Thursday, February 11, 2016

Alien Minorities in Crete and Cyprus

Again, impeccable timing.   Eurogenes has a paper on Cypriot M269 just now, I believe constituting about 10%~ of Cypriot y-chromosomes...I'll address at the end.

We might expect the full gamut of human interaction during the third millennium and every region and island is going to have a different set of circumstances and histories save one common denominator; a great number of cultures appear to be responding to the Beaker phenomenon.

It's probable, but not yet provable, that the Eastern Mediterranean had some kind of mild reaction to the Beaker advance around 2,500 B.C. and it is more than plausible that this involved small scale settlement in areas initially favorable for wind and surface currents, like Northeastern Crete or Western Cyprus.  These people wouldn't fall within the strict definition of a Bell Beaker as understood in Central Europe, but when we consider the cultural transformations and as the genetic situation becomes more clear, we may have people that are very similar or owe some portion of their ancestry to those changes pulsing through the continent.

So today I'll pick up with some familiar looking images.  A good place for some background is an article by Volker Heyd examining the primordial stew of the sub-Aegean Early Bronze Age in the shadow of the Bell Beaker.*  He also contributed to this beginning on page 47, which I am re-reading on continuous-loop.  I won't interpret or mis-interpret his positions or inklings, you can read for yourself, and some of it can be rather dense; but it's a subject that is rather novel at this point and I think if it continued to develop many things could be turned on the head.

Early Minoan Incised Ware EM1 (University of Colorado)
At some point in the mid 3rd millennium, Crete is jolted by foreign elements in its North and East.  The native, majority neolithics in the center of the island appear to have been strongly conservative, however over time the melding of influxes sets a new national trajectory.  Like so many of the Bronze Age cultures of Europe, there seems to have been a turning point in which the native culture was electrified by the Beaker World System(1).  (Notice the body similarity of this CW pot as well)

This settlement of Eastern Crete is particularly interesting through the lens of modern y-chromosomal frequencies of the Lasithi Plateau compared the central part of the island.  We've already seen some breakout of Cretan y-trees; we also see this from the Lasithi plateau in maternal lineages [here] and [here] and if people from the West did indeed settle in Eastern Crete, it's entirely plausible they came from the southern Tyrrhenian sphere, itself crawling with South and Central European immigrants. 
Jug from Mochlos, Eastern Crete c. 2500
This attractive Mochlos (funerary?) jug also makes me wonder about a subtle meaning, something I've contemplated here.  Although the Mochlos funerary gold objects are quite different in the subject matter from Western Europe, the punched gold sheet work is not so different from that of the continent.  There are other things as well, like arrowheads.

I won't jump any further into this quicksand because the archaeology of Crete is more than I'd like to chew on, but it is interesting to zoom out and look at the bigger picture to see what's happening.
I tried finding picture of Cretan stone wristguards and can't spend too much time on it now, but I though I'd paste in this text from Heyd:
"It is a tempting thought, if the stone objects from the Tholos grave of Plantanos [tholoi here] in the Messara plain on Crete are also part of that connection, but one difficult to prove considering the long duration of the grave from EM I to MM. 41 [MM = Middle Minoan] Under those circumstances I would merely be inclined to regard the four-holed stone plate as a wristguard whereas for the majority of the two-holed plates at hand the mentioned restrictions of functional and cultural assignment apply."**

Apart from that, I've included some musings on Cyprus.  Sometime around or before 2,500 B.C., a copper-welding, cattle-and-plough people began to settle in a few places in Cyprus which propelled the island to the Philia Early Bronze Age.  They are identifiable by their red-slip burnished wares with white encrustation "Cypriot Red Polished Ware".

The foreign elements or people of the preforming Philia Culture are thought to derive from Red Slip Ware (RSW) folks from Cilicia (proto-Luwians?).
Red Polished Ware Cypriot Idol 2200 B.C.
Now it's very easy to oversell superficial similarities.  Certainly the differences outnumber the similarities when doing a 1:1 comparison and the coastal Mediterranean also has a long history of communication and shared ancestry.  (It's not even clear where the initial pulses of the Beaker phenomenon originate) But a combination of things in the right order at the right time can at least raise our antennas.

The interesting thing is that Cypriot clay bodies don't change with Red Polished Ware, but the decoration does.  To me this can signal an intrusive male population and I think we see this and will eventually be able to prove this in European pottery.

Similar Neolithic idol plaques are found in many places around the Mediterranean, Syria is the obvious choice closest in space and resemblance, but some are similar to Late Neolithic Western Iberia.

So going back to the Cypriot DNA study just out; their conclusion that Cypriot M269 is from Anatolia instead of Greek/Balkan.  This might support the idea that Cypriot Red Polished Ware is intrusive from Cilicia or Proto-Luwia and is part of a larger Red Slip Ware phenomenon punching its way up and down the coast of Anatolia.  The Cretan y-dna profiles, OTOH, look more Italian (U152?) and so the build-up of the Trojans and Hittites might be part of a differently inspired phenomenon than that of the Helladics and Cycladics, but nevertheless, it's all happening about the same time and has some interesting parallels..

(1)  The World System is more applicable to modern economics theory, but if you view the Beaker phenomenon as having a core ethnicity, then in some ways the resource exploration of Beakers could be viewed as a core nation, almost in a modern sense as lacking a center of gravity or national boundary.

*"Where West Meets the East: The Eastern Periphery of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon and Its Relation with the Aegean Early Bronze Age" Available here at "Aegeo-Balkan Prehistory"

*Published first in: Galanaki, I. et al. (eds.): Between the Aegean and Baltic Seas. Prehistory across Borders. Proceedings of the Internat. Conference "Bronze and Iron Age Interconnections and Contemporary Developments between the Aegean and the Regions of the Balkan Peninsula, Central and Northern Europe." University of Zagreb, 11-14 April 2005. Aegaeum 27: 91-104.

