leaders managed to found two brief republics that later fell under Chinese control. But Uyghur guerillas continued fighting stubbornly, until their last leader was executed in 1961. Since then, the Chinese government has dealt harshly with any sign of separatist sentiment. Amnesty International’s 1999 report for Xinjiang made grim reading. “Scores of Uyghurs, many of them political prisoners, have been sentenced to death and executed in the past two years,” it noted. “Others, including women, are alleged to have been killed by the security forces in circumstances which appear to constitute extra-judicial executions.”

Still the Uyghurs refused to give up, and when they caught wind of mummies being excavated in the Tarim Basin, they were keenly interested. Historians had long suggested that the Uyghurs were relative latecomers to the region, migrating from the plains of Mongolia less than two thousand years ago. But Uyghur leaders were skeptical. They believed that their farmer ancestors had always lived along the thin but fertile river valleys of the Tarim, and as such they embraced the mummies as their kin — even though many scholars, Mair included, suspected that Uyghur invaders had slaughtered or driven out most of the mummies’ true descendants and assimilated the few that remained. Still, in Xinjiang, Uyghur leaders picked one of the oldest mummies as an emblem of their cause. They named her, with some poetic licence, the Beauty of Loulan and began printing posters with her picture. That she was so Caucasian-looking was not a problem in Uyghur eyes: some Uyghurs had Caucasian features. People in Ürümchi, the province’s capital, were captivated. Musicians began writing songs about her that subtly alluded to the separatist cause.

This sudden outburst of mummy nationalism alarmed the Chinese government. Before long, everything related to the Xinjiang mummies was considered a matter of state security. No one in government was in any hurry to authorize a genetic test on them. If the mummies’ dna revealed even a partial link to the Uyghurs — a not unlikely prospect, given the Uyghurs’ mixed heritage — it would further strengthen the separatists’ claims to the region in the eyes of the world. This was something the Chinese wished to avoid, especially after the international condemnation of their treatment of another ethnic minority, in Tibet. Adding to the problem was the Chinese sensitivity to any matter touching on the Tarim Basin. Beyond the wispy river valleys and beneath the Tarim’s bleak desert plains lay immense oil fields. According to Chinese geologists, they contained nearly 18 billion tons of crude, six times more than the known reserves of the United States.

Chinese officials were not the only ones worried about genetic testing. Western scholars fretted, too. Some hated the thought that Europeans could have succeeded in planting settlements so far into Asia thousands of years ago. Not only did such a migration threaten the Chinese version of history; it seemed vaguely to smack of ancient colonialism, a notion that many historians abhor. “There’s a lot of Western guilt about imperialism and sensitivity about dominating other people,” said Mair. “It’s a really deep subconscious thing, and there are a lot of people in the West who are hypersensitive about saying our culture is superior in any way, or that our culture gets around or extends itself. So there are people who want to make sure that we don’t make mistakes in our interpretation of the past.”

Certainly, the presence of ancient Europeans in China — even in its outer reaches — could be twisted and distorted to political ends: people with racial agendas had long been searching for just such evidence. During the 1930s, for example, Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler had taken an unhealthy interest in Genghis Khan, the most famous leader of the Mongols, who in the thirteenth century had conquered vast stretches of Central Asia, from southern Siberia to Tibet, and from Korea to the Aral Sea. “Our strength,” observed Hitler in a thundering speech to the commanders of Germany’s armed forces in 1939, “is in our quickness and brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees in him only a great state builder. . . .”

But Hitler’s admiration of the ancient Mongol presented a serious problem for a party that placed great stock in racial purity. Genghis Khan, after all, was not Caucasian. He belonged to an Asian race that the Nazis heartily despised as inferior. Himmler, who fancied himself a historian, finally came up with a solution based on pure whimsy. He told one anthropologist that Genghis Khan and his elite Mongol followers were actually Caucasians, descended from the citizens of Atlantis who had decamped from their mythical island home before it sank, cataclysmically, beneath the waves. These Mongol Caucasians, Himmler claimed, were a special kind of Caucasian: German blood flowed through their veins.

One recent book suggests that Himmler went so far as to request a collection of mummies from Central Asia. But Mair doubted it. “In all of my reading of works emanating from these expeditions,” he said, “I have never come across any indication that they brought such corpses back to Europe.”

Even so, the bizarre racial ideas of the Nazis troubled Western scholars. They worried about where genetic testing of the Xinjiang mummies might lead, and worse still, about who might ultimately try to profit from the research. Testing the mummies was like taking a stroll through a minefield: there was no telling what might explode in the traveller’s face.

“It would be especially bad news if any of the mummies were German,” observed Mair later, in the guest house where he was staying. “They’ve had two world wars in which they were the perpetrators and if any of these mummies were even remotely Germanic, forget it. People just wouldn’t want to talk about it.”

As amazed as Mair had been by the mummies back in 1988, he hadn’t had the time to study them. In September, 1991, however, he picked up a newspaper and read about the discovery of a frozen, partially preserved corpse of a 5,300-year-old man in a glacier along the Austrian-Italian border. This became Europe’s famous iceman, known as Ötzi.

The news startled Mair. His own father had grown up in Pfaffenhoffen, a small Austrian village just a short distance away from where scientists had dug the iceman from a glacier. His father’s family had grazed their herds in the same alpine meadows where Ötzi had probably wandered. The iceman, he realized, might well be a distant relative. Might he also have had some connection to the ancestors of Cherchen Man, who looked so much like Mair’s own brother? “I saw the headlines and I jerked,” Mair recalls. “I looked at that iceman and I said, ‘These guys out in the Tarim are just like him.’ One’s in ice and the others are in sand. It didn’t take half a second.”

Austrian scientists planned on performing sophisticated scientific tests, including dna analysis, on the iceman. It occurred to Mair that similar tests on Cherchen Man and his kin could do much to trace the ancestry of the mummies. He immediately wrote to Wang Binghua, one of the foremost archaeologists in Xinjiang, outlining the project that was forming in his mind. He also called Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, a distinguished geneticist at Stanford University who was an expert on ancient dna. Cavalli-Sforza instantly saw the possibilities. He recommended that Mair contact one of his former students, Paolo Francalacci, at the University of Sassari, in Italy. Mair did just that, and working closely with Wang over the next months he managed to hammer out a deal with the Chinese goverment. Beijing finally gave the team a green light in 1993.

