Re: Afro-Asiatic

From: John Croft
Message: 1215
Date: 2000-01-28

Alexander wrote
> Thank you for the very interesting information containing both facts
I have
> not been awared of and fresh ideas forcing to think about.
> Still I can't accept the Ethiopian hypothesis.
> IMO the key counter-argument is the Nostratic conception. If we
believe in
> the genetic relatedness of the Nostratic languages we must
acknowledge that
> ones upon a time it was a single group whose descendants in many
> have turned into Yukaghir and Hausa, Gauls and Tamils etc.. It seems
to me
> that the most probable place, time and the reason of fantastic
spreading are > the Near East Region (either Zagros or Levant), 10-12
millenia BP and the
> Neolithic revolution (the Near East variant of it, i.e. goats/sheep +
> wheat/barley).
> {However, last time I'm thinking more and more often about the Near
> "Subneolithic" - when processing of cereals is already well developed
> brings a great benefit to the people but gathering of grain is not
> substituted with sowing yet. Examples (the marker - sicles with
microliths of
> the NE type): Natufian c. as Proto-Afro-Asiatic, Yangelka c. in South
Ural as
> Proto-Uralic, Microlithic c. in North China as Proto-Turkic etc. Just
a raw
> hypothesis}

I tend to think of Nostratic as one of three great divisions of the
Aurignacian-Gravetian Upper Paleolithic cultures. The division would
be between an Eastern (Arctic) group, a Central Western
(Dene-Caucasian-Sino-Tibetan) group and a Southern (Nostratic) group.
I see a movement north of the Nostratics during the early Holocene,
with a mesolithic technology, splitting the Dene-Caucasian group into
separate non-communicating families. This movement north would have
occurred with the warming of the climates after the ice age.

The effects of agriculture I see as occurring much later, and spreading
the Nostratic language families, after they had become destinct.

This is certainly what the genetic evidence suggests, (and yes Glen, I
am aware that language and genetics do spread differently, but as
Carvalli-Sforza showed in the History and Geography of Human Genetics -
there is a moderately close corelation between the genetic phylogeny of
the human race and reconstructed linguistic ones.)

> If we take Ethiopia as the place of the Afro-Asiatic origin we must
> lead ALL Nostratic folks from there or postulate that Afro-Asiats
> migrated to Ethiopia from another place as a single group and only
> started to spread and split. IMO both variants are not very
attractive. Such
> geographical manoeuvres are not well supported by archaeology.
Besides, in
> this case we lose the moving force of the initial spreading. I seems
to me
> that the argument of the AA geografical distribution (4 or 5 to 1 for
> can't outweght the shortcomings mentioned.

Hmm... given the fact that Nostratic families moved during the
mesolithic period, having agriculture as the motive is not necessary.
Certainly there is evidence of Upper Paleolithic culures in North
Africa having an Aurignacian substrate. Movements from Palestine into
Africa quite possibly occurred long before farming.

> I have also some comments to particular aspects we discussed.
> >[A]
> > > How and when Semitic people appeared in Arabia?

The Aribi (Arabs) are first recorded in Assyrian records about 900 BCE,
and were probably the people who domesticated the camel at that time.
The Sabean and Himyaritic Kingdoms began in Yemen at about the same
time. Arabic, in many ways is reputed to be closer to the source of
the Semitic "mother tongue" than Akkadian, or the various West Semitic
Languages, (eg Amorite, Canaanite, Phoenician or Hebrew). And yet
Arabic is by far the youngest.

There are classical records in Oman of "Ethiopes" - the classical term
for anyone with dark skin. This may be ethnic remnants of the first
wave of Homo sapiens out of Africa (90,000 years BP) which I believe
crossed from the horn of Africa rather than through Sanai.

> > [J]
> > In the Middle East Semitic people I believe have been linked to the
> > Ghassulian culture of Palestine and its affiliates elsewhere into
> > Mesopotamian region.
> I don't have yet a firm opinion concerning the Ghassulian culture,
but Enc.Brit.
> says: "The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small settlements of
> peoples, immigrants from the north, ... The Ghassulians also smelted
> Evidence indicates that they buried their dead in stone dolmens ...
> Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and
also seems
> to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or "bird vases")
with early
> Minoan materials in Crete." Does this fit to the description of early
> nomads from Arabia?
> > [A]
> > > Why early Semits did not have tef and finger millet which were
> > domesticated
> > > in Ethiopia very early (c. 5000 BC)?
> > [J]
> > I believe that proto-neolithic tef and finger millet using cultures
> > Ethiopia before its eventual cultuvation would produce an Ethiopian
> > population increase, which carried Afro-Asiatic speakers of the
> > family across the Afar triangle and into Yemen very early. There
> > remained a small group, interminging within the Yemen peoples until
> > arrival of middle eastern grains and domesticates.
> Thus the Semits had given up and COMPLETELY forgotten their native
tef and
> finger millet to switch over to alien wheat and barley. The same had
> independently happened to Berber, Egyptian and Chadic folks. Please
estimate the
> probability of these events.
> BTW is there evidence of tef and millet cultivation in Neolithic

Yemeni archaeology is in very early development. You may be right
about Semitic arrivals out of the Middle East.

> >[A]
> > > Are there any evidences of spreading people WESTWARD from Middle
> > Upper
> > > Nile (i.e. in the region to the south from Sahara) in the
> > period?
> > > (I mean the origin of Chadic people)
> > [J]
> > Hard to say. There is evidence of B Group and C group Nuba people
> > coming into the Nile Valley from the Sudan, but there is not much
> > evidence of movements back in the oposite direction until Merotic
> > times. Most of the movements into the Chadic area seem to have
> > occurred across the Sahara from the direction of Lybia. Indeed,
> > Merenptah defeated the Peoples of the Sea, Libu and Meshwesh
> > (about 1200 BCE) (the Meshwesh are linked to Herodotus' Myaxes who
> > supposed to have lived near Tunis), chariot using warriors invaded
> > Saharan Tasilli, coming to rule over the Nilo-Saharan cattle
> > pastoralists of the area. This may be the beginnings of the Chadic
> > group of Astro Asiatic.
> I think the Chadic group (a unit of the same rank as say Semitic
group) had
> to be established much earlier than about 1200 BC (I guess in 4th-5th
> BC). Otherwise we would speak about the Chadic subgroup of the Berber

I would agree. The Libu and Meshwesh who attacked Egypt in 1,200 BCE
and later turned up with horse drawn chariots circa 1,000 at Hoggar in
the Central Saharan may have only been a superstrata over an
essentially Chadic population, losing their Berber language fairly
quickly but introducing Berber elements into Chadic (like the loss of
Norman French in a sea of Anglo Saxon).

> > [J]
> > Certainly I believe Coptic shows a
> > mixture of s Semetic superstratum over an Afro-Asiatic non-Semitic
> > substratum.
> Does not Coptic belong to the Egyptian group?

Coptic IS the Egyptian Group - only a late version written with a Greek
derived alphabet.

> >[J]
> > David Rohl, popularising the concept of a "foreign elite" has
> > recently suggested a circum Arabian connection between Mesopotamia,
> > Dilmun, Magan (the Oman Coast), Punt and Egypt.
> Should not Meluhha (the Indus valley civilization) be added to this

Yes, I would agree. Meluhha (the Indus) was definitely reached from
the Persian gulf. If that was reached, then the reverse trade winds
across the Arabian Sea would have carried them to the mouth of the Red
Sea. Hence the Puntite connection.