Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anicent Iberian DNA (new paper analyzing 2012 results)


I've had a chance to look at this and the paper referenced below by Hervella et al, essentially analyzes results from Paternanbidea and Cascajos in 2012.  You can find that paper [here].

Update 1.0

I'm going to peck at this little by little throughout the day.  I planned to shred the 2012 Hervella et al paper at a later time, but it looks like Hervella, Izagirre, Alonso & Fregel have forced my hand.

Let me say from the outset, it is not the Hervella results that bother me.  It is that their results are controversial and problematic.  It would be nice to be able to look back at our freshly excavated, viable and invincibly provenanced and attributed remains with a great deal of confidence. 

For example, we could look at La Braña and feel confident about his 1) material culture 2) stratification and age 3) his weird results that effectively eliminate contamination 4) his recent excavation 5) viability of remains 6) high resolution testing.  This gives us confidence that La Brana accurately represents what some, or most, Northwest Iberians looked like before the advent of agriculture.

The Hervella results leave me with a lot of questions.  Why do we have radically different, partially contemporaneous funerary traditions within forty miles of each other?  Why do we have surprisingly modern results?  Why were severely deteriorated remains selected for sampling?  Given the fact that the Iberian Early Neolithic is a mine field of problems, are we prepared to ascribe profiles to certain populations?

I've already commented about the results from Pasiega and La Chora and why it is unlikely that the entire continent of Europe had characteristically Mesolithic DNA, followed by characteristically Byblian Neolithic Farmer DNA (including Iberia), but Iberia was still a glacial refuge for large chunks of maternal haplogroup H?

There is little question that major clade frequencies of Europe expanded from Iberia.  This most likely happened because of Iberian Beaker immigration into Europe.  It's also possible, to a degree, that major subclades such as H1, H3 and V were present in Iberia in the Early Neolithic, so I'm not discounting the various possibilities.


An analysis of the burial characteristics of the individuals recovered from two Early Neolithic sites in Navarre (Los Cascajos and Paternanbidea), in the Spanish Basque Country, revealed a complex funerary ritual. The individuals recovered from the Paternanbidea site were distributed in three double graves and a multiple one, while the individuals from Los Cascajos were buried in individual pit-shaped tombs; furthermore, the tombs had a variety of cultural and funerary features. The aim of this study is to evaluate the burial ritual by means of mitochondrial DNA data and the funerary characteristics of 36 individuals recovered from these two sites. The results show that the diversity of these Early Neolithic burial practices from the northern Iberian Peninsula cannot be explained by means of maternal kinship relationships.

Early Neolithic funerary diversity and mitochondrial variability of two Iberian sites.  Montserrat Hervella, Neskuts Izagirre, Santos Alonso, Rosa Fregel,
Concepción de-la-Rúa, 29 November 2014 [Link]

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mound of Hostages - Tomb Re-Use

Here's a theory about megalithic tomb reuse that Quinn argues can be backed with one site's solid chronological evidence.

The abstract tells us about 90% of what we want to know.  I'll let university on-line library administrators figure out the details.

The Mound of Hostages (photo Rob Hurson)

Previously, I posted a paper by Jeunesse [here] that seemingly busted the myth that Bell Beaker burials in the Southwest largely maintained the collective megalithic tradition while those in Central Europe were largely individual burials.  He showed this to be demonstratively false as the vast majority of Beaker burials in any region are small plot, individual inhumations.

Both Bell Beaker and Corded Ware people re-used Megalithic tombs to a similar degree according to Jeunesse. Does this reflect continuity, imitation, awe, privilege?

Quinn suggests that the evidence shows another force is at play.  It is precisely because they were intruders that Quinn suggests they temporarily established in abandoned tombs.  (Yes I got all that from the abstract)

This makes sense to me.  The Normans and Anglo-Saxons exhibited similar behaviors when they invaded England.  The object is to convince the poor, unwashed people whose lives suck that the new predatory lords have ancient rights and privileges by virtue of their noble births.  Demonstrating this includes prominent burials in ancient abbeys, assumption of native arms, claims of descent from ancient native kings, and co-opting symbols of ancient power.

