Saturday, May 2, 2009

Garden of Eden Needs Watering

The Times of India reports:

A new genetic survey of people in Africa, the largest of its kind, suggests that the region in southwest Africa seems, on the present evidence, to be the origin of modern humans. The authors have also identified some 14 ancestral populations.

The origin of a species is generally taken to be the place where its individuals show the greatest genetic diversity. For humans, when the new African data is combined with DNA information from the rest of the world, this spot lies on the coast of southwest Africa near the Kalahari desert, the research team, led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, said in journal Science.


That Garden of Eden myth sure has moved around quite a bit from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, to the Rift Valley of Ethiopia, and now to the edges of today's Kalahari Desert. Ethiopia, however, may still not be out of the question as the report above identifies 'people' with these genetic markers as the Bushmen or San people, whose language is distinguished by many click sounds. The San have been as far north as Ethiopia in their range of movement and, perhaps, they dropped off their Eden Myth there as well.  Of course the Mormons think it was in Jackson County, Missouri, but then...

The remaining question, now that a possible people and location have been identified is which of the two 'creation myths' of the Bible is more closely tied to the San: the rib version or the dust. If the rib version indicates male dominance, then it cannot be connected with the San because women have equal rights as men in this culture.

 In 2006 a group of archaeologists claimed they had discovered evidence of rituals practiced by the San around 70,000 years ago—the oldest indications of human rituals ever found. The ancient artwork and artifacts were discovered in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana in a cave that the San have traditionally used for rites associated with the python, an animal that plays a major role in their creation stories.

So the snake of Eden Mythology was probably the python.  It would be interesting to find out if any of the San named their children, Monty.  All seriousness aside, as the Bible myth indicates that the serpent fooled 'the woman' that story may have been fabricated even more by misogynistic men as San women are coequal with men in their society. 

Here is a side note regarding the San language:

In 1997, the =Khomani San community was busy with their land claim. They were sad that their ancestral language had died out and asked people if any elders remembered the language. Mrs Elsie Vaalbooi [pictured above] was living in Rietfontein, and said she spoke "die Boesmantaal". In February 1997, Professor Anthony Traill interviewed Mrs Vaalbooi and confirmed she was able to speak the extinct language of the Kalahari which had been recorded in 1936 at Twee Rivieren. Later, the South African San Institute worked with Mrs Vaalbooi to find another 25 people who could speak N|u or understand the language. Today there are 8 living fluent N|u speakers in the province.

In 1998, Elsie provided the Northern Cape with its new motto: Sa ||'a !ainsi uinsi (We are going to a better life). In March 1999, Elsie watched at Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signed over 40 000 hectares of land to the =Khomani community. The news was broadcast across the world. Mrs Vaalbooi conducted a number of radio and film interviews including with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and National Geographic.

N|u, Elsie's language, is the last language of the !Ui language family, that was once spoken across South Africa by hunter-gatherer peoples. The most famous example of a !Ui language was |Xam, the language of the Karoo San people. The |Xam language went extinct in the early 20th century. The National motto is now in |Xam: !Ke e: |xarra ||ke (Diverse peoples united)

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