Francalacci thought it best to collect samples from mummies left in the ground, as opposed to bodies already stored in museums. This would reduce the possibility of contamination with modern dna. So in Ürümchi, he set off, along with Mair and Wang Binghua, for the well-documented grave sites found during the Chinese pipeline and railway surveys of the 1970s and in archaeological studies since. Dozens of these mummies, many lying in relatively shallow underground tombs, had been left alone because of the enormous cost of curating them.

At each chosen grave, the young geneticist donned a face mask and a pair of latex gloves, and docked tiny pieces of muscle, skin, and bone from the mummies, often choosing tissue along the inside of the thighs or under the armpits because these regions had been less exposed to the excavators. He sealed each sample in a plastic vial. After several days, he had collected twenty-five specimens from eleven individuals, enough for a modest study. But there was little time for celebration. In a stunning about-face, Chinese authorities suddenly demanded Francalacci’s samples, refusing to allow them out of the country.

Then a mysterious thing happened. Just shortly before Mair departed for home, a Chinese colleague turned up with a surreptitious gift. He slipped five of the confiscated, sealed samples into Mair’s pocket. These had come from two mummies. The grateful Mair passed the samples on to Francalacci, who began toiling in Italy to amplify the dna.

For months, the Italian geneticist laboured on the mummy samples, trying to extract enough dna for sequencing. The nucleic acids had badly degraded, but still, Francalacci kept trying various methods, and in 1995 he called Mair with a piece of good news. He had finally retrieved enough dna to sequence, and his preliminary results were intriguing. The two Xinjiang mummies belonged to the same genetic lineage as most modern-day Swedes, Finns, Tuscans, Corsicans, and Sardinians.

the genetic studies were promising, but they only whetted Mair’s curiosity. It was not just that Cherchen Man bore an uncanny resemblance to his own brother Dave (whom he had taken to calling Ur-David), it also had to do with Mair’s own deeply rooted beliefs. “Everything that I’ve done,” he explained, “even though it’s been running all over the map, it’s all been tied into making things accessible to the everyday guy, the worker. That’s what it’s all about and that’s why I looked at these mummies. They were just everyday guys, not famous people.”

Mair had acquired this outlook at an early age. His immigrant father, whom he adored and deeply admired, was a lathe operator for a ball-bearing company in Canton, Ohio. His mother was a poet and songwriter. Growing up in a working-class family, Mair was continually reminded of the importance of ordinary people, who sweated on the assembly lines or who bent over mops and brooms at night. These were the kinds of people history tended to ignore.

Now, with this same instinct for the common man, Mair redoubled his efforts to trace the mummies’ ancestry. In Xinjiang, a Chinese colleague had slipped him another parting gift: a swatch of blue, brown, and white cloth taken from a twelfth-century-bc mummy. The fabric looked like a piece of Celtic plaid. Mair passed it over to Irene Good, a textile expert at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Good examined it under an electron microscope. The style of weave, known as a “two over two” diagonal twill, bore little resemblance to anything woven by Asian weavers of the day. (Indeed, it would be almost another two millennia before women in central China turned out twill cloth on their looms.) But the weave exactly matched cloth found with the bodies of thirteenth-century-bc salt miners in Austria. Like the dna samples, the mysterious plaid pointed straight towards a European homeland.

Excited by the textile connection, Mair organized a new expedition to Xinjiang with Good, her fellow textile expert Elizabeth Barber, and her cultural anthropologist husband, Paul Barber. As the two women pored over the mummies’ clothing, Barber examined the bodies themselves, studying their mummification. Mair hoped this might offer clues to the origins of the people themselves. But the ancient desert dwellers, he discovered, had not taken any of the elaborate measures favoured by the Egyptians or other skilled morticians. Instead, they had relied on nature for a few simple tricks. In some cases, family members had buried their dead in salt fields, whose chemistry preserved human flesh like a salted ham. Often, they had arranged the cadaver so that dry air flowed around the extremities, swiftly desiccating the flesh. Cherchen Man, for example, had benefited from both techniques.

Mair, too, assisted in the work. In his spare time, he translated key Chinese reports on the mummies and published them in his own journal, The Sino-Platonic Papers. This gave Western archaeologists access to the scientific findings for the first time. He wanted to make the mummies the focus of a lively scientific and scholarly investigation. So he set about organizing a major international scientific conference on the mummies, bringing leading archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, geneticists, geographers, sinologists, historians, ethnologists, climatologists, and metallurgists to the University of Pennsylvania to discuss their ideas. After everyone left, Mair dutifully edited and translated two large volumes of their papers, clarifying their arcane prose until everyone interested in the field could understand it. “If I have grey hair,” he joked, “it was because I was sitting there slaving over this stuff.”

When he had finally finished, he sat down in his office with a pad of paper and a pen. He sifted through hundreds of studies on matters as diverse as linguistics, pottery styles, methods of tomb construction, and metallurgy across Eurasia over the past seven thousand years, searching for cultures whose core technologies and languages bore clear similarities to those of the ancient Caucasian cultures of Xinjiang. These he recognized as ancestral societies. Slowly, patiently, he worked his way back through time and space, tracing the territories of these ancestral groups. Eventually, after months of work, he sketched a map of what he concluded was their homeland. The territory stretched in a wide swath across central Europe, from northern Denmark to the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. But its heart, some six thousand years ago, lay in what is now southern Germany, northeastern Austria, and a portion of the Czech Republic. “I really felt that that fit the archaeological evidence best,” Mair later told me.

When he finally showed his map to some of his colleagues, though, they were deeply dismayed. Elizabeth Barber, one of his closest collaborators, angrily demanded that he redraw it, insisting that linguistic evidence, particularly the ancestry of ancient words for looms, pointed to a homeland much farther east. Realizing that he had gone too far for the comfort of his colleagues, and that he had yet to find the proof he needed, he bowed to their pressure. He redrew the map, placing the homeland in a broad arc stretching from eastern Ukraine and southern Russia to western Kazakhstan. Then he published it in the conference proceedings. “I thought, for this book, it wouldn’t be too bad,” he confessed, shaking his head. “I decided I wouldn’t go against the flow that much, because that is a big flow with some really smart people.” Then he looked down at the map in front of him. “But in my own integrity and honesty, I’d want to put it in here.” He sketched a narrow oval. Its centre fell near the Austrian city of Salzburg.