I think the chronology of most Megalithic sites will show similar behaviors.


Archaeologists studying multi-component cemeteries have argued that the societies who reused cemeteries were motivated by connecting to the past. However, often overlooked are the potential roles of mortuary events and sites as key social and political venues for creating, contesting, and unmaking relationships and identities for the later community independent of a connection to the past. In this paper, I explore the social and political roles that mortuary rituals at the Mound of the Hostages, Tara, Ireland played during the Middle Neolithic (3350–2800 BC) and Early Bronze Age (2300–1700 BC).
Tara’s emergence as a regional mortuary center occurred only several hundred years after its initial reuse by Early Bronze Age peoples. Just as importantly, the burial activity that marked Tara as special in the Early Bronze Age was very brief, revealing that the regional centralization at Tara was ultimately unsuccessful. The analysis of cemetery formation at Tara is only possible due to the development of a fine-grained site specific chronology. These results have broad implications for how we understand cemetery formation, the reuse of mortuary monuments, and the dynamics of social complexity in prehistoric societies.

Returning and reuse: Diachronic perspectives on multi-   component cemeteries and mortuary politics at Middle Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Tara, Ireland.  Journal of Anthropological Archaeology Volume 37, March 2015, Pages 1–18, Colin P. Quinn, 2014 [Link]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Known Knowns and No-no's

Here's a quick review on the new paper "The Known Knowns and Known Unknowns"

Don't misunderstand.  Large parts of the paper are largely agreeable.  Actually, the Brandt crew has smartly navigated some treacherous waters and diplomatically questioned some of the more questionable studies.  However, some of the genetic studies coming out of SW Europe that this paper references are either too old or sucked.  This is hugely problematic for Beaker studies since the phenomenon is mostly accepted as having spread from this region.

From the paper:

If we followed the logic above, then the U haplotypes could likely be interpreted as a Mesolithic legacy.  However, the situation is more difficult to decipher in the case of haplogroup H, which has not been observed in Mesolithic Central Europe and Scandinavia but is present in Iberian huntergatherers (as shown above)
Let me put it succinctly.  Haplogroup H did not expand into Mesolithic Europe from Iberia because it wasn't in Iberia in the first place.  See my last post on the shellmiddens and then take a close look at the contexts of La Chora and La Pasiega.  The nominal typing of any of Hervella's H remains is questionable.  It is a very weak link.

Most of the subgroups in present-day Europe show late glacial or post-glacial coalescence dates, arguing for a re-expansion during the major warming phases after 15 kya (Achilli et al., 2004; Pereira et al., 2005; Soares et al., 2010).Subgroups H1, H3, and H5 are believed to have spread from a Western refugium in Franco-Cantabria based on largely overlapping dates (11.1 kya, 11.5 kya, 13.9 kya, respectively) (Soares et al., 2010) and the fact that these are the most common types in Western Europe.
I'm not sure how the coalescence ages of H1, H3 and H5 help the thin notion that these expanded from a LGM refuge in Iberia.  In fact, when you further break these clades into their subclades, not only are they too young (Loogvali, 2004 & Roostalu et al, 2007) but all three are present within archaeological contexts of the ancient Near East of the early Pottery Neolithic. 

What kind of convoluted logic gets us immediately from the Near East to Iberia where it doesn't expand, but then does expand to its original home via some unknown route, waits, then explodes like a pinata over Russia, Siberia and the rest of Europe?

While haplogroup H has been reported from Iberian Mesolithic individuals, the typing resolution unfortunately does not provide an unambiguous assignment to any of these subgroups (Chandler et al., 2005; Hervella et al., 2012).
Not that this ever mattered to begin with.  Regardless of the typing, the provenance and age of the remains selected by Chandler or Hervella were very tenuous to begin with.  See my last post on the middens.  I haven't got to Hervella yet, that will be another hour long post, but while Hervella's results are often cited, few have taken the time to look at situation surrounding the stuff being shoveled out of La Chora and La Pasiega.

