Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Johnny Klokbekker" (Fokkens et al, 2017)

Continuing with "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe", we'll now look to Oostwoud-Tuithoorn which gets to the point of the Olalde et al, 2017 paper.

This paper was just uploaded by Harry Fokkens entitled "Excavations of Late Neolithic arable, burial mounds and a number of well-preserved skeletons at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn: a re-analysis of old data" The available information is much better than many tested in the Olalde paper despite being one of the oldest excavated in the group.  Decades old information is compiled and reanalyzed; this site being important for several reasons.

"Jan van Oostwoud" The Earliest Beaker Skeleton 575 (Fred Gijbels)
One is that very few human remains have survived in the acidic soil of the Netherlands.  Tuithoorn was subject to some unusual tidal flooding and soil conditions that not only preserved the skeletal material, but made the DNA quality fairly good.  It also strangely preserved years of plow marks, which you can see below.  You'll see the blue plow marks are slightly curved around what was once a mound.  That added some interesting details to how this site was interpreted.

The other important aspect of this site is essentially the title of the Olalde paper.  The British Beakers and the Dutch Beakers are tightly clustered in several different analyses.  Whether or not the Olalde ~93% number goes up or down, one thing will remain certain - that is that the Northwest Continent was catastrophically imposing itself on the Isles during this time, especially Britain.

The graves are fairly typical of Beaker graves in some ways.  Men lay on their left side and women their right.  These men look South and women North, so in some ways it has a little CWC flavor, along with ring ditch.  Unlike other Dutch Beakers, these folks weren't buried with much of anything that could be discerned when they were excavated.  But within these plowmarks and the infills there was a considerable amount of Beaker sherds, which Fokkens speculates came to the field possibly in compost or manure.

The site is in a wetland, but dry enough for farming.  Although no homesite is provably detectable, the burial site is probably very close to one or several homesteads where the Beakers fished, farmed, hunted and ultimately buried.
‘Jan van Oostwoud’ is the oldest skeleton which lays beneath the plough marks.  He's the guy in the top picture, although his genetic results don't appear to be included in the Olalde paper.  They may have been excluded from the study because they rest in a local museum.  Fokkens speculates his grave was a flat grave accidentally plowed over by Beakers unaware, 1-3 generations later.  Still not knowing this, the later Beakers constructed the burial mound over this particular grave, perhaps recognizing the sacredness of the site generally, but not his grave specifically.

Grave 575 from Fig 17
One of the women tested here (243), appears to have had rickets and other conditions.  A separate paper is in the works, probably from Barbara Veselka.

Another individual (235) buried in tumulus II was head-less, although a jaw confusingly labelled 230 (a duplicate individual of tumulus I).  After mtDNA testing, it does appear this stray jaw (230 extra) could belong to 235.  Since full genome of 235 could not be obtained, it will remain unproven for now.

A relative of 236 and buried originally next to Jan the Beaker is 242.  This guy was very likely hit by the plow which is important when looking at the anomalies of the other Beaker and EBA individuals.  All of the Oostwould people appear to have been buried fairly shallow:

"We think ploughing continued, and that at some point 242/533 was hit by the plough and torn apart while the ligaments were still intact. This resulted in dispersal of body parts near their original location, but damaged and maybe even trodden into the soil. The chamber around burial 575 must have been filled-up by then, because there is no sign that the plough sank into the chamber;"
"Our conclusion is that skeleton 242/533 originally was located directly near skeleton 575, on top of the plough soil covering the older burial. According to the model the interval of time between the first events prior to the arable layer and the subsequent burials is between 5 and 181 years (at 95.4% probability). DNA gives us another clue towards dating: skeleton 236 appears to have been a second or third degree relative of 242/533. This means they were probably two or three generations apart: about 30-40 years. skeleton 242 was dated to (most probably) 2193-1941 cal Bc (95.4% probability), skeleton 236 to 2146-1925 cal Bc (table 1). Both were placed close together on top of the arable land covering skeleton 575.
With that, note that 228's arm is strangely located below the feet.  There isn't enough information to determine if the arm was amputated during this individual's life and saved for burial, if it was the cause of death, or if there was a ritual reason to disconnect it sometime after death.  It's noted that the clavicle and scapula are missing, so it may stand to reason that this individual was hit by an ancient plow and some effort was made to rebury the arm, or what was left of it.  The fact that a later supine burial (230) appears to have had its right arm ripped off and dragged (presumably by a plow) would seem to bolster this scenario. 

228 from Fig 40
Harry Folkens mentions this paper "Voorgeschiedenis der Lage Landen" by De Laet and Glasbergen 1959, which I suppose reveals the 'Beakerness' and brachycephally of the Oostwoud remains.  That may be something to look to in the future.

Unfortunately, there's a lot here for a ten paragraph blog, but I may return for a couple items of interest.  For now I'd recommend the paper [here]; it's about forty pages of text and has plenty of graphics.  Finally, something that has interested me...
"What is noteworthy at Oostwoud is the shift from a crouched burial position [Tumulus II] to a supine position stretched on the back [Tumulus I] that is visible between the two mounds."
He [they] goes on to ask why this change from crouched burials in NW Europe happened and why it was irrevocable.  I've yet to find any comprehensive research on European bedding through the ages, but I've wondered if supine burials follow changes in how people sleep.  Did families sleep together like a bunch of hamsters or did they sleep individually?  Were males and females segregated at bedtime as in some rural African societies?  If so, do gendered burials then reflect a kind of modesty of women's burials?  Do elevated beds become necessary in mice and roach infested cereal-producing societies?