All of which brought us to Shanghai, and the rain, and the final arbiter, hopefully, of more dna testing. Convinced he was right, and desperately wanting to find the proof that would dispel all doubt, Mair believed genetics still offered the best hope of vindication. If dna testing was sufficient to convict or exonerate men in a court of law, it would surely be strong enough to persuade even the most skeptical of his colleagues. He needed samples for another, more powerful type of dna testing, but as he had just discovered, the Chinese officials had upped the ante again. Japanese researchers had recently paid $100,000 to acquire samples of the ancient matter for dna testing, and officials at Shanghai’s Museum of Natural History now wanted a similar sum from Mair.

Mair didn’t have it, and he was running out of time. Still, he remained surprisingly upbeat. During a break in the negotiations one afternoon, he invited me to follow Xu Yongqing, the head of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History’s anthropology department, down the stairs to a basement room in the museum. Unlocking the door to a small room behind the employees’ bicycle racks, Xu led the way inside. Along three of the walls, mummies in glass cases reclined luxuriously on red velvet cloth. Stacked three high in spots, they looked much like train passengers bedded down for the night in their berths. Mair stood quietly, scanning the room. Then he saw what he wanted to show me. In one of the lower glass cases, a young woman lay stretched out on her back, stripped of her fine woollens. Her knees were pressed demurely together, her arms rested comfortably at her sides, and her breasts lay round and full, as if she had perished in the midst of nursing a child.

But it was the hair that caught my attention. A long wavy golden-brown mane twisted down her back. Standing in that room, I felt an unexpected sense of kinship with her, surrounded as she was by strangers. And I wondered just what had prodded her ancestors to exchange the cool greenness of Europe for the scorching barrens of the Tarim Basin.

as always, mair had some ideas. He believed a new invention had spurred this woman’s forebears to embark on this eastern exodus: horseback riding. Some 5,700 years ago, he explained, Eurasians had begun rounding up wild horses, and sometime later they started sliding bits into their mouths and swinging their bodies onto their backs. These seemingly simple acts led them to conquer terrestrial space. For the first time ever, human beings were able to travel swiftly over immense distances, an accomplishment so exhilarating and adrenalin-charged that they suddenly gave full rein to their wanderlust.

So equipped, Mair went on with growing enthusiasm, early Europeans had easily spread out across Eurasia, their brisk progress recorded in the ancient campsites they left behind. Some of the invaders swept northward, becoming the Germanic tribes; others journeyed west to become the Celts of the British Isles. But the ancestors of the Xinjiang people had headed east across the grassy steppes of Asia, repelling any who tried to bar their path, and four thousand years ago, a small group of latecomers rode into the vacant river valleys of the Tarim Basin. Finding sufficient land to make a life there, they stayed, passing on their love and knowledge of fine horses to their descendants. When mourners buried Cherchen Man, they arranged a dead horse and a saddle atop his grave, two essential things he would need in the next life.

In all likelihood, observed Mair, some of these European invaders rode even further to the east and north, beyond the reach of desiccating deserts. And there they brought with them such new Western inventions as the chariot, a high-performance vehicle designed for warfare and sport, and bronze metallurgy, which made strong weapons that retained their killing edge. Very possibly, a few of these invaders carried with them the secret of writing. While examining the hand of an ancient woman exhumed near Cherchen Man, Mair had noticed row upon row of a strange tattoo along her hand. Shaped like a backward S, it clearly resembled the early Phoenician consonant that gave us our modern S. Mair has also found the identical form of S — which resembles an ancient Chinese character — along with other alphabetiform signs, on artifacts of this era from western China.

Chinese scholars, it occurred to me, were unlikely to take much comfort in the thought of these invaders. And they were unlikely to be pleased by the pivotal role these intruders may have played in ancient Chinese life. Western inventions, after all, shaped the course of history. Fleet chariots enabled Chinese armies to vanquish their enemies, and sturdy bronze swords reinforced dreams of empire. And a secret system of writing bequeathed Chinese officials the means to govern the conquered lands effortlessly.

But invention is only one small part of the story. What societies make of technological leaps forward is as important as the act of creation itself. It was the genius of others, after all, who unwittingly made the West strong. It gave Europeans the compasses that guided mariners overseas to Asia and America. It provided the printing presses that disseminated knowledge of these new lands to the masses. It bestowed the gunpowder that fuelled conquest. Indeed, all these came from Chinese inventors.

There are many ironies joining East and West in the inseparable embrace of history. Mair savours them. His trip to Shanghai in the rain ended in disappointment. He left China empty-handed. But he is now raising funds and fervently seeking permission to conduct further dna tests on the mummies of Xinjiang. Until that day, Ur-David waits in a museum storage room in China, unclaimed as a long- lost brother.




The Hybrid Hypothesis: A new theory of human origins

PART II: The Other Parent

Teiresias: To you, I am mad; but not to your parents.

Oedipus: Wait! My parents? Who are my parents?

—Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus

BY EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS (Continued from PART I) — And why might one suppose that humans are backcross hybrids of the sort just described? Well, the most obvious reason is that humans are highly similar to chimpanzees at the genetic level, closer than they are to any other animal. If we were descended from F₁ hybrids without any backcrossing we would be about halfway, genetically speaking, between chimpanzees and whatever organism was the other parent. But we’re not. Genetically, we’re close to chimpanzees, and yet we have many physical traits that distinguish us from chimpanzees. This exactly fits the backcross hypothesis.

Moreover, in mammalian hybrid crosses, the male hybrids are usually more sterile than are the females. In a commercial context, this fact means that livestock breeders typically backcross F₁ hybrids of the fertile sex back to one parent or the other. They do not, as a rule, produce new breeds by breeding the first cross hybrids among themselves. Often, even after a backcross, only the females are fertile among the resulting hybrids. So repeated backcrossing is typical. Commonly there are two or more generations of backcrossing before fertile hybrids of both sexes are obtained and the new breed can be maintained via matings among the hybrids themselves. More backcrossing tends to be necessary in cases where the parents participating in the original cross are more distantly related.