However, all Middle Neolithic individuals from Treilles in Southern France could be assigned to subgroups H1 and H3 via coding region SNP typing (Lacan et al., 2011b).
Firstly, the Treilles individuals were Late Neolithic, not Middle Neolithic, and further came from the very cusp of the Chalcolithic.  With this was a host of technological changes creeping from the Eastern coast of Iberia along the Mediterranean coast of France as far as the Po Valley.  The Los Millares, Treilles and Remedello-I cultural changes reflect significant changes in the material culture of those regions.  Rather than the Treilles mtdna lines being native, it is equally possible that the combination of H1, H3, H5 and Haplogroup I pairings reflect an immigrant population from, say, nearby Sardinia. 

Taken together, this suggests that genetic elements of the ‘Neolithic package’, which had reached Central Europe via the Continental route (event A), also arrived in Southwest Europe through the Mediterranean route (Fig. 3A). However, the huntergatherer legacy is more dominant in the Iberian Neolithic compared with Central Europe, indicating a Neolithic transition with a larger contribution of the indigenous population [in Iberia] combined with a reduced impact of early farmers.
The Iberian Mesolithic almost completely imploded into a period of "archaeological silence", as described by Cortes-Sanchez (2012) while referring to Northeastern Spain.  (The same is true for the Mesetas, and with the exception of the Pyrenees, there's not much hope to believe in the prosperity of La Brana and his ilk in the Northwest of Iberia.

In fact, there isn't much reason to believe that Mesolithic Iberians fared well at all with the onslaught of Neolithic farmer immigration coming from three directions, not that they didn't already have problems with what Cortes-Sanchez called their "subsistence crisis".

My rant here is to draw attention to cards at the bottom of the house of cards.  There have been a lot of assumptions about ancient European DNA over the years that were built off of previous assumptions.  All I'm saying is that we need a solid foundation built on recent, high-resolution studies on remains that are invincibly provenanced.

DNA - Shellmiddens or Shenanighans?

This post is a gripe at a new paper (which I largely agree with) (*update 1* -I've changed my mind-I'll put in the next post) called "The Known Knowns and Known Unknowns" which briefly discusses the odd presence of mitochondrial "haplogroup H" among the people of the Mesolithic Portuguese shellmiddens.  I've finally reached the maximum vomit threshold with shellmidden DNA, so please bear with me.

The progress of ancient DNA research in Europe is beginning to show that these results are indeed outliers.  It was already a logical fallacy to suggest Haplogroup H was in an Iberian LGM refuge and remained there at an extremely high frequency but failed to expand to the rest of Europe and then, by-the-way, remained relatively hidden in the midst of fairly typical Neolithic farmer genomes within the region and finally went gang-busters to the Russian plain in the Early Bronze Age.  But looking closer at the "modern" results from the shellmiddens and a little background on the bones (that were probably licked by half the Portuguese population) the results become even more suspect.

Skeletons 7 & 8 Amoreira 1933 (Jackes,

Chandler, Sykes, Zilhão, 2005

This important study became confirmation for the retarded notion that modern Western Europeans are in large part maternally descended from indigenous, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

Chandler's results showed that Mesolithic Iberian maternal lineages were virtually indistinguishable from high frequency modern ones of Western Iberia and gave credence to the theory that Iberia was an important glacial refuge (for modern Europeans) during the Last Glacial Maxim.

I will offer a very respectful criticism here, especially since ten years have past, but this study becomes increasingly problematic the more you look at it and it is the foundation for so much wasted debate.  I will say that it is critical for those interested in the genetics of Western Europe to know the archaeology and conditions from these early studies.

This research used available remains excavated between 50 to 130 years ago.  No remains tested, as I understand, were excavated at least within the last thirty years.

