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Even those who are enthusiastic about ancient-DNA research — not only for the new data it provides but for the vigor it has brought to their field — could in principle choose to partner only with geneticists who respect their priorities and expertise; after all, they are the ones who dig the samples out of the ground, and nobody is forcing them to surrender their treasures at gunpoint. Collaborations between geneticists and archaeologists on an even footing have produced well-received studies that plot, say, the family trees in a medieval cemetery.

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But in practice, the paleogenomicists have totally altered the environment in which prehistory is being studied by everyone. The power of these top labs extends to samples, data and even technology: Proprietary chemical reagents let them isolate and enrich ancient samples much more accurately and cost-effectively than other labs can. The only way I can get access to that data is if I give my bone to David or Johannes and wait until they process it — and bury me in the list of contributors to their paper. The selective pressure to collaborate with this state-of-the-art oligopoly is extremely strong, not only because of their advantages in funding, speed and operational scale but also because of the relationships they enjoy with the top-tier journals.

There thus reigns, in the world of ancient DNA, an atmosphere of intense suspicion, anxiety and paranoia, among archaeologists and geneticists alike. In dozens of interviews with practitioners of both disciplines, almost everyone requested anonymity for fear of professional reprisal.

Among teams at work on any given excavation, it takes only a single colleague to deliver a bone to one of the industrial giants for the entire group to lose control of their findings. Museums, too, are being swept up by the perverse incentives: One of the geneticists told me stories about having brokered an agreement to sample a particular collection, only to arrive and discover that someone else showed up the previous day to claim the same bones under a false pretense.

The weaker the institutions of the country, the harder it is for local researchers to have a fighting chance. Scientists in Turkey and Mexico told me that museum curators routinely had to explain that they had promised their native bone collections elsewhere. Reich, Krause and Paabo strenuously denied the characterization of their labs as colluding in a manner that harms competitors. Krause noted that his lab employs students and scientists from 30 nations and supports foreign researchers.

It has not gone unnoticed that the stunning, magisterial sweep of genetic revisionism, on the one hand, and a genetic emphasis on radical prehistoric migrations, on the other, bear more than a little in common. Some anthropologists and archaeologists accept this analogy with gallows humor. Others saw less to laugh at. Some archaeologists who had collaborated on the paper about Indo-European invasions withdrew their names to protest conclusions they saw as echoes of Kossinna — the mass migrations of advanced Indo-Europeans into Central Europe.

The analogue was hard to counter. Geneticists had indeed swept down from their laboratory enclaves to extend their sovereignty over what had always been the terrain of archaeology. And no single individual had as much influence or power as Reich. Migration in the Pacific had never been quite as fraught as it was elsewhere; the people had obviously shown up from someplace. Or rather, this had been obvious to outsiders, if not to the locals.

Upon our return from the Teouma overlook, Bedford went off to catch up on village gossip, and I sat with Chief Alben in the shade of a stout, leggy banyan tree, its exposed root system rising from the earth like a half-exhumed skeleton.

Alben is a hale and jovial older man with a round paunch and a push-broom mustache. For years, he has participated in a volunteer fieldworker program that trains the ni-Vanuatu to record and preserve their local traditions amid the creep of global monoculture and to pay attention to the sorts of archaeological finds they might otherwise ignore.


The full article has pictures with captions that are not necessary here. Richard Feynman is the famous Nobel laureate and Caltech physicist who invented Feynman diagrams, which are an extraordinarily useful way to picture quantum interactions. Show all 24 episodes. It is easy to erase a memory block when nothing significant is in original memory, i. The Trilateral Commission is apparently real. To their great delight, they were deluged with willing volunteers. They are then taught to work toward that drug euphoria by going to it mentally.

I asked him about how the concept of Lapita migration to empty islands had been received by people whose oral traditions said they came from a stone or a coconut tree. In the wake of the initial discoveries at Teouma, Alben replied, he explained to his villagers that there was nothing surprising in the fact that the grandfathers of grandfathers of grandfathers had once come from someplace else. Kastom is an expansive concept that includes tradition, history, land rights and social norms; local kastom varies tremendously across the more than 80 islands of Vanuatu, but the notion itself has become sacrosanct for the continuity and authority it provided in the aftermath of colonial occupation.

Alben told me he had been stymied by the practicalities, though. How can these people come here? He shook with laughter at such a painfully obvious answer. His question was not about what they used to cross the water but how they founded a way of life that endured until today. When the canoe lands, they plant. The ni-Vanuatu were not accustomed to thinking about history for its own sake, instead expecting that any story you told about the past necessarily gave form and guidance to the present. If kastom told you that your people came from a stone near the lagoon, that was relevant for ongoing disputes about who now deserved to till that land.

They did know, however, that what had often been presented to them as abstract scientific knowledge routinely concealed some practical agenda. The question of who they were and where they had come from became lively topics. Some ventured that they were refugees from the Lost Continent of Mu. Others tried to classify them in a way that would accord with their own pet-scientific notions of cultural evolution. Europeans fixated on the differences between the Melanesians and the Polynesians, imagining the Polynesians as a kind of laggard aristocracy, comparable to the ancient Greeks, and the Melanesians as naturally backward black people.

And so, when it came to the question of how ancient peoples had populated the Pacific, the most persistent proposals rested on racial typologies. The European colonial enterprise was thus justified as part of the natural relationship of incoming enlightenment and indigenous savagery. A new sort of colonial anxiety, meanwhile, is manifesting itself about the Chinese, who have been investing heavily in the country. Bedford and his archaeologist colleagues on Vanuatu are known for their long tenure in the country and their keen acquaintance with local sensitivities, and it was only on their bond that the Teouma petrous bones were sent abroad for sandblasting.

And yet, in a highly unusual move, the paper was accepted over steadfast opposition from two of the three original peer reviewers on its anonymous panel. Among the two objecting reviewers, the methodological critiques — both on the level of archaeological context and that of data analysis — were paramount. That is, the skulls do not fit the bodies. Clearly there was a complex set of traditions around these burials including decapitation at some time before or after initial burial.

Hence I am concerned about drawing too many conclusions from such a small number of individuals plus individuals who were certainly not a random sample of the population. Yes, the Teouma skulls came from an important site, and yes, the new data they provided was a fascinating additional piece of evidence. Three contemporaneous samples might be sufficient for a modest paper about the Teouma site, but modest papers about one archaeological site in Vanuatu are not the sort of thing Nature is in the business of publishing.

Yet the Reich team proceeded to revise.

5 Takeaways From the Ancient DNA Research Story

When the Jena team heard that the Oceania paper had been found wanting for further regional samples — samples that would allow them to expand their claims beyond simply Vanuatu — one doctoral candidate remembered that their inventory contained a stray petrous bone from a site in Tonga, one already found to contain readable DNA. On the basis of this single additional ancient bone, the Reich lab resubmitted their paper, and a fourth reviewer was added to the panel. We completely answered absolutely every question very robustly; there was not a single point in those Reviewer Two and Three comments that had any validity and that we were not able to fully and powerfully answer.

He acknowledged that it was rare for journal editors to overrule their referees. At the end of our conversation, Reich returned to his Vanuatu effort, waxing unsolicitedly about his personal attachment to the finding. He was doing large-scale, broad-brush work, and it was up to the archaeologists to add their fine filigree of detail. For example, it was a still a mystery that secondary Papuan migrants had replaced the original settlers but somehow adopted their Austronesian language. The edifice itself is an architectural bricolage, a vaguely Bauhaus-inspired white building conjoined via metal tube to a stately 19th-century villa.

A young Irish anthropologist, Heidi Colleran, was brought on to help lead the relevant ethnographic field research; just before she left, she and her partner, a British population geneticist named Adam Powell who also happened to be her collaborator on the project , were asked if they might try to collect spit from the groups she planned to work with, for the purposes of a proper contemporary baseline.

Reich had used other modern Oceanic groups as rough proxies in part because no one imagined that any ni-Vanuatu would ever assent to such a study. The Jena team sought the ethical oversight of an institutional review board. Once in Vanuatu, Colleran, along with Powell and Kaitip Kami, the curator at the national museum, pitched their project as a way for villagers to understand where they fit in the family tree of the Pacific; they also promised that, in accordance with best ethical practices, they would return to present the results to the participant communities.

To their great delight, they were deluged with willing volunteers. Whatever happened in that period was clearly complex, but it seemed to them inaccurate to describe it as the one-off snuffing out of one group by another. The actual causal mechanism could have been malaria, or warfare, or volcanic activity, or some competitive advantage in agriculture. A thought experiment might help to illustrate this. Imagine that the written history of our current era were lost to time, and paleogenomicists of the future were trying to explain the peopling of North America on the basis of a few bones that dated from between the 16th and 20th centuries.


It makes sense that they would resist simple explanations. Over the course of , Reich was working on his own competing follow-up, though by the time the Jena team submitted its completed paper to journals he had barely begun to compose his own. So the projects advanced separately. Reich tried unsuccessfully to get contemporary ni-Vanuatu spit from other researchers until he learned of some blood samples, drawn decades ago by medical researchers and now held in trust at a repository at Oxford.

The Reich team obtained permission to resequence the old samples for their own purposes — even though in gray-area cases like these it is never at all clear who holds the authority to retroactively license the use of vital fluids taken when ethical protocols were considerably more lax.

Obsidian Fire Pit

One week later, on Feb. Peer review and acceptance of a paper in a week was in itself an unprecedented feat; not a single person I talked to in the field could think of a similar case. Reich conceded that it was uncommon. It was better than most reviews we got. It was actually a serious review, a very serious review. Even so, publication on successive days was apparently not a satisfactory outcome. On Feb. Otherwise, the paper had little to add. On our return from Teouma, Bedford and I met up with an extended crew from the national museum for kava grown on the volcanic slopes of the northern island of Ambae, where an eruption threatened to stop shipments.

At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something You heard me. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

Upon introducing herself to the neighbors, she finds a shirtless Daemon Black, who looks less than amused by Katy's existence. The two immediately get into an argument and Katy retreats to her house. As Katy is strolling through the grocery store, she runs into Daemon's younger twin sister, Dee, who is extremely excited to meet Katy. She tells her to ignore her brother's ill temper and declares that she's happy to have a new neighbor and potential friend.

Though unusual things begin to happen around her, Katy and Dee quickly become good friends as they talk about their backstories and lives while they garden together. The Twilight Chessboard. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Obsidian , please sign up.

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Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jun 01, Lorien rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , personal-library , first-editions-first-printings. Book 2 holds up to book one, by not just standing up to it, but surpassing it! Obsidian is better than Glass, which was already an amazing novel. Alyssa's attitude and snarky voice keeps the story going, and the ever changing plot keeps you engaged. An amazing novel, this is a must read!