For once I’m going to write a post on a heartwarming incident. Well I find it heartwarming.
About two months ago I was on the bus going home. (This stuff always seems to happen on buses!) Continue reading Bubble hair
For once I’m going to write a post on a heartwarming incident. Well I find it heartwarming.
About two months ago I was on the bus going home. (This stuff always seems to happen on buses!) Continue reading Bubble hair
This word has had a very interesting history. Now it has a more or less concrete definition, complete with boundaries, maps and dictionaries to back it up. But it wasn’t always this way. Even today there’s no physical boundary between it and Asia. Consider this quote from Wikipedia (bolding mine):
“Europe is a continent that comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia. Europe is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The eastern boundary with Asia is a historical and cultural construct, as there is no clear physical and geographical separation between them; Europe is generally considered as separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways of the Turkish Straits. Yet the non-oceanic borders of Europe—a concept dating back to classical antiquity—are arbitrary. The primarily physiographic term “continent” as applied to Europe also incorporates cultural and political elements whose discontinuities are not always reflected by the continent’s current overland boundaries.”
– Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe, 4th May 2017
A microscopic image of skin cells.
The popular idea that Northern Europeans developed light skin to absorb more UV light so they could make more vitamin D – vital for healthy bones and immune function – is questioned by UC San Francisco researchers in a new study published online in the journal Evolutionary Biology.
Ramping up the skin’s capacity to capture UV light to make vitamin D is indeed important, according to a team led by Peter Elias, MD, a UCSF professor of dermatology. However, Elias and colleagues concluded in their study that changes in the skin’s function as a barrier to the elements made a greater contribution than alterations in skin pigment in the ability of Northern Europeans to make vitamin D.
Elias’ team concluded that genetic mutations compromising the skin’s ability to serve as a barrier allowed fair-skinned Northern Europeans to populate latitudes where too little ultraviolet B (UVB) light for vitamin D production penetrates the atmosphere.
Among scientists studying human evolution, it has been almost universally assumed that the need to make more vitamin D at Northern latitudes drove genetic mutations that reduce production of the pigment melanin, the main determinant of skin tone, according to Elias.
“At the higher latitudes of Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic States, as well as Northern Germany and France, very little UVB light reaches the Earth, and it’s the key wavelength required by the skin for vitamin D generation,” Elias said.
“While it seems logical that the loss of the pigment melanin would serve as a compensatory mechanism, allowing for more irradiation of the skin surface and therefore more vitamin D production, this hypothesis is flawed for many reasons,” he continued. “For example, recent studies show that dark-skinned humans make vitamin D after sun exposure as efficiently as lightly-pigmented humans, and osteoporosis – which can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency – is less common, rather than more common, in darkly-pigmented humans.”
Furthermore, evidence for a south to north gradient in the prevalence of melanin mutations is weaker than for this alternative explanation explored by Elias and colleagues.
In earlier research, Elias began studying the role of skin as a barrier to water loss. He recently has focused on a specific skin-barrier protein called filaggrin, which is broken down into a molecule called urocanic acid – the most potent absorber of UVB light in the skin, according to Elias. “It’s certainly more important than melanin in lightly-pigmented skin,” he said.
In their new study, the researchers identified a strikingly higher prevalence of inborn mutations in the filaggrin gene among Northern European populations. Up to 10 percent of normal individuals carried mutations in the filaggrin gene in these northern nations, in contrast to much lower mutation rates in southern European, Asian and African populations.
Moreover, higher filaggrin mutation rates, which result in a loss of urocanic acid, correlated with higher vitamin D levels in the blood. Latitude-dependent variations in melanin genes are not similarly associated with vitamin D levels, according to Elias. This evidence suggests that changes in the skin barrier played a role in Northern European’s evolutionary adaptation to Northern latitudes, the study concluded.
Yet, there was an evolutionary tradeoff for these barrier-weakening filaggrin mutations, Elias said. Mutation bearers have a tendency for very dry skin, and are vulnerable to atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergies. But these diseases have appeared only recently, and did not become a problem until humans began to live in densely populated urban environments, Elias said.