Of the fifteen Mesolithic burial sites in Portugal, only half are "dated" and "of those" half are from shell middens.  Several are on the Rio Muge at the mouth of the Tagus, the Sado Valley and a single Atlantic site at Alentejo.  Most of these sites were excavated beginning more than a century ago, although intermittent work has continued in the last six decades.
From these, Chandler describes most being from the Sado Valley, including Amoreiras (which I will pick on):
"Mesolithic sites were primarily sampled from the Sado valley estuary [Alentejo], including Arapouco, Vale de Romeiras, Poças de São Bento, Cabeço de Pez and
Cabeço das Amoreiras (São Romão) (Arnaud 1989, Cunha and Umbelino 1995-1997). The two sites sampled outside the Sado valley were the early Mesolithic site of Toledo in coastal Estremadura (Araújo 1998) and the coastal Algarve site of Fiais (Araújo 1995-1997, Morales and Arnaud 1990)... "

Let's start by looking at the materials taken from Cabeço da Amoreira [on the Sado, not similarly named site on the Muge].  Keep in mind the quotes you are reading are concerning other anthropological studies, not this DNA study, but will help you with context.
"The Muge shellmiddens were found 150 years ago in 1863 by Carlos Ribeiro. Since then, several projects in the area excavated the various sites at the archaeological complex of the Mesolithic Muge shellmiddens. The result was the recovery of more than 300 human skeletons. However, most of those burials have insoluble problems of associated materials, provenience, stratigraphy and chronology.(Bicho et al, 2013)
Also this from Diniz:
"More recently, a 14C date from human bones put Amoreiras [in Alentejo] first (?) occupation in the beginning of the 6th millennium cal AC and our pottery analysis clearly show that beside Early Neolithic ceramic, Final Neolithic pottery is also present both recovered in the same artificial levels giving Amoreiras a chronological and cultural complexity not expected before." (Meiklejohn et al, 2009)
You will notice that Diniz refers to the levels within the middens as "artificial".  So in Amoreira [Alentejo] we have Early & Final Neolithic materials within a supposed Mesolithic level, which was man made to begin with and where intrusive burials continued for a great amount of time. 

Properly stratifying an un-contextualized find within a midden depends highly on carbon dating to verify its "authenticity".  The majority of radio carbon dates from the middens have come from bone, which by the way, come from individuals whose diet consisted of at least 50% shellfish.

Given the delta between charcoal dates and bone dates in this area, its easy to lose confidence in early C14 dates of particular materials quickly, not that much confidence would be had in the bones of a brackish marine life eater. 

Christopher Meiklejohn address the increasingly erratic radio dates of Mesolithic remains throughout the Portuguese middens: (Mesolithic Mescellany V20-9, 2009).  Keep this in mind as you read further.

Aside from the fact that Cardial folk also used the middens for burial (more clearly in Northeastern Iberia), the processing of the material itself may has left numerous problems for further scientific research.
"In the absence of commentary on the date and possible contamination, especially the issue of the use of paraffin in the preservation of the burials [1865], interpretation of this and the other direct dates on Sado midden burials should be made with considerable caution." (Meiklejohn)

Viability and Provenance of DNA extraction from Muge and Sado middens:

In general, the remains from Amoreira were neglected for anthropological study for an especially poor state of preservation (Cunha and Cardoso, 2001).   Because of this, they were contained in parafin, another issue.  The alkalinity of the middens is an issue.  Almost all of the material from Amoreira, Moita and Arruda were calcified in a dense matix.  (Cunha and Cardoso)

The remains from the Muge were spread across three museums, one of which caught on fire in 1974, causing multiple remains to become mixed.  (Cunha and Cardoso)  Some of the remains excavated at Amoreira were lost after excavtion, but some remains not from Amoreira somehow became associated with it.  Cunha and Cardoso also state (unrelated to the DNA study)
"Since some of the material lacked labels, some radiocarbon dates were performed in order to demonstrate their Mesolithic provenance (Cunha and Cardoso, 2002). The human bones retrieved at Amoreira were analised in this context."
Bear in mind that after the provenance of the materials being handled became questionable, the authenticity of the materials were reaffirmed through carbon dating.  They did exclude some skeletal material that came in a box labeled "Mesolithic" but later turned out to be skeletal material from the Iron Age that somehow became mixed in the Amoreira materials.  Those remains not calcified were easily removed from this association.

