Wednesday, 5 April 2017

2017 Goals so far!

Three months into 2017 I thought I'd take a look at what goals I have achieved so far.  I will freely admit that this is a boring post for anyone to read if you're not me but then I'm really hoping no-one actually reads this blog!

Anyway...back to the goals...

  • Buy a house
  • Change a car tyre
  • Be a good Band 6 - deliver on work projects.
  • Finish London Marathon if knee injury permits
  • Address my anxiety and IBS
  • Write a short story
  • Volunteer time - to friends/family/strangers
  • Try one new social group/hobby ie Book Club or Self-Defence or Boxing
  • Travel somewhere new alone eg Rome or Bath
  • Spend more time outdoors on work days (eg lunchtime walk)

1) I realised I don't want to buy a house after my purchase in Jan felt through and even when I found a beautiful flat few weeks ago I didn't want to buy it.  Instead, I'm looking into some new exciting opportunities beyond the UK...

2) Yes!! Finally! My brilliant friend Sean took me through the whole process and also gave me a quick crash course of what to look for under the bonnet.

3) An ongoing task - I'm doing my best to keep on top of this.

4) Sadly, absolutely not possible.  Knee is still in rehab.  Continuing with physio for the time being and doing the return to running program.

5) Having counselling and also doing a CBT course online for my anxiety.  I have tried an elimination diet for my IBS which wasn't very successful.  I'm currently pestering my GP for a referral.

6) TO DO

7) Trying - I've been giving lifts to an injured friend, trying to visit my family.  Feel like I'm still very wrapped up in my own life (yes the irony - I'm writing all these self-obsessed blog posts).

8) I've tried quite a few new activities recently - Thai boxing, book club, horse-riding, paint-balling, pole dancing, gym personal training and next up is Jujitsu.

9) Booked a holiday to Italy in May woop! Scary but exciting - I'm staying in a hostel in Naples and off to see Pompeii.

10) Been doing rehab runs quite frequently at lunch and think it has helped me feel better at work :).

So overall I've made a start on all these things apart from writing a short story.  I think that will be an aim over the next six months.  I will try to continue to work on my mental and physcial well being as well as being a better friend.  I will also keep trying to improve at work.

I may make some more specific goals at some point...

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 Round Up/2017 Goals

Well we've reached the arsehole of the year once again.  Time to review what was achieved/not achieved, be it planned or not, and also to set some new goals.

The 2016 list:


Totally surprised at some of the ones I achieved - promotion and the pull up especially! Vegan for 2 months didn't quite happen - I did 6 weeks and decided I wasn't ready.

My original goal of booking a laser eye surgery consultation quickly turned into finding myself under the laser in early Feb.  One of the most terrifying but ultimately life changing experiences a person who has been severely myopic for most of their life could undergo and, I hope, absolutely worth the money.

Walking Hadrian's Wall was probably the most wonderful holiday I have ever had, blessed with the most glorious spring weather you can experience in Northern England in May.

The more mundane financial goals were partially achieved but as ever, my budgeting skills could be improved.

I have had attempts at meditation and mindfulness so I can say I've tried them even if I'm not sure it's for me. Headspace was really useful app and helped get my head in the right place for sleep earlier in the year.

I had formed a plan to go to Australia in Jan 2018 however with other (exciting!) plans happening closer to home this has been put on hold.

Changing a car tyre is certainly going onto 2017's list - a need to know skill.

The three goals I'm probably most disappointed to achieve were the most physical goals and in the past would have been the ones I would have put most effort into achieving.  However, long standing issues with running and later in the year, leaving Crossfit, have put those on hold, perhaps permanently.

Overall I have done a lot and though it has been a difficult year in some ways, I have a lot to be grateful for (as much as that phrase makes me grimace - bloody Pollyanna).

