If I had to offer one small takeaway from two of these papers, it would be that Bell Beaker is not looking like the genetic offspring of Central European Corded Ware or Swedish Battle Axe. (this by excluding one of two individuals (RISE98) designated as Battle Axe/Nordic LN.*)
While this is not surprising, there have been no individuals tested of the Single Grave Culture in the Northwest facade which is the last hurdle to prove or disprove a particular theory. If the trend continues, the failure of CWC to be the Beaker-daddy is news enough because until recently it had been the most conservative and plausible view on Beaker origins. That leaves the outer-space theory.
Other than that, there is still a long road ahead in understanding the genetic history of Europe.
|Kingsmead Quarry Woman (Wessex Archaeology)|
The first two papers were not focused on Bell Beaker and as such, the authors did not make any discussion about the Beaker identity. They did connect a lot of dots between the Steppe, Indo-European language and the Corded Ware. Their reasoning (David Anthony) was that Corded Ware had genetic components similar to Yamnayans, which suggested to them that the impetus for Corded Ware possibly came from the Steppe (after Gimbutas), which is where the Indo-European languages are thought by some to have developed.
Lolita Nikolova wrote a sharp reply criticizing David Anthony and the Haak authors for what she considers a poorly developed argument or 'pseudoscience' [see here]. Her complaint is that 1) the Haak authors implied that Corded Ware was somehow partly descended from the Steppe and 2) that associating language with a people who lived 5,000 years ago has no validity.
Regarding autosomal similarity, this is what the Haak authors wrote:
"We caution that the sampled Yamnaya individuals from Samara might not be directly ancestral to Corded Ware individuals from Germany. It is possible that a more western Yamnaya population, or an earlier (pre-Yamnaya) steppe population may have migrated into central Europe, and future work may uncover more missing links in the chain of transmission of steppe ancestry."I agree with Nikolova's first point; the above statement is seeking a phantom population to be the sperm donor of a more distant population with a different material culture. Just because Yamnaya and Corded Ware are within the same PCA hula-hoop doesn't mean that Corded Ware has any cultural or geographical roots in the steppe, nor does it mean that Yamnaya or a pocket population of the steppe is ancestral to everybody or anybody. It's not clear that the sparsely populated, hillybilly Yamnayans are ancestral to much of anything just yet.
|What? From ScienceNews|
Nikolova is critical that DNA is being used to connect dots rather than looking closely at the material relationships. Nothing illustrates this more than the deceiving map above (not picking on this one in particular). What maps like this don't show is the directionality, span and space of each culture. These two are not bros.
DNA has become the rational behind those seeking stepping-stone populations, now in the Balkans for the Bell Beaker folk. Since one individual from the M6 motorway in the Vucedol period (first half of the third millennium) is R1b* some have found the "stepping stone". Nevermind the material cultures are from another planet, "this must be our pre-Beaker, we can put the archaeology together
later". DNA is a very important tool, but doesn't prove anything by itself. The material facts are how we can conclusively determine that Australians are not descended from Americans. Try explaining that to some bug-eyed person five thousand years from now.
Since both the Yamnayans, Vucedol and Bell Beakers have been shown to be almost universally M269+ or supposed, that has caused a very natural question as to whether Bell Beaker somehow originates among Yamnaya or earlier, after all Bell Beaker is in many ways genetically and culturally alien to Western Europe. There are some similarities between these very distant cultures, but there is also a gulf of differences that is impossible to overcome in my opinion.
In any case, that'll be the next post [Part 3] sometime around Friday. I'll draw from the modern authors who have laid out the history's history on the archaeology of the Beakers and what the major theories were till now on the mysterious origins.
*In all likelihood RISE98 is one of the pioneering Westerners who made their way to Scandinavia and the Baltic in later times. In a similar manner to another test subject, Kněževes grave 8, RISE98 may have been selected by the archaeologists because their curiosity was already piqued by some contradictions. In may be the case that some cultural hybridization was occurring in the later Battle Axe populations in the Southwest, so I chose to separate.