There are issues with how the bone material was cleaned in the months prior to DNA testing (unrelated to this study)
"Acetic acid seems to be efficient in removing the calcite, however, as secondary consequences are not fully known, we opted to study the material as it was."  (Cardoso in unrelated study)
**Update 2**  After re-reading Cardoso's comment it would appear that acetic acid was not used on remains after all, being as he said, the 'secondary consequenes not being fully known'.

There are other issues with these remains.  I don't want to come off like a chimpanzee on xanex, so I will leave it at that for others to study, but some of these early DNA studies from Southwest Europe and Italy need to looked at with a little more caution before we spend a lot of time debating European pre-history.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Iberian & Egyptian Acacia-Leaf Comparison

This next post will deal with a weird, globular-shaped Iberian pottery called Acacia-Leaf that appears in concert with stippled Maritime Beaker pottery within walled settlements but lacking elsewhere.  It seems to have a curious parallel within the Naqadan II/III landscape*.

This follows my previous comparison of Maritime pottery with C-Ware [Link]
Be sure to click on the Princeton link below as well for some context...

Naqada IC Globular Acacia Leaf Pot (Princeton SD 30-39)
Tagus Acacia-leaf seems to have a lot of questions from who used it, when it was used, what it was used for and why it appears in these narrow-rimmed, globular configurations.  A few of the Iberian Acacia-left potteries are in the form of tall drinking glass, but these are mostly outliers compared to the otherwise standard globe shape.

Another question is whether Acacia-Leaf even represents a valid cultural horizon.  Generally, it is found in contexts associated with early Maritime ware or preceding it, but not in country settlement contexts.  Basically, it is found in wealthier, denser, fortified areas and lacks the functionality and diversity of typical pottery sets, assuming it was an independent ceramic.

Carvalho-Amaro makes this observation regarding Acacia-leaf "culture":
"Also, I believe that the justification of a horizon for pottery with these features [Acacia] is very tenuous, as this type of decoration is absent in the funerary contexts, and is almost exclusively associated with one specific shape: the globular vase" (2)

Folha de acacia de Zambujal (Courtesy of Mike Argueo - See PhotoArch)

It's worth pointing out that Acacia Gum is where much of the world derives its stabilizers for carbonated beverages and confections.  This in turn is largely grown in the form of Acacia Senegal on plantations in the Sahel with about 70% of the modern supply coming from the vicinity of modern Sudan and Northern Niger.

In ancient times it was harvested across the North African pastoral belt (Western Sahara to the Red Sea) by transhumant pastoralists and exported.  It's also a psychoactive plant, a stimulant and an Aphrodisiac according to its historical use. 

The plant was closely associated with the primordial mother goddess Iusaaset, from under her tree the sun god, Ra, was born according to Egypt's central myth.  Within her crown is the sun within crescent horns which presents some interesting parallels with Beaker dualism. 

That Isis would bury her murdered husband Osiris under Iusaaset's tree in order to have posthumous intercourse would seem to imply one of its uses.  This was especially important because she could not find a particular part of her dismembered husband.  Ra was conceived nonetheless through the tree's "magical" properties.  (I'm not going to go there)

So, in reading some of the researchers in this area, I think there are several key questions regarding Acacia Leaf pottery in Iberia:

One, is there any such thing as an "Acacia-Leaf Culture person"?

Two, is it just a special ceramic, perhaps a tea cannister or a tea pot?

Three, why is its material constitution different from other local potteries; perhaps more volcanic or insulating?

Folha de acacia de Zambujal (Courtesy of Mike Argueo - See PhotoArch)
I was reading some things from Michael Kunst regarding the formation of Bell Beaker pottery from the wide-rim bowls of the Tagus Early Chalcolithic.  What raised my antennas was seeing for the first time (as an epiphany) that there are multiple elements of proto-Beaker (not just pottery) within parts of late 4th millenium Iberia (in my view) coming from the African Steppe into the fortified trading ports of Portugal.

