May 9, 2010

Interesting Señor Jaime Yzaga.  Please do come back to this.  It’s not everyday that one knows one of the authors of a study generating such popular buzz.

One part of the New York Times article that I thought was interesting was this: “archaeologists questioned some of the interpretations put forward by Dr. Paabo and his chief colleagues, Richard E. Green of the Leipzig institute, and David Reich of Harvard Medical School. Geneticists have been making increasingly valuable contributions to human prehistory, but their work depends heavily on complex mathematical statistics that make their arguments hard to follow. And the statistical insights, however informative, do not have the solidity of an archaeological fact.”  I don’t think archaeology is any more factual than other sciences, and all involve interpretation.  Understanding a civilization from few artifacts involves interpretation.  The less data you have, the more interpretation or ‘inductive bias’ you need. 

In my last post, when I said “I’m not typing up all those numbers,” I was being facetious, but my statement also highlights the difference between today and yesterday.  As the video I linked to in the post said, “Trillions of digital devices, connected through the Internet, are producing an ocean of data.”  Getting data is much easier now than before (although still not easy).  If you have tons of data, you can do remarkable things through simple methods.  Also the contrapositive: you can’t do much if you don’t gots much data.

And now, some Neanderthal interpretation from basically no data: a conjecture just for fun.

According to tradition, the alliance between Rāma and the strong, spear and stone-wielding, cave-dwelling vānaras was forged more than 869,000 years ago.  This age is of the same order of magnitude as when humans and the strong, spear and stone-wielding, cave-dwelling Neanderthals contemporaneously walked the earth.  Neanderthal range didn’t extend into the subcontinent, but just reached as far as Afghanistan.  And you know what – as Ram Sharan Sharma writes, “but we do not find even a modest settlement at Ayodhya until 500 BC, as is true of the whole mid-Ganga plain. Because of this difficulty some scholars locate the original Ayodhya in Afghanistan …”  In fact, the entire Rāmāyaṇa probably took place northwest of the subcontinent.  It isn’t hard to imagine the vānara senā being an army of Neanderthals, is it? 

Lav, do you think this conjecture will attract a rant from a hindutvadi commenter?  Also, did you know that if you can find the right journal, even a paper like this is publishable? 



  1. […] Ashvins The Ultimate Machinists « Vānaras Simultaneity May 27, 2010 I know you were being a little bit facetious in elements of your […]

  2. […] about cognitive history or the difficulty of ranking multivariates, or my new found fear of non-human hominids. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Breaking the Taboo on […]

  3. Very interesting theory. I think there may still be remnant populations of Neanderthal’s alive today.

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