Later, I hope to blog about the “missing links” at what is supposed to be a symposium of ancestral health, which implies what did we eat to be healthy? Which further implies: who ate it and who were their offspring?
I don’t attend AHS anymore. I was privileged to promote it highly in advance of its inaugural event at UCLA in 2011, be a speaker there, and then spoke again in round 2 at Harvard in 2012. Here’s one reason why. It’s rather like stepping back in time to the 2009-2011 timeframe with lots of pretty much the same thing, only more presentations with lots of letters after names.
@christopher – “You either had meat or you subsisted on roots veg and fruit but not both. Except if you were an upper class individual or a pharaoh and didn’t have to gather your food yourself”
The problem in this type of thinking is that modern people are descendants of the rich, rather than of the poor or even average. According to the work of Gregory Clark 90% of English at the eve of the industrial revolution are descendants of 10% of the rich at the early Middle Ages.
There’s a recurring error in the discussion about the diet of OUR ancestors: people acquire information about the typical diets of average people in the past and conclude that this is what the ancestors of contemporary people ate. Such conclusion is based on assumption that there’s some demographic link between typical people of the past and typical people of today.
This assumption is broken, as we are not descendants of averages, but we are disproportionally descendant from the rich people of the past. This has been confirment by many pieces of evidence, sometimes fragmentary: like informations about hundreds or even thousands of sons of ancient rulers versus slaves that had below replacement fertility etc. The best (most precise and based on the best evidence) available work concerns middle ages in the UK, and was done by Gregory Clark, the book is named “Farewell to alms”. It shows that 90% of English in the 18th centaury come from just 10% of the richest people at the beginning of the middle ages. He calls it “Survival of the richest” Here’s a short version of this:
“Survival of the richest” is very meaningful in the context of the ancestral diets, as what we really want is to find out diets of OUR ancestors, not just the diets of the majority of population, that left no descendants living today. It means that when studying the past ways of eating with the goal to find our ancestral diet we have to discard the poorest, and concentrate on upper social classes – as much more likely to be either our ancestors, or behaving as our ancestors (same social class) if not directly related.
How about Eastern Civilizations – a quote from Matt Ridley – the Red Queen:
“Without exception, that vast accumulation of power was always translated into prodigious sexual productivity. The Babylonian king Hammurabi had thousands of slave “wives” at his command. The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten procured 317 concubines and “droves” of consorts. The Aztec ruler Montezuma enjoyed 4,000 concubines. The Indian emperor Udayama preserved sixteen thousand consorts […]
Measures to enhance the fertility of the harem were common. Wet nurses, who allow women to resume ovulation by cutting short their breast-feeding periods, date from at least the code of Hammurabi in the eighteenth century B.C.; they were sung about in Sumerian lullabies. The Tang Dynasty emperors of China kept careful records of dates of menstruation and conception in the harem so as to be sure to copulate only with the most fertile concubines. Chinese emperors were also taught to conserve their semen so as to keep up their quota of two women a day, and some even complained of their onerous sexual duties. These harems could hardly have been more carefully designed as breeding machines, dedicated to the spread of emperors’ genes.”
There are some interesting followups from others; eg. about the sorry state of the groups that didn’t participate in the Clark model, but didn’t go extinct, just become a minority, but still kept their high-violence, high-time-preference, inability to do monotonous jobs behavior from hunter-gatherers time.
“In pre-modern Japanese society, the Burakumin specialized in jobs that required contact with dead flesh, e.g., butchery, leather making, and preparation of corpses for burial. They were and still are socially stigmatized, and marriage with them was forbidden. Because of their endogamy and their reserved occupations, they may have thus escaped the process of demographic replacement that Gregory Clark (2007) described for English society, i.e., they were not gradually replaced by downwardly moving members of the middle class. As such, they might provide a glimpse into the genetic predispositions that characterized the Japanese several centuries ago”
So basically when we look at oru ancestry backwards in time, from us today, to some hominids in the past, what we see is a chain of individuals who are mostly rich – with some perhaps temporary downward moments, followed by upwards one, who thus didn’t suffer from the starvation, but ate a reasonable diet, with enough calories (although in medieval times rich ate less protein than hunter gatherers, same calories according to G. Clark work) even when the average in the population were starving at the Malthusian limits.
So, I don’t attend AHS anymore because there’s very little to see there, anymore. In my view.
I’m about new insight, new understanding, new integration. I’m as far from entrenched academic confirmation bias with a view to enhanced capitalization as you can get. Nothing against capitalization, it’s just that I prefer to make my money by roughing up minds.