Here is something he wrote that can be challenging:
"Did the people who brought the bell beakers invade Spain and Portugal? This idea has to be rejected, at least in the case of Portugal. There, bell beakers appear with items of longer traditions, such as, for example, the vessels with acacia leaf designs." (3)
This is problematic if you can't adequately separate Acacia and Beakers, I think.  I don't know how the pottery is found within settlements compared to Maritime pottery.  They may in fact be very separated.  But if they are not substantially separated, need they belong to different cultures, different peoples instead of one?  If they are separated, is the Acacia-Leaf concentrated in certain places but not others?

*Update 20*

Let me go way off the rails for a moment.  In Western Europe there are a number of potteries that have 'goat feet', 'maggot impression' or pinnate impressions.  I suppose this begins in the Middle Neolithic and extends into the Late Neolithic Cultures, such as the Grooved Ware culture of the Isles.

I find it hard to believe this is just an 'attractive' motif, for one, because it's not attractive.  I do think you see a trend towards stylization ultimately towards the herringbone pattern in many bell beakers.  Summoning my inner Sherratt, it's awfully tempting to view this as a drug culture.  Whatever the plant, people seem to like it a lot.

1.  Cardoso  "Absolute chronology of the Beaker phenomenon north of the Tagus estuary: demographic and social implications"

2.  Carvalho-Amaro "Pre-Bell Beaker ware from Estremadura, Portugal, and its likely influence on the appearance of Maritime Bell Beaker ware"

3.  Kunst, 2001.  "Invasion? Fashion? Social Rank? Consideration conceming the Bell Beaker phenomenon in Copper Age fortifications of the Iberian Peninsula"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beaker Infants of Ifri n'Amr o'Moussa

Here's a quick paper from 2011 on two infants buried in a Moroccan cave.  They belong to the same group of individuals that are on the burials page.  (If you're on a portable device, you'll need to look for the page drop down from the top)

Absolute dating has not yet been performed as of 2012, but radiocarbon and luminescence dating puts layer materials prior to 3200 B.C.  The individuals don't have positively associated artifacts, but do belong to a Chalcolithic layer (Morocco is much earlier than Spain) which includes beaker fragments and copper artifacts.

I haven't seen the pottery fragments, but I would be surprised if all materials are the same age and are 3200.  On the other hand, we should not be surprised to see proto-Beaker materials since Beaker pottery has shown itself stubbornly non-evolutionary.  (It's difficult to draw a straight line since most of the techniques are increasingly present from earliest times in Portugal.)

The other issue here is the copper point which is either from a later period or the earliest attested (I suspect).  Again though, the CMP tradition came from somewhere and Morocco was comfortably Chalcolithic.  That artifact is another thing to watch.

Overall, these individuals are probably indeed pre-Beaker or early Beaker.  

There's another paper in the queue out there somewhere with absolute dating from a different Moroccan cave that should be out in several weeks.  It will be a later time period. I'll post as soon as I see it.

Study of the Chalcolithic Burial 2 and 3 of Ifri n'Amr ou Moussa (Morocco) Ben-Ncer, Bokbot, Amani, Ouachi Proceedings of the International Conference "Around the Petit-Chasseur Site" 2011


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Danish Dagger Disovery - Once in a Lifetime

I believe this is probably a type II dagger, although the handle could be stitched under the grip.
Regardless, whether it's a II or III, it should fall within the 2300-1900 range.

It came out of a bog so the flint is probably stained to give it a darker obsidian look, but the news report clearly calls it flint.  Theoretically, if it is a type II or III it should be Chalcolithic (aka Early Brone Age) basically either a Beaker dagger or a people in communication with Beaker culture.
You can read about it at [Past Horizons]

Bog Dagger with Birch Handle

In a previous post [here]I expressed skepticism that these daggers were cheap substitutes for copper daggers.

