Thursday, May 26, 2016

Phoenician Genome of Carthage European-like

The mito-genome of a Carthaginian Phoenician has been sequenced..via Daily Mail UK

The Tunisia man had the maternal haplotype U5b2c1, which is fairly limited to Europe.  It is also found in low frequency in the Phoenician heartland of Lebanon, which was either native there as well or it was cross-pollinated through its colonies in Western and Southern Iberia.  Additional sequencing shows some affinity to a person from Portugal.

I believe this could be full genome, so hopefully we'll see more on Archie.

'Young Man of Byrsa' or 'Archie'  (AP/Getty Images via UK Daily Mail)

(UK Daily Mail)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Beaker People Project (MP Pearson et al, 2016)

After a long wait... the results of the British mobility project are published.  Hat tip Eurogenes.

First of all, I'd like to thank the authors for putting this article up at the Durham University site [here].  I know this will be appreciated by many, especially given the importance of the work.

The legal hurdles of destructive testing on human remains are probably significant enough that multiple tests might be performed at a strike.  Isotopic and radiocarbon studies seem to precede genetic ones, so I'm hopeful that there will be some amount of DNA to follow.  Nevertheless, this one paper is, in of itself, a very big paper covering almost 300 individuals in the Beaker period.

Excerpt from University College London (UCL) Project Page* (extracted 5/2016 [Link])

I'll point out some items of interest and go from there.

Head shape:

Significant craniometric differences were observed between those individuals of the Early Neolithic and this Beaker period population.  Mostly expected.

And this:
"Certain individual skulls exhibited occipital flattening, a cranial modification probably caused by infants lying flat on their backs or being secured to a cradle-board."
And this:
"In contrast, two Neolithic period skulls exhibit artificial cranial deformation resulting from infant head-binding to produce long skulls."

Obviously, I agree with most of this, unless if intended to be a sole explanation:
"This evidence for artificial skull deformation was recognized at the time of excavation (Bateman 1861; Wilson 1863: 273–4) but has been largely forgotten; it goes some way to resolving the long-term debate about the existence of racial types of brachycephalic Bell Beaker people and dolichocephalic Neolithic people across many parts of Europe (Abercromby 1912; Childe 1925: 90; Brothwell 1960; Brothwell & Krzanowski 1974; Gerhardt 1976; Brodie 1994) by introducing a cultural explanation for some of these differences in cranial shape."
Certainly the heads of Bell Beakers were often deformed as I've speculated due to intense cradling/swaddling, possibly betraying a much deeper Asian ancestry IMO:  [here] and [here], among others.  On the other hand, the ancestral dimension is, by far, the most important aspect of head shape of modern Europeans who are no longer intensely swaddled but still exhibit much shorter heads than Paleolithic or Early Neolithic Europeans.

Sites of the Beaker remains (Page 13 of Pearson et al, 2016.)


Meat, fats (dairy), ensalada, despite living near the coasts.  This has also been shown of Beakerfolk in Portugal, Spain and other places.  There is a distinction made between this diet and the Iron Age and this may be due to the introduction of the chicken and chicken eggs (which I imagine would increase the sulfur-nitrogen content).  It appears that Mike P. Pearson will pen a separate paper about this, and I'll go ahead and put my money on the chickens.

Gender and mobility

Men, women, boys and girls moved with no observable differences among gender or age.   Lifetime immigrants are about 29%.  That's yuuugee IMO.  Remember, people live unbelievably short lives, so to 'catch' an immigrant from random burials is fairly significant.  As Parker & Co. suggest, the number is probably much higher, and in fact, appears to accelerate leading into the EBA.

From where?

Part of what's bizarre about Beakers in the island of Britain, is that immigrants seem to be coming from every direction.  From Holland, Amorica, the Alps, Ireland, somewhere near Iberia, Central Europe, everywhere.