 Genetic results and supplements from Olalde are inserted below:

Oostwoud-Tuithoorn (West Frisia, Netherlands)
Contact person: Harry Fokkens

In 1956 and 1957, two burial mounds were excavated at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn, with additional research in 1963, 1966 and 1978 37–39. Both burial mounds were located on a levee or crevasse splay of a large tidal creek system, about 40 km inland. The silt and clay sediments in which the skeletons were embedded provided an excellent context for bone preservation. After approximately 800 BCE the area was submerged until the building of dykes after 1000 CE. There is plenty of settlement evidence in the area from Late Vlaardingen/ Late Corded Ware groups, but few Bell Beaker associated remains. The Oostwoud-Tuithoorn burials are in that sense unique, even though they probably represent a much more extensive but difficult to detect settled landscape. The sequence at this site starts with skeleton 575, dated between 2579–2284 calBCE (3945±55 BP, GrN-6650C). After a few decades, the site was likely converted into arable land. The next stage is the erection of Tumulus II, in which 11 individuals were buried between 2200 and 1900 calBCE: eight male individuals (skeletons 127, 228, 229, 435 233, 235, 236, 239, 242) and three female individuals (skeletons 243, 247 and possibly 436 232)38. Genetic data indicate that skeletons 228, 236 and 242 are second- or third-degree relatives. Several phases of mound extension have become visible through bundles of prehistoric plough marks that surround a circular or oval mound. The arable land underlying and around the burial mound contained many Bell Beaker and pot beakers sherds (Bell Beaker settlement ware). In essence, this dates all skeletons buried in mound II to older than approximately 1900 BCE. The male individuals were all buried on their left side, facing south. The three females were buried on the right side, facing west or north. All individuals were laid down in a crouched position typical for Beaker burials. Apart from occasional flint artefacts no burial gifts were present. In the Early Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1700 BCE probably, at 20 m distance, a second burial mound (Tumulus I) was raised in which two skeletons have been interred, probably in the already existing barrow (skeletons 230 and 231). Both skeletons were buried in a manner typical for the Middle Bronze Age, stretched on their backs. Both are dated between 1880 and 1650 calBCE (3440±40 BP, GrA-17225 and 3450±BP, GrA-17226). The burial mound was surrounded by a circle of 80 cm wide pits with a diameter of approximately 20 m. Probably at the same time a 35 m long alignment of almost identical pits was dug in connection with the older mound (Tumulus II). The stratigraphy of the arable land, the graves and the pit circles and alignments demonstrate that the Oostwoud-Tuithoorn burial mounds constituted a small persistent place, a burial ground that was used intermittently but consistently, probably by several generations of a local group of inhabitants. We successfully analysed nine individuals from this site:
  • I4067/skeleton 127-M1: 1945–1692 calBCE (3500±50 BP, GrA-15602) 
    • [mtdna R1b1]
  • I4068/skeleton 228-M3: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a2a1] (26-35 years)
  • I4069/skeleton 229-M4: 2188–1887 calBCE (3640±50 BP, GrA-6477) 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a1a1] (26-35 years)
  • I4070/skeleton 230 barrow I-M7:1881–1646 calBCE (3440±40 BP, GrA-17225 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a1 + U5a1b1a]
  • I4071/skeleton 231 barrow I-M10: 1883–1665 calBCE (3450±40 BP, GrA-17226) 
    • [H6a1a] (male age 36-49)
  • I4073/skeleton 236-M13: 2196–1903 calBCE (3660±50 BP, GrA-15598) 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a2b3] (male age 36-49)
  • I4074/skeleton 242-M14: 2278–1914 calBCE (3690±60 BP, GrA-15597)  
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + H] (26-35 years)
  • I4075/skeleton 243-M15: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [H5a1] (female 36-49)
  • I4076/skeleton 247-M18: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [K1d] (female 26-35)
The skeletons are stored in the provincial depot of the province of Noord-Holland at Castricum. We thank the staff of the depot and archaeologist R. van Eerden, archaeologist of the province of Noord-Holland, for the kind permission to sample the Oostwoud skeletons. Sampling (E. Altena) and first analysis of the skeletal remains (B. Veselka) was made possible by a grant from the Leiden University Fund/Bakels Fund.


Snip from Fig S-1 of Olalde et al, 2017
"Excavations of Late Neolithic arable, burial mounds and a number of well preserved
skeletons at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn: a re-analysis of old data"
Harry Fokkens, Barbara Veselka, Quentin Bourgeois, Iñigo Olalde and David Reich, 2017

[here]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beakers in the Polish Lowlands

Here's a chapter on Bell Beakers of the Polish Lowlands by Czebrezuk and Szmyt entitled "Bell Beakers and Their Role in a Settlement Evolution During the Neolithic-Bronze Interstage of the Polish Lowland"

Field in Kujawy (commons)
I'll summarize a few points covered in the chapter:

In Poland there was a fading of village life from the earliest Neolithic down to the Late Neolithic cultures.  Whereas in the early Neolithic people clustered in farm hamlets and villages, by the Late Neolithic evidence for settlements becomes much more sparse, especially among the Corded Ware.  This trend is considered the result of growing reliance on husbandry over cultivation.

Initially the Beaker mobility pattern is similar to the Corded Ware, but it is for the first time this trend is reversed as Beakers begin settling down and making agricultural improvements.  Beakers of the Polish lowland seem to prefer high elevations on deep, sandy soil overlooking rivers and steams.  Their houses are semi-subterranean, which may additionally have some design influences from Denmark, possibly including Danish TRB.


Keeping that in mind, we should see some Bell Beaker genomes from the Iwno group, which is an increasingly distinct type of Beaker to Greater Poland.  These remains might serve as a proxy for Danish Beakers and they'll likely have some differences from the Malopolskan and Silesian Beakers who appear to derive from the area of the modern Moravia and Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beakers of the Bothros Brotherhood

I've done a quick search combining "Bell Beaker" with "bothros" or "bothroi" in the English language.  No results!

I started think about bothroi sacrifices reading this paper, "Un dépôt de céramiques Michelsberg à Obernai « Parc d’activités économiques intercommunal" by Lefranc and Feliu, 2015

Bodiless burials seem quite common throughout the entire Bell Beaker world.  Usually they contain smashed drinking sets and personal offerings such as daggers, bead singlets or odd things.  Some sites  are in cemeteries, but many are just kind of out there by themselves.  Aside from the religious aspect of this, I've wondered pits were instruments or monuments for covenants

"Hades abducts Persephone" (One of the more anti-social gods)

But a simpler explanation may be available if Bell Beaker and Michelsberg drinking pits were among the precursors to Greek bothroi.

If that was the case, then a fairly satisfying explanation can be found in "The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to the Early Hellenistic Period" by Gunnel Enroth, beginning in paragraph 74 of Chapter 1.

But it's also possible that the most serious oaths, pledges and contracts were made, even at the Greek bothroi.  After all, the boundary of the underworld is where the gods made theirs [Styx].  There may be some clues as to the Beaker conception of the underworld.

Silesian Beakers 2015

Two different groups of Polish Beakers that have yet to be genetically sampled are the Beakers of the Lowlands and then those of Silesia.  Reading something else I happened to stumble on this story from Polish PAP.

