Sunday, November 18, 2012

Literature Review: Gonzales-Ruiz et al., 2012

  I can't believe I've only done one lit review so far... Time to fix that with a discussion of a fun paper (Gonzalez-Ruiz et al., 2012) that was brought to my attention recently on the haplotypes of people buried in Pazyryk graves (The Pazyryk culture is the one that gave us the dozens of golden deer statues I discussed previously. Ethinically, they were "Eastern Scythians", a.k.a. Saka.). The best part is that it's in PLOS ONE, which is a completely open source peer-reviewed journal. No paying $30+ for an article when you don't have a university library to use. :) I won't go into detail since you can read the entire thing for yourself with a click of a button, but here are the main points. If you aren't a geneticist, don't worry about the methods; there's a lot of jargon involved. Try reading the introduction, then skipping to the discussion.

  Haplotypes are particular sequences of DNA which are very useful in biogeographic studies of humans. They evolve at just the right rate to tell us about the worldwide expansion of our species throughout, then out of, Africa when considering particular combinations of haplotypes (haplogroups). The haplotypes used for these type of studies have pervaded the populations they evolved in. Some of them were carried to new regions when a population migrated or when adjacent groups sequentially interbreed, thus transporting the haplotype that way even if the original population didn't move much.

  Central Asia and the adjacent steppes are at a crossroads between "Europe" and "Asia" insofar as the ethnicities living there are concerned (despite the name of the region itself). There are high number of diverse ethnicities living there- some seem more European and some seem more Asian. The purpose of this paper was to add more information to our understanding of the ancient genetic flow in the region.
  The authors extracted DNA from skeletal material in Iron Age Pazyryk burials and compared it to other DNA from both Bronze Age and Iron Age burials in Central Asia. What they found is that during the Bronze Age- after humans had initially expanded into the Far East- the Altai mountains were acting as a barrier. East was east, west was west, and there's no evidence for any genetic flow between them. At some point in the Iron Age, things changed. The haplogroups go from being East Eurasian (i.e. Turkic nomads) on the east side of the mountains and West Eurasian (i.e., Iranian nomads) on the west side of the mountains to about half and half on both sides.
  Today, steppe nomads are Turkic. The few remaining ethnicities in the same larger language group as the Iranian steppe nomads are sedentary now. They were driven off the steppes and diminished in prominence by the westward-expanding Turkic nomads within history. What this study shows is that during prehistory, it was the Iranian nomads who did the expanding (toward the East). They initially stopped at the Altaic mountains, then the groups living in that area started expanding outwards-or rather, their genes did. There were no new West Eurasian haplotypes showing up, just the local ones increasing in geographic range. This study adds another line of evidence for our understanding of the ancient biogeography of steppe nomads (on top of cultural and linguistic data), and give us some hard boundaries (both spatial and temporal).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Knowne Worlde Academy of Rapier and Clothing Symposium

  The annual SCA-wide fencing and clothing event was this past weekend (as was Calontir's Crown Tourney- congrats to Their new Excellencies Donngal and Catalina!).

  Unfortunate circumstances led to me missing all the morning classes I wanted to go to on subjects such as body mechanics and single rapier fundamentals, so the only fencing class I went to was the rapier and dagger master class. I got some good tips out of it for future reference, but I don't own a dagger yet and the room was waaaay too crowded, so I didn't get to actually try anything.

  The clothing class, however, was extremely beneficial. It turns out I took a class from the same teacher at Dragon*Con two years ago. She taught back-to-back classes on making patterns for Central Asian kaftans (caftans with her spelling; it doesn't really matter). She also gave us background info (hurray!) on why kaftans were constructed the way they were. Having two layers in front with a wrap kaftan I knew about- it combats the cold wind blowing straight at you when you're riding a horse. She also talked about the vestiges of those original purposes which were retained in later period sedentary cultures. One thing she pointed out (which she also talked about in the D*Con class) was how she'd spent a long time trying to figure out the neckline in a Persian (I think) kaftan, only to realize that it was the same pattern used by Turkic nomads, just the two sides attached down the center instead of wrapped.
  She had this brilliant method of teaching us a basic Turkic nomad kaftan pattern. She passed out pieces of fabric for us to cut the pieces for miniature kaftans out of. The fabric was black and white checked, which meant you could designate each small square as being a certain number of inches. It works brilliantly! I need to find some of that now.
One of the things she pointed out that had been bothering me when trying to draft patterns was shoulders. I couldn't figure out how to get the shoulder seams to lay flat against me. Turns out they aren't supposed to (at least not before later period kaftans). Shoulder seams should be straight and the pooching in front is supposed to be there.
Her name is Jadi Fatima. She primarily researches Ottoman, Mongolian, and Persian culture, textiles, and dance. She does brilliant work and I highly encourage visiting her website.

There was a ball Saturday night, for which my ride and I were the only musicians. Christian is a music Laurel (he mostly played recorder with a little guitar) and I played the drum. ...That was the second time I've picked up a bodhran. I think I did okay. o_o As he described the situation, all the musicians were from Calontir and we definitely stayed in tune the entire time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Event this weekend

I am going to be a bad, bad Calontiri this weekend. It's Crown Tournament...but the Knowne World Academy of the Rapier/Known Worlde Clothing Symposium is also this weekend and just four hours away in the Midrealm (in Itasca, IL). As much as I've been wanting to go to Crown (I've never been to one. :( ), Gamble and I are trying to teach ourselves cut-and-thrust and have no mentors to learn from locally. We're on the Calontir Steel e-mail list, but there's only so much you can learn through exchanging e-mails. This is an excellent opportunity for us to absorb as much information as possible from experts in person and I just can't justify passing it up, seeing as Crown happens twice a year and the odds of this event being near us again are pretty low. On top of that, Gamble isn't sure what style of clothing he wants to wear in the SCA, so this is a fantastic opportunity for him to see examples from all sorts of time periods and cultures.
Anyone else heading over there?

My Anniversary Present!

The hiatus is over now. :)
I've been waiting to post this one for quite a while. I initially held off because it was my husband's entry in Queen's Prize and I wanted to wait to post it until it was over. Then the mundane busy-ness happened.
My husband (who has started going by Gamble in the SCA) is awesome. I was traveling for five weeks prior to our first anniversary and he spent that time secretly plotting and planning my present. I came home to this:

  He looked through the Sarmatian books I'd left behind and referenced a bath robe and jacket I have to make the pattern and figure out the measurements. The extra triangular sections on the front are there because the initial cut didn't wrap around as far as he wanted.
  We don't have a sewing machine, so he hand-sewed the entire thing. He's almost as new to sewing as me (and much better!) and wanted to play around with reversibility, so it's reversible. He used some of the fabric gifted to my by Juturna to imitate deerskin leather and found some polyester imitation silk at the local fabric store. He made it reversible for the heck of it and it is awesome.
   I'll take some measurements and update this post later so everyone has a tried and true kurta  pattern to work with.