So moving onto 2017:

  • Buy a house
  • Change a car tyre
  • Be a good Band 6 - deliver on work projects.
  • Finish London Marathon if knee injury permits
  • Address my anxiety and IBS
  • Write a short story
  • Volunteer time - to friends/family/strangers
  • Try one new social group/hobby ie Book Club or Self-Defence or Boxing
  • Travel somewhere new alone eg Rome or Bath
  • Spend more time outdoors on work days (eg lunchtime walk)
Some of these should be achievable very quickly, others may take more planning.

I will need to make some smaller short-term goals to reach some of the larger.  

Friday, 24 June 2016

Born To Run Workshop - How to Run Injury Free



Most people who know me will at some stage have made a joke about having to wrap me in bubble wrap due to my rather annoying ability to injure myself in some very bizarre ways.  I am incredibly accident-prone.  Most recently I have endured a period of 7 months of non running due to a car accident and subsequent strange problems with my feet.

Now most runners I know have experienced a injury-forced lay off at some stage in their running careers. What I didn't know was the actual figure is 80% - 80% of runners a year are unable to run due to injury.

I learnt this crazy fact at Born To Run, a workshop run by Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack who run their own natural movement fitness company called Missing Link Fitness in Ambleside.  Both top class international fell runners, they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course, all with the aim of identifying what makes runners so injured and what we can do to prevent it.

The course stems from the coaching method of Lee Saxby.  Over two days they covered a mixture of theory and practice; showing twelve runners from a mix of ages, abilities and experience how to improve their running technique.  The beauty of the course is that it focuses on making some very simple tweaks to your running form to get the benefits needed - leading to some almost instantaneous results.

The first day focused on the theory behind good running biomechanics and we did a squat test, a jump test, a treadmill run and stood on a footplate so that Paul was able to screen out current level. My posture was not too bad when running, but my cadence was very slow.  My jump test and deep squat test were particularly poor, though this wasn't exactly a surprise to me!  The huge connection between bad cultural habits (sitting on chairs for long periods and wearing restrictive footwear) and poor running form was illustrated really well.  The afternoon consisted of a fun session in the park barefoot, improving squatting and posture. My squat retest the next day showed a big improvement, though there was still a lot to work on in terms of how upright I was.



Day Two focused on bioenergetics and the body under stress.  Some really interesting theory behind training at an easy pace came up in discussion and though I had always advocated less intense training, I didn't appreciate quite how easy "easy pace" should be!  We went on a group run with our mouths taped up so they we had to nose breath.  I think we all got a shock at how slow this actually was and also a lot of strange looks from the residents of Ambleside!  We also did some useful pylometric drills and worked on our downhill running skills.


The rest of the theory looked at the lifestyle factors that best promote healthy mitochondria, respiration and subsequently good running.  This holistic approach to training, eating and moving in a way that improves your running and puts your body under less stress made so much sense.

My own take home points for improving my running form were:

  • Higher cadence needed - about 175 instead of 150!  I will run with a metronome on my phone to try and achieve this.
  • Big toe is not making contact with the ground on foot plate test.  I am wearing Vivo barefoot shoes most of the time and will continue to do so.  DO TOE YOGA.
  • Jump test and squat test were poor.  Will work on bounding drills to improve this.

My points for improving my bioenergetics were:

  • Move more - walk as much as possible instead of driving shorter distances.  Sit less.  Go outside at lunch.
  • Prioritise early bedtime.
  • Make majority of runs really easy paced.  Only one run a week intense.
I would recommend this course to anyone sick of being injured over and over again.  It offers the opportunity to really look at your running technique intelligently and work out how to address the major flaws that are causing you problems.  It's also a great opportunity to meet like-minded runners, get some individually tailored advice from some expert runners about how to improve your running form and have a good laugh running around with your mouth taped shut. 