This is also true in Wessex (*correction, I said county, however this is more or less a region rather than an administrative unit.  This encompasses Wiltshire and surrounds ) where some of the most famous sites are found.  The really flummoxing idea is that Bell Beakers in this area have such diverse backgrounds (or personal histories):
"The wide range of δ18O values (16.9‰–19.3‰) amongst this group makes it unlikely that they derive from a single place of origin."
Some conclusions:

"The overall lack of distinction between male and female migration histories across Britain suggests that notions of exogamous exchange of female marriage partners do not explain the observed patterns of movement in Britain."

"Despite the uncertainties of isotopic provenancing, we consider that most lifetime movement during the Chalcolithic–Early Bronze Age was within Britain rather than from Europe into Britain."
We should rationally know, to whatever degree immigrants came to the Isles from the Continent, that it would be nearly impossible to see this from isotopes alone.  It would be like conducting isotopic analysis on American cemeteries and saying 'there was high mobility within America, but immigration from Europe played little role'.

BBB comments:

There's one piece of the mobility puzzle that's missing from many genetic discussions, not that this paper was wanting, but more or less aimed at migration through the lens of genetics. So I'll use cattle as an illustration; using a Brahman bull that's set out with 30 Angus cows.

In our scenario the Brahman bull is the 'immigrant' since he was brought to our herd.  So in our herd the first generation immigrant population is 1/30, but the genetic impact of immigration in the second year is roughly 1/2, or rather a quarter of the total herd.  In the third and fourth generation, using the same bull, the immigration impact is very, very substantial.  In fact, back-breeding to the bull may give us a population structure that is increasingly more immigrant-like than our original cows.

I think this is the missing component of our understanding the Beaker phenomenon from a genetic standpoint.  The default, reasonable view of migration is contained within the frame of a certain percentage of foreign barbarians moving to a new place and doing barbaric things at a specific moment in time.  But the genetic Beakerization of Europe may not be the result of a single epoch, but rather an increased importance and reliance on high-status males, high-status clans, high-status social orders exerting downward pressure on those who are increasingly marginalized, ostracized and de-landed.  Of course, this allows for or requires an original, foreign element.  Just saying the process of change may be more complex than barbarians running up ramparts.

A wide range of social phenomena may be at play, from very dark things to medium dark things, but it may have been a long process, possibly one that has continued to the modern era.  The DNA this paper eludes to may answer the question of speed.  Without a doubt, the genetic transformation is already evident.

This genetic complexity may be best illustrated in Beaker pottery itself, which incorporates on native bodies the Beaker themes and worldview, more often made by women whose deep matri-lineage had roots in older pottery cultures.

Mike Parker Pearson, Andrew Chamberlain, Mandy Jay, Mike Richards, Alison Sheridan, Neil Curtis, Jane Evans, Alex Gibson, Margaret Hutchison, Patrick Mahoney, Peter Marshall, Janet Montgomery, Stuart Needham, Sandra O'Mahoney, Maura Pellegrini and Neil Wilkin
Antiquity / Volume  90 / Issue 351 / June 2016, pp 620 - 637 Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016
DOI: (About DOI), Published online: 17 May 2016


"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."

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.

Klokbeker Road Near River (RAAP, 2015)

This peat footpath is thought to have been built by Dutch Bell Beakers.  Read about it [here].

It's near a natural fording and looks to have come to the bank, if not a bridge.  The RAAP believes the road was only used for about 20 years or so.
Archaeologists excavating peat road (RAAP, 2015)
Various types of peat roads can be found in NW Europe.  Some have planks and sleepers [here], whereas this one has more packed foundation, probably because of its proximity to the water.  Maybe it supported planks at one time as well.

Detail (RAAP, 2015)

Below are the locally cut alder trees.  The article says they average around 10 cm circumference.
Alder Beams (RAAP, 2015)
I think it'd be reasonable to assume that a wooden bridge was near this site at one time because of the location on the river, unless the narrowness of the river also made it a good place for a fish trap.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Donkey (Equus Asinus) in Iberia 2,500 B.C. (Cardoso et al, 2013)

The ass was present at the walled fortress of Leceia around 2,500 B.C.  This was demonstrated using mitochondrial and radiocarbon evidence by Cardoso, Vilstrup, Eisenmann and Orlando.