The Elias lab has shown that pigmented skin provides a better skin barrier, which he says was critically important for protection against dehydration and infections among ancestral humans living in sub-Saharan Africa. But the need for pigment to provide this extra protection waned as modern human populations migrated northward over the past 60,000 years or so, Elias said, while the need to absorb UVB light became greater, particularly for those humans who migrated to the far North behind retreating glaciers less than 10,000 years ago.
The data from the new study do not explain why Northern Europeans lost melanin. If the need to make more vitamin D did not drive pigment loss, what did? Elias speculates that, “Once human populations migrated northward, away from the tropical onslaught of UVB, pigment was gradually lost in service of metabolic conservation. The body will not waste precious energy and proteins to make proteins that it no longer needs.”
For the Evolutionary Biology study, labeled a “synthesis paper” by the journal, Elias and co-author Jacob P. Thyssen, MD, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, mapped the mutation data and measured the correlations with blood levels of vitamin D. Labs throughout the world identified the mutations. Daniel Bikle, MD, PhD, a UCSF professor of medicine, provided expertise on vitamin D metabolism.
The research was funded by the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and by a Lundbeck Foundation grant.
UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.
Inspired by Frank M. Snowden’s Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, ISBN 9780674063813. This should be essential reading in all ‘white’-majority countries, especially England and USA.
In a nutshell Snowden says that for a long time before the TAST (all the way from the beginning of Egyptian Pharaonic civilisation to the spread of Christianity through the Greco-Roman empire, approximately 3000 years) ‘whites’ did not hold negative views of ‘blacks’. They in fact held mostly positive stereotypes, even to the degree that Greeks regarded Aithiopians* as the gods’ favourite people!
* Since this is the original Greek form of Ethiopian they meant all east & east-central Africans, sometimes all “sub-Saharan” Africans, not nationals of the modern country Ethiopia. These were the same people called Nubians/Nehesyu by the Egyptians and Kushim/Kushites by the Jews & early Christians. For clarity Snowden also uses the labels Napatans for those living in the period of the Napatan Kingdom of Kush (~750-300BC) and Meroïtes for those in the Meroïtic Kingdom (~350BC-300AD). Nubia/ Kush was divided into upper & lower parts exactly as Kemet (Egypt), also with south = upper and north = lower:
Also be aware that Africa was the Roman term for the region we now call north Africa (excluding Egypt); Libya, Tunisia, Algeria & Morocco.
To further clarify context, it should be understood that generally ‘whites’ didn’t know other continents than Africa & Asia (including Europe, which was eventually seen as separate) and they didn’t know how big they really were. For that reason north Asia (the Eurasian steppes) and equatorial Africa were believed to be the ends or extremities of the world. However, Arabs and Indians at least knew about China & southeast Asia, while west Africans at least knew about southern Africa & the Americas.
So how did ‘whites’ & ‘blacks’ even know each other that long ago?
By travel. No ethnic group stayed totally where they were in the world. If we did there’d have been no out-of-Africa migrations – can the Horn of Africa sustain 6.8 billion people?!? The Mediterranean was effectively the rendezvous point. Generally ‘whites’ lived north of it while ‘blacks’ lived south & east of it, though there was crossover in all directions.
Snowden lists Pharaoh Psamtik II’s Greek contingents as among the first Europeans to directly meet Africans face to face (as opposed to listening to hearsay or glimpsing relics of long-gone people). Psamtik had been on a rampage to eradicate Nubian monuments & pharaohs’ names from Egypt’s 25th Dynasty (late 500s BC) and assembled an army to kick them out physically so they couldn’t reconquer*. Those Greeks in his army caught wind of the Nubians’ prior rule of the country and told their fellow Greeks back home. Greeks met Egyptians and Aithiopians again during Pharaoh Amasis II’s occupation of Cyprus during the mid-early 500s BC, and Aithiopians once again in Persian king Xerxes’s army in the 400s BC. After that Egypt maintained relations with Elis (a district in south Greece where the very first Olympic festival was held); travel became commonplace and Greeks were able to travel throughout the country for themselves – including Simonides the Younger and “father of history” Herodotus.