Traits distinguishing humans from other primates

Many characteristics that clearly distinguish humans from chimps have been noted by various authorities over the years. The task of preliminarily identifying a likely pair of parents, then, is straightforward: Make a list of all such characteristics and then see if it describes a particular animal. One fact, however, suggests the need for an open mind: as it turns out, many features that distinguish humans from chimpanzees also distinguish them from all other primates. Features found in human beings, but not in other primates, cannot be accounted for by hybridization of a primate with some other primate. If hybridization is to explain such features, the cross will have to be between a chimpanzee and a nonprimate — an unusual, distant cross to create an unusual creature.

The fact that even modern-day humans are relatively infertile may be significant in this connection. If a hybrid population does not die out altogether, it will tend to improve in fertility with each passing generation under the pressure of natural selection. Fossils indicate that we have had at least 200,000 years to recover our fertility since the time that the first modern humans (Homo sapiens) appeared. The earliest creatures generally recognized as human ancestors (Ardipithecus, Orrorin) date to about six million years ago. So our fertility has had a very long time to improve. If we have been recovering for thousands of generations and still show obvious symptoms of sterility (see previous section), then our earliest human ancestors, if they were hybrids, must have suffered from an infertility that was quite severe. This line of reasoning, too, suggests that the chimpanzee might have produced Homo sapiens by crossing with a genetically incompatible mate, possibly even one outside the primate order.

For the present, I ask the reader to reserve judgment concerning the plausibility of such a cross. I’m an expert on hybrids and I can assure you that our understanding of hybridization at the molecular level is still far too vague to rule out the idea of a chimpanzee crossing with a nonprimate. Anyone who speaks with certainty on this point speaks from prejudice, not knowledge. No systematic attempts to cross distantly related mammals have been reported. However, in the only animal class (Pisces) where distant crosses have been investigated scientifically, the results have been surprisingly successful (399.6, 399.7, 399.8). In fact, there seems to be absolutely nothing to support the idea that interordinal crosses (such as a cross between a primate and a nonprimate) are impossible, except what Thomas Huxley termed “the general and natural belief that deliberate and reiterated assertions must have some foundation.” Besides, to deny that interordinal mammalian crosses are possible would be to draw, at the outset of our investigation, a definite conclusion concerning the very hypothesis that we have chosen to investigate. Obviously, if humans were the product of such a cross, then such crosses would, in fact, be possible. We cannot tell, simply by supposing, whether such a thing is possible — we have to look at data.

The Other Parent

Let’s begin, then, by considering the list in the sidebar at right, which is a condensed list of traits distinguishing humans from chimpanzees — and all other nonhuman primates. Take the time to read this list and to consider what creature — of any kind — it might describe. Most of the items listed are of such an obscure nature that the reader might be hard pressed to say what animal might have them (only a specialist would be familiar with many of the terms listed, but all the necessary jargon will be defined and explained). For example, consider multipyramidal kidneys. It’s a fact that humans have this trait, and that chimpanzees and other primates do not, but the average person on the street would probably have no idea what animals do have this feature.

Looking at a subset of the listed traits, however, it’s clear that the other parent in this hypothetical cross that produced the first human would be an intelligent animal with a protrusive, cartilaginous nose, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, short digits, and a naked skin. It would be terrestrial, not arboreal, and adaptable to a wide range of foods and environments. These traits may bring a particular creature to mind. In fact, a particular nonprimate does have, not only each of the few traits just mentioned, but every one of the many traits listed in th sidebar. Ask yourself: Is it likely that an animal unrelated to humans would possess so many of the “human” characteristics that distinguish us from primates? That is, could it be a mere coincidence? It’s only my opinion, but I don’t think so.

Of course, it must be admitted that two human traits do, at first, seem to pose a contradiction. The animal in question lacks a large brain and it is not bipedal. An analysis of the relevant anatomy, however, reveals that these two human features can be understood as synergistic (or heterotic) effects, resulting from the combination (in humans) of certain traits previously found only separately, in the two posited parent forms. (The origins of human bipedality is explained in terms of the the hybrid hypothesis in a subsequent section. Another section offers an explanation of the factors underlying human brain expansion and, therefore, accounts not only for the large size of the human brain itself, but also for certain distinctive features of the human skull that are, themselves, obvious consequences of brain expansion).

Nevertheless, even initially, these two flies in the theoretical ointment fail to obscure the remarkable fact that a single nonprimate has all of the simple, non-synergistic traits distinguishing humans from their primate kin. Such a finding is strongly consistent with the hypothesis that this particular animal once hybridized with the chimpanzee to produce the first humans. In a very simple manner, this assumption immediately accounts for a large number of facts that otherwise appear to be entirely unrelated.

What is this other animal that has all these traits? The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig. What are we to think of this fact? If we conclude that pigs did in fact cross with apes to produce the human race, then an avalanche of old ideas must crash to the earth. But, of course, the usual response to any new perspective is “That can’t be right, because I don’t already believe it.” This is the very response that many people had when Darwin first proposed that humans might be descended from apes, an idea that was perceived as ridiculous, or even as subversive and dangerous. And yet, today this exact viewpoint is widely entertained. Its wide acceptance can be attributed primarily to the established fact that humans hold many traits in common with primates. That’s what made it convincing. But perhaps Darwin told only half the story. We believe that humans are related to chimpanzees because humans share so many traits with chimpanzees. Is it not rational then also, if pigs have all the traits that distinguish humans from other primates, to suppose that humans are also related to pigs? Let us take it as our hypothesis, then, that humans are the product of ancient hybridization between pig and chimpanzee. Given the facts presented in the discussion of stabilization theory on this website, it seems highly likely that humans are hybrids of some kind. This particular hypothesis concerning the nature of our parentage is, as we shall see, a fruitful one. For the present there’s no need to make a definite decision on the matter, but certain lines of reasoning do suggest the idea should be taken seriously:

  • First of all, the notion is set forward strictly as a hypothesis. No claim whatever is made that it is actually a fact that humans somehow arose through hybridization of pigs with chimpanzees. In contrast, proponents of the idea that humans are closely related to apes (and not to pigs) often speak as if their case has been proved beyond doubt. But, of course, it has not. The wide acceptance of this idea may actually be due to the lack of any competitive theory. I merely propose an evaluation of two distinct hypotheses by the usual scientific criterion: The hypothesis less consistent with available data should be rejected.
  • Even if we could identify some objective unit of measure for “distance” or “similarity” (which is not at all a straightforward problem), we would still expect some crosses to be more distant than others — that is, the various types of possible crosses would constitute a continuum. Many would be “close” and some would be “distant.” But we would expect at least a rare few to be very distant. While these few might be rare, they might be among the most interesting, because they would offer an opportunity to obtain something radically different. Perhaps, it is only a subjective bias, but I believe that a human being, when taken as a whole, is radically different from a chimpanzee.
  • On the other hand, if we first compare humans with nonmammals or invertebrates (e.g, crocodile, bullfrog, octopus, dragonfly, starfish), then pigs and chimpanzees suddenly seem quite similar to humans. Relative impressions of “close” and “far” are subjective and depend on context.
  • Pigs and chimpanzees differ in chromosome counts. The opinion is often expressed that when two animals differ in this way, they cannot produce fertile hybrids. This rule is, however, only a generalization. While such differences do tend to have an adverse effect on the fertility of hybrid offspring, it is also true that many different types of crosses in which the parents differ in chromosome counts produce hybrids that are themselves capable of producing offspring. As Annie P. Gray notes in the preface to her reference work Mammalian Hybrids (1972, p. viii), in her extensive work compiling information about hybrid mammals, “no close correlation was found between the chromosome count or the duration of gestation and the ability of species to hybridize.”
  • There have been no systematic, scientific surveys of the crossability of mammals belonging to different taxonomic orders (a cross between pig and chimpanzee would be interordinal). Any firm opinion on such a point must therefore, necessarily, be prejudiced. In fact, there is substantial evidence on this website supporting the idea that very distantly related mammals can mate and produce a hybrid (see the section on mammalian hybrids and, in particular, look at the videos shown there of ostensible rabbit-cat hybrids). In addition, certain fishes belonging to different orders have been successfully crossed, and available information on mammalian hybrids indicates that very distant crosses among mammals, too, have occurred. For example, evidence published in the journal Nature demonstrates that the platypus genome contains both bird and mammal chromosomes (223.2). As Frank Grützner, the lead author of the study, stated in a related news story, “The platypus actually links the bird sex chromosome system with the mammalian sex chromosome systems.” How could this be the case if a bird and a mammal did not at some time in the past hybridize to produce a fertile hybrid? Such a cross would, of course, be even more distant than one between a chimpanzee and a pig. And seemingly, a cross between a primate and a pig did occur only a few years ago, in 2008.
  • Ultimately, the interaction of gametes at the time of fertilization, and the subsequent interplay of genes (derived from two different types of parents) during the course of a hybrid’s development cannot be predicted by any known laws because the interaction is between a multitude of extremely complex chemical entities that each have an effect on others. It is for this reason that the degree of similarity perceived between two organisms is no sure indicator of their crossability.
  • Another suggestive fact, probably known to the reader, is the frequent use of pigs in the surgical treatment of human beings. Pig heart valves are used to replace those of human coronary patients. Pig skin is used in the treatment of human burn victims. Serious efforts are now underway to transplant kidneys and other organs from pigs into human beings. Why are pigs suited for such purposes? Why not goats, dogs, or bears — animals that, in terms of taxonomic classification, are no more distantly related to human beings than pigs? (In subsequent sections, these issues are considered in detail.)
  • God did not place pigs and humans in different taxonomic orders. Taxonomists did. A great deal of evidence (read a discussion of this topic) exists to suggest that taxonomists are, in no way, infallible. Our ideas concerning the proper categorization of animals are shaped by bias and tradition to such an extent that it would be rash to reject, solely on taxonomic grounds, the feasibility of such a cross.
  • The general examination of the process of evolution as a whole (as presented elsewhere on this site) strongly suggests that most forms of life are of hybrid origin. Why should humans be any different?
  • It might seem unlikely that a pig and a chimpanzee would choose to mate, but their behavior patterns and reproductive anatomy do, in fact, make them compatible (this topic is considered in detail in a subsequent section). It is, of course, a well-established fact that animals sometimes attempt to mate with individuals that are unlike themselves, even in a natural setting, and that many of these crosses successfully produce hybrid offspring.
  • Accepted theory, which assumes that humans have been gradually shaped by natural selection for traits favorable to reproduction, does not begin to account for the relative infertility of human beings in comparison with nonhuman primates and other types of animals (see previous section). How would natural selection ever produce abnormal, dysfunctional spermatozoa? On the other hand, the idea that humans are descended from a hybrid cross — especially a relatively distant cross — provides a clear explanation for Homo’s puzzling and persistent fertility problems.
  • If we supposed standard theory to be correct, it would seem most peculiar that pigs and humans share features that distinguish human beings from chimpanzees, but that pigs and chimpanzees should not. Conventional theory (which assumes that pigs are equally as far removed from humans as from chimpanzees) says that pigs and chimpanzees would share about as many such traits as would pigs and humans. And yet, I have never been able to identify any such trait—despite assiduous investigation. The actual finding is that traits distinguishing chimpanzees from humans consistently link pigs with humans alone. It will be difficult to account in terms of natural selection for this fact. For each such feature, we will have to come up with a separate ad hoc argument, explaining how the feature has helped both pigs and humans to survive and reproduce. On the other hand, a single, simple assumption (that modern humans, or earlier hominids that gave rise to modern humans, arose from a cross between pig and chimpanzee) will account for all of these features at a single stroke.

or my own part, curiosity has carried me away from my old idea of reality. I no longer know what to believe. Is it possible that so many biologists might be wrong about the nature of human origins? Is it possible for a pig to hybridize with a chimpanzee? I have no way of knowing at present, but I have no logical or evidential basis for rejecting the idea. Before dismissing such a notion, I would want to be sure on some logical, evidentiary basis that I actually should dismiss it. The ramifications of any misconception on this point seem immense. As Huxley put it long ago, “The question of questions for mankind — the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other —is the ascertainment of the place which Man occupies in nature.”

Are we simply another type of primate, like the chimpanzee or the baboon? Or are we a complex melange, an alloy of two very distinct forms of life? These are questions that can only be resolved by examining the evidence. I invite the reader to consider these two possibilities as simple hypotheses, to consider the data coldly, and then to determine which of the two is more consistent with available evidence.

…to be continued

You can read the full article at

Image credit


Human Origins: Are we hybrids?