Leceia Ass Tooth (Drawn by B. L. Ferreira; photos by J. L. Cardoso)

The molecular evidence demonstrates an animal not native to Pleistocene Iberia as being present in Chalcolithic Leceia, it being a descendant of those wild asses native to Northeast Africa, possibly of a subgroup having been domesticated in Egypt or Mesopotamia.  While it is impossible to ascertain whether this ass was domesticated, it would almost certainly need to be given the circumstances and the type of find.

The tooth of the ass at Leceia was directly dated to a range that is almost perfectly contemporary with the Standard of Ur, being the middle of the third millennium.  This is fairly significant because, using the last post as one example, trade and cultural links between Iberia and the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa are well demonstrated.  Cardoso et al believe these trade links may have brought the donkey to Iberia at this time.

Sumerian chariots and donkeys trample a miserable soul c.2,500 (British Museum #1928,1010.3AN12575001) ( FI-000833573)
Below is the tower where the tooth was found.

And below is a general layout of the site from the paper.  You can see the fortress is slightly north of the Tagus near modern Lisbon.  It has been previously held that the Phoenicians brought the ass to Southern Europe (and the chicken as well), but at least for the ass, it has an older presence.

Leceia is one of the many great Portuguese walled enclosures that project on the surrounding landscape.  The are built rapidly using the same plans at about the same time before falling into disrepair.  Around the middle of the third millennium, Bell Beaker artifacts appear, as does changes in weaving and now dairy processing.

Cardoso has written about those artifacts and ceramics termed 'pre-campaniforme' [here] and those of the early campaniforme [here] and its general chronology to give a little context of this site. 

One question that may be asked is, that if this is in fact a domesticated ass, why did it take so long to spread into Europe?  I think this could partly be explained by the fact that the ass is a browser and better suited for hot climes and badlands, whereas the Asian horse, mostly a grazer, may have been more suitable for deforested, temperate Europe.  If this sounds unreasonable, consider the fact that even after its most recent plausible introduction (with the Phoenicians), it still was not a widely used animal in Northern Europe, even with the Roman conquest and Christian missions.

As with the horse in the Late Neolithic, the evidence may have always been there and now new tools are revealing the provenance of materials and the sub-species of animal bones..

"First evidence of Equus asinus L. in the Chalcolithic disputes the Phoenicians as the first to introduce donkeys into the Iberian Peninsula" João L. Cardoso, Julia T. Vilstrup, Véra Eisenmann, Ludovic Orlando (2013) Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (2013) 4483e4490  [Link]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Olifant Horn of the Chalcolithic?

In the previous post, Andrew linked to a story on an Irish music archaeologist by the name of Billy Ó Foghlú.  Ó Foghlú has proposed some ideas concerning the ancient Iron Age horn, which is a slightly different instrument than what I'll start with...  The article is in Science Daily >  [Link]

This subject got me thinking about the evolution of the modern European horn and what examples could be considered the earliest hunting horn in archaeology.  I was reminded of this early Chalcolithic artifact from Valencia de la Concepcion in a paper by link>Garcia SanJuan et al, 2013.  I'll add some quick thoughts then move on.
How different from a Medieval Olifant?!  Photo: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia. (possibly 36-37 cm from interior or chord line?) (García Sanjuán et al., 2013)
During Medieval Times, the uber-rich, landed nobility often carried exotic hunting horns made of elephant ivory, commonly called the olifant horn.  The carved elephant horns often feature what might be called 'a man's room', a hunting scene with stags, boars, bears, heraldry, saints, etc. You can see that in the Portuguese example below, along with its boar's head mouthpiece.

Hunting Horn including Portuguese Royal Arms and Cross of Beja c. 1490 (48 cm) (British Museum Af1979,01.3156) FI-000833090
This other example appears to have been reworked with silver (in Italy?) after a century or so.  Many of these were imported in Italy and Portgual, then sold throughout Europe.  Some may have been made in Byzantium or other far away places.