** More from Heyd:
"Going back to the title of this contribution and, moreover, to the concern of this whole conference it should have become clear that marginal Bell Beaker elements of the mid-third millennium BC have reached the Aegean, whether or not one accepts the comb-stamp decorated sherds dating to EH II from Lerna and Eutresis, as well as the ‘wristguards’ from Crete – or relies on the Cetina finds from the Peloponnes alone. In no instance, though, could the phenomenon gain ground and trigger an independent Bell Beaker development. The incentives were too few, the ideology not persuasive enough, the distance to the nearest core too large and, in the case of Cetina, the arrival in southern Greece apparently ‘too late’. Therewith, only one side of the interrelation between the Bell Beaker phenomenon and the Aegean Early Bronze Age is recorded here. But there was no intention – nor the space – to trace and evaluate the finds and findings of Aegean provenance of the third millennium BC in the central Mediterranean distribution area of the Bell Beaker phenomenon. This applies primarily for Malta, Sicily, Apulia and also Dalmatia, but possibly even beyond that."

"The Early Minoan Period:  The Settlements" , "The Tombs" Dartmouth

"The Prepalatial Cemeteries at Mochlos and Gournia and the House Tombs of..." Soles


  1. Thanks for posting these beautiful ceramics.
    That' is important to keep in mind that our ancestors are not just haplogroups.

    1. Is the mug from Mochlos ceramic? It looks like it is carved out of marble in the picture?

    2. One bit of historical fiction that does an excellent job of providing a feel of this era is the multi-volume Japanese manga series "Red River". It goes to great pains to be authentic (although, of course, it has some supernatural plot devices, some consistent with the lore of the age and some necessary to put a Japanese teenage girl into the setting as our interlocutor). It really inspired me to dig into actual histories and archaeology from the Copper Age and Bronze Age era.

    3. The jug is not ceramic, I hope that I didn't imply it was, but thanks for asking. It looks to be carved out of rock/mineral. From my perspective, it's the horizontal layering of red and white that I find interesting, so even though it is naturally occurring, I would say that its presentation is not accidental.

      I'll check out Red River, sounds interesting.

    4. The jug is almost certainly made of alabaster, carved red alabaster of the kind you can find in Cappadocia. I'm actually using an ashtray of a very similar material I bought there many many years ago.

    5. I checked. It is alabaster, thanks!

  2. My working hypothesis is that Minoan civilization was an extension of Western Anatolian non-Indo-European Hattic civilization, and that the Hattic civilization itself was a result of migrations from the East in the Copper Age or early Bronze Age that was genetically distinct from the descendants of the original Early European Farmers who originated there. In this view, the source to the east of Anatolia was probably also the source civilization for the Bell Beakers or a sister civilization.

    One reason to link Hattic civilization and Minoan civilization which is anecdotal, but powerful, is that one of the few phonetic accounts of the Minoan language comes from an Egyptian book recounting Minoan spells in Coptic writing. In it, the Minoan language sounds remarkably similar to the Hattic language (which is attested in many Hittite sources because Hattic continued to be in use in liturgical contexts long after it had been displaced by the Indo-European Hittite language in other contexts).

    I also think that the conventional linguistic practice of viewing Hittite as a particularly basal branch of Indo-European is wrong. Instead, I think that Hittite probably came into being ca. 2000 BCE (around the same time an the Myceneans and earliest Indo-Aryans) as Indo-Europeans migrated into Anatolia and were powerfully influenced by the substrate Hattic language which was profoundly different in phonetics, grammar and common lexicon from the substrate Early European Farmer languages that first Indo-Europeans in Eastern and Central Europe had encountered from which Proto-Indo-European probably borrowed some words and maybe even some grammatical conventions either via creolization or simply areal effects. There are also probably some features of an alleged Indo-European language in which a Hittite choice is assumed to derive from PIE based on the theory that Hittite is more basal, that in fact, derived from the non-Indo-European substrate of Hittite, although I don't have a lot solid specific examples of that.

    1. I explored the hypothesis at greater length at and the incantations are discussed at and the hypothesis is also discussed at

    2. Interesting, thanks for posting. You mention the position of Anatolian IE which is an interesting subject. There's an older paper that I never posted that talks a little about the however apparent westernization of Luwian and Old Hittite compared to the Eastern Anatolian languages, which is more Eastern shifted. It would be interesting if the increasingly western features of Luwian are due to an expansion of actual Western Europeans (BB). Maybe that's a little far fetched, but the timing makes you wonder.

  3. Not sure why you say that the Cypriot R1b-M269 is from Anatolia. When you actually read the paper, which is open access, they say the following (table 2):

    Anatolia-related: 0.22
    Greece-related: 0.48
    Levant-related: 0.30

    So basically most R1b in Cyprus is Greece-related (almost 50%) or Levant-related (30%) and only a smaller fraction (~20%) is Anatolia-related. The only haplogroup that is strongly related to Anatolia is G and even with this one the authors consider its possible origin in "Northern Levant":

    Interestingly, the more deeply rooted sub-haplogroup G2a-L293 also occurs in Anatolia and northern Levant (Additional file 5: Figure S2), consistent with the PPNB crescent including Syrian areas whose maternal genetic legacy is coherent with the maritime movements of early farmers [14].

    1. Ok, that's right. I may have misinterpreted the direction they were going, but it sounded like they were suggesting that M589's absence in Crete and the Balkans, despite being dwarfed by z2105, that an Anatolian origin for both was more likely.? (Even though it assumed to have come from the North at an earlier time as they reference the z2105's in the North Caspian)