Fot. M. Mackiewicz via PAP
We've already seen some Małopolskans some and I believe that more are coming from that group [this post].

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Arroyal I in Catalonia, Spain

Here's a closer look at another grave examined in "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwestern Europe". [here]

(Yes, as of today Catalonia is in Spain and No, I didn't pick this site of because anything in the news)
From website of Eduardo Camerona, archaeologist (commons)
Eduardo Camerona twitter

In the Ballestro et al paper linked below they figure that Arroyal I faces East overlooking the Ubierna River Valley and the town of Arroyal.  I snipped this photo from Google maps on Calle San Antonio from the church, Ermita de San Antonio Abad.  Unfortunately it ends at the windmill easement dirt road, but you can see looking WSW (West South West) that the burial mound was perched at the highest point looking straight back at an elevation of 967 meters.  I'll extract a few items from the Ballestro paper to give additional context to the Olalde paper below:


Previously a dolmen, the tomb of Arroyal I was modified from a collective space into a burial mound for the first Beaker girl.  Being the earlier of the two girls, I0462 (UE 25) was located in Phase 4 of the tomb and was probably associated with two nearby bell beakers of the international maritime style and two serving dishes.  She was [K1a+195].

Later in the Beaker period was buried I0461 (UE 19) and she was [K1a1b1].  Her burial was in a pit grave stone box and she had with her ciempozuelos, but also some fragments of maritime style.

Previous to the individual burials of these girls (at different times), a large number of highly fragmented human remains were uncovered from the older layers.  They appear to be associated with the precampaniforme pottery style.  Another important difference noted in the Olalde paper is the presence of steppe-like ancestry in the girls, but not the previous occupants.  The earlier girl has more steppe-like ancestry and the latter less, which might be expected if foreigners are melded with the local population.

One important distinction between the two girls is that the earlier was buried in the chamber and represents the last grave of that sequence, possibly the only one depending on the purpose of being surrounded by skulls and bones (not sure I'm fully understanding that).  The second girl, maybe considerably later was buried in a pit grave, almost the way additional pits might be added to an old kurgan. 
The site of Arroyal I was excavated by a research team from the University of Burgos in
2011–2012. The site is a megalithic grave with well-preserved structural elements: a
rectangular chamber (3x3.5 m), a long corridor (6 m), and a stone mound. The grave
was used as a collective burial during 400 years in the Late Neolithic (3300–2900
calBCE)19. The grave was then abandoned until the Chalcolithic when it was
extensively remodelled: Neolithic layers were almost eliminated; the corridor was filled
with rocks and sediment; the useful area inside the chamber was reduced when a stone
wall was built; and a floor of limestone blocks was built inside the chamber. Several
consecutive and isolated burials (9–10) were then introduced. The last one (Roy5) was a
young individual buried with a set of 4 vessels (2 Bell Beakers [international maritime style and 2 carinated bowls) and surrounded by the long bones and skulls from previous burials. She represents the earliest observation of steppe-related genetic affinities in the Iberian Peninsula. Then the dolmen was closed using materials from the site (in secondary position) and, at the same time, the mound height was increased. Finally, an isolated pit grave (Roy4) was made inside the mound. We successfully analysed 5 individuals from this site:
I0458/Roy1/SU25, Skull 1: 2458–2206 calBCE (3850±30 BP, UGA-15904)
I0459/Roy2/UE25, Isolated human jaw: 2600–2200 BCE
I0460/Roy3/SU25, Skull 2: 2461–2210 calBCE (3860±30 BP, UGA-15905)
I0461/Roy4/SU19, Inhumation 1: 2348–2200 calBCE (3827±25 BP, MAMS-14857)
I0462/Roy5/SU25, Inhumation 2: 2465–2211 calBCE (3870±30, UGA-15903);
2566–2346 calBCE (3950±26 BP, MAMS-25936)
Samples Roy1 and Roy3 were genetically first-degree relatives and belonged to
different mitochondrial haplogroups, which points to a father-son relationship.


From Fig S1
If I find photos of the graves at some point in the future I'll update this post.

See Also

"El dolmen de Arroyal I: usos y modificaciones durante el III milenio cal AC." Ballestero, Arnaiz, Alameda Cuenca-Romero [Link]

"El campaniforme internacional en el dolmen de Arroyal I (Quintanadueñas): estudio estilístico y analítico de los restos arqueológicos"  Gonzalo de Pedro Andrés

Monday, October 2, 2017

Discovery - Lingenfeld Glockenbecher

Die Rheinpfalz reports the discovery of a Glockenbecher burial during the construction of a new building.

Landesarchäologie via Rheinpfalz

The discovery comes from the town of Lingenfeld, south of Spayer in Rhineland-Palatinate.  It's fairly close to the Rhine River.


Photo from Lenz via Rheinpfalz
This photo was taken from an inlet street of Neustadter Street of the same name. You can see the back of the steeple of the Catholic Church in the upper right.  Unfortunately, google maps doesn't have a streetview available of the main Neustadter Street.  The aerial photo still shows the old sawmill.

The only publication that's reported on this find is Rheinpfalz.  I can make out what looks like what was a bag at his feet, I guess.  He has a beaker behind the head and by that a cluster of something.  It looks like his left arm may have a bracer, but it's hard to tell since his arms are piled up.  His head looks to the rising sun slightly to the northeast, so maybe he died in the wintertime?

The Long-legged Lingenfelder?  Couldn't think of anything that rhymes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DNA - The Violet Volken? (Fregel et al, 2017)

Something curious is afoot.  New questions emerge from this paper.

I guess I've mis-understood the Ifri n'Amr o'Moussa cave site from the outset unless it's been re-dated, it seems that all of the human remains buried here (facing NS and EW) are dated to be Cardial Farmers more than likely, not associated with the Beaker materials of this cave.  If I understand correctly, no human remains in this cave can be attributed to the Beaker period.  These samples are called IAM after the excavation, and they look like a mixture of early farmers and native people.  

The second site of Kehf el Baroud is the site that raised my antennas.  These samples are called KEB and come from a white layer dated to around 3200-3000, right below the grey Beaker horizon.  This archaeological layer is associated with a pottery tradition that some have described as proto-Beaker, including (Daugas et al, 1989) or more often 'influences' from here can be seen on the later ceramic.

