Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Corded Ware Diet and Mobility (Sjögren, Price, Kristiansen, 2016)

High mobility, change in diet, higher women mobility, gender differences in diet..

"Diet and Mobility in the Corded Ware of Central Europe"  PLOS ONE 201
Karl-Göran Sjögren, T. Douglas Price, Kristian Kristiansen [Link]

Isotopic investigations of two cemetery populations from the Corded Ware Culture in southern
Germany reveal new information on the dating of these graves, human diet during this
period, and individual mobility. Corded Ware Culture was present across much of temperate
Europe ca. 2800–2200 cal. BC and is represented by distinctive artifacts and burial practices.
Corded Ware was strongly influenced by the Yamnaya Culture that arose in the
steppes of eastern Europe and western Eurasia after 3000 BC, as indicated by recent
aDNA research. However, the development of CW on different chronological and spatial
scales has to be evaluated. Examination of the CW burials from southern Germany supports
an argument for substantial human mobility in this period. Several burials from gravefields
and larger samples from two large cemeteries at Lauda-Königshofen "Wöllerspfad"
and at Bergheinfeld “Hühnerberg” contributed the human remains for our study of bone and
tooth enamel from the Corded Ware Culture. Our results suggest that Corded Ware groups
in this region at least were subsisting on a mix of plant and animal foods and were highly
mobile, especially the women. We interpret this as indicating a pattern of female exogamy,
involving different groups with differing economic strategies.


  1. Interesting. I only know about DNA stuff(that relates to genetics) but I want to keep track of your posts because you post archaeological info that relates directly genetics of Bell Beaker(and Late Neolithic/Bronze age in general).

    Wasn't there also high mobility, especially female, in Bell Beaker? This is important to mtDNA. If so, we should see some recent mtDNA connections across all of Europe today because most of the continent was Corded Ware or Bell Beaker for the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC.

    One way we can test this is to get lots of fully sequenced mtDNA from modern Europeans. I currently have 1,000s of fully sequenced European mtDNA saved. I've compared Basque to Danish, and it doesn't look like a significant portion of their mtDNA has common ancestors in the last 5,000 years. There are some surprisingly recent links though, but it is rare.

    1. Thanks. I believe DT Price performed the first mobility study of this scale with Beakers in approximately the same location. I recall the first generation immigrants were a similar percentage or slightly higher than CW in some cemeteries. He also showed this in the Early Neolithic, though I can't remember the gender differences.

      It seems that maybe migration in Europe since the introduction of farmers has been a punctuated burst of migratory males (at least) seizing land/territory. But once established, the maintenance of those European populations (Neolithic+) is performed mostly by some women moving across geological zones.
      This is shown with CWC and I believe this was also the case in the early Neolithic.

      Generally it seems to be supportive of the notion that land ownership, social complexity and monumentalism is tied to paternalism. It would seem the opposite of the Paleolithic where mtdna is monolithic,??

  2. Haven't seen you comment on this yet...


    Not that riveting, but similar to the Corded Ware paper.

    1. For the lazy, the paper is:

      Mike Parker Pearson, et al., "Beaker people in Britain: migration, mobility and diet", 90 Antiquity 620-637 (June 2016) (pay per view)

      "The appearance of the distinctive ‘Beaker package’ marks an important horizon in British prehistory, but was it associated with immigrants to Britain or with indigenous converts? Analysis of the skeletal remains of 264 individuals from the British Chalcolithic–Early Bronze Age is revealing new information about the diet, migration and mobility of those buried with Beaker pottery and related material. Results indicate a considerable degree of mobility between childhood and death, but mostly within Britain rather than from Europe. Both migration and emulation appear to have had an important role in the adoption and spread of the Beaker package."

      This is surprising to me as I seem to recall earlier studies (although none that I've ever blogged that I can recall) showing Beaker mobility across the channel.

  3. Bellbeakerblogger wrote: “Generally it seems to be supportive of the notion that land ownership, social complexity and monumentalism is tied to paternalism.”

    Well, maybe.
    In northern Europe, pure hunter gatherers were always going be in motion -- compared to farmer/herders. Food, water, wood, stone for tools, shelter are never in the same place. Everything changes with the seasons and terrain. The birds fly south, the deer are over-hunted, the salmon stop running and go out to sea. Time to move.
    It really is worthwhile reading Lewis Binford on hunter gatherers life-styles ("Willow smoke and dogs' tails"). It’s far more likely that a WHG would wander into an Anatolian farming village than the other way around.
    So, the concept of “land ownership” is quite logically tied to the soil or pasture. The right to harvest (e.g., salmon going upstream during the short time the salmon are running) is different. But it appears it would still be paternalistic. Males seems to be the ones who were always off hunting.
    Just maybe, it is the idea of the settlements that became “property.” And the anchors of the settlement may have been females.
    You can just as easily see this exogamy in Corded Ware as a female strategy to bring distant males into the fold. Status is the bait.

    1. Just to clarify, there is a distinction between paternalism and patriarchy, even though the two are sometimes related. I actually meant to use patriarchy in the regular sense.
      It seems in recent times that the majority of hunter-gatherer societies are often matriarchal and that societies that are complex socially and economically are usually patriarchal and paternalistic. I would disagree with Gimbutas's notion that the early Neolithic was matriarchal and peaceful, although they may have been more pluralistic.

    2. There's a Wiki on matriarchy and you'll see there that there's a strong opinion that a true matriarchy has never been found.

      A different situation is one where the adult males are often absent. This would be the case would SOME hunter-gatherers. Think fishermen. Nantucket whalers, where the island was all women and children till the men got back. That may have been the case with Cucuteni-Trypillian, where adult male graves are just not found.

      With Bell Beaker, I think what you see in that British research is the OTHER reason men are mobile. Trade. The innovations that come with Bell Beaker show the spread of know-how through trade. And that means that someone needs to protect the traders, the roads, the markets, the craftsman and the raw materials. And I'd suggest that's where all the Beaker arrowheads came from. It was the rise of a well-funded militia. Mercury begot Mars.

      Corded Ware were herder farmers. The mobility of the female was tied to descent, clan alliances and the problem of consanguinity. Bell Beaker was a network and a noticeably different lifestyle.

  4. Another thing -- the small size of Corded Ware base groups raised the dangers of recessive lethal mutations due to consanguinity. It would have motivated these mail order brides. And it might have been the first motivation for group interaction giving rise to a higher "social complexity."

    “An estimate of the average number of recessive lethal mutations carried by humans” -- http://arxiv.org/abs/1407.7518

    I’m surprised the problem of consanguinity isn’t mentioned more often -- particularly in connection with these pioneer groups and founder’s effect. Diversity would have been a vital element of survival.

  5. I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information. phenq