* Note that not all Egyptians were happy with this. Some of Psamtik’s own soldiers defected and sought refuge in Nubia to get away from him!
For clarity’s sake: the word gets thrown around a lot but where exactly is the Mediterranean? Just the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea:
Where the bloodclaat is that?!?
As you can see the Mediterranean comprises of north Africa, southwest Asia (the “Middle East”) and south Europe. But even people from further south (east, central and west Africa), east (the Arabian peninsula, Indian subcontinent, & possibly southeast-east Asia?) and north (north & west Asia including Europe, the Eurasian steppes) also travelled and encountered each other. The Greeks regarded them as just different types of people, and were intensely curious about them – especially ‘blacks’ it seems, judging from the amount of sculptures, literature, dramas & plays, idols, even cookware dedicated to them.
Yes, cookware! The image on the book’s front cover is a type of bowl called a phiale, with concentric rings of ‘black’ men’s faces all the way through (except for the innermost ring, which is of acorns for some reason).
The Greek island of Crete has the oldest depictions of Africans outside Africa. Several profiles & frescoes from the 2nd-1st millennia BC show people of the “true Negro” phenotype – rounded noses, plump lips, tightly coiled hair. From ~550BC Greeks also depicted mixed-race looking people. Snowden asserts those ‘blacks’ depicted in Greek, Roman, Iberian & Egyptian art were not cookie-cutter models, as some modern historians have tried to claim, but live people standing directly in front of the artists. That’s why they paid so much attention to individual details; no-one could tell them ‘blacks’ all look alike. Furthermore, while some scholars have claimed those artifacts were designed to look grotesque, ugly &/or comical, Snowden points out that there’s nothing in the artists’ work suggesting that was normal. ‘Whites’ and even gods were also depicted satirically at times. The anti-‘black’ perception is all in modern ‘white’ minds:
I shouldn’t have to point this out but for completion’s sake I will. There was no automatic association between ‘black’ and servant/ criminal/ slave/ fool. Snowden asserts that one of the most common associations is ‘black’ and warrior, while the vast majority of slaves ALL OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN were ‘whites’. Yes we were stereotyped as warriors, and damn good ones! Whether with weapons (bow & arrows, spear, sword, khopesh, etc.) or sheer muscle power & stamina, our strength was quite literally legendary (see the Greek legend of Memnon as an example, & sometimes Zeus & Heracles were described as ‘black). Because of this, and previous military encounters with Aithiopians, the Mediterranean as a whole developed a tendency to employ ‘blacks’ in their armies, and many ‘blacks’ likewise saw the economic advantages of a military career. This may seem inconsistent with nationalistic principles, but it must be remembered that in the ancient world loyalty was to your kith, kin & district first, not so much to your ruler or country.
Despite the legends and reputation it was rare to hear about ‘blacks’ as pillagers, expansionists, conquerors or the like*. ‘White’ civilians generally knew us as staunch defenders of our loved ones and our borders – which of course their armies hated us for when trying to conquer our lands, but strength soon begets respect & admiration.
* Not for want of trying, since Nubians & Egyptians had been trying to reclaim each other for ages. But after almost 500 years of Egyptian occupation and rule, Nubians gained control of Egypt in less than 100 years! Snowden describes it as “a kind of Third Intermediate Period” (i.e. the 25th Dynasty) during which Napatans controlled Egypt all the way up to the Mediterranean, which even their ancestors from Kerma hadn’t managed to do! The now-Meroïte Nubians (as the capital was changed from Napata to Meroë) had control of Egypt for 1000 years – longer than any single period of native Egyptian unification. During this time they instituted a policy of self-defence instead of conquest & aggression against other nations, and integrated into Egyptian and Greek societies while still maintaining sovereignty against more Greco-Roman incursions! The authors of the Bible knew Nubia as a sovereign military nation with a thriving economy up until the collapse of Meroë in the early 300s AD.