During this time, extensive trade is occurring between the Portuguese castillos, Southern Spain and nearby burial sites like Rouazi-Skhirat and El Kiffen. (also The Ivory Road) Now a genetic relationship and population movement can be demonstrated as well.  In fact, based on the mtdna profiles and comments in this draft, it looks something short of population turnover with people coming from Iberia at some point before the LN.

KEB is, to some degree, a combination of a previous Moroccan mix with a strong and distinctly European vein that is suggestive of a SW European expansion, and curiously they specifically mention this 'violet component' rise in Middle Neolithic Central Europe with Baalberge and Salzmunde, which they see as moving from SW Europe.  Another distinct part of those and Michelsberg was a spike in WHG ancestry emanating from the Paris Basin and probably further south, although there are 'steppic' or SE European elements as well .  See previous post.

IAM girl with millstone?  Moroccan Press

Remember that the results below are from only two Moroccan caves so it's definitely not the full picture, but interestingly haplogroup H is missing from the Mesolithic/Early Neolithic 'native' set. Keeping in mind it's only one cave, it still seems significant because it's there in modern times, among some Saharan and Atlas Berbers in spades.
If there were more bodies to test from the pre-Beaker and Bell Beaker period, it's likely that one or both could have some M269.  It's definitely there by the first millennium.  Canary Islander DNA from the first millennium.

"By 3,000 BCE, a European Neolithic expansion brought Mediterranean-like ancestry to the Maghreb, most likely from Iberia. Our analyses demonstrate that at least some of the European ancestry observed today in North Africa is related to prehistoric migrations, and local Berber populations were already admixed with Europeans before the Roman conquest. Furthermore, additional European/Iberian ancestry could have reached the Maghreb after KEB people; this scenario is supported by the presence of Iberian-like Bell-Beaker pottery in more recent stratigraphic layers of IAM and KEB caves."
And here something interesting
"At K=8, a new violet component is majoritarian in Iberian Neolithic_EN and most Europe_MNChL, splitting from the early farmers green component.  Europe_MNChL samples that posses 100% of the violet component include Early/Middle Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites from Iberia, Middle Neolithic sites from Germany (Baalberge and Salzmuende cultures) and a Chalcolithic site from Italy (Remedello culture) (Figure S7.4). This result could indicate an, at least partial, Iberian component in Middle Neolithic and Chalcolithic populations in Germany and Italy."
And the dating of Kehf el Baroud
"The human remains analyzed in this study were obtained from the white layer, whose
pottery remains are quite similar to Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic pottery from
other locations in Morocco, such as the two neighboring necropolis of Rouazi-Skhirat and El Kiffen, and from Spain and Portugal, primarily in Los Millares and Vila Nova de Sao Pedro. The dating of the white layer performed by De Wailly13, giving an age of about 3,200 BCE, has been disputed by most researchers. However, this date has been confirmed previously by thermoluminescence12 and by calibrated radiocarbon dating in this study (Table S1.1, Figure 1.4)."
I'm still puzzled by the presence of V88 in the Sahel.  I figured it'd be present among the Cardium/Impresso peoples, but that hasn't panned out so far.  Maybe it comes from Iberia with Beakers or MN Iberians?

"Background to Beakers" page 196

BTW, read the last four page of Background to Beakers beginning on page 196.  Pretty impressive.


Yussaef Bokpot previously did a translatable Arabic interview [here]

Neolithization of North Africa involved the migration of people from both the Levant and Europe

Rosa Fregel, Fernado L. Mendez, Youssef Bokbot, Dimas Martin-Socas, Maria D. Camalich-Massieu, Maria C. Avila-Arcos, Peter A. Underhill, Beth Shapiro, Genevieve L Wojcik, Morten Rasmussen, Andre E. R. Soares, Joshua Kapp, Alexandra Sockell, Francisco J. Rodriguez-Santos, Abdeslam Mikdad, Jonathan Santana, Aioze Trujillo-Mederos, Carlos D. Bustamante
Supplement 1
Abstract:
One of the greatest transitions in the human story was the change from hunter-gatherer to farmer. How farming traditions expanded from their birthplace in the Fertile Crescent has always been a matter of contention. Two models were proposed, one involving the movement of people and the other based on the transmission of ideas. Over the last decade, paleogenomics has been instrumental in settling long-disputed archaeological questions, including those surrounding the Neolithic revolution. Compared to the extensive genetic work done on Europe and the Near East, the Neolithic transition in North Africa, including the Maghreb, remains largely uncharacterized. Archaeological evidence suggests this process may have happened through an in situ development from Epipaleolithic communities, or by demic diffusion from the Eastern Mediterranean shores or Iberia. In fact, Neolithic pottery in North Africa strongly resembles that of European cultures like Cardial and Andalusian Early Neolithic, the southern-most early farmer culture from Iberia. Here, we present the first analysis of individuals' genome sequences from early and late Neolithic sites in Morocco, as well as Andalusian Early Neolithic individuals. We show that Early Neolithic Moroccans are distinct from any other reported ancient individuals and possess an endemic element retained in present-day Maghrebi populations, indicating long-term genetic continuity in the region. Among ancient populations, early Neolithic Moroccans share affinities with Levantine Natufian hunter-gatherers (~9,000 BCE) and Pre-Pottery Neolithic farmers (~6,500 BCE). Late Neolithic (~3,000 BCE) Moroccan remains, in comparison, share an Iberian component of a prominent European-wide demic expansion, supporting theories of trans-Gibraltar gene flow. Finally, the Andalusian Early Neolithic samples share the same genetic composition as the Cardial Mediterranean Neolithic culture that reached Iberia ~5,500 BCE. The cultural and genetic similarities of the Iberian Neolithic cultures with that of North African Neolithic sites further reinforce the model of an Iberian intrusion into the Maghreb.




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Michelsberg-Pfahlbaukultur, Alpine Cattle & CWC

Rick Hern just posted this interesting [link] in an old Beakerblog post concerning bos longifrons.  Although the studied animal only represents what Basal researchers call 'small cattle', it is worth pointing out that longifrons/brachyceros is dated earliest in the Swiss lakeside pile dwellings.  Though this is only a mitochondrial study, it could foreshadow increasing validity of those early archaeozoological observations.  They do notice that the size of the cattle is coincidentally similar to Swiss Rhaetian Greys, Tyroleans long considered longifrons since Adamtz (NPI).  I'll pause here momentarily..