FOR FUTURE COURSES SEE: http://www.borntorun.com/for-runners/

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Story of A Broken Third Metatarsal or How to Drive a Runner Insane


Strictly speaking, this is meant to be a blog about archaeology and not my attempts at athletics.  However, as bones are involved in this story, I think I can just about justify publishing it here.  I also hope that anyone else trawling the internet for experiences of acute/trauma metatarsal fractures will at least have something to read about instead of a million stress fracture rehab stories!  It is NOT the same.  This is presented as a week by week experience of my recovery.  I warn you this is one long story and I’m not the most interesting of writers.

The Bone What I Broke, When and How
  •      11/12/11: Running my last cross country of 2011, I noticed my feet had become absolutely numb.  I have Raynaud’s Syndrome (poor circulation in my extremities), so this isn’t unusual on a cold day, but the almost entire loss of sensation in my feet was strange.  I was struggling because of this and further down the pack than usual.  At the beginning of the second lap and three km into the race I put my right foot to the floor and felt it give way beneath me with a crack/crunch sound.  My ankle didn’t go over and I didn’t trip but there may have been a stone under my running spike.  I tried to hobble for a few metres until my Dad and my friend yelled at me to stop and dragged me off the course.  At this point I knew that there was something wrong but didn’t realise the seriousness.  I pulled my shoe off and my foot looked normal, albeit completely pale and bloodless due to the lack of circulation.  Feeling a little ashamed that I’d dropped out I got my gear and went home.  As my circulation returned, my foot did feel painful, as it often does when the blood flows back into them.   It wasn’t until I got in the shower that I noticed the swelling on top of my foot.   Having never broken a bone, I told myself I’d damaged the extensor tendons on top of my foot which would explain the pain and location of the swelling.   I took some ibuprofen, iced my foot and carried on as normal.  THIS IS STUPID.  DO NOT DO THIS. What I should have done was go straight to minor injuries for an x-ray because if acute pain is accompanied by swelling and trouble weight bearing, you have probably damaged bone or ligament.  It is not just going to go away! It took me nearly 48 hours of limping and my foot turning black/blue to decide to go, and I was lucky more damage wasn’t caused by my idiocy.
  •      13/12/11: Diagnosis by X-Ray – the radiographer immediately told me it was broken in the x-ray room. The radiograph showed a mid-shaft oblique fracture of my third metatarsal.  It was misaligned and in two pieces (see below).  This fracture was an acute fracture rather than a stress fracture.  Acute fractures are caused by a large force suddenly applied to the bone.  Stress fractures appear over time.  In runners this is usually due to increase in mileage too quickly.   Stress fractures often take a while to appear on x-ray after the pain is first noticed and appear as thin hairline cracks in bone due to repetitive episodes of stress.  After x-ray, I was given crutches and an appointment at fracture clinic the next day.
  •      14/12/11: This was the day during which I learnt the NHS is not a big fan of injuries that occur whilst running.  I saw the consultant for all of three minutes in which he told me I had a fracture in my foot (Really?? Fancy that!), that it happened because I run too much (I run 15 miles a week and it was a trauma – acute not chronic pain!!).  I learnt that doctors don’t listen.  Especially when you try to ask questions (such as, should I be worrying about my bone density as osteoporosis runs in my family, and my foot broke pretty easily?!).   Oh and I was told I could have a fracture boot “if I wanted one” or stay in trainers.  Of course I wanted one!  Fracture boots are amazing.  They allow some weight bearing without hurting the bone, they give protection from careless members of the public and, best of all, they are removable at shower time and bedtime.  I left the hospital nicely equipped but with little advice on fracture rehab other than it would be six to eight weeks until I was healed.  No painkillers, no mention of physio.  Thus my rehab began.