Savernake Horn, England c. 1100s (British Museum 1975,0401.1 )( FI-000833091) (58 cm along chord)
Going back to the artifact from Valencia, it is slightly shorter than the two Medieval hunting horns; of course there is some question as to the length of the Neolithic tusk and how it was measured, whether along the chord line or another way.  Given the circumference of the distal end, it might have been very comparable to the two late examples.

Another interesting aspect raised by Garcia-Sanjuan et al, is that the distal end* (the acorn as they call it) might have been perforated near the tip, but not directly; or it could just be a broken area.  But if it was perforated in this strange way, it might have been, as Juarez Martin suggested concerning a separate artifact, as to mimick the gland end of the main.  (* or proximal end if you considerate a mouthpiece)

Another from La Molina Link>(Juarez Martin, 2010) is noted by the Garcia Sanjuan authors as having a similar protuberance at the distal end.   Juarez Martin believed this to signify a gland, as in the male context, and while he says it is hollow, does not mention if the end has a hole at the tip.  There are plenty of examples of horns without perforations from Scandinavia since these were drinking horns.  Garcia Sanjuan hinted at this possibility, but only suggest a container for liquids.

Either way, it is an odd artifact without a clear purpose and I doubt the proximal end (using their orientation, this is the large end) was enclosed seeing that it would be nearly impossibly to hollow out with any tool known at the time.  Therefore it must be a stylized drinking horn for special occasions or a hunting horn for someone with more money than time.

Elephant Tusk of La Molina Artificial Cave.  Jose Maria Juarez Sanjuan (2010)
If you have a pile of cash sitting on the shelf, you may be interested in a book entitled "Die Mittelalterlichen Olifante" by Avinoam Shalem April 2015 ISBN 9783871572357.  This book discusses the deeper history of magical olifante horns in the Near East and their associations in Europe.
Garcia Sanjuan (2013)
Going back to Billy Ó Foghlú, the modern brass instruments, horns and saxhorns excluding trumpets and trombones, have a history in Iron Age horns that might be called cornos.  The hammer-sheet cornos curl around the horn player which makes them mobile and gives them a semi-comparable octave range as the alpine horn, or alpenhorn.

The corno and similar horns, are probably quite literally curled up alpenhorns, which were at some shadowy time in the past carved from trees.  In any case, I wrote all of this as an excuse to post this...

Cheers, everyone have a beer!


Footnote>  You'll notice at 2:36 Lisa Stoll changes the mouthpiece to change key.  This is my basic point with the Irish horns, if O Foghlu is correct.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Evesham Archer, West Midlands

A rescue mission is underway after a housing developer ran into a bunch of Iron Age and Roman materials, and to their surprise, a Bell Beaker archer burial.  Hat tip, Mandy Chamberlain!

Several odd pits surround the grave, one included a vessel, and other some sort of cooking pit.  It appears that the grave does not contain human remains, or at least did not survive in the acidic soil.

The story linked from Mandy [Worcesternews]  The actual developer, Redrow Homes, posted some additional information [here]

Friday, May 13, 2016

Spelt in the Belt (Akeret, 2005)

In the archaeo-botanical record of Europe, spelt is for the first time observed (uncontested [1]) in a Bell Beaker village near Cortaillod/Sur les Rochettes-est in Switzerland.  It appears to have been a staple crop in this location and is grown throughout the Bronze Age to the modern period in the Alps and parts of Central Europe. 

This is rather significant because, not but a mere distance away, in the village of Saint-Blaise/Bains des Dames, a slightly earlier Corded Ware-ized village exists, completely without spelt.  Rather, in Saint-Blaise, barley is the money grain.  So, it is clear that this was a more recently developed local crop or possibly an imported crop.  Either way it appears first with Bell Beakers.

Back in 2005, Akeret had referred to a previous hypothesis, that European spelt (genetically distinct from Asian spelt) was the result of an independent hybridization event between einkorn (diploid) and emmer (tetraploid) that happened in Europe creating spelt, a hexaploid wheat (2+4=6).  The situation has developed that bread wheat, a hexaploid, is not descended from spelt (also a hexaploid), but that both Asian and European spelts might be more recent and separate creations.