While their form parallels the development of metal daggers, I don't know that I would necessarily call this imitation.  I would rather say that style changed regardless of its material composition.

Given the long history of Danish dagger making and the difficulty of finding suitable blocks of flint, I lean toward the idea that this is a distinct tradition rooted in the Late Neolithic and one that was maintained for nostalgic and practical reasons.

Nostalgia goes a long way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Apparent Cline" vs. "Real Cline"

To many, it is evident or probable that the paternal transformation of Western Europe is owed to the Bell Beakers.  There's not much room left for alternate candidates at this point given the growing stack of genetic studies from either side of the horizon.

It is comfortably demonstrable that the material culture of the Beakers emerged from Western Iberia.  It's not a global synthesis of a "bunch-o-cultures" and it's not a product of an archaeologically non-existent "unicorn culture".  Proper Bell Beaker culture congealed from a slurry of Western Iberian and North African influences.

However, when it comes to R1b, Beakers and Iberia, a lot of people have been getting mired into a seeming paradox (basically this map)>

Expansion of R1b (Michael Hammer)

Here's the fundamental problem with a Danubian R1b expansion (and this holds for the entire R1 family):  It is subtly predicated on the demic diffusion rate of a farmer's descendants as they sprawl at a rate of 1 km a year.  (Ammerman, Cavalli-Sforza, 1972, also 1984) or again (Pinhasi, Fort, Ammerman, 2005)

At this speed, sufficient time is allowed for branching in which founder twigs have time to move away from the base so that a cline is perceivable.  But we know R1b was absolutely not relevant in Europe during the Neolithic and we also know that the Bell Beaker and Corded Ware folks didn't expand at the Neolithic rate of 1 km a year.

Instead, their expansion rate was very rapid and absolutely involved folk movements (again, we are not yet swimming in genetic studies from pre-historic Europe, but at this point it is much more likely that they were exchanging spit rather than attractive pottery and new ideas.)

So what are we seeing in the map above?  Well, M269 is probably very old in the Middle East and its immediate periphery.  That's about it.

For argument purposes, let's say that the above picture accurately depicts a bona fide, demic cline of R1b movement from the Middle East through Europe.  What post-Neolithic phenomenon would explain the picture above?  Hold that thought...

Before you imagine metal-age, sword wielding barbarians riding chariots, carefully consider a diffusion rate that would give us a perceivable cline.  (in other words, takes-a-lot-of-time-for-mutations-to-occur-so-we-can-see-it-on-a-map)

The movements of R1a and R1b are going to be tough coconuts to crack.  Not only did these people move very rapidly, they are both characterized by regional super-lineages which are deceptive to their structure. 

It boggles my mind that there haven't been more testing at this point on Beaker cemeteries!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

International Bell Beaker & Egyptian C-Ware Comparison

The Beaker Blog is on the archaeological road to hell.  The Apostasy continues.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology UC14285

In the absence of any big archaeological news, I'll give a comparison of Egyptian White Cross-Lined Ware and early Bell Beaker International pottery.

I'm not going to suggest an especially close relationship between the two types, but rather suggest that a relationship is possible and that both typologies, being distinct from other potteries, fit into a stylistic scheme of the Central Saharan Pastoralist Societies.  (Read that carefully)

First, a few things about Egyptian White Cross-Lined (C-Ware).

C-Ware appears only very briefly in Egypt during the pre-dynastic Naqada IC sequence and probably last no more than a few generations to around IIA, possibly slightly overlapping the Gerzean period.
Naqada II probably heralds the arrival of Mespotamian invaders, at least it would appear so, whereas its predecessor, Naqada I, may involve a limited number of individuals integrating into Egyptian society from the Western Desert or the Southwest.

The latest absolute chronologies of the pre-dynastic era have been compressed to about 800 years and have shifted it to the right (Dee et al, 2013)  The exact timeframe in which C-Ware appears is sometime around 3600-3500 B.C.