       Weeks One to Four
This was possibly one of the most stressful periods of my life, made worse by simple tasks like getting to work each day (agency workers don’t get sick pay boo).  One very uncoordinated person in charge of crutches and fracture boot is not a good combination.  It involved escapades, which included falling over when the bus driver doesn’t wait for you to get off and starts driving (three times in one week), going to the work xmas do on crutches and waiting two hours for a taxi home and lastly getting three trains down to my grandparents for Christmas.  Luckily I had a nice housemate and some visitors to cheer me up.  Facing up to not being able to run for a very long time was not fun either.  However that concern soon paled in significance to the other problems encountered.
  •       Pain: It took three or four days for the nasty pain to kick in and this was mostly at night.  Every position I put my foot in was agony and strange stabbing pains would wake me from the deepest sleep.  I took the maximum dosage of painkillers for a week to get me through it and then stopped taking them.
  •       RICE: Following the mantra on icing and elevating as often as I could through the day.  My foot became a large swollen mass of fluid by the end of the day. 
  •       Mobility: By using the internet I learnt the crutch stair method, and the best way to shower (took me an hour).  You can’t carry things with crutches.  Thus you stand and drink your hot cup of tea on the side where you made it and when you spill your dinner over the floor you have to ring your mum and stepdad to come and clear it up for you.  Being helpless is definitely the most frustrating and humiliating thing about a disability, however temporary it is.
  •       Exercise: At week four I was lucky enough to start going to a personal trainer based at a physio and was able to do some simple core exercises with weight through the knees.  Swimming was still not an option so there was very little I could do.  I also looked up some foot rehab exercises on the net.  The most useful were these: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/metatarsal-fracture/metatarsal-rehabilitation.  It is really important to keep doing them every day, starting with the non-weight bearing exercises first, because the lack of use causes the muscles and ligaments in the foot to quickly stiffen and atrophy. 

Weeks Five to Eight
These were the weeks in which I expected a dramatic transformation to occur. By week eight I would be cured and ready to run again!  Instead I learnt that recovery is usually even longer than the slowest prediction.  I saw the consultant again after four weeks in the boot, for another long slot of five minutes.  Firstly, he asked me why I hadn’t brought my trainers to which I replied, rather stunned, “You told me six to eight weeks?! It’s been four!”.  Then he got me to take my boot off and put weight through me broken foot, which to be fair didn’t hurt when I did it for two seconds.  Then he discharged me.  No follow-up x-ray, no physio, no advice on rehab...just a wave of the hand and a command to go off and walk around in trainers.
  • Mobility: Now I don’t have a medical degree, but it occurred to me that I probably couldn’t just put my foot in a trainer straight off and go merrily on my way moving as much as I had before my fracture. I started off my walking round my house gingerly in trainers and started using my crutches less and just my boot when out and about.  Several attempts at going outside in trainers were unsuccessful at this point as my foot was still painful and uncomfortable.   By seven weeks I went to my GP and asked for an x-ray, as I was so concerned at my lack of improvement.  People had begun to comment that my recovery was slow but I had to wait two weeks for my x-ray results.  By the end of week eight I stopped wearing the boot completely but was walking with a strange rocking limp and having to take the bus to and from work (usually a 20 min walk). 
  • Exercise: I gained enough movement by week seven to walk from changing room to swimming pool and start swimming.  I desperately tried to get my heart rate up and avoid being kicked by other swimmers. 

Overall I did move from being in the fracture boot to trainers but very slowly and still with discomfort.

Weeks Nine to Twelve
By this point I was going a little bit mental – recovery was taking much longer than anticipated and I was seeing runners everywhere.   Meanwhile my list of foot rehab exercises on my wall was ever growing as I fought to regain the strength and flexibility in my forefoot.  My ultimate goal was to be able to walk on tiptoes, which seemed a far off dream. 

I received my x-ray results which showed a healing fracture with “slight misalignment” perhaps due to walking on the foot for two days before diagnosis!  Good news, but it didn’t explain why I was still struggling.  At one point in week ten I was limping fairly badly and worried that there was a serious problem with the foot.  However in another week my walking became a lot smoother and I could manage a fairly brisk walk to work.  By week twelve I was walking to work and back at a steady pace.  My only worries were that my foot was still swollen over the forefoot and that the lateral side of my foot was sore and inflexible when walking.  It was also very sore when touched. 
Follow-up x-ray showing healing fracture with bone callous formation.  


