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March 27, 2006

<< Powers of Ten... Or, You Know, a Gazillion | Knew He'd Be There >>

Michael Pollan and the Modern Hunt

Absolutely great story about hunting and a “first-person feast” by Michael Pollan in the NYT Mag. (But of course we love MP here at the ‘Market.)

Posted March 27, 2006 at 12:27 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Journalism, Recommended


Hey, did you catch the New Yorker article in December about wild boar hunting? Good stuff.

It was penned by Ian Frazier. Whom, a little bird tells me, also wrote a pretty good article for that magazine about the 13th-century Mongol Invasion of Iraq.

Before the grammar police catch me overcorrecting -- that "whom," above, ought to be a "who". Wherever that sentence started out, it didn't end up there.

For the record I did read that Mongol invasion piece and it is, in fact, the best ever. This passage I loved:

Fuelled by grass, the Mongol empire could be described as solar-powered; it was an empire of the land. Later empires, such as the British, moved by ship and were wind-powered, empires of the sea. The American empire, if it is an empire, runs on oil and is an empire of the air.

That paragraph (along with its concluding sentence: "On the world’s largest landmass, Iraq is a main crossroads; most aspirants to empire eventually pass through there" ) is fantastic, but this is the part that made me silently say "wow" when I first read it:

Amassing large harems was an important occupation of the khans. Genghis Khan was said to have had five hundred wives and concubines. When the Mongols overran a place, their captains took some of the women and passed along the more beautiful ones to their superiors, who passed the more beautiful to their superiors, and so on all the way to the khan, who could choose among the pulchritude of a continent. Genghis Khan had scores of children, as did other khans and nobles descended from him for centuries in the Genghis Khanite line.

Recently, a geneticist at Oxford University, Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith, and geneticists from China and central Asia took blood samples from populations living in regions near the former Mongol empire, and they studied the Y chromosomes. These are useful in establishing lineage because Y chromosomes continue from father to son. Dr. Tyler-Smith and his colleagues found that an anomalously large number of the Y chromosomes carried a genetic signature indicating descent from a single common ancestor about a thousand years ago. The scientists theorized that the ancestor was Genghis Khan (or, more exactly, an eleventh-century ancestor of Genghis Khan). About eight per cent of all males in the region studied, or sixteen million men, possess this chromosome signature. That’s a half per cent of the world’s entire male population. It is possible, therefore, that more than thirty-two million people in the world today are descended from Genghis Khan.

Now that's patriarchy.

Dude, little did I realize -- I should have read that piece ages ago, b/c Matt mentioned it here! And blockquoted the same passage!

I don't know if that's awesome or sad.

A point that the article should have made about descent: Since Y chromosomes are only transmitted father to son, those sixteen million men are just the tip of the iceberg. They're direct male line descendents of Genghis; the sons of Genghis' daughters, the sons of their daughters, etc., etc. wouldn't carry that distinctive Y chromosome, thanks to the intervening female. They're descendents nonetheless. The estimate of 32 million descendents for Genghis is probably off by an order of magnitude at least.

See this recent Slate article for more on descendents of ancient figures.

Posted by: Matt on March 28, 2006 at 10:34 AM
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