Aug 282010

From The horse, the wheel, and language by David W. Anthony (2007), p. 385:

Linguists have identified loans that were adopted into the early Finno-Ugric (F-U) languages from Pre-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-Iranian (Proto-I-I). Archaeological evidence for Volosovo-Abashevo contacts around the southern Urals probably were the medium through which these loans occurred. Early Proto-Indo-Iranian words that were borrowed into common Finno-Ugric included Proto-I-I *asura- ‘lord, god’ > F-U *asera; Proto-I-I *medʱu- ‘honey’ > F-U *mete; Proto-I-I *čekro- ‘wheel’ > F-U *kekrä and Proto-I-I *arya- ‘Aryan’ > F-U *orya. Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya-, the self designation “Aryan,” was borrowed into Pre-Saami as *orja-, the root of *oarji, meaning “southwest,” and of ārjel, meaning “southerner,” confirming that the Proto-Aryan world lay south of the early Uralic region. The same borrowed *arya- root developed into words with the meaning “slave” in the Finnish and Permic branches (Finnish, Komi, and Udmurt), a hint of ancient hostility between the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian and Finno-Ugric.

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Aug 252010

I recently got hold of an electronic copy of The Ecological Basis of Anthropology, a 1934 paper by the geographer and anthropologist Griffith Taylor. With its hand-drawn maps and tall, woolly dokephs, it reads with the peculiar charm of many a pre-War essay on physical anthropology: Fleure and James (’16) describe living people in Wales as approximating to Neanderthaloids. The writer wonders if these folk are not also the descendants of the Australoid stratum. Taylor goes on about a globe-straddling Alpine race with “no essential difference in [its] racial characteristics from Eastern France to Corea”, leaving me with the sense that he was an eccentric even amongst the typologists of his own time, but the real aim of this post isn’t to poke fun at his racial schema. Nor — sorry again, Grif — is it to weigh the merits of his “Zones and Strata Theory” of human migration.

My concern lies with just two startling sentences:

Sir Harry Johnston (’23)–the authority on African ethnology–describes the Ushtettas (in the mountains west of Tunis) as “of very Neanderthaloid appearance, with much-developed brows, large flat noses, deepset eyes, and in the males much hair about the face and body.” He describes them as “similar to the Veddahs, and a little to the black Australians in facial features.”

While beetle-browed Welshmen fail to earn a daub on his map, Taylor classes the Ushtettas as Australoids, making them the only living members of the “western wing” of this race that he mentions by name — and the only extant Africans so characterized by any 20th century ethnologist I’m aware of.

Black represents present distribution -- plus sites with prehistoric skeletal material (Galilee, Brunn, Teruel, Wadjak) -- and dots probable former distribution. (Adapted from Taylor, 1934: Fig. 3)

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