Received wisdom for a healing fracture is six weeks for fibrous union and another six weeks for bony union, when running should be safe.  But at twelve weeks I knew my foot was still not ready to run. 

Weeks Thirteen to Fifteen: Towards Running Again...
My foot suddenly became a lot stronger and I was able to walk on my tiptoes!  My two tests for foot strength was walking for an hour without discomfort and very little swelling and being able to hop on the injured foot without pain.  I then waited a week and tried running for 1min, walk for 1min a few times on grass - the first time in fourteen weeks! Afterwards and the next day my foot was sore and swollen but the discomfort was muscular rather than worrying.  I am now starting a gradual schedule to increase mileage carefully without re-injuring the foot by Pete Pfitzinger: http://pfitzinger.com/labreports/stressfracture.shtml.

Why did I experience an acute fracture in the first place? It's very odd that I fractured my foot without a fall and without high mileage in training.  The doctors were not interested in answering this question, even though my first thoughts were worry about my bone density when my foot seemed to have broken so easily.  I think, however, it was actually my Reynaud's that was to blame.  I suffer with poor circulation to my extremities (which might also explain why my foot took longer than average to heal).  My feet had become so cold and numb during the race that my muscles and ligaments had 'frozen' and instead of soft tissue taking the strain of impact, my third metatarsal did.  Hence why it broke.  A very unlucky accident!

Touch wood I can avoid re-injury!


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Charles Darwin's Gap Year(s)

A few months back I finally got hold of a copy of On the Origin of Species.  I had become a bit embarrassed by the fact that after four years of centering my studies on the ideas of Darwin, I still hadn't read the work.  When my mum picked a copy up at a charity shop and gave it to me, I immediately dived in.   Though enjoyable to finally read Darwin’s great theory in his own words, the best part was the sister book preceding it.


This is The Voyage of the Beagle, a diary describing Darwin’s journey around the world aboard the HMS Beagle as Ship’s Naturalist, straight out of university.  This was the 1830s and it is amusing to see the early nineteenth century gap year (or five) tour of the world.  The twenty-two year old Darwin’s description is vivid, enthralling and makes for a fascinating read.  You begin to admire his pluck and spirit of adventure (and admire his persistence in carrying on through many bouts of seasickness).  You also see his fascination with everything that surrounds him – both animals and people.  He writes in an honest voice, full of wonder and quite often, fun.   His prose is very accessible as well which surprised me - scientists are not often the best adventure writers!

He empathises with every living thing around him no matter how small and (in my opinion) frankly boring a species it may be.   His passion takes him on three month detours through the wilderness to collect samples, leads him to meet the military leader of a revolution in Patagonia and to live through an earthquake in Chile.  Though there are moments that grate with modern sensibilities (such as the derogatory description of indigenous South Americans he encounters), it is hard to fault him when those were the commonly held views in British society at the time.  He does redeem himself in several places further on by expressing his shock at the treatment of native slaves and a wish for equality among men (man being the operative gender).

To finish  - some of my favourite anecdotes:
  •  Fox Murder on San Pedro Island, off the coast of Chile: In which our hero notices a curious fox watching the men of the Beagle surveying the coast.  Whilst it is distracted Darwin creeps up on the animal and knocks it over the head with his geological hammer.  As Darwin puts it: “more curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren”.  He later donated the specimen to the Zoological Society in London.  The fox is today known as Lycalopex fulvipesor or Darwin’s Fox. Sadly, it is critically endangered.
  • Giant Tortoise Surfing in the Galapagos:  Yes, Darwin was about twenty six by the time he reached the famous Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.  This does not stop him behaving like a student and riding a Giant Tortoise, albeit rather unsuccessfully.  A vital part of the research process I’m sure.
  •  Hanging with the Gauchos of Patagonia – In Argentina, Darwin makes friends with Gauchos (cowboys) who ride with him when he is collecting specimens.  They show him how to hunt with the traditional bolas, a type of lasso with ball weights attached to entangle the legs of the prey.  Darwin has a little accident with playing with one of these and manages to catch his own horse with him still on it, which amuses his companions greatly.  Another interesting anecdote is the locals distrust of his habit of daily face washing.  Not the done thing in nineteenth century Argentina apparently!


