Quotulatiousness

July 28, 2015

Viking genes

Filed under: Europe, History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Nautilis, Adam Piore talks about the project to thoroughly map Icelanders’ DNA:

In the ninth century there was a Norwegian Viking named Kveldulf, so big and strong that no man could defeat him. He sailed the seas in a long-ship and raided and plundered towns and homesteads of distant lands for many years. He settled down to farm, a very wealthy man.

Kveldulf had two sons who grew up to become mighty warriors. One joined the service of King Harald Tangle Hair. But in time the King grew fearful of the son’s growing power and had him murdered. Kveldulf vowed revenge. With his surviving son and allies, Kveldulf caught up with the killers, and wielding a double-bladed ax, slew 50 men. He sent the paltriest survivors back to the king to recount his deed and fled toward the newly settled realm of Iceland. Kveldulf died on the journey. But his remaining son Skallagrim landed on Iceland’s west coast, prospered, and had children.

Skallagrim’s children had children. Those children had children. And the blood and genes of Kveldulf the Viking and Skallagrim his son were passed down the ages. Then, in 1949, in the capital of Reykjavik, a descendent named Kari Stefansson was born.

Like Kveldulf, Stefansson would grow to be a giant, 6’5”, with piercing eyes and a beard. As a young man, he set out for the distant lands of the universities of Chicago and Harvard in search of intellectual bounty. But at the dawn of modern genetics in the 1990s, Stefansson, a neurologist, was lured back to his homeland by an unlikely enticement — the very genes that he and his 300,000-plus countrymen had inherited from Kveldulf and the tiny band of settlers who gave birth to Iceland.

Stefansson had a bold vision. He would create a library of DNA from every single living descendent of his nation’s early inhabitants. This library, coupled with Iceland’s rich trove of genealogical data and meticulous medical records, would constitute an unparalleled resource that could reveal the causes — and point to cures — for human diseases.

In 1996, Stefansson founded a company called Decode, and thrust his tiny island nation into the center of the burgeoning field of gene hunting. “Our genetic heritage is a natural resource,” Stefansson declared after returning to Iceland. “Like fish and hot pools.”

April 17, 2015

Viking Greenland during the Little Ice Age

Filed under: Americas, Environment, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Charlotte Persson looks at what happened to the Viking settlers in Greenland as the Little Ice Age set in:

In the middle of the 13th century the Vikings who had settled in Greenland encountered no less than ten years of harsh and cold winters and summers. The Norsemen, who were living as farmers, bid farewell to many of their cattle during that period.

The Greenland Vikings were also prevented from setting sail to fetch supplies from their homelands in Europe because they didn’t have enough timber to build trading ships. So when Scandinavian traders didn’t happen to pass by they were left entirely on their own.

But this didn’t knock them out; on the contrary they lived with the worsening climate for almost 200 years during what we later would call the Little Ice Age. This is the conclusion of a new Ph.D. thesis.

“The stories we have heard so far about the climate getting worse and the Norsemen disappearing simply don’t hold water. They actually survived for a long time and were far better at adapting than we previously thought,” says the author of the new study, Christian Koch Madsen, Ph.D. student at the National Museum of Denmark.

November 9, 2014

A Viking view of Europe, circa 1000AD

Filed under: Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:00

Europe According to the Vikings (1000) from Atlas of Prejudice 2 by Yanko Tsvetkov.

Europe According to the Vikings (1000) from Atlas of Prejudice 2 by Yanko Tsvetkov.

H/T to Never Yet Melted for the link.

September 3, 2014

Hand-to-hand combat is “viciously sexist”

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:55

In many video games, especially MMOs, you can do the same kind of combat with a male or female avatar (in other words, from a gaming perspective, the differences are literally cosmetic). This is not a reflection of physical reality, although it is a nod to sexual equality in other areas. That being said, it is silly to pretend that before gunpowder came along to diminish the advantages that upper body strength confers in hand-to-hand combat, women could be equally effective in combat. ESR calls bullshit on a recent article that goes out of its way to imply that half of Viking warriors were actually female:

Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female insists an article at tor.com. It’s complete bullshit.

What you find when you read the linked article is an obvious, though as it turns out a superficial problem. The linked research doesn’t say what the article claims. What it establishes is that a hair less than half of Viking migrants were female, which is no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. The leap from that to “half the warriors were female” is unjustified and quite large.

There’s a deeper problem the article is trying to ignore or gaslight out of existence: reality is, at least where pre-gunpowder weapons are involved, viciously sexist.

[…]

Supporting this, there is only very scant archeological evidence for female warriors (burials with weapons). There is almost no such evidence from Viking cultures, and what little we have is disputed; the Scythians and earlier Germanics from the Migration period have substantially more burials that might have been warrior women. Tellingly, they are almost always archers.

I’m excluding personal daggers for self-defense here and speaking of the battlefield contact weapons that go with the shieldmaidens of myth and legend. I also acknowledge that a very few exceptionally able women can fight on equal terms with men. My circle of friends contains several such exceptional women; alas, this tells us nothing about woman as a class but much about how I select my friends.