Let's continue peeling the onion from two posts ago and revisit a recent genetics paper that involved a mysterious folk and then pivot from there: "Multi-scale ancient DNA analyses confirm the western origin of Michelsberg farmers and document probable practices of human sacrifice" by Beau et al, 2017

In that paper the MN Gougenheim (Alsace) burial site contained two different peoples, those who were sacrificed and tumbled into a pit (NCV), and those with a high status pit burial (CV), like the Beaurieux warrior below.  They are isotopically identical.  This is what Beau et al observed:
"Whereas all "H-G lineages" (of potential western origin) were found concentrated in the NCV group, the CV group contained a strong proportion of haplogroups H (H, H1 and H3) and X, which were more common in southern European and Paris Basin farmers"
Basically, you have typical farmers on one hand, and then the H1, H3 and X folks on the other.
Michelsberg Warrior (Manolakakis, Colas, Thevenet, 2007)

We've already seen a few Michelsberg derived or influenced groups with the male signature of, surprisingly, R1 or R1b (Baalberge and Blatterhohle I1594 & I1593), and they also oddly enough distinguish themselves for considerable WHG ancestry (Lipson et al, 2017, Supp Info).  Up to this point, the re-emergence of WHG in the MN has been, fairly reasonably, viewed as the consolidation of farmer majorities with hillbilly hunters in the margins of Europe.  If gory Gougenheim represents a larger phenomenon, perhaps simple gene flow is a weak explanation.

With regard to the rapid increase of H clades in Central Europe during the LN, two different hypotheses have been put forward.  Brotherton et al, 2013 proposed that H1 and H3 came from SW Europe during the LN.  Hervella et al, 2015 proposed this rise to a second Neolithic wave originating in NW Anatolia and transmitting to Central Europe via the Central Balkan Peninsula.  Comically, Michelsberg has 'heritage' it seems from both directions, but it is more plausible that at least its maternal basis originates in the South of France.  Still waiting Dulias et al, 2017...

Michelsberg emerges at a time when morphologically domestic horses (very large and very small) are becoming established in Continental Europe among several different cultures, 4k to 3k B.C.  "Horse size and domestication: Early equid bones from the Czech Republic in the European context" (Kysely and Peske, 2016) 

Michelsberg was a drinking culture that, like Beakers, also made bothroi sacrifices, "Un dépôt de céramiques Michelsberg à Obernai « Parc d’activités économiques intercommunal" by Lefranc and Feliu, 2015

For the first time there is deep flint mines, which is where brachycephalic "Rijckholt I" died.  Point-based pottery is a strange regression, potentially a indication of new mobility.  Salzmundians seem to have had a dogster phenomenon like CA Iberia, where I believe hunter ancestry also spikes.

Fig 30 Rijckholt I skull
Who knows what Horgen DNA looks like; it probably doesn't matter much anyway.  But if pockets of elite hunter-farmers established themselves in pockets of the Western Alps and the Upper Rhine, and if those elites were R1b, then those LN pile dwelling cattle just might make sense after all. 

Full circle again - one of Maju's posts
Rhaetian Grey (Swiss Info)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dogs and Donuts in the CWC

Last week I read a fascinating paper by Kyselý, Dobeš, Svoboda, 2017 - abstract below.  I'll briefly share some of their pay-per-view findings, but my interest is the meaning behind this phenomenon.  Related to this previous post:  "Woman with a Wolf-Toothed Necklace"

In a cemetery at Březiněves, Czech Republic, Kyselý, Dobeš, Svoboda examine what they believe is the largest collection of tooth and shell necklaces in the whole of Europe.  The distribution of shell and teeth are mostly necklaces, but in many cases the placement of shell beads or teeth also suggest decoration on certain garments, like women's hobbit cloaks, hoods, capes and purses.

Stuff and fake stuff. Fig. 7 (Kyselý, Dobeš, Svoboda, 2017)
What's interesting about Březiněves, like another recent Corded Ware site in Germany, is that the overwhelming majority of teeth are from domestic dog canines, mostly not wolves, but in a few other cases the canines or incisors of other animals, even canine imitations (above).  The shell beads are all from imported freshwater bivalves, which I imagine gave them the nacre luster of their day.

In the CWC it appears that only women wore a necklaces of canis canines separated by beads of freshwater bi-valve shells.  Although pearly buttons and solar emblems sometimes appear alone, and although dog teeth adorn certain women's accessories, the fashioning of the materials in the tooth-shell necklace is rather specific.  The tooth-shell necklace is so common and its construction is so prescribed that it would seem reasonable to think that it has a deeper meaning to the wearers than a simple fashion trend.  This is what I commented to JV in that first post, paraphrasing a few points from Theoi:
Modern Bi-vavles are called "naiads" [18th century taxonomy] after the nymphs of the springs, creeks and wetlands. Within the context of Greek religion, these nymphs of the springs are servants to Artemis (similar to Frigg), wetnurses of babies and overseers of girls. Conversely, boys are shepherded by the sun god "Apollo" [associated with wolves], as in the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus.  When a child reached a certain age, they would return to a spring for some sort of ceremony and sacrifice for thanks and passing into independence.  [Theoi, 2017]
And just to clarify after re-reading that statement, calling pearly mussels 'naiads' is only a modern-English taxonomical convention, nothing to suggest a concrete association between naidads and bivalves in ancient times that I am aware of.  Quite a few freshwater plant and animal species incorporate the mythological name in its taxonomical name.

But the point I was clumsily trying to make is that the association between these two species could be explained as a metaphor in Indo-European religion, specifically the relationship between Apollo and Artemis and their divine responsibilities, being suitable proxies for most Indo-European religions.  (And it is interesting to note the exclusivity mentioned in Kyselý et al between these necklaces and the solar crosses, and that they are generally worn by women, not men)

Romulus and Remus saved

So again, why would dog teeth be associated with wolves, wolves with a Sun god, and a Sun god with (generally child-bearing age) Corded Ware women?  Let me attempt to connect fifty thousand dots just for the heck of it.

The name of one of Apollo's epithets, Lyceius, is itself very likely a homophonic metaphor of the Proto-Indo-European names for wolf (*wĺ̥kʷos ) (or Lykeios -wolf slayer) and shining light (*lewkós).  Similar constructions can be made in the other religions as well, certainly Germanic and Celtic religions.  So how does that relate to dogs?