I would urge anyone who has an interest in evolution, Darwin or simply a good story to give The Voyage of the Beagle a go.  It is a fascinating read!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Denisovans and Depilation: New Thoughts On Modern Human Migration

Over the past few weeks a bewildering number of papers on human genetics has been released.  I have endeavoured to keep up with the almost weekly revelations that occurred in September and early October, but will no doubt have missed some vital points along the way.   To summarize briefly; a newly recognized human species discovered in early 2010 has a genome that overturns one of the most widely accepted models for Homo sapiens provenance and migration. Add some additional genetic studies and a lock of 88-year-old human hair from Western Australia and the palaeoanthropological world turns upside down.  To explain further I have to go back to the beginning and describe the two polarized models for modern human evolution that previously held sway.


'Out of Africa' v. The Multiregional Hypothesis
Since the 1980s there have been two main models of human migration, which I will over simplify here.  The first 'Multiregional Hypothesis' states that Homo erectus evolved in Africa and moved into Eurasia about one million years ago.  It then explains that Homo sapiens independently evolved from these H. erectus populations spread out across the globe.  The idea of ‘gene flow’ or migration is proposed to explain how complete speciation didn’t take place in each region and that homogeneity was maintained.


Out of Africa also describes an initial waved of migration by Homo erectus, but suggests that about 100,000 years ago modern humans originating from Africa then spread out across the globe and replaced all other hominin species that had come before it. I would say that the majority of academics in recent times agree with the 'Out of Africa' model (or some variant of it), especially after a paper was published that seemed to prove a single origin for modern humans in a shared common female ancestor who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago (Cann, Stoneking and Wilson 1987). 


Mitochondrial DNA, which is passed only down the female line, was examined in 147 individuals from five major ethnic groups across the globe.  Two major conclusions were reached from the investigation.  The first was that there was the existence of two major groups  - one with very similar mtDNA of African origin; the other contained the four non – African groups.  The second conclusion was that the African group had a far greater level of variation than the other four, indicating it was the oldest DNA as it had had the most time to accumulate mutations (ibid).   This led to the ultimate conclusion that there was one original ancestor of modern humans alive about 200,000 years ago, supporting the out of Africa hypothesis.  She is referred to as Mitochondrial Eve.
On the right is the Out of Africa model showing replacement of earlier popualtions. On the left is Multiregional Theory showing gene admixture (Source: Scientific American) 
Out of Africa is not completely inflexible.  It's supporters allowed that some degree of interbreeding might have taken place between modern humans and other similar species they encountered on the way, such as Neanderthals, but that such encounters had left no lasting genetic legacy in the world population today.  I even went as far as writing an undergraduate dissertation on the reasons that two such similar species wouldn't have mixed, suggesting a biological phenomenon known as Behavioural Character Displacement.


How wrong I was.

A possible encounter in Late Pleistocene Europe? (plawiuk.blogspot.com/2006_10_29_archive.htm)
The first alarm bells began to ring when Green et al (2010) published a paper showing that up to 4% of the human genome of modern non-Africans contained Neanderthal DNA.  In genetic terms this is a massive amount and was pretty conclusive evidence that Neanderthals had not only bred with us - they are us.  With the addition of the 'X-woman' find, 2010 heralded a whole new worldview in Palaeoanthropology...and a whole new species - the Denisovans.


