I have many interests that go beyond just anthropology and one of those interests is in Russian history especially the tsarists era prior to the Soviets. Something that I find interesting is that most people don’t know much about the first Romanov Tsar Mikhail I and, in fact, most Russians don’t know much about him either outside of his having been the first Romanov monarch of Imperial Russia.
Some people assume Mikhail was a manly warrior and conqueror who took over Russia from the Rurik dynasty which was a VIKING dynasty. Rurik is regarded by many as the founder of Russia. He was a Viking who founded Kiev in the Ukraine and established the Rurik dynasty which was before the Romanov’s came along. Back then Russia was known as “Kievan Rus” because Rurik was a member of the Rus tribe.
Tsar Mikhail I was a youth of 16 years old
In fact, Mikhail was only 16 years old when he was ELECTED tsar! At the time he was elected it was the end of what is known as the “Time of Troubles.” That was a period in Russian history when everything was in a state of turmoil and when many declared themselves as tsars. It was a time of great internal conflict and hardship for the common folk, the peasants. Mikhail was elected in 1613 A.D. and he was a rather unusual choice for being tsar.
The Romanov’s were an old boyar (noble) family from Moscow and their first ancestor recorded was named Andrey Kobyla in the first half of the 14th century. They were actually related to the Rurik dynasty and sister of Mikhail’s grandfather (his great aunt) Anastasia happens to have been the first wife of the legendary Ivan the Terrible. This fact strengthened the election of Mikhail to the throne over all others vying for the coveted crown of Russia.
It may sound unusual today but back in the times of Mikhail and prior it was common for monarchs to be elected rather than via inheritance. Mikhail was elected by a body known as the “Zemsky Sobor” which was an “Assembly of the Land” which was kind of like a forerunner to modern parliaments we see today. Nobles and peasants alike participated in the election and during his reign the Zemsky Sobor was convened yearly. Yet, in Europe this was a period of absolutism and of the “divine right of kings.” So this parliament and this democratic election process was unusual for the times! Continue Reading
Altai Mountains, SW Siberia, Russia
The First Fossil Evidence of the Denisovans
Several posts have been made on this blog regarding the Denisovans and what I want to do in this post is to begin to make some possible connections between the Denisovans and other hominids along with considering some possibilities. Denisova Cave is located in the Altai Mountains in Southwestern Siberia, Russia and this was the site where the first evidence of the Denisovans was discovered in 2010. This cave was originally investigated in the 1970’s by a Russian anthropologist by the name of Nikolai Ovodov looking for fossil remains of canids (dogs, wolves, jackals, dingoes, etc.). In 2008 the cave was once again investigated by the Russian Academy of Sciences. That exploration was led by Michael Shunkov and also involved other Russian scientists. It was this 2008 investigative team that found the first evidence of the Denisovans which consisted of a finger bone believed to be from a juvenile hominin that came to be known as the “X woman.” Associated artifacts found in the cave included a bracelet found at the same level as the finger bone which was dated at around 40 kyr (thousand years old) using radiocarbon dating and oxygen isotope dating. Since 2008 other investigations in the cave have established that hominins occupied the cave at various times as far back as 125 kya (thousand years ago) and possibly longer. Continue Reading
This post was originally posted on the San Pedro Institute site in November 2014 and is being reposted here.
By Dr. Rob L., San Pedro Institute
The origins of modern Europeans remains a matter of debate and speculation but this past week (Nov 2014) a scientific team published some new DNA findings that may shed light on European origins. Their findings were published in the noted journal Science.
Kostenki Man 30,000 year old skull reconstruction found in Western Russia
The team successfully sequenced DNA from Kostenki Man found in Western Russia and it was revealed that he lived between 38,700–36,200 years ago. This is one of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans from Europe ever found. The fossil is known as K14 and it was noted that he shares a close ancestry with the 24,000 year old Mal’ta Boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some modern western Siberians, and many modern Europeans but not east Asians. Further, the fossil genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with all Eurasians including later Neolithic farmers.
From the genome sequencing the team has also concluded that Western Eurasians and Eastern Asians diverged from each other more than 36, 200 years ago and that the genomic structure of modern Europeans dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a meta-population that sometimes stretched from Europe to Central Asia. Continue Reading
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered…….America? Well kinda but not exactly. In fact, the more we discover the more it looks like the infamous explorer Columbus was somewhat of a late-comer to the Americas.
We know that those adventurous Vikings were in North America in Newfoundland long before Columbus and there is some speculation that they even sailed through the St Lawrence Seaway down into the Great Lakes and into Minnesota. Some researchers have even theorized that these brave souls even sailed down the Mississippi River and came into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly ended up on the coast of the Yucatan where their encounters with the Natives may not have ended well. But what about their trip back to Scandinavia?
Researchers have speculated that these Viking explorers and colonizers of the New World long before the arrival of Columbus may have taken a few Native American women along with them on their voyage back to Europe. This would have been about 500 years before Columbus returned to Spain with a few captive Native Americans.
We know that these Vikings set up colonies on the shores of North America around 1000 AD. What we don’t know is how a family in Iceland came to acquire a rather surprising genetic marker dating back to that time (1000 AD). That genetic marker is mostly found in Native Americans not Icelanders!
The first Native Americans actually arrived in Europe during the 11th century brought by the Vikings not Columbus. A genetic study led by deCODE Genetics which is a leading genome research lab in Iceland has discovered a unique genetic marker (gene) present in only 4 family lines in Iceland. The gene is named C1e and it is a mitochondrial gene passed down through a female mother. This suggests Native American women either voluntarily or involuntarily came back to Europe with Viking explorers and had children in their new home, Iceland. There are about 80 Icelanders presently who have this distinct genetic marker in their genes.
One problem with this theory is that the C1e genes may have come from some other part of the world and not necessarily from Native Americans. No living Native American population today has the exact DNA lineage as the one found in these 80 Icelanders BUT it may be a case in which those Native Americans brought to Iceland by Vikings simply went extinct which, in my opinion, is most likely the case. Continue Reading
The latest dating results on two almost perfectly preserved cave lion cubs has resulted in a date of 55 kyr (thousand years old). The extinct ancient cubs were discovered in Siberia preserved in the permafrost in the summer of 2015. They were previously dated at being at least 12 kyr but new research indicates they are at least twice that old being somewhere between 25-55 kyr. One of them is described as “perfectly preserved.”
Cave lions became extinct about 10,000 BC and these two cubs are estimated to have been between 1-2 weeks old at the time of their deaths. Researchers believe the cubs were killed when a prehistoric ceiling collapsed atop their den.
Cave lions were a bit different from modern lions. For one thing they had shorter tails than modern lions and they tended to be a bit larger. At the time of their birth and death Siberia was in the Karginskii Interglacial (warming period) that lasted from about 25 kya to 55 kya (thousand years ago).
One of the primary researchers is Dr Albert Protopopov and he said a more exact date of the age of the cubs will be determined at some point later as analysis is continuing. Further, a CT scan has revealed that the cubs teeth had not even appeared yet and this is one way they determined the cubs to be 1-2 weeks old. Protopopov is head of he Dept of Mammoth Fauna at the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic.
Researchers have also found a white substance in the stomach of one of the cubs which they suspect could be the mother’s milk or gastric fluid. DNA analysis has confirmed that the cubs are ancient cave lions. Researchers plan to take another CT scan to get more detailed information on the cub’s internal organs.
The fur, ears, soft tissue, and whiskers were all in tact when the cubs were discovered. Cave Lions lived during the Mid and Late Pleistocene in Eurasia. They have been found from the UK to the extreme parts of Eastern Russia and also in Alaska and Canada.