This article is a little different from others on this site, because it’s about the findings of my own research. I’m a geneticist whose work focuses on hybrids and, particularly, the role of hybridization in the evolutionary process. Here, I report certain facts, which seem to indicate that human origins can be traced to hybridization, specifically to hybridization involving the chimpanzee (but not the kind of hybridization you might suppose!). You can access detailed and documented discussions supporting this claim from links on this page. But I’ll summarize the basic reasoning here, without a lot of citations and footnotes. (If you would like to read an even briefer summary, click here; read about some objections to the theory here; also, a recent news story).


So why do I think humans are hybrids? Well, first of all, I’ve had a different experience from most people. I’ve spent most of my life (the last thirty years) studying hybrids, particularly avian and mammalian hybrids. I’ve read thousands, really tens of thousands, of reports describing them. And this experience has dispelled some mistaken ideas I once had about hybrids, notions that I think many other people continue to take for granted.

For example, one widespread, but erroneous, belief is that all hybrids are sterile. This idea keeps a lot of people from even considering the possibility that humans might be of hybrid origin. This assertion is absolutely false — though I have in fact heard lots of people make it. For instance, in reviewing the reports I collected for my book on hybridization in birds (Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press, 2006), which documents some 4,000 different kinds of hybrid crosses among birds, I found that those crosses producing partially fertile hybrids are about eight times as common as crosses known to produce sterile ones. The usual result is a reduction in fertility, not absolute sterility. My current work documenting hybridization among mammals shows that partially fertile natural hybrids are common, too, in Class Mammalia. And yet, it seems most people base their ideas of hybrids on the common mule (horse x ass), which is an exceptionally sterile hybrid, and not at all representative of hybrids as a whole.

I should, perhaps, also mention that differences in parental chromosome counts, even rather large ones, do not preclude the production of fertile hybrids. While differences of this sort do bode ill for the fertility of the resulting progeny, it is only a rule of thumb. For example, female geeps, the products of hybridization between sheep (2n=54) and goats (2n=60), can produce offspring in backcrosses. Likewise, female zeedonks (Burchell’s Zebra, 2n=44 x Ass, 2n=62) have also been fertile in backcrosses. There are many other examples of this sort among mammalian hybrids. Therefore, such differences between the parents in a cross do not in any way guarantee an absolute sterility in the hybrid offspring. (For those readers who do not know, backcross hybrids are produced when hybrids from a first cross mate with either of the two types of parents that produced them. When the resulting progeny mate again with the same parental type, the result is the second backcross generation, and so forth.)

A second so-called fact, which might make it seem impossible for humans to have had a hybrid origin, is the equally erroneous notion that hybrids, especially successful hybrids, do not occur in a state of nature. A third is the mistaken idea that only plants hybridize, and never animals. In fact, however, natural, viable, fertile animal hybrids are abundant. A wide variety of such hybrids occur on an ongoing basis (read a detailed discussion documenting these facts). For example, of the 5,000 different types of hybrid crosses listed in my book on hybridization in birds, approximately half are known to occur in a natural setting (download a PowerPoint presentation summarizing data on hybridization in birds). My current research indicates a comparable rate for mammals.

Sequence data. And I must now emphasize a fact that I, as a geneticist, find somewhat disappointing: With nucleotide sequence data, it can be very difficult to identify later-generation backcross hybrids derived from several repeated generations of backcrossing (to understand the basic problem, see diagram at right). Instead, as is the case with other later-generation backcross hybrids, the most revealing data is of an anatomical and/or physiological nature. And this is exactly the kind of hybrid that it looks like we are — that is, it appears that humans are the result of multiple generations of backcrossing to the chimpanzee.

The thing that makes backcross hybrids hard to analyze using genetic techniques is that, in terms of nucleotide sequences, they can differ very little from the parent to which backcrossing occurs. It’s important to realize, however, that a lack of such differences does not prevent them from differing anatomically. Sequence differences are not necessary for anatomical differences to be present. An obvious example of this phenomenon is Down’s syndrome. Individuals affected by Down’s regularly exhibit certain distinctive anatomical features, and yet in terms of their nucleotide sequences they do not differ in any way from other humans. To detect someone with Down’s syndrome, sequence data is completely useless. But with anatomical data, detecting affected individuals is easy. This issue is discussed in more detail in a subsequent section. But for the present, take a careful look at the diagram explaining the genomic effects of backcrossing (at right above).

Human infertility. Another observation that appears significant in connection with the hypothesis under consideration is that it has been well known for decades that human sperm is abnormal in comparison with that of the typical mammal. Human spermatozoa are not of one uniform type as in the vast majority of all other types of animals. Moreover, human sperm is not merely abnormal in appearance — a high percentage of human spermatozoa are actually dysfunctional. These and other facts demonstrate that human fertility is low in comparison with that of other mammals (for detailed documentation of this fact see the article Evidence of Human Infertility). Infertility and sperm abnormalities are characteristic of hybrids. So this finding suggests that it’s reasonable to suppose, at least for the sake of argument, that humans might be of hybrid origin. It is also consistent with the idea that the hybridization in question was between two rather distinct and genetically incompatible types of animals, that is, it was a distant cross.

Methodology. The chimpanzee is plausible in the role of one of the parents that crossed to produce the human race because they are generally recognized as being closest to humans in terms of their genetics (here, I use the term chimpanzee loosely to refer to either the common chimpanzee or to the bonobo, also known as the pygmy chimpanzee; the specific roles of these two rather similar apes within the context of the present hypothesis will be explained in a subsequent section). But then the question arises: If an ancient cross between the chimpanzee and some parental form “X” produced the first humans, then what was that parent? Does it still exist? What was it like?

As the reader might imagine, if the assumption is correct that one of our parents is the chimpanzee, then it should be possible actually to identify the other parent as well. A hybrid combines traits otherwise seen only separately in the two parental forms from which it is derived, and it is typically intermediate to those parents with respect to a wide range of characters. Naturalists routinely use these facts to identify the parents of hybrids of unknown origin, even backcross hybrids.

First they posit a particular type of organism as similar to the putative hybrid (in the present case, this organism is the chimpanzee). They then list traits distinguishing the hybrid from the hypothesized parent, and this list of distinguishing traits will describe the second parent. A detailed analysis of such a triad will often establish the parentage of the hybrid. The traits in question in such studies are generally anatomical, not genetic. DNA evidence is used in only a very small percentage of such identifications (and even then, rarely in efforts to identify backcross hybrids), and yet firm conclusions can generally be reached.