Who are the Denisovans?!
A human population identified from a single bone in the finger belonging to individual nicknamed 'X-woman'.  


This bone was found in a cave in Denisova, Siberia and was dated to between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago, making it contemporaneous with modern humans and Neanderthals, previously thought to be the only two hominin species left on earth by this date.  The DNA sequenced from this finger suggests that it was significantly different from both Neanderthal and modern human DNA and should therefore belong to a group of its own, which palaeoanthropologists refer to as the Denisovans.  They would have shared a common ancestor with modern humans and Neanderthals between 750,000 and 1.3 million years ago (Krause et al 2010).


Since this first study was released subsequent genetic investigations have shown that the Denisovans contributed 5-6% of the DNA in the genome of present-day Melanesians (Reich et al 2010).  A further study published this year (Reich et al 2011) shows that many South East Asian populations contain Densiovan DNA. It suggests that with a range stretching from the far North of the globe to South East Asia, the Denisovans were as flexible to changes in environment as modern human populations famously are.  


Finally, Hammer et al (2011) have shown that even in present-day African populations, such as the San, genetic material from an unknown archaic hominin makes up 1-2% of the genome, further implying we are genetic mix of different species.  


It seems likely that this fraternization between species actually benefited Homo sapiens in the long run.  An investigation of Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLAs), proteins coded for by genes essential for a healthy immune system, shows that many were 'picked up' by non-Africans from Denisovans and Neanderthals they interbred with as they moved across the globe.  Migrating Homo sapiens would have not survived the new diseases they were exposed to without these vital genes.


A Lock of Hair and the Earliest Modern Human Migration
In 1923 an Australian Aboriginal man gave a lock of his hair to an anthropologist.   This year DNA was collected from a strand of the hair and the entire genome of the man analysed.  Rasmussen et al (2011) concluded that this individual's ancestors had separated from the ancestors of all other human populations between 64 and 75 thousand years ago.  Thus Aboriginal Australians were the first modern humans to leave Africa and migrate across the globe into Asia and then Australia.  This is great news for the indigenous populations of Australia, who can now prove that they have the longest association with their land, or indeed any human population has had with any area of land.  The diagram below shows how the earliest migrations might have been timed and which groups moved where.


Early spread of modern humans outside of Africa (Science/AAAS)
To Conclude...Rather than one sweeping migration of modern humans leaving Africa 100,000 years ago that trampled on all other hominins in their way, migration seems to have occurred in numerous fits and spurts with the existing populations interbreeding with new arrivals.  Each area of the globe has a unique genetics admixture, to the benefit of all - a veritable 'melting pot' of species.


A Little Disclaimer...I must stress that genetics studies are not always to be trusted.  Mistakes have been made in the past when sampling living human populations and when dealing with contamination of fossil material. However such work can certainly contribute a great deal to Palaeoanthropology if treated with caution.


Abi-Rached et al (2011): 10.1126/science.1209202

Cann, Stoneking and Wilson (1987): 10.1038/325031a0

Green et al (2010): 10.1126/science.1188021

Hammer et al (2011): 10.1073/pnas.1109300108

Krause et al (2010): 10.1038/nature08976

Rasmussen et al (2011):10.1126/science.1211177

Reich et al (2010): 10.1038/nature09710

Reich et al (2011): 10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.09.005

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Darwinism in the Sheffield Jungle

A few months ago I wrote an article for the Sheffield Jungle, a research project run by the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield. The Jungle was a travelling menagerie run by a showman called Frank Bostock that stayed in Sheffield from 1910-1911 and returned in later years. The project gives an interdisciplinary look at the menagerie and its cultural and physical legacies.  It's worth taking a gander at the website, which holds a variety of tales (including a wealthy manufacturer taking home a lion cub to his family of five young children!). The project will run until 2013 and involves weekly updates from local newspaper articles of the time.


My own contribution discusses Bostock's use of Darwinism in the showground and the grim truth behind animal exhibits.