Herodotus claimed there had been 18 Nubian pharaohs of Egypt (versus 1 Egyptian pharaoh of Nubia), and they were considered to be revivers and protectors of Egyptian tradition during Greek & Roman invasions. And those Greeks & Romans always kept their eye on Nubian warriors, whether in Egypt or not. Roman emperor Augustus’s occupation of Egypt saw Nubians rise up yet again, with them even enslaving his soldiers, and although he eventually won Augustus’s victory was laden with policies to keep them sweet – including scrapping the tribute he’d imposed on the country before!
From the 200s-500s AD Romans were getting it in the neck from another ‘black’ race: the Blemmyes (almost unanimously believed to be the ancestors of modern Beja people). But even the Carthaginians of the Punic wars (some of whom were known to have increased the ‘black’ presence in north Italy), Moors and Garamantes were staunch opponents of Roman rule in Africa. Even Assyrian king Ashurbanipal noted Egyptians taking refuge from him under Nubian pharaoh Taharqa, and despite Assyrian victory Taharqa’s sovereignty of Nubia was untouched.
(Maybe the self-defence policy is where Marvel got the inspiration for Black Panther’s Wakandan warrior culture?)
Ironically, the positive perceptions persisted even when Greeks encountered Aithiopians who went against them! It’s almost like they admired us so much they couldn’t accept the concept of villainous or weak ‘black’ people! For those rare occasions when some of us were “savages” it was explained away as being due to inhabiting the southernmost extremity of the world, exactly as those ‘whites’ who lived at the northernmost tip of the world, and it was freely acknowledged that everyone was liable to turning savage in bad enough environmental conditions. Romans & Greeks went to a lot of trouble to record everything they could about different peoples of the world*; they came to know of different groups of Aithiopians, and there were points when Europeans were building temples to worship African deities (Iset/Aset/Auset, better known as Isis) and inviting Aithiopians to be their priests! Italy seems to have hosted the clearest examples of this.
* Not always accurately though, nor without resorting to the occasional mythical beings; men with 3 and 4 eyes, men with feet like leather straps, men with faces on their chests instead of their heads, etc.
Perhaps even more ironic was early Christianity’s treatment of ‘blacks’. It basically continued the Mediterranean tradition of universalism, granting people all over the world full access and opportunity to “the truth of the gospel”. In the same way ‘whites’ & ‘blacks’ worshipped an African goddess together, they worshipped a ‘black’ Jesus & Mary together. Italy at least still does; Google ‘black madonna vatican’.
Now pay attention because this is where it gets confusing.
While racism didn’t exist, it becomes easy to see its origins in Christianity. Why? Because of its heavy emphasis of using white & black to symbolise good & evil, even to the point of occasionally describing devils as Aithiopian (but only in colour, not in ethnic background or other features like hair, nose, etc.).
So how did this not equate to racism? 2 reasons:
Another common perception was that we were very just, honourable and even-handed when by rights we could’ve been total assholes. The Aithiopian king Hydaspes, though fictional, was said to follow Egyptian queen Piye’s tradition of taking prisoners alive and granting mercy if they pleaded. As alluded to above, ancient Egyptians regarded Nehesyu (southerners, i.e. Aithiopians) as the world’s very first people, and Greeks considered us favoured by the gods because we were the first to recognise and worship them! Amun/Zeus came to Earth to have an annual 12-day feast in Kush, with Iris & Poseidon joining in! Agatharchides talked about a tribe of Aithiopians he called Fish-Eaters (Ichthyophagi) who, despite wearing no clothes and living in wilderness, were so civilised and moral they didn’t need written laws or bother invading other nations – unlike his fellow Greeks. Even Origen seemed to agree with the Greco-Roman belief in Aithiopian priority in recognising divinity.