So in the specific case of humans, if the two assumptions made thus far are correct (i.e., (1) that humans actually are hybrids, and (2) that the chimpanzee actually is one of our two parents), then a list of traits distinguishing human beings from chimpanzees should describe the other parent involved in the cross. And by applying this sort of methodology, I have in fact succeeded in narrowing things down to a particular candidate. That is, I looked up every human distinction that I could find and, so long as it was cited by an expert (physical anthropologist, anatomist, etc), I put it on a list. And that list, which includes many, many traits (see the lengthy table on the right-hand side of the next page), consistently describes a particular animal.



Why Do Archeologists Lie? New England’s Ancient Stone Chambers Revealed

Why do establishment-funded archeologists and academics still pretend and cover-up evidence of ancient and highly advanced civilisations, particularly those located in North America?

IMAGE: Aerial view of one of many mysterious stone structures in New England, Northeast United States.

There are hundreds of elaborate, man-made stone structures throughout New England and upstate New York in the northeast of the US, with many structures found in remote areas – far from any recognised ‘human settlements’.

So much is being hidden, but why? Watch this excellent presentation on what has been there right below our noses in the US…

A stonemason asks questions about the ancient stone chambers in New England

Brasscheck TV

There are elaborately constructed stone structures throughout New England and the Northeast.

They’re usually found in relatively inaccessible places, far away from water and settlements, and often deep in the woods and/or in mountainous areas. And they’re all line up perfectly with astronomical phenomena.

So what do traditional archeologists and historians say about them? “They’re root cellars.”

First of all, NONE of these structures would function well as root cellars.

Second, building a root cellar is a simple job, one not requiring multi-ton stone arch roofs.

Why do mainstream scientists lie about this? By the way, this speaker – who does occasionally go pretty far out – and had his very popular TEDX talk banned by TED headquarters.

On another note, apparently the looting of mounds and other mysterious structure appears to have been a national pastime years ago. The story of just one of these structures written about here: “Looting Spiro Mounds: An American King Tut’s Tomb “…


Image source

Mythical Creatures And Celestial Beings Depicted In North America’s Oldest Rock Art

20140309-113531.jpg – Archaeologists believe these are the oldest known rock carvings in North America. These intriguing depictions of otherworldly beings were strategically placed to reveal a cosmological puzzle.

The paintings and carvings have been scattered around the caves and bluff faces of the Cumberland Plateau, a division of the Appalachian Mountains extending from southern West Virginia to northern Alabama.

The rock art – left behind by the ancestors of the Native American nations of the Southeast – was just waiting to be discovered.

Now a group of scientists, led by anthropology professor Jan Simek, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have proposed that rock art changed the natural landscape to reflect a three-dimensional universe central to the religion of the prehistoric Mississippian period.

Read the full article about the discovery at

Video: Mysteries Of Humanity: Who lived in the Americas?

Initial DNA Analysis Of Paracas Elongated Skull Released – With Incredible Results

Paracas is a desert peninsula located within the Pisco Province in the Ica Region, on the south coast of Peru.  It is here were Peruvian archaeologist, Julio Tello, made an amazing discovery in 1928 – a massive and elaborate graveyard containing tombs filled with the remains of individuals with the largest elongated skulls found anywhere in the world. These have come to be known as the ‘Paracas skulls’. In total, Tello found more than 300 of these elongated skulls, which are believed to date back around 3,000 years. A DNA analysis has now been conducted on one of the skulls and expert Brien Foerster has released preliminary information regarding these enigmatic skulls.

It is well-known that most cases of skull elongation are the result of cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding, in which the skull is intentionally deformed by applying force over a long period of time. It is usually achieved by binding the head between two pieces of wood, or binding in cloth. However, while cranial deformation changes the shape of the skull, it does not alter its volume, weight, or other features that are characteristic of a regular human skull.

The Paracas skulls, however, are different.  The cranial volume is up to 25 percent larger and 60 percent heavier than conventional human skulls, meaning they could not have been intentionally deformed through head binding/flattening. They also contain only one parietal plate, rather than two. The fact that the skulls’ features are not the result of cranial deformation means that the cause of the elongation is a mystery, and has been for decades.


An artist’s impression based on a Paracas skull. Photo credit: Marcia Moore / Ciamar Studio

Mr. Juan Navarro, owner and director of the local museum, called the Paracas History Museum, which houses a collection of 35 of the Paracas skulls, allowed the taking of samples from 5 of the skulls. The samples consisted of hair, including roots, a tooth, skull bone and skin, and this process was carefully documented via photos and video. The samples were sent to the late Lloyd Pye, founder of the Starchild Project, who delivered the samples to a geneticist in Texas for DNA testing.

The results are now back, and Brien Foerster, author of more than ten books and an authority on the ancient elongated headed people of South America, has just revealed the preliminary results of the analysis. He writes:

It had mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) with mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far. But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans. – See more at:

“It had mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) with mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far. But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans.”

The implications are of cause huge. “I am not sure it will even fit into the known evolutionary tree,” wrote Foerster. He added that if the Paracas individuals were so biologically different, they would not have been able to interbreed with humans.

Foester has not yet released the full details of the DNA analysis. We will update when more details emerge.

Featured Image: An elongated skull found in Paracas

By April Holloway

Source: Ancient Origins

Ancient Peruvian Healers Practiced Sophisticated Cranial Surgery

According to recent study, Peruvian healers practiced cranial surgery more than 1000 years ago.

Researchers excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, found evidence that Peruvian healers practiced trepanation – a surgical process that involves removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool – more than 1,000 years ago.

This advanced medical procedure helped to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness.

What is interesting is that the procedures were performed in the mysterious Wari empire which spread in the southern Andes 16 miles north of present-day Ayacucho and suddenly collapsed. Their knowledge of technology and agricultural practices they adopted from the Huarpa, an earlier civilization that inhabited the Ayacucho region, contributed to high standard of their agriculture.
Their capital was surrounded with irrigated terraces which helped them survive catastrophic droughts. Apparently, these ancient people of Peru were not only skilled in agriculture but also possessed an extraordinary knowledge of surgical practices.