Of the several daily-use pottery classes in Egypt, C-Ware is generally a mortuary ware and is found in the graves of about a third of the people.  Overall, the body of the ware is no different than the preceding Badarian and if fact, was probably made by the same pottery houses that made the former and common wares for centuries preceding.
Amratian Naqada IC (Princeton)
The vast majority of C-Ware contains a scheme consisting of triangle, slashed-line and cross motifs, such as the beaker above, but occasionally animals and human figures appear of similar petroglyphic design of the Western Desert.  Curiously, great emphasis is given to the Barbary Sheep when non-abstract depictions occur.

Because C-Ware motifs are overlaid on previous pottery bodies, some of the symmetry can be awkward, which along with other archaeological indicators may point to disparities between scheme and body.  C-Ware is red slip burnish with contrasting white paint before firing, although some of it is encrusted with white paste.  C-Ware vases appear only later, but beakers comprise a third and dishes another third, usually one vessel per occupant (no information on sex distribution).
Beaker Supping dish, Rome, 2500-2200 B.C. Vitrbo, State of Lazio, Museum of Rome [Link]

I've talked repeatedly about functional requirements within a design hierarchy in this blog.  Everything made by men, arrowheads or boats, need to do specific things in a certain order to satisfy his maker (with the assumption he is rational).  Factors may include efficiency, appearance, weight, material availability, etc, etc.

So typology can be a real pain in the ass because you can create a list of similarities between pencils and steak knives.  Deciding which similar traits weigh more than others can skew our interpretation of their genetic relationship.  So I understand that an argument could be made between Beaker ware and Corded Ware, and again the depth of the genetic relationship depends on what and how heavy we weight each factor.

Without further ado, here's some things that are similar between Beaker and C-Ware (and some differences).

1.  Both potteries are always red.  If you find a European beaker that is not reddish, either it is severely faded (usually) or it sucks at being a beaker (reasons vary).  The base coloration was extremely high in the design hierarchy.  Most potteries vary considerably in color - before, during, after.  These two follow strict conformance (regional soil dependent)

Achieving this was difficult for European Beaker potters due to the geology of Europe and in some cases resorted to painting it red.  It's clear, however, that an ideal beaker looks this>
Sardianian Bell Beaker 'coffee cup'

2.  White line highlights contrast the base color.  This is usually done through encrustation with white paste in Beaker pottery, C-Ware is usually lined with white slip before firing (although sometimes encrusted).  The white paste may be hydroxyapatite (bone paste), calcium carbonates (lime) or in the case of Naqada, usually white clay.  The important thing to remember is that different manufacturing methods achieve the same result, so it is the result, not the habit, that is of interest.

3.  Triangle, zig-zag and cross motifs are the most common schemes.  C-Ware sometimes has less abstract depictions, as does Beaker ware, but C-Ware sometimes also includes animals and human figures.  Depictions of C-Ware tend to focus on the more elaborate or the odd, however most examples are more abstract.

Photography of both potteries tend to focus on the profile view.  What's lost is an important image often depicted on both potteries.  Many beakers have a white cross on the base, many C-Wares have a white cross in the bottom.

4.  It occupies a special significance in burial, and one that is apparently foreign to the more localized common ware.  The peculiar pottery is cohesive to a multi-regional identity and occurs in the graves of some people over a large geographical area who possess this identity.

4.  The two potteries appear with the dessication of the savanna (that became a desert).  C-Ware appears around 600-700 years before the first Maritime Iberian Beakers, but this number may yet be compressed with ongoing excavations.  It is also interpretation dependent.  If you look at the changes in Iberia's Late Neolithic and Kunst's writings on the motifs of the Iberian thick-rimmed bowls, it's entirely possible that the two phenomena appear at exactly the same time.

Barbary Sheep with Mountain Triangle Background

5.  Both potteries exhibit foreign elements and native elements within their respective regions.

Cattle Pastoralist Rock Art Belt (Marina Gallinaro)

Why is it more reasonable to believe that the immediate origin of the bell beaker is to be found 6,000 miles away (the steppe) and not a few miles away (Morocco)?