Indo-Europeanists Gamkrelidze and Ivanov have made the case that dogs and wolves were conflated in Indo-European speech and religion (1995, page 505).  Perhaps PIE dogs were more wolf-like and a lot less like Neolithic village dogs.  Regardless, I'd venture to bet that dog canines were suitable substitutes for a preference of rarer wolf teeth and that the hypothesis might testable by looking at the most elite CWC female burials or the oldest burials.  It's also possible that CWC folks saw no functional distinction between teeth of the two sub-species whatsoever.

Another possibility is that the canines of shepherd dogs were incorporated into these amulet necklaces for protection against wolves in addition to general misfortune.  A paper by Jean-Marc Moriceau (2014) relates a sad reality once common in wolf-infested Europe; from a small village in France, 1749:
“Marie, aged approximately 7 years, daughter of Jacques Prudent and his first wife, Tiennette Maroyer, was snatched from her doorway by a wolf and devoured in a field. Only her head, one arm and her stomach were found, and nothing besides. These pitiful remains were buried in the cemetery of this church the following day, fifth October, before my entire parish, who had gathered for Sunday Mass.”
Ironic that such a dark animal subject to local bounties and tributes, a terror of children's stories, an epithet of raiders and berserkers, and a real-life menace to children and livestock would be so venerated in IE folklore and religion.  Could it be that the purpose of the teeth and shell is not so much a fashion, but the fact that women of a certain belief system have male and female children?


Dance of the Naiades (Adolphe Lalyre)


Drilled teeth and shell artefacts from a grave at Prague-Březiněves and a review of decorative artefacts made from animal material from Corded Ware culture in the Czech Republic
Kyselý, R., Dobeš, M. & Svoboda, K. Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-017-0514-5 [Link]
Necklaces or other decorations made from drilled animal teeth and small perforated shell beads are typical burial objects of graves from the Late Eneolithic Corded Ware culture (c. 2900–2300 bc) in the territories of the Czech Republic, based on local data, central Germany, and to lesser degree in some other European regions. The richest collection of tooth pendants and shell beads so far discovered in Bohemia, and potentially the whole of Europe, derives from the recent excavation at Prague-Březiněves (595 tooth finds; 2801 complete shell beads and their 5586 fragments). A detailed analysis of this find forms the first part of the paper. The second, comparative section reviews all available graves (134 graves) of this culture from the territories of the Czech Republic that contain decorative items made from animal material: drilled teeth and imitation teeth, small beads of shell or bone and larger discs made of shell (or sometimes bone) called “solar” discs because of the decoration based on the symbol of a cross. Altogether, over 4000 teeth finds (from 88 graves) and over 30,000 finds of shell ring (68 graves), serving as beads or pendants, were recorded. Furthermore, 58 solar discs in 37 graves were recorded. The graves discussed here are mostly of women, either young or older; but children also appear. The frequent co-occurrence of teeth and shell beads (small decorative items) and their tendency to be mutually exclusive with larger solar discs (possibly brooches with a variety of functions) attest to two phenomena. Dog teeth, especially canines and incisors, clearly predominate in the collections of drilled teeth (in Březiněves min. 502 tooth finds representing at least 403 teeth and at least 73 dogs). Teeth of wild carnivores—wolf (Canis lupus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild cat (Felis silvestris), badger (Meles meles), otter (Lutra lutra), smaller mustelids, and brown bear (Ursus arctos)—and deer (Cervus elaphus) provide clear evidence of their presence in the environment. Two drilled human premolars are highly exceptional finds. Decorated discs made from the shells of the non-autochthonous freshwater mussel Margaritifera auricularia found at Prague-Březiněves and other Czech sites suggest importation from western or southern Europe. Despite there being significant inter-grave differences in the composition of the collections, the regular appearance of the phenomena described in this research in c. 10% of all graves of this culture, together with the uniformities in the manufacture of the items, suggests relatively strict rules with respect to Corded Ware funeral customs. Nevertheless, differences in the proportions of artefacts within the region were observed, such as a shift to a relatively higher frequency of discs, a greater specialisation on dog canines and incisors and the exclusion of imitation teeth between typological (and probably chronological) groups of this culture. The role of dogs, the meaning of these phenomena and their relation to the broader temporo-spatial context are widely discussed.




See also:
"The Structure and Complexity of Corded Ware Mortuary Practices; a bi-ritual communal burial at Slany (Bohemia) and its social significance" (Jan Turek)

"Dog tooth studded purse" (National Geographic)

"A Reader in Comparative Indo-European Religion"  Ranko Matasović, 2016

"Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans. A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture by Th.V.Gamkrelidze & V.V. Ivanov (page 505)



Friday, September 1, 2017

Alpine Savages, Valencia de Vucedol, Westphalian Weirdos

"Piece of Cake!"

Maybe a soul or two will remember this odd paper by Beau et al, 2017.  It's significance seems lost so far, so here's a simplified narrative: A predatory and expansive ethnic emerged in the MN Michelsberg, apparently a lightly-footed, pit-burying, hunter-heavy Atlantic with short heads.  Either the savages 'hunted' farmers beyond their borders or they represent a localized ethnic stratum, either way they appear genetically distinct from the people they ritually victimized.  Is this genetic apartheid also visible at Blatterhole in Westphalia? (Blätterhof, Blätterhohle)

This culture bleeds influences into a few other successor cultures; important ones that may become more important in this story later.  The Michelsberg mito-profiles are interesting in that light.  A paper by Katrina Dulias et al was due to be published already this month and it will be interesting to see their analysis on the expansion of H1 and H3 from the Southwest.  More on Christina Roth, 2016 with mito-turnover in the Mesetas below. 

Before moving on to Baalbergers, Blatterhohleans and Barcelonans, it might be helpful or not helpful to look back on how American anthropologists viewed the origin of big-bodied brachycephals of the Late Neolithic during this last century.  Earnest Hooton and his students viewed the rugged 'Alpine' racial type to likely be a Mesolithic relict from small pockets of Western Europe that slowly re-emerged through a combination of selection and miscegenation.  Of course they understood that brachycephals were also lightly represented in pockets of the Near East and recognized a general brachycephalization trend, but they also understood that the Late Neolithic saw massive migration from the East into the West of Europe.  Despite this, Hooton preferred the view that this massive physique was more likely a re-emergence of the savage in the horridly barbaric Middle Neolithic.