At Cortaillod, a great variety of domestic and wild plants are found in the occupation area, grains, legumes, flax, hazelnuts and apples.  The most interesting collections are the acorn stores that appear to have been common in Beakerworld (Akeret), probably for making cornmeal.  Also, there are quite a few collected juniper berries, which might suggest certain alcoholic drinks, to me at least.  There is also several caffeinated plants, maybe chamomile, sunflower seeds, and leafy plants.

Shewry, 2009 [Link]

So why plant spelt in Cortaillod?  Spelt is winter hardy and can be grown in crappy, poorly drained and sandy soils.  The people who planted spelt at Cortaillod did so with intelligent purpose, either having sought a suitable grain to meet the field conditions, or they imported themselves and the spelt hitchhiked.

I find the seed preferences of Late Neolithic Europeans interesting because it translates through time an intelligent decision process, one that involved contemplation, planning and networks. 

See also on spelt:
 Fokkens and Harding (2013) 

Dvorak et al (2011)

Akeret, Orni "Plant remains from a Bell Beaer site in Switzerland, and the beginnings of Triticum spelta (spelt) cultivation in Europe"   Veget Hist Archaeobot (2005) 14:279–286  DOI 10.1007/s00334-005-0071-1 [Link]

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Villabruna Hunter-Gatherer R1b (Qiaomei Fu et al, 2016)

There's a lot to digest out of the Qiaomei Fu et al, 2016 paper. 

As to be expected, the overwhelming majority of Paleolithic Europeans belonged to paternal lineages that have effectively gone extinct or have been several times superseded.  Maternal lineages have mostly suffered from frequency changes because most women who ever lived had offspring.

The most interesting part of the paper is the blue-eyed, dark-skinned man from Villabruna Cave 1, directly dated to about 14,000 years ago and belonging to paternal haplogroup R1b1.  He was buried with a bag of implements and covered in red-painted rocks in the Dolomite Mountains.

There's more that is interesting about him than just the y-chromosome, but for a little background see the BBC story...
Fig 2 LUP burial of Villabruna 1.  (Vercellotti et al, 2008)
Since the Gravettian was an expansion of mammoth and bison hunters from north of the Black Sea going west, and because of some cultural, economic and mobility similarities with the Mal'ta-Burets hunters where this lineage was previously found, it might make some sense to see R1b1 lightly sprinkled as a minority lineage among a communities dominated by haplogroup I.  But a picture where Gravettian and Mal'ta cultures have anything common other than material borrowing doesn't square with the authors of Fu et al.  The two peoples are genetically distinct, and in fact, the Gravettians appear very distinct from even the Epi-Gravettians, who we might as well now more accurately call, Villabrunans.

So the first interesting thing is that Villabruna man's body proportions are intermediate between modern Europeans and Africans.  In fact, he generally clusters with North Africans on several skeletal metrics, although facially he is Caucasian.  This doesn't mean he is  <North African> and it doesn't mean mixed, but it does suggest some meaningfully deep ancestry in a sufficiently warm climate, possibly the Southern Near East(?).

Genetically, he and his cluster represent a shift towards the Near East from earlier Europeans, and really from the earlier 'true' Gravettians in Eastern Europe.  When looking at his physical proportions, Vercellotti et al (2008) seemed to suggest that his long-limbed features were a relict of early AMH or possibly some sort of new response to a warming climate.  It now seems migration offers the most plausible explanation for his body type in light of DNA.  To be clear though, his cluster extends all over Western Europe even though his unique lineage is so far only seen in Italy.

Fu et al, 2016
As far as I understand, Western Hunter Gatherer (WHG) might be mostly Middle Eastern with some ancestry of the oldest native hunters.  This will be an interesting complication to various memes, including my own memes.

See also  [Maju's post on Ahmarian culture]

Vercellotti, Alciati, Richards, Formicola (2008)  "The Late Upper Paleolithic skeleton Villabruna 1 (Italy): a source of data on biology and behavior of a 14.000 year-old hunter" Journal of Anthropological Sciences.  Vol. 86 (2008), pp. 143-163   [Link]