Trepanations first appeared in the south-central Andean highlands during the Early Intermediate Period (ca. AD 200-600), although the technique was not universally practiced. Still, it was considered a viable medical procedure until the Spanish put the kibosh on the practice in the early 16th century, according to Kurin.

“When you get a knock on the head that causes your brain to swell dangerously, or you have some kind of neurological, spiritual or psychosomatic illness, drilling a hole in the head becomes a reasonable thing to do,” said Kurin.

“For about 400 years, from 600 to 1000 AD, the area where I work — the Andahuaylas — was living as a prosperous province within an enigmatic empire known as the Wari,” she said. “For reasons still unknown, the empire suddenly collapsed.”

In burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence.

A practice of drilling holes in the cranium dates back thousands of years and somehow, the knowledge of this extremely advanced medical procedure also reached people in Peru.

Kurin’s research shows various cutting practices and techniques being employed by practitioners around the same time. Some used scraping, others used cutting and still others made use of a hand drill.

New bone growth at the trepanation site on the side of the head indicates a successful procedure. However, the holes drilled at the top of the skull were as the individual was dying or shortly after he died.

The study shows that the Peruvian healers tried different techniques and experimented with different ways of cutting into the skull. Sometimes they were successful and the patient recovered, and sometimes things didn’t go so well. “We can tell a trepanation is healed because we see these finger-like projections of bone that are growing, Kurin said.

“The idea with this surgery is to go all the way through the bone, but not touch the brain,” said Kurin. “That takes incredible skill and practice.

Source: Message To Eagle

Image credit

‘Homo Georgicus’: Georgia skull may prove early humans were single species

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, holding a well-preserved skull from 1.8 million years ago found found in the remains of a medieval hilltop city in Dmanisi on October 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, holding a well-preserved skull from 1.8 million years ago found found in the remains of a medieval hilltop city in Dmanisi on October 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)

A 1.8 million-year-old skull found in Georgia could turn current understanding of evolution on its head. A new study claims that early man did not come from Africa as seven species, but was actually a single ‘homo erectus’ with variations in looks.

The case revolves around an early human skull found in a stunningly well-preserved state at an archaeological dig at the site of the medieval hill city of Dmanisi in Georgia, a study in the journal Science revealed on Thursday.

Stone tools were found next to the remains, indicating that the species hunted large carnivorous prey, including probably saber-toothed tigers.

A team of scientists spent over eight years studying the find, whose original date of excavation was 2005. Its jawbone was actually discovered back in 2000, but only recently have the parts been assembled to produce a complete skull.

New dating technology allowed scientists to establish that these early humans come from around 1.8 million years ago. Near to the bone fragments were the remains of huge prehistoric predators; the area is next to a river and was full of them, as they encountered humans in fights to the death.

The skull has a tiny brain about a third of the size of our modern Homo sapiens incarnation; it also has protruding brows, jutting jaws and other characteristics we have come to expect from lesser developed prehistoric humans.
But the surprising revelation came when the skull was placed next to four other skulls discovered within a 100-kilometer radius. They vary so much in appearance that it brings into question whether the current understanding of species variation is correct.

Traditional theories accept a whole plethora of stand-alone species – but the new find strongly hints that the five remains were all one, but with striking differences in bone structure that we have come to expect only from our own ‘complex’ kind.

This handout photo received October 17, 2013 shows a complete, approximately 1.8-million-year-old hominid skull from Dmanisi, Georgia (AFP Photo / Georgian National Museum / Handout)

This handout photo received October 17, 2013 shows a complete, approximately 1.8-million-year-old hominid skull from Dmanisi, Georgia (AFP Photo / Georgian National Museum / Handout)

Director of the Georgian National Museum and lead researcher, David Lordkipanidze, has come out with the claim that the find is “the richest and most complete collection of indisputable early Homo remains from any one site.”
“Dmansi is a unique snapshot of time – maybe a time capsule that preserves things from 1.8 million years ago,” he told AFP.

Adding weight to the new hypothesis, co-author of the study, Christoph Zollikofer of the University of Zurich, judged that despite the striking dissimilarities “we know that these individuals came from the same location and the same geological time, so they could, in principle, represent a single population of a single species.”

The differences in the skulls’ eyebrow ridges, jaws and other features were all consistent with what paleontologists expect of variations within the same species.

“The five Dmanisi individuals are conspicuously different from each other, but not more different than any five modern human individuals, or five chimpanzee individuals, from a given population,” Zollikofer continued.

This has led scientists to conclude that, while previously we thought that intra-species variation was an exception, it could very well be a rule instead.

For decades researchers would separate all types of humans originating in Africa into separate sub-groups – with examples including the Homo habilis, the Homo rudolfensis, and so on. The new hypothesis suggests these could all just be Homo erectus, with the regular human variation in bone structure we witness in our own Homo sapiens peers. 3D modeling shows this clearly.

It also challenges the notion that we needed a larger cranial capacity – or brain – in order to be intelligent enough to use complex tools, hunt large prey and migrate to distant continents. It appears the humans found at the Georgian site actually migrated to Asia despite not being very ‘bright.’

Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan told AFP that the team was “thrilled about the conclusion they came to. It backs up what we found as well.”  He was working with a colleague from Wellesley College during a study they published a year ago, which also targeted statistical variations in characteristics of skulls from Georgia and East Africa – considered to be one of the cradles of human civilization.

The study suggested active inter-species breeding was commonplace back in those days.

“Everyone knows today you could find your mate from a different continent and it is normal for people to marry outside their local group, outside their religion, outside their culture…[but] what this really helps show is that this has been the human pattern for most of our history, at least outside of Africa,” Wolpoff explained.

However, challengers to the hypothesis believe otherwise. Their main qualm with the hypothesis is that the skull may simply have belonged to a new species of human – not a variation of Homo erectus.

Bernard Wood of George Washington University believes the conclusions of the Dmanisi research team to be misguided.

“What they have is a creature that we have not seen evidence of before,” Wood said in reference to the small head but human-looking body of the early hominid.

Wood feels that the small human has been deprived of what could rightfully be a separate Homo – a Homo georgicus.

However, this matters little to the case at hand – that a new form of human has been discovered and that its practices strongly suggest that its life patterns and differences in features very closely mimicked what we see today in our modern selves.

Via RT