Anthropological Differentiation in South-Western Siberian Population


The methodology of the study

Anthropological study of population’s composition in any region with complicated ethnic and cultural history at least on some stages requires to sort out taxonomic problems.

The analyzed populations are classed according to their morphological similarity, that is they are systematically classified. From the classifications are built hypotheses on the origin of the population exemplified by paleoanthropological material in the study area and in the study period.

The possibility of taxonomic analysis for the modern samples of Homo sapiens is supported by an assumption of anthropologically (morphologically) discrete composition of humanity. Before the end of the 1950s, that was a basic tenet in the methodology of the anthropological science. At present, many aspects of the mankind intraspecific differentiation are the subject of debate.

The “assumption of anthropologically (morphologically) discrete composition of humanity” has never crystallized into concise definition of any race, on every race coexist many conflicting definitions, and the absence of discrete morphological composition is predicated on the absence of discrete genetical composition. Every parameter advocated as defining for a race spills over into other races, or is not universal in the ascribed race, invalidating it as a scientific criteria. And because race is defined as a set of certain parameters, the combination of non-discrete parameters results not in a point, but in a cloud of indeterminable size.

Of great importance for overcoming the negative attitude of anthropologists (referring to anthropology in a broad sense as a general science of mankind that combines knowledge of a variety of the natural sciences and the humanities) to the idea of biologically discrete humanity are the results of the anthropo-ecological direction of research. Formation and development of this direction in the domestic anthropology is associated with the name of Tatyana Ivanovna Alexeeva (1928 – 2007).

In the anthropo-ecological perspective, the evolution of humanity as a whole, the history of human populations, and even the lives of individuals are seen as a series of dynamic adaptation processes to the changing environmental conditions, which determine the polymorphism of the Homo sapiens species. The methodological principle of ecological variability of human populations as a leading factor of the anthropological differentiation of humanity is the basis for this research.

The concept of environmental adaptation was formulated by T.Alexeeva in 1964, and was actively developed afterwards, but went out of use with the emergence of modern genetics and understanding the genetic nature of the inheritance mechanism. On the timescale of this work, environmental adaptation as a race-forming mechanism is negligible.

For example, even such minor modification as the development of the critical for the survival of horse husbandry nomads lactose tolerance deviancy took 6,000 years, or 240 generations, to extend to more than 50% of the population. To reach 50% of the population over 240 generations, half of the people had to die of starvation without propagating their normal intolerance. And if it took 120 generations to double the proportion from 25% to 50%, hypothetically it would take another 120 generations to go from 50% to 75%, provided that all environmental effects remain the same, which is a wildly unrealistic assumption. With the role of milk as a remedy from starvation exhausted, the proportion of lactose tolerant people would remain stable indefinitely long, as long as conditions remain the same, which in reality they never are.

And lactose is a simplified example, dependent on only on a single mutation. The color of the skin and eyes is much more complicated, involving at least four independent mutations. After 150,000 years of travel out of Africa, or 6,000 generations, we still have way more brown eyes then blue eyes, and no magenta.

Essentially, the idea of of environmental adaptation down to individual level was an extension and perversion of the Marxist social postulate that social status determines consciousness on a class and individual level.

One of the major questions in the anthropological study of mankind is linked with the role of social factors in the differentiation. From the point of view of many researchers in both physical and cultural anthropology, with the development of the material culture, the feasibility of race formation (i.e. formation of discrete complexes of anthropological traits) with the increasing role of the artificial environment is decreased, and at the end, in historical times, this process has stopped.

Standardization of the artificial environment that largely replaced natural surroundings of humanity promotes biological integration of humanity. Change in the boundaries of the modern human populations, and growth of the racial mixing processes leads to gradual “erosion” of mankind’s morphological differentiation boundaries in the racially mixed group that. emerged in the historical period do not have new features, occupy inserted position between the original types, and therefore can not race.

This is another extension and perversion of the Marxist social postulate, probably influenced by racist and religious ideas on  “us” as a pinnacle and “them” as lesser creatures, applied to biology. In the example of lactose tolerance, the totally intolerant “race” is separated from 50% tolerant “race” by 240 generations; every generation could have claimed to be a pinnacle of evolution where evolution stops. But it never did. Geographical isolation was a temporary event in the history of any group of people, it had a start, and it inevitably had an end, returning to the evolutionary status of racial mixing. We all occupy interte position between the original types, whatever they are, and therefore can not be races.

A particular point of view on this problem was developed in the mid-1970s by Valery Pavlovich Alekseev (Alexeev, 1976, 1977). It was the fact that social factors – in particular, the level of development of productive forces and associated level of social development, social stratification of society, prevailing in different societies marriage traditions, ethnic boundaries, political boundaries, socio-psychological patterns of behaviour – contribute to the human biological differentiation predicated by genetic barriers they create.

Inside the mixing or mixed populations, the insulating factors grow more effective, and stable complexes heritable morphological traits are formed. This view has been subjected to criticism, which denied conceptually any chance for race formation at the present stage of human development. In reality, we do observe epochal changes in the anthropology of humanity, finding physical types that emerged relatively recently – in the Middle Ages.

The differentiating role of social factors in the anthropological divergence of humanity is laid as the basis for this work, as one of the most important methodological principles.

If that was true, it would wrongly invalidate the whole study.

At a stage in the investigation, inevitably comes up a problem of finding physical markers for the detected complexes that correspond to segments in the anthropological classifications. In this regard is an important understanding of the race or physical type (phenotype) as a historical category, as an episode of emerging form existing at a particular time interval.

It is important to emphasize that the paleoanthropological material can neither be limited to the scope of contemporary racial diversity of humanity nor reduced to the major adaptive complexes of the Upper Paleolithic – Mesolithic (primary races). The history of racial complexes does not have a single direction – it is not an evolutionary process leading entire population to the modern races: some races have disappeared, some have survived, but carry features of epochal shifts (gracilization, brachiocephalization), there are races resulted from mixing of formerly existing distinct racial complexes, and finally, there are races that have survived unchanged for millennia.

The concept of “primary races” is resting on the vision of contemporary racial diversity of humanity projected back into the Upper . Probably, the Paleolithic – Mesolithic people would define “primary races” quite differently.

And it is logical that sooner or later, unveiling potential inherent in the paleoanthropological materials raises a need to define new taxons to systemize the ancient cranial types. This issue arose before the author in an interpretation of paleoanthropological parameters from the territory of Siberia. A methodological approach to solving the issue became an understanding of race or physical anthropological type as a historical category.

Correction of the existing anthropological classification for ancient cranial types, inevitable with the spectral expansion of the morphological trait complexes, is needed in principle, and also in respect to the application: without a corrected system, researchers often do not understand each other, embedding in the same formulations quite different meanings.

This paper summarizes new materials on paleo-anthropology of the southern region in Western Siberia. It identifies epochal, regional, and local trends in formation of a wide range of anthropological cultures.

It introduces into scientific circulation new anthropological data and obtained from its interpretation results extend the possibilities for the studies of the race and ethnogenesis of indigenous peoples of Siberia, allowing forge an objective foundation for many reconstructions related to the formation of the archaeological cultures. These materials are a valuable base for improving morphological diversity classification for ancient and modern human groups.


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