But it is a very few. And if a pre-industrial culture has chosen to train more than a tiny fraction of its women as shieldmaidens, it would have lost out to a culture that protected and used their reproductive capacity to birth more male warriors. Brynhilde may be a sexy idea, but she’s a bioenergetic gamble that is near certain to be a net waste.

Firearms changes all this, of course – some of the physiological differences that make them inferior with contact weapons are actual advantages at shooting (again I speak from experience, as I teach women to shoot). So much so that anyone who wants to suppress personal firearms is objectively anti-female and automatically oppressive of women.

May 12, 2014

Thumbnail sketch of Russian history

Filed under: Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:10

P.J. O’Rourke says we need to take the long view in regard to Vladimir Putin, and provides a rough history of Russia to back up his contention:

In the sixth century A.D. Russia was the middle of nowhere in the great Eurasian flat spot bounded by fuck-all on the north and east, barbarian hordes and the remains of the Byzantine Empire on the south, and the Dark Ages on the west.

Wandering around in here, up and down the watershed of the Dnieper River from Novgorod (which hadn’t been built yet) to Kiev (ditto) were disorganized tribes of Slavic pastoral herdsmen herding whatever was available, pastorally. They were harried by Goths, Huns, Khazars, and other people who had the name and nature of outlaw motorcycle gangs long before the motorcycle was invented.

The original Russian state, “Old Russia,” was established at Novgorod in A.D. 862 by marauding Vikings. They’d set off to discover Iceland, Greenland, and America, took a wrong turn, and wound up with their dragon boat stuck on a mud bar in the Dnieper. (Historians have their own theories, involving trade and colonization, but this sounds more likely.)

The first ruler of Old Russia was the Viking Prince Ryurik. Imagine being so disorganized that you need marauding Vikings to found your nation — them with their battle axes, crazed pillaging, riotous Meade Hall feasts, and horns on their helmets. (Actually, Vikings didn’t wear horns on their helmets — but they would have if they’d thought of it, just like they would have worn meade helmets if they’d thought of it.) Some government it must have been.

Viking Prince Ryurik: “Yah, let’s build Novgorod!”

Viking Chieftain Sven: “Yah, so we can burn it down and loot!”

April 21, 2014

QotD: Vikings!

Filed under: History, Humour, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:41

VikingTimesQuote-350x240

– Spotted yesterday in the Times (which is behind a paywall) of the day before yesterday by 6k. “Very good” says he. Indeed.

Brian Micklethwait, Samizdata quote of the day”, Samizdata, 2014-04-19.

January 30, 2014

Duffelblog – Marine converts demand religious symbols be allowed in uniform

Filed under: Humour, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:14

You can always trust Duffelblog to give you the latest US military news:

Marines Convert To Norse Paganism, Demand Horns And Wings On Helmets

CAMP LEJEUNE, NC — An entire rifle squad which has converted to Asatru, or Northern European Heathenry, has expressed disappointment in new Pentagon dress code requirements claiming religious exemptions to military uniform standards are not inclusive enough.

The Asatru devotees complain they are not allowed to wear their religious clothing in uniform unlike Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish members. Focused on historical Norse paganism, the Marines want to affix horns and wings on their helmets in order to accommodate individual expression of their beliefs.

“It’s the only way Valkyrie can identify the Kindred if we fall righteously in battle,” said Sgt. Bram Gunbjorn, who serves as both squad leader and gothi (priest) of his squad of housescarls, otherwise known as 3rd Squad, Second Platoon, Charlie Company.

The squad believes upon their worthy death in combat, the Valkyrie will lead them to Valhalla, the mythological hall presided over by Odin, the Allfather.

“I think these clowns have been reading too many comic books,” said battalion Sgt. Maj. Mike Brooks. “There’s no actual historical evidence Vikings or any Northern European groups wore that garbage into battle.”

Soon after the sergeant major made this statement, the horrified Marines submitted a complaint to their Equal Opportunity Officer on the grounds of religious intolerance.

February 12, 2010

Eric Raymond finally “gets” the Vikings

Filed under: History, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:47

I’m just as happy that my area didn’t receive any of the snow that’s been blanketing areas to the south of us. Eric Raymond wasn’t as lucky:

Now I understand the Viking Era
So I’m sitting here, looking out my window at the 3-foot snow and the 5-foot icicles, reverting to ancestral type. Thinking:

“Fuck this. Let’s go sack Miklagard.”

And Ken Burnside points out even more opportunity for enriching historical knowledge:

The reason why Minnesota and Wisconsin were settled by Norwege and Swenske isn’t because the other cultures couldn’t hack the winters.

It’s because compared to 19th century Norway and Sweden, Upper Minneosta and Upper Wisconsin are *paradise*.

“Look! Farmland! Lakes for fishing! Timber and lumber to build from! And no morass of petty aristocracy to tell you no. And, hey, it only snows for five whole months here! They won’t believe THAT back in the old country!”

The only reason there weren’t more of them was because a lot of Norski STILL remember the marketing flimflam that was Greenland. They had a completely justified 900 year old mistrust of ANYONE telling them about ‘great farmland, only snows for five months of the year, plenty of timber…’

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