random notes: 04/16/14

busy reading all about crime and punishment (i.e. the death penalty) in medieval england, so you don’t have to! (^_^) in the meantime, until i post about that, here are some random notes:

the law codes of ine king of wessex (688-726) are some of the earliest anglo-saxon law codes still surviving. they were issued ca. 694. ine took his christianity seriously and demanded that [pg. 27]:

“[A]ll children were to be baptised within 30 days of their birth, failing which their guardians had to pay a fine of 30 shillings. If a child died before baptism its guardian lost all he possessed….”

so there are some strong incentives for the populace to convert to christianity or remain christian once they’d done so.
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æthelstan, king of the anglo-saxons and then the first king of the north english (924-939), also passed a bunch of laws including [pg. 32]:

“[T]he first social legislation in England, providing for the relief of the poor. If a king’s reeve failed to provide, from the rents of the royal demesne, for the poor in the manner prescribed he had to find 30 shillings to be distributed among the poor under the bishop’s supervision.”

nice of him! (^_^)
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some examples of concerns about consanguinity issues in the late anglo-saxon period [pg. 226]:

“General concern about marriage and sexual relations within the kin is expressed throughout our period, for example, in the late ninth century in letters from Pope John VIII to Burgred, king of the Mercians, and to Æthelred, archbishop of Canterbury, and another from Fulk, archbishop of Reims, to King Alfred. In the 950s, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, ‘Archbishop Oda separated King Eadwig and Ælfgifu because they were too closely related’. They may have shared a great-great-grandfather, King Æthelwulf of Wessex….”

so there you go.
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and in anglo-norman england [pgs. 435-437]:

“As in the Anglo-Saxon period, a central issue was consanguinity. In the second half of the eleventh century and particularly under the influence of the reformer Peter Damian, the method of counting the prohibited degrees was established in its most extensive form. Instead of counting to see if there was a common ancestor within four generations, the counting was taken a further three generations back, to the seventh. This had the effect of extending the range of prohibited marriage partners to sixth cousins.[12] In England, the prohibition ‘to the seventh degree’ was decreed at ecclesiastical councils at London in 1074 x 1075, and at Westminster in 1102 and 1125: ‘between those related by blood or relatives by affinity [i.e. by marriage], up to the seventh generation, we prohibit marriages to be contracted. If indeed anyone shall have been thus joined together, let them be separated’. Reformers also emphasised other non-blood relationships, especially spiritual kinship. The potential for conflict with lay practice must have increased significantly, as it has been suggested that whilst the layity did not commonly contract marriages within four degrees, they did within five or six.[15]

“[12] It has been suggested that blood relationships alone might mean that the bride or groom had over 2,500 cousins of their own generation whom they were prohibited to marry; J.-L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times, trans. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979), 24.

“[15] E.g. Green, Aristocracy, 348-9.”

2,500 cousins that you couldn’t marry. awkward that.
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interestingly (at least to me!), from late anglo-saxon england [pg. 242 – link added by me]:

“A further important tie was that of spiritual kinship, created particularly at baptism, but also at the catechumenate and confirmation. It seems that in England, unlike the Continent, there was only one sponsor, of the same sex as the person undergoing the ceremony. This is one reason for the relatively limited emphasis in England on the need for the group of godparents and their godchild to avoid sexual relations or marriage within the group.[114]

“[114] J.H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England. 1998.”

huh! who knew?
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and, finally, just to remind everyone how barbaric the barbarians were [pg. 186]:

“The laws of Æthelstan mention drowning or throwing from a cliff for free women, stoning for male slaves, burning for female slaves:

“‘In the case of a male slave, sixty and twenty slaves shall go and stone him. And if any of them fails three times to hit him, he shall himself be scourged three times. When a slave guilty of theft has been put to death, each of those slaves shall give three pennies to his lord. In the case of a female slave who commits an act of theft anywhere except against her master or mistress, sixty and twenty female slaves shall go and bring three logs each and burn that one slave; and they shall pay as many pennies as males slaves would have to pay, or suffer scourging as has been stated above with references to male slaves.’

“However, the literary and archaeology evidence just cited suggests that hanging and beheading were the most common methods.”

=/

(note: comments do not require an email. æthelstan – earliest surviving portrait of an english king.)

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linkfest – 01/21/14

Calcium absorption not the cause of evolution of milk digestion in Europeans“‘The evolution of lactase persistence is one of the best known and most dramatic examples of recent human evolution. One of the ironies of working in this area is that we know it happened but we still don’t fully know why’ says Sverrisdóttir. Lactase persistence is found at highest frequencies in southern Sweden and in Ireland. Given that calcium absorption is not the only reason why this trait evolved so rapidly, Sverrisdóttir and colleagues have proposed another cause: Although most early European farmers would not have been lactase persistent, they would still have been able to consume fermented milk products such as yoghurt and cheese, because fermentation converts much of the lactose into fats. But in famine conditions, such as when crops fail, they are likely to have eaten all the fermented milk foods, leaving only the more high-lactose products. This would have caused the usual lactose intolerance symptoms such as diarrhea. Diarrhea in in healthy people is not usually life-threatening, but in severely malnourished individuals it certainly can be. So famine could have led to episodes of very strong natural selection favoring lactase persistence.”

Human and Helicobacter pylori coevolution shapes the risk of gastric disease“Patients were recruited from two geographically distinct Colombian populations with significantly different incidences of gastric cancer, but virtually identical prevalence of H. pylori infection. All H. pylori isolates contained the genetic signatures of multiple ancestries, with an ancestral African cluster predominating in a low-risk, coastal population and a European cluster in a high-risk, mountain population. The human ancestry of the biopsied individuals also varied with geography, with mostly African ancestry in the coastal region (58%), and mostly Amerindian ancestry in the mountain region (67%). The interaction between the host and pathogen ancestries completely accounted for the difference in the severity of gastric lesions in the two regions of Colombia. In particular, African H. pylori ancestry was relatively benign in humans of African ancestry but was deleterious in individuals with substantial Amerindian ancestry. Thus, coevolution likely modulated disease risk, and the disruption of coevolved human and H. pylori genomes can explain the high incidence of gastric disease in the mountain population.”

Seeing X Chromosomes in a New Light“X-chromosome inactivation, Dr. Nathans’s pictures show, creates a genetic diversity that’s particularly dramatic. Two cells side by side may be using different versions of many different genes. ‘But there is also much larger-scale diversity,’ Dr. Nathans said. In some brains, for example, a mother’s X chromosome was seen dominating the left side, while the father’s dominated the right. Entire organs can be skewed toward one parent. Dr. Nathans and his colleagues found that in some mice, one eye was dominated by the father and the other by the mother. The diversity even extended to the entire mouse. In some animals, almost all the X chromosomes from one parent were shut; in others, the opposite was true.”

Are plants altruistic?“Roots can distinguish self from other, and they know their own kind (species), they can share resources and information about insect attacks and deliver nutrients to trees in need. The preponderance of evidence does seem to suggest that plants are proactive in filling their own needs and the needs of others.” – ooooh, not just their own species, their own close relatives! – see also The Intelligent Plant.

Sluggish metabolisms are key to primates’ long lives“[P]rimates expend 50 per cent less energy than other mammals of equivalent mass during an average day. ‘What’s more, he says the difference is not easily explained by differing activity levels: a human would need to run a whole marathon every day to be on an even energetic footing with mammals that aren’t primates….’ The finding offers a completely new way to understand why primates have slower life histories than other mammals of equivalent body size…. Pontzer thinks that the slower metabolism may have evolved to help primates cope with food shortages. For instance, orang-utans suffer frequent famines. ‘Orang-utans experience extended periods of low fruit availability,’ says Vogel. ‘There are months when caloric intake is less than expenditure – and they burn body fat stores.’ A slow metabolism might help them survive.”

Triune origins“With the latest paper, the story on European origins is becoming clearer. Three populations account for European ancestry: the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of western Europe (dubbed WHG in the paper), early European farmers derived from somewhere in the Mideast (EEF), and a third group more closely related to ancient Siberians (ANE) than any existing population. Those Sibermen also contributed a third of Amerindian ancestry, the rest being similar to modern East Asian populations.” – from greg cochran.

The first industrial revolution“As early modern humans spread farther north, they entered more challenging environments…. Did these new cognitive demands have an evolutionary impact? Did they select for certain mental capacities over others? Piffer (2013) has addressed these questions by seeing how hunter-gatherers differ from farming peoples in alleles at COMT, a gene linked to executive function, working memory, and intelligence…. Northern hunting peoples, however, differ from other hunter-gatherers and resemble more advanced farming populations.” – from peter frost.

‘Out of Africa’ gene mutation in human pigmentation increases predisposition to skin cancer“The V60L mutation is more common in people with light hair and skin tone that, despite being light, tans easily in the summer. This mutation is positive for the climate of the Mediterranean region, as it facilitates the absorption of vitamin D in the winter months, in which the ultraviolet radiation is lower. In the summer months, in which the radiation is greater, the ease to darken the skin pigmentation provides a certain protection. However, the study also revealed that among people with this mutation there is a greater predisposition to skin cancer.” – see also: Simultaneous Purifying Selection on the Ancestral MC1R Allele and Positive Selection on the Melanoma-Risk Allele V60L in South Europeans.

Longitudinal four-dimensional mapping of subcortical anatomy in human development – h/t kevin mitchell! who said: “Large imaging study details substantial sex differences in maturation dynamics of subcortical structures.” – also: Fundamental sex difference in human brain architecture [behind paywall].

Changes in Thickness and Surface Area of the Human Cortex and Their Relationship with Intelligence“At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.”

Why do spatial abilities predict mathematical performance?“About a third of the variation in spatial ability at age 12 is explained by genetic factors; a little less than half of the variation in mathematics at this age is genetic. We find no sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences (either in magnitude or type) on mathematical and spatial variation at age 12. The observed overlap between spatial ability and mathematics is substantial (r > .40). Approximately 60% of this overlap is explained by common genetic effects, with 40% of the overlap due to environmental experience.” – h/t DOCTOR stuart ritchie! (^_^)

New evidence shows the FDA was wrong to halt 23andMe testing“While the tests are often too inaccurate for consumers to consider them diagnoses, research shows that most customers will seek a doctor’s opinion before taking action, anyway. According to the authors’ research, 58% of 1,051 surveyed customers did nothing at all with their genomic results. Of the 42% who made health decisions based on the information, only 2% changed prescription drug regimens without consulting a physician. The majority of customers who made changes focused on diet, exercise, and vitamins.”

Dogs’ Closest Wolf Ancestors Went Extinct, Study Suggests” A new genetic analysis of modern dogs and wolves suggests that man’s best friend was domesticated before agriculture. But the origin of this domestication remains stubbornly mysterious. Researchers analyzed the genomes of wolves from three likely sites of domestication (the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe), and found that modern dogs were not more closely related to any of the three. In fact, it seems that the closest wolf ancestors of today’s dogs may have gone extinct, leaving no wild descendants.” – also: Paedomorphic Facial Expressions Give Dogs a Selective Advantage – woof! – h/t claire lehmann!

The Nurture Enigma – How Does the Environment Influence Human Nature? – from staffan.

The interplay of genetic and cultural evolution – from jason collins.

Eye of the Tiger PeopleBut what the hell is ‘culture,’ anyway? Talk about a social construct! Even the term ‘social construct’ is a social construct, one unique to our culture. And who’s to say culture is entirely separate from genetics? There’s some suggestion that the two may be intimately intertwined. In rawest terms, ‘culture’ may be nothing more than what happens when a group’s genes interact with their environment. – from jim goad.

Toddlers’ aggression is strongly associated with genetic factors, study reports“The development of physical aggression in toddlers is strongly associated genetic factors and to a lesser degree with the environment, according to a new study led by Eric Lacourse of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. Lacourse’s worked with the parents of identical and non-identical twins to evaluate and compare their behaviour, environment and genetics.” – h/t mr. mangan, esq!

Modifying DNA May Wipe Away Old Memories – so can several double gin and tonics in a row. (~_^) – they’re talking about epigenetic changes here, btw.

Apes are intuitive statisticians“Here, we conducted the first investigation of such intuitive statistical reasoning with non-human primates. In a series of 7 experiments, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans drew flexible statistical inferences from populations to samples. These inferences, furthermore, were truly based on statistical information regarding the relative frequency distributions in a population, and not on absolute frequencies. Intuitive statistics in its most basic form is thus an evolutionarily more ancient rather than a uniquely human capacity.” – iow, the other great apes outperform a lot of humans (i.e. the pc ones)! (~_^) – h/t neuroskeptic!

Study: Chimpanzees Bond Over Shared Meals“[C]himps who share their food have higher levels of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, than those who don’t.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Comedians have psychotic personality traits, study finds“In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians from Australia, Britain and the United States and found they scored significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs. The traits included a tendency towards impulsive or anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy. ‘The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,’ said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.”

Natural selection can favour ‘irrational’ behaviour – well, there’s your problem!

‘Human evolution likely led to rise of religion’ – h/t holly dunsworth! whose response was: duh! (~_^)

New study finds mistimed sleep disrupts rhythms of genes in humans“During this disruption of sleep timing, there was a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a circadian rhythm (a rhythm with an approximately 24 hour period). This included many regulators associated with transcription and translation, indicating widespread disruption to many biological processes.” – sleep right!

speaking of which: Study finds later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents – h/t anatoly!

The human brain can process images the eye sees for 13 milliseconds – imagine how quickly THE FLASH’s brain can process images!! (~_^)

The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making“Iran, like other Middle Eastern countries, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country’s leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is ‘the hidden story of the Middle East,’ says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region.”

This Language Names Odors As Precisely As English Speakers Name Colorjahai speakers in malaysia. – h/t t.greer! – see also: Can You Name That Smell?“It’s also possible that the Jahai are built differently than the rest of us. The genes that code for the olfactory receptors in our noses exhibit a great deal of variation not only between different human populations but also between people. So it may be that the Jahai have evolved more of these receptors or a greater diversity of them than everyone else, much like the Tsimane tribe from the Bolivian rainforest were shown to be more sensitive to smells than were Germans.”

Gene therapy ‘could be used to treat blindness’“Surgeons in Oxford have used a gene therapy technique to improve the vision of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind. The operation involved inserting a gene into the eye, a treatment that revived light-detecting cells.”

The thinnest Americans are Asian Americans, CDC data show – surprise!

Shapely centrefolds? Temporal change in body measures: trend analysis – h/t ben southwood! who said: “Playboy centrefolds’ waists have widened, weights have fallen, busts have shrunk and hips have narrowed since 1953.”

Study: Violence, infectious disease and climate change contributed to Indus civilization collapse – h/t mike anissimov!

What was in that grog? Scientists analyze ancient Nordic drink“Ancient Scandinavians quaffed an alcoholic mixture of barley, honey, cranberries, herbs and even grape wine imported from Greece and Rome, new research finds.” – mmmmmm! mmmmmm?

bonus: i’m a journalist! – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus: and a neo-fascist, too, apparently. hahahahahahahaha!! *snort*

bonus bonus bonus: Genetically engineered plant glows so brightly it can be used as a LAMP

(note: comments do not require an email. memory erasers.)

cousin marriage in 13th-15th century england

if anybody out there says to you – “but people everywhere in the past were always marrying their cousins!” – tell them i said no. no, no, no, emphatically no! (in a friendly, non-threatening tone, of course. (^_^) )

here, from sam worby’s Law and Kinship in Thirteenth-Century England [pgs. 92-103 – links added by me]:

“Canon law kinship rules can be seen in court records in three main ways: as a ground for ‘divorce’; a defence against an action to enforce a marriage, usually in litigation between parties; or as a matter of disciplinary action in an office case (where the canon law courts were exercising their quasi-criminal jurisdiction)….

Overall, cases involving canon law kinship did not form a large part of the business of the canon law courts in England. In York [in yorkshire in the north of england], for example, marriage made up 38 per cent of the business of the court between 1301 and 1499. Most of this was instance cases rather than ‘criminal enforcement’. Most of the marriage actions were to enforce a putative marriage and only 14 per cent were actions to dissolve. Pre-contract was the most common ground for matrimonial litigation in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (overall 46 per cent of matrimonial cases), and denial was a common response. Other grounds used to defend against marriages were force and/or non age at 13 per cent, then consanguinity and affinity [i.e. relatedness to your in-laws] at 12 per cent (a total of 9 cases) in the fourteenth century. While kinship was not a large proportion of the business of these courts it did occur more frequently than grounds such as crime, impotence and vow (i.e. a vow to stay celibate). In the fifteenth century there were slightly fewer actions where the grounds of consanguinity and or affinity were raised than in the fourteenth.

because the rates of consanguineous marriages declined? no idea.

“Overall kinship was raised in 16 out of 178 cases. In Ely [in cambridgeshire in east anglia], between 1374 and 1381, cases involving kinship were more common, perhaps because of the higher proportion of *ex officio* cases in the business of this court. Kinship was raised as a defence on ground for divorce proportionately more frequently (in 15 claims of incest). In Ely kinship was a more common defence than force and non age, but was still significantly less common overall than allegations of precontract. There is reason to believe that the Ely court was active in relation to kinship as the Ely office cases tended to be brought at the start or in the early public phase of a relationship. While neither set of figures show kinship to have been a major part of business, they both show that it was still a relatively usual part.”

was consanguineous marriage more frequent in ely which is in east anglia (where the puritans were from)? no idea. (also on ely.)

“The canon law on kinship was variously ignored, followed and manipulated (these being alternatives in different times and place, for both the courts and the people subject to them). Donahue has shown, for example, how one new judge of Canterbury diocesan court, Richard de Clyve, on visitation in 1292, fresh from the schools, began by prosecuting every case in relation to kinship, but faced some resistance as is shown variously by witnesses growing less certain and by a letter pleading mercy on behalf of a woman sentenced to whipping…”

sentenced to whipping for being in a consanguineous marriage?! talk about enforcement!

“…from a mutually acquainted royal clerk. He finished his circuit on a more flexible note and began to base his decisions on the degree of local scandal that the cases inspired. He also exhibited doubts about the application of the rules which held that affinity arose from mere sexual relationships. Thus the courts could take an accomodating attitude to the rules about kinship, and sometimes finesse (or ignore) stict application of the rules. Richard de Clyve’s experience also confirms that people were aware of the rules, made an effot to follow them (to a degree) and could be scandalised in certain circumstances by their breach. An example of such scandal is the deathbed warning of a father against his son’s marriage. Though the kinship was distant, in the fourth degree, the father allegedly said ‘they will never flourish or live together in good fortune because of the consanguinity between them’. There were also cases where people ‘hotly resisted’ marriages that were within the forbidden degrees: one woman even said she would prefer to die rather than marry her kinsman. Rhetoric or not, such a declaration in a court case would have been dramatic, and would not have been plausible were the rules not accepted….

The evidence from York and Ely shows how far down the social scale obedience to the kinship rules of the canon law reached. Some of the cases were brought by or against relatively humble people but the ‘middling’ sort were not uncommon in these courts which suggests that some attempt was being made to apply the canon law kinship across the classes….

There are also several cases that show people seeking dispensations, again suggesting that the system could operate effectively. In *Wistow c Cowper*, a York case of 1491, a papal dispensation (for spiritual affinity) overcame the attempted defence. However, in several cases a papal dispensation was held to be, or appeared to be, insufficient. In the remarkable *Hiliard c Hiliard*, a York case of 1370, the couple had been previously cited for a consanguineous relationship, but the sentence had been deferred to allow them to obtain a papal dispensation. A priest had attempted this and failed. He testified that in the papal court he was told ‘that he could not get such a dispensation for a hundred pounds’. Since the relationship was in the fourth degree of consanguinity this statement is unlikely to be true….

Divorce cases on grounds of kinship were not the norm. Despite the occasional outlandish case, such as *Ask c Ask and Conyers* where a son alleged that his parents had divorced collusively on grounds of spiritual fraternity to deprive him of his interitance, the case evidence reveals a very different world from that where Maitland had proposed that almost any marriage could be dissolved on grounds of kinship. Clearly, consanguinity and affinity could be used or discovered to escape from marriages, but the records suggest that they were not often used to escape from current marriages; instead they were more common as a defence in marriage enforcement cases. In fact, the court records seem to show that the underlying system that was meant to prevent incestuous or harmful (i.e. non-dispensable) marriages operated with some level of success. It may be that a genuine sense that ‘incestuous’ marriages were wrong prevented kinship from being used as a casual route to escape marriage. There is evidence that shows that incestuous marriages were a matter of bad conscience. For example, both Donahue and Sheehan consider that John de Lile of Chatteris resisted cohabiting with his ‘wife’, Katherine, in the late 1370s, once affinity was discovered between them. Some effort was made to observe the rules: people would not have paid for a dispensation or for a priest to travel and gain a dispensation if there were no need and no social pressure to conform. It may also have been that kinship sufficient to dissolve or defend against a marriage was difficult to prove to a level that satisfied canon law rules of evidence. Whatever the reason for the comparatively small role of kinship in litigation, it seems clear that the canon law kinship system operated in practice and that some people obeyed it and were (publicly at least) scandalised when it was disobeyed….

“In a sample of sixty-two instance from York, Ely, Lincoln [in the east midlands], Wisbech [also in cambridgeshire, east anglia] and Canterbury [in kent in the southeast] that raised kinship in some manner, by far the

worby - types of kinship alleged in the canon law sample

greater majority raised objections on grounds of affinity: thirty-three affinity and sixteen consanguinity (see table 1)…. The disparity is interesting, however, as it suggests that people were either more likely to obey the consanguinity rules than the affinity rules, or that people were more likely to falsely allege an affinial relationship. There is some evidence for the second suggestion arising from the number of cases (at least twenty-three) based on affinity through illicit intercourse, a less public relationship than a marriage or betrothal. Yet the pattern was sustained in office cases where it can be supposed that there were fewer opportunities for collusion (thirteen out of eighteen cases alleging affinity of any type). Therefore it is likely that a combination of both factors was at work. It is enough to not that consanguineous relationships seem to have been more scandalous than relationships with affines.

it’s interesting that there were no cases related to consanguinity or “other incest” at all in fourteenth century canterbury which is all the way in the south of england in kent, just across the channel from northern france. kent had one of the earliest secular laws against cousin marriage in england that i have come across, the law of wihtred from the 690s, while at the same time it experienced a late adoption of manorialism, if at all (probably not so much in the east where the “men of kent” come from!). so, not the full package of outbreeding tricks for kent, but a very early start to cousin marriage bans.

previously: more on medieval england and france

(note: comments do not require an email. invicta!)