While modern osteologists working in Central and Eastern Europe are dodgy about the directional origin of the Beaker 'Alpine ethnic', from what I've read of the six or so leading experts in Central Europe, I'd bet they prefer a Western origin of the Beaker physique.  To make the matter more complex is the fact that most ethnic Bell Beakers very likely have substantial Corded Ware ancestry and cultural heritage (if not a majority) even if the communities didn't exactly overlap spatially or chronologically.  And for extra credit to this problem, it's also likely that later ethnic Beakers of the Eastern group intermingled with unrelated Steppe groups (to both themselves or a separate Corded Ware); personally I would point to Szigetszentmiklós (I2787) as direct evidence of a potential Beaker-Yamna hybrid.

The nearly certain Corded Ware ancestry of the North Central Beakers, and really almost all non-Iberian Beakers, is problematic when looking at the Bell Beaker racial type because not many of their distinct features could be attributable to the more slightly built CWC.  OTOH, Beakers clearly have a larger amount of what looks like WHG ancestry and it would necessarily have to be this specific ancestry that accounts for some of their unique features if Corded Ware ancestry represents the entirety of their recent Steppe heritage.  Clearly the Meseta underwent a large change about the time of the Beakers, and these bulbous-headed giants lack a significant Steppe component.  So what the heck does that mean?


Anyhow, when you look at the Baalbergers from Salzmünde or the Blatterhohle Westphalians such as Bla16 I1593, something interesting becomes a possibility.  So for fun, let's pretend for a moment that the so-called Steppe migration did in fact happen in multiple waves instead of a single wave as currently understood by the Allentoft, Haack and Olalde papers.  Would the earliest waves have comparable amounts of CHG compared to the last wave, assuming the Corded Ware represents the last wave?  And what was the make up of the Northwest and Western Black Sea if that was an area that the initial wave formed?

Finally, we go to the Barcelonan Bell Beakers.  The current view is that Iberian Beakers contributed almost nothing to the Continental Beaker ethnic.  This is put forth in "The Bell Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwestern Europe".  That must be a false dichotomy because it is inconceivable on multiple grounds.  Iberian Beakers expanded powerfully into Europe.  That is not the same as 'Iberians expanded powerfully into Europe'.  So like Heyd has written, in broad strokes a picture is forming, but the details might be different than expected.  Right now there is a simple narrative, but by this time next year, we might find ourselves again passing the same tree.

It might be a good idea to, once again, re-read "Kossinna's Smile".

Monday, August 7, 2017

"Death by Combat" Page 2. (Needham et al, 2017)

This is page 2 of "Death by Combat" by Needham et al, 2017.
Having now read the paper in its entirety, some interesting questions...

Racton's Dagger.  Fig 17  (Needham et al, 2017, photograph Stuart Needham)

We might carefully assume that the dagger buried with Racton Man (above) was on his person when he died, Racton apparently having lost a dagger fight.  If that were true, it'd be interesting that the victor and his company did not take Racton's dagger having the power to do so, an item that would be very highly coveted for the time.  This potentially tells us about the nature of the encounter.

In his book "Feud in the Icelandic Saga", Jesse Byock (1984) makes a case that certain fundamentals of conflict resolution are woven into the themes of Icelandic (and by extension, IE) sagas.  Every story has woven within it a blood feud, a holmgang or einvigi.

Needham et al seem to view this death in that light, as an einvigi (single combat dual) and they further propose that this was because of a leadership contest.  That may be the case, but it could be as something stupid as a foul remark and a challenge to dual.  Either way, it is reasonable to think that this fight was mano-to-mano.


Milston Hill Dagger of similar riveted style.  From Fig 22 (Needham et al, 2017)

Like most Beakers, Racton Man was buried in a wooden enclosure or container with his head resting on a pillow.  When his body decomposed, his head rolled off the pillow giving its position in the grave.  There was also no perceivable rodent activity, so it would seem the container was fairly well constructed.

In addition to this, it can't be ruled out that he was also beheaded at death.  The attacker very forcefully made a succession of blows, any of which could have caused death.

And finally, to add something concerning high status dagger burials...

"It is intriguing that among these injuries, a high proportion are arm injuries: for example, a forearm parry fracture at Chilbolton, Hampshire; a healed upper arm fracture at Liffs Low (Beaker burial), Derbyshire; healed forearm fractures at Pyecombe, East Sussex, Barnack, Cambridgeshire, and Fordington Farm, Dorset; an extensive wound to the left wrist at Callis Wold 23, East Yorkshire, which the recipient survived; and a possible upper arm injury at Tallington, Lincolnshire. At Court Hill, Somerset, a left humerus chopped right through was interpreted as the probable cause of death, and a burial at Amesbury, Wiltshire, had suffered the same fate, but also lacked its right arm, skull and mandible. Burial 11 at Staxton Beacon, East Yorkshire, had a major weapon injury to the left shoulder.103 Taken together, these begin to look significant, particularly since leg injuries seem to be negligible by comparison. There are also several skull injuries of varied kinds. All but one of the skeletons is sexed and all are males. Thorpe saw such injuries as evidence that recipients were ‘killed in the course of small-scale conflicts, whose bravery was then recognised by a prestigious burial’.104 It may now be possible to venture more on the particular social context of some conflicts."

With all the engraved daggers, what went on at Stonehenge and Mont Bego anyway?
And hat tip to Andrew, see part 1

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mother Lode

Beakerblog found the mother lode of all flint mothers this week.  Some of the nodules are huge, Danish dagger worthy.  This particular lot lode is weirdly like 90% flint, different colors, different qualities.  Not exaggerating.  There is literally several TONS (tons!) of it is this particular parking lot.


The best place to find flint is actually in the parking lots of offices and businesses that have decorative rock beds.  A lot of time they truck in river stone.  The best way to know for sure you've got flint is to strike it and it'll smell like a cigarette lighter.

Always ask permission to hunt for rocks, very especially on private lands, and probably the same for doctor's offices, banks and small businesses.  My advice for the buy-n-large box stores is, well, that's for another blog.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Death By Combat (Needham et al, 2017)

Racton Man died in a dagger fight, possibly from a knife to the armpit or from a slash to the elbow.  And what a dagger he had, one of a kind, the earliest detected bronze in Britain.

He was a big ole dude for his day.  If not a local king or village chief, some kind of honcho that made a few enemies along the way.  His opponent wielded a razor-sharp, metal knife, probably a rival Beaker.

PA via Daily Mail UK
The authors consider, buried in this Pay-per-no-view, that leadership was contested through combat trials, which brings to mind the locations in which dagger representations occur in abundance, such as  Stone Henge and Mont Bego.  The supplement is free and contains quite a bit of technical data.  Supplement1


"Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft superman" Dailymail

"Revealed:  Racton Man was a Bronze Age Warrior chief"  HistoryExtra


DEATH BY COMBAT AT THE DAWN OF THE BRONZE AGE? PROFILING THE DAGGER-ACCOMPANIED BURIAL FROM RACTON, WEST SUSSEX
Needham, Kenny, Cole, Montgomery, Jay, Davis, Marshall (2017) The Antiquities Journal, Cambridge [Link]

Abstract
"A previously unresearched Early Bronze Age dagger-grave found in 1989 at Racton, West Sussex, is profiled here through a range of studies. The dagger, the only grave accompaniment, is of the ‘transitional’ Ferry Fryston type, this example being of bronze rather than copper. Bayesian analysis of relevant radiocarbon dates is used to refine the chronology of the earliest bronze in Britain. While the Ferry Fryston type was current in the earlier half of the twenty-second century bc, the first butt-riveted bronze daggers did not emerge until the second half. The Racton dagger is also distinguished by its elaborate rivet-studded hilt, an insular innovation with few parallels.
The excavated skeleton was that of a senior male, buried according to the appropriate rites of the time. Isotopic profiling shows an animal-protein rich diet that is typical for the period, but also the likelihood that he was brought up in a region of older silicate sedimentary rocks well to the west or north west of Racton. He had suffered injury at or close to the time of death; a slice through the distal end of his left humerus would have been caused by a fine-edged blade, probably a dagger. Death as a result of combat-contested leadership is explored in the light of other injuries documented among Early Bronze Age burials. Codified elite-level combat could help to explain the apparent incongruity between the limited efficacy of early dagger forms and their evident weapon-status."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Danish Halberds (Horn, 2017)

This is a study specific to Denmark, and it looks at the functional use and maintenance history of halberds. The results of these personal halberd 'histories' reveals that these items were regularly and powerfully used against creatures, not the decorations of strutting roosters. Christian Horn looks at each weapon to reveal its maintenance history and the result is this: for the Cimbrian Peninsula and the Danish Isles, Halberds were used, repeatedly repaired, but very powerfully used by their wielders.
 
Now there is a viewpoint by Skak-Neilsen 2009, mentioned here, that halberds were basically used for pithingor essentially that or something, and a case could be made that Medieval slaughter techniques generally pithed with poleaxes, at least in the far West. But viewing the Bronze Age weapon within that functional sphere is problematic for a host of reasons, one being the decline of the halberd in relation to the ascendancy of the sword as a 'beyond-arm's-length weapon' is fairly correlated.

You'll notice on this weapon below and the other halberds in this series that repairs aren't just impact damage to the tip.  There are damages of different sorts along the weapon, suggesting a wide range of movements, hooking and defenses.  Clearly, the weapon below was involved in combat.


There's actually a long and varied list of reasons to view the halberd as a human-only weapon, and if pithing is excluded, quite possibly the very first weapon created by humans with the expressed and exclusive purpose of killing, often and efficiently, humans very specifically. Take all other weapons, remove its hunting value, and see what remains.  Basically nothing.

For the moment, I'll stop here and return later to Horn's thorough research on a continental scale. It's very extensive, and very damning. There is another paper penned by him and Kristensen concerning Early Bronze Age warfare forthcoming.



"Combat and ritual — Wear analysis on metal halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula"
Christian Horn.  Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Leibnizstr. 3, 24118 Kiel, Germany

[Link]
 

Abstract
Use wear analysis was carried out on fourteen halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula. Rather than presenting a summary of the results, each analysis will be described in detail to give a sense of the complexity of the use wear present on each halberd. This way a sense of the scale of combat they were involved in can be conveyed. This challenges older ideas that see in halberds only ritual implements or signifiers of status. The analysis of the wear traces indicates their use in both, combat and ritual.

Slovak, Czech Bell Beaker Osteology (Hukelova, 2017)


Does anyone have access to this paper? [here - Edinburgh Research Archive]

Zuzana Hukelova apparently builds on other osteological comparisons of other researchers, and interestingly mentions the disparity, not dimophism, of the Chalcolithic individuals (noted several posts ago by Kitti Kohler).  This appears to be a larger regional study and includes Slovakian Beakers in the analysis the first time that I can see.  Spread the wealth.

"Despite the potential of a biocultural methodology, osteology and archaeology are often approached separately in some parts of Central Europe. This osteoarchaeological thesis presents a rare comparative study of populations occupying modern-day Slovakia, Moravia, and Bohemia from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (EBA). By examining skeletal indicators of health and lifestyle, it aims to contribute to bioarchaeological research within the study region. It also provides new insights into a series of important sites where no osteological evaluation of skeletal remains have previously been performed. Human remains from thirty-four sites in Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia, 152 adults and 136 subadults, were analysed. Demographic, pathological and metric data were recorded and evaluated, and compared with previously published data for contemporaneous populations in order to create a more comprehensive representation of the populations in the area. The results suggest several differences between the Neolithic and the following periods, mostly as regards health status. Higher dietary and environmental stress was indicated in the Neolithic period, as suggested by lower mortality peak (especially of females and subadults) and about 5cm shorter stature, and generally worse health status of Neolithic population when compared to the Chalcolithic and EBA individuals. The Neolithic is also the only period where females were more numerous than males. Such a trend is quite common in the Neolithic of the study region. This may be a result of increased migration of Neolithic females, as raids for wives are suggested to have been practiced. As indicated by both the osteological and archaeological record, one of the sites examined, Svodín, could have been a site of contemporary elites and their family members. Chalcolithic populations revealed differences in cranial shape, being mesocephalic (medium-headed) or brachycephalic (short-headed), whereas both the Neolithic and the EBA populations were dolichocephalic (long-headed). Differences in male and female cranial features suggest a possible mixing of indigenous and incoming populations. Such results may contribute to the ongoing discussion about the ‘foreignness‘ of Chