Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Schnursprecher Glockensprecher? (Kristiansen et al, 2017)

Kristiansen et al, 2017endorsed the hypothesis that Proto-Germanic was born in the traditional North Sea urheimat as an intermingling between the likely IE-speaking Corded Ware/Battle Axe Culture and the local, non-IE speaking Funnelbeaker farmers, among others.

This older linguistic hypothesis posits that Germanic words without clear etymologies are probably not IE and that the early sound shift in Proto-Germanic is the influence of a native tongue.  Since IE daughter languages generally have native substrates, it is reasonable that PtG borrowed as well.

While the core intent of the Kristiansen paper is focused on the genetic influence of the PtG and PIE homelands, I think identifying the Corded Ware as the prime linguistic ancestor of the people who would become proto-Germans is problematic for a host of reasons. The Germanic substrate hypothesis is vital to this, and yet it continues to be pruned back from its former status as 'an explanation for everything weird in Germanic'.

Also important to this augmented hypothesis is an outdated linguistic phylogeny stuffing Centum Germanic into a North European node with Balto-Slavic, which I'm not sure even the most bug-eyed lumper would support today.

Rather than review a host of supporting facts evenhandedly, I'll just throw darts at this narrative. If you disagree, tell me why.

Odin and Frigg (Leeke)
1. Proto-Germanic is descended from a squarely centum language, sufficiently removed from the cultural zone of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Aryan. It would become necessary to say that satemization partially baked the eastern half on the Corded Ware nation, not the western half, after CW had spread into the continent.

But if Tocharian is descended from the language of the Afanasievo Culture (Yamnaya, jr.), then it would be a remarkable coincidence that the isogloss just happens to stop at the point where lineages commonly associate with the Corded Ware nation and its descendants transitions to that of languages and lineages associated with centumization and R1b.

2. Here's a problem regarding the Nordic Bronze Age origin that can be summarized in a single axiomatic statement. When Bell Beakers existed near other human beings, even as small minorities, the Bell Beaker cultural expression and posture is always dominant, without exception. I think this is especially true with the development of the Nordic Bronze Age and the maritime culture emphasis.

So we would have to accept that Beaker language, while present and plausibly Centum, did not permanently influence this area, but that a "Centum" Corded Ware language did.

3. But it might not matter anyway. A more refined understanding of Proto-Germanic by specialists has shown that 'germanisms' are part of a natural linguistic process over a long period of time. Some of the most identifiable characteristics of parental proto-German may be rather late.

The point is that these changes didn't happen in a decade or a hundred year period or something. They happened gradually and that that inertia continued after the breakup of proto-German and continues today, self-stimulated.

4.  Like the probable spread of Celtic in Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Britain, it may disappoint a lot of Germanic language speakers if the origin and spread of proto-Germanic is no older than the Jastorf Culture in which elite speakers dominated a region of archaic tongues prior to the first millennium.

This doesn't mean that Germanic is not native to the region.  Germanic certainly broke off the mother tongue in its own right and it absolutely makes sense that it dwelled in a North Sea linguistic bubble for a long time.  It may even be the case that a host of para-pre-proto-germanic (!) languages existed in the region.  

What doesn't jive is that break-up of actual proto-Germanic is just too late to envision a wide-spread "Germanic proto-nation". Somebody's axe-wielding elite dominated somebody else recently. Jastorf looks red-handed in all of this - timing, language influences, directionality.



Here's a very short chapter "The Sea and Bronze Age Transformations" by Prescott, Sand-Eriksen and Austvoll in Water and Power in Past Societies (Emily Holt, 2018)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Völkerwanderungwagen!!!



We come in peace!

Still working on the Beakerbus.  Hope you like the front license plate.  

Beakerblog is almost back in the saddle. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Prince and His Twenty Wives (Garcia Sanjuan et al, 2018)

Try and wrap your mind around the size of the gigantic Copper Age site, Valencia de Concepcion.  If even a tenth of it was utilized at a time, that sector would still shadow most any contemporary site in Europe.  One of these sectors contains some very rich and interesting graves.  This large paper by Garcia Sanjuan et al is Open-Access, linked below.   

Crystal & Ivory from Valencina de la Concepción, S.W. Spain Garcia SanJuan et al
(foto: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia)

The grave above and beyond any other belonged to a man possessing this crystal dagger.  BTW, Be on the lookout for DNA that will follow these radiocarbon dates.  There is a related paper in the same journal by Antonio Blanco-Gonzales concerning demographic 'dynamics' in this region in the Copper and Bronze Age, so you know it's coming.  It'll be surprising if there are no surprises.  I'll start psyching myself out now.


The prince buried with the crystal dagger is identified in PP4-Montelirio Structure 10.049.  See also [link]   He is absolutely, positively the richest, big-man burial in all of Europe at this time with competition only from Goldfinger in Varna.

This Copper Age prince was buried in a vault at the end of a very long, stone-vaulted corridor (39 meters, or 127 feet).  The entire gamut was painted with priceless cinnabar.  Although the archaeologists shy away from any speculation based on the fragmentary evidence, it does appear that the prince of 10.049 was buried with around two dozen or so twenty-to-thirty-year-old women.

The large chamber also included a steppic-like steale and a number of gold, African ivory, ostrich and other objects.  Volker Heyd describes some of these in "Kossinna's Smile".   Using a large number of new radiocarbon dates from this tomb, a fairly secure date of build and burial puts it around 2850-2750 B.C.


In the discussion part of the paper, there is this comment:
Anecdotally, when excavations of this monument began in 2007, the Spanish media reported extensively on comments (intended just as informal remarks) by one of the team members, who claimed that the individuals buried in the main chamber (mostly women) may have formed part of the ‘grave goods’ of an important individual buried there, in a scenario similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur, in Mesopotamia.
Everything written above, including the title of the post, came from simply looking at the fact that a man buried with a crystal dagger was buried with a large number of young women.  In fact, I almost made a comment like this "similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur".  All of this without any knowledge of what was reported in the Spanish media.

If crystal daggers equal golden 9mm Brownings or gold AK-47's, and golden guns correspond to harems, then a crystal dagger correlates with roughly twenty women.  Oddly enough though, it would seem that these women wouldn't be the mothers of his children (his wives) for the reason that he would want his children to be raised successfully.

So maybe they're virgin priestesses, or the opposite of that.  Or maybe they were his wives and they were all killed by a political enemy at the same time, or an jealous wife. 

Several things I hope to see in the DNA.  1)  Verification that all the skeletal remains are women 
2)  Are the women genetically similar or are they different...flavors (Qaddafi)  3)  What the heck is this man's profile?  4)  Are the two individuals in the smaller tomb his mother and father  5)  Do any of these people cluster with Bell Beakers or other European groups  6)  Is the man racially distinct from the women, or most of them 7)  Are STD's or lethal toxins present or determinable?

Fig 1 from the paper.  Contemporary copper age sites around Valencia de C.


"Assembling the Dead, Gathering the Living: Radiocarbon Dating and Bayesian Modelling for Copper Age Valencia de la Concepcion (Seville, Spain)"  Journal of World History, 2018
Leonardo Garcia Sanjuan et al... https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-018-9114-2  [link]

Abstract: The great site of Valencina de la Concepcio´n, near Seville in the lower Guadalquivir valley of southwest Spain, is presented in the context of debate about the nature of Copper Age society in southern Iberia as a whole. Many aspects of the layout, use, character and development of Valencina remain unclear, just as there are major unresolved questions about the kind of society represented there and in southern Iberia, from the late fourth to the late third millennium cal BC. This paper discusses 178 radiocarbon dates, from 17 excavated sectors within the c. 450 ha site, making it the best dated in later Iberian prehistory as a whole. Dates are modelled in a Bayesian statistical framework. The resulting formal date estimates provide the basis for both a new epistemological approach to the site and a much more detailed narrative of its development than previously available. Beginning in the 32nd century cal BC, a long-lasting tradition of simple, mainly collective and often successive burial was established at the site. Mud-vaulted tholoi appear to belong to the 29th or 28th centuries cal BC; large stone-vaulted tholoi such as La Pastora appear to date later in the sequence. There is plenty of evidence for a wide range of other activity, but no clear sign of permanent, large-scale residence or public buildings or spaces. Results in general support a model of increasingly competitive but ultimately unstable social relations, through various phases of emergence, social competition, display and hierarchisation, and eventual decline, over a period of c. 900 years.

Nope to Nabta Playa (Brass, 2017)

People, pots and domesticates move together.  In North Africa, this started around 6,500 B.C.


Early North African Cattle Domestication and Its Ecological Setting: A Reassessment
Michael Brass (March 2018) Journal of World Prehistory.  Volume 1 / 1987 - Volume 31 / 2018

Nearly four decades have passed since an independent North African centre for cattle domestication was first proposed in 1980, based on the Combined Prehistoric Expedition’s work in the Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba region of southern Egypt, and the initial rigorous debates between Andrew B. Smith and Fred Wendorf, Romuald Schild and Achilles Gautier. More recently, geneticists have entered the fray with determinations on the spread of haplotypes, and the timing thereof, that extend the scope and increase the complexity of the debate. Here, a new look at the botanical data and a re-analysis of the geology of Bir Kiseiba–Nabta Playa rejects the ecological foundations of the early African domestication model, while a detailed examination of the published osteological and radiometric data from the same area reveals a more nuanced picture than has been recognised to date. These results are placed into context by a wider review of the genetic and other archaeological evidence from the Western Desert of Northeast Africa, where no other cattle remains designated as domesticated have been found. It is concluded that (a) Bos remains from the early Holocene at Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba were those of hunted aurochs; (b) domesticated caprines were likely present in Northeast Africa before domesticated cattle; and (c) the domesticated cattle spreading across Northeast and northern Africa, including Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba, from the late seventh millennium BC or early sixth millennium BC onwards were descendants of Bos taurus domesticated in the Middle Euphrates area of the Middle East.
A recent theory proposed by David Wright is that the sudden expansion of domestic cattle in the Sahara contributed greatly to the speed of catastrophic desertification.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hepititis B-eaker (Muhleman et al, 2018)

The Dailymail reports:

"Strain of hepatitis B found on a 4,500-year-old skeleton is the oldest human virus ever to be discovered"   .

As promised by David Reich, research into ancient remains is yielding information that may help conquer some of our most deadly diseases.

Glockenbechergrab ORF.

Although HBV is now known to be millions of years old, scientists are trying to understand how and when it started infecting mammals and finally humans.  Some theories suggest it was party to the OOA exodus, others say it may be more recent.

The infected Bell Beaker man was RISE563 from the cemetery of Osterhofen-Altenmarkt, Germany.  In addition RISE386 from the Sintashta Culture in Russia and a number of other Scythian related groups of Asia have HBV infections of different variants.

The Bell Beaker and a few other individuals belong to a HBV sister clade of the Chimpanzee-Gorilla node, which these scientists points to a more recent infection from Africa spreading into Eurasia.  But a cluster HBV clades in Asian steppe pastoral cultures point to some variants having a deeper history in Eurasia, however deep.

The position taken in this paper is that HBV diversity in moderns is not that informative in light of the high mobility seen in these samples and in recent papers.  (In fact, this grave at Altenmarkt was shown by Douglas Price et al years ago to belong to a high mobility isotopic group)  With that and the extinction of this old clade, the scientist claim that HBV may be overwriting its geographic positions and that the only way to formulate a hypothesis of its human relationship is through direct evidence on ancient human remains.

* News outlets are reporting that the oldest sample is 7,000 years old.  That's because they cut and paste each other without reading the paper.  RISE563 is the oldest reported in this paper.

"Ancient hepatitis B viruses from the Bronze AGe to the Medieval period"
Nature 2018.  Muhlemann, Willerslev et al. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0097-z