It was also taken for granted that we were good-looking. How good-looking was down to individual preference; Snowden posits the somatic norm theory that basically says “of course any given people will prefer the looks of their own kind over others.” Despite that Greeks and Romans recognised their own subjectivity and were able to appreciate & describe the beauty of other races in dramatic poetic detail. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for individuals to openly state their preference for people of other backgrounds. Herodotus for one called Aithiopians the handsomest people in the world, and Martial was in love with a woman “blacker than an ant” while rejecting the advances of a woman who was “whiter than snow”. The zeitgeist was that nobility was attained through culture not birth or race.
Interracial relationships were common and no-one gave a shit, so there was no stigma against a ‘white’ woman for marrying & having children with a ‘black’ man or vice versa. On the topic of adultery, Martial said the only reason mixed-race babies aren’t more common is the high rate of abortion. The only time interracial relationships were made an issue is for questions of fidelity (e.g. if a ‘white’ woman gave birth to a ‘grey’ baby while her husband was ‘white’).
One thing that jarred me, though, was Snowden’s understanding of who was who:
In short, he seems to be flip-flopping between the contemporary Eurocentric belief in the “pure Negro” and the modern knowledge of features never being specific to any race or group.
However, his comment about Garamantes (closely related to Moors but from modern Fezzan, Libya) being largely ‘mulatto’ could be true. For several millennia north Africa had been taking in escaped European slaves (like the ancestors of modern Amazigh according to some), and from roughly the spread of Islam in the region (as well as the Arabian peninsula) started actively taking European slaves in the millions, thereby increasing the ‘white’/mulatto presence. The Egyptians depicted Libyans as ‘white’, while Hesiod considered the god Kronos’s son Epaphus to be the common ancestor of both (‘black’) Libyans and “high-souled” Aithiopians.
Furthermore, Snowden alluded to his contemporaries’ distinction between ancient peoples as sometimes pointless and deliberately obfuscating:
“Nubians … may be described as black or white according to the prejudices of one’s time and temperament. On the question of physical characteristics of African blacks, however, the ancients were far from unclear …
Regardless of modern opinions as to the precise racial identity or proper anthropological classification of Kushites, Nubians, or Ethiopians, the blacks of ancient artists often bear a close similarity to racial types designated in the modern world as “colored,” “black,” or “Negro.” And many of these, had they lived at a later time, would have been regarded as black or Negro and subjected to prejudice because of their color…
Following the Greek and Roman practice, I use a color term, “black,” as a general designation for the dark- and black-skinned Africans of this study. Like the word “Ethiopian,” “black” in my usage properly emphasizes color and includes the colored peoples comprehended by the classical term.”
And towards the start of the book he mentioned that since ‘black’ people were seen as individuals their skin colours were likewise not regarded as the same. All populations in the world were thought to have an average skin colour, which was darker the closer they were to the Equator and lighter the further they were from it:
And in ancient Greece exactly as Aithiopians were the blackest of all people, Scythians* were seen as the whitest people of all complete with stereotypical thin hooked noses and lank hair. However, as they were so fascinated by dark skin Greeks & Romans didn’t even mistake Aithiopians as being all the same colour; ‘blacks’ were described as fusci (dark), nigerrimi (very black), perusti (sunburnt), furvi (swarthy), nigri (black), adusti (scorched) and more in various attempts to describe different degrees of ‘blackness’. They acknowledged that despite general trends, there was widespread variation among individuals; sometimes Egyptians were described as Aithiopian to emphasise their ‘blackness’. Snowden doesn’t mention it but I believe it’s likely they were not just describing tint, tone & shade but actual hues too, exactly as Arabs had different words for different hues (aswad/sawad for darkest-skinned or literally black, adam & asmar/ sumra for dark brown, akhdar/ khidr [lit. green!], abyad for “yellow/golden-black”, ahmar/hamar [lit. red] for ‘white’, etc).
Who were the Scythians? An Iranic tribe from the central & south parts of the EURASIAN STEPPES including much of modern eastern Europe, north India and parts of east Asia, which gives yet more credence to the ‘whites’-are-albino-Asians theory. They were also known as Yuezhi (by the Chinese), Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, Askuzai and Sai.
Though they were seen as the ‘whitest’ people on Earth, Scythians were not known for having any hair colour other than black or eye colour other than brown. Other hair & eye colours, especially blond/ginger & blue respectively, were much more commonly ascribed to Germanic tribes such as were encountered by the Romans when they first invaded western Europe & the British isles. Germanic tribes included the Angles & Saxons (ancestors of modern English people, where the term Anglo-Saxon comes from), Goths, Jutes, Norsemen (whose seafaring criminals we call Vikings), Suebi, Vandals, and others. In his book Germania, Tacitus describes them thus:
Unde habitus quoque corporum, tamquam in tanto hominum numero, idem omnibus: truces et caerulei oculi, rutilae comae, magna corpora et tantum ad impetum valida: laboris atque operum non eadem patientia, minimeque sitim aestumque tolerare, frigora atque inediam caelo solove adsueverunt.
Which translates to something like:
Hence, too, the same physical peculiarities throughout so vast a population. All have fierce blue eyes, red hair, huge frames, fit only for a sudden exertion. They are less able to bear laborious work. Heat and thirst they cannot in the least endure; to cold and hunger their climate and their soil inure them.
Despite Snowden’s minor misidentifications of ancient peoples, Before Color Prejudice made for a very informative read shedding light on a side of history kept hidden for a long long long time.
As I mentioned once in a previous post, years ago I chanced upon a fascinating website. It’s called realhistoryww.com (unfortunately Google has now blocked it). Fortunately I’d read near enough all of it before the block. Its basic premises are:
Though the site was laden with unabashed bias, these basic premises were supported by the surprisingly extensive evidence. The author also gave many links showing ‘white’ academics are at times willing to let this info go public. Below are some I found from a quick Google search:
According to geneticists & academics, ‘white’ skin came to Europe no more than 10,000 years ago. The links above reckon 8-8,500. Not only that, it happened in 3 to 4 separate waves via mass migration from other parts of Asia. Blue/ light eyes came via a separate mutation roughly 6,000 years ago. Before then Europeans were dark-skinned, BUT it’s interesting what they try to define as dark skin:
About the dark skin/blue eyes combo, it still happens today around the world:
Would be a good excuse to add Amara la Negra. However… I am going… to… resist…
The ‘whites’-are-albino-Asian-descendants story makes sense, certainly more than others I’ve heard (e.g. they evolved from ‘blacks’ due to natural selection/ sunless climates, they were created by an ancient ‘black’ geneticist, they’re from another planet, etc). Unless I discover evidence of something else, I regard that theory as true.
From any internet forum you’ll see ‘whites’ who’ve heard it find it deeply offensive and refute it en masse. My guess is because it suggests they’re not special after all. In their minds albinos are genetically diseased, freaks, etc. and to even suggest they could be “like them” seems to disgust them. They go out of their way to define albinos in such a way that they couldn’t possibly be related, usually by the standard stereotype: white hair, pink eyes & bad eyesight. Or they’ll say albinism is caused by a specific genetic mutation or allele that they don’t share.
Both are wrong. There are different types of albinism; some affect the skin but not the eyes or hair, some the hair or eyes but not the skin, some all three. There are also different degrees, so albinos can come out with blonde or ginger hair; blue, green or amber eyes; and skin not alabaster but still markedly paler than their parents.
But something struck me as odd. For all his knowledge on global ‘black’ histories, the author remained almost silent on Africa south of the Sahara. Years ago I questioned him why this was, for such in-depth information would teach us something of humanity’s deepest origins. His reply was, and I quote:
“If and when, sub-Saharan Africans write their own history, then we will both know.”
I had also complimented him on his avoidance of talking about the Maafa. He responded with:
“The constant recourse to slavery IS troubling, but perhaps that’s because there is nothing else.
Who knows? But despite his biases, I believe his basic point about the origins of humanity hold water.
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quirky actor, script & story writer and poet spreading insights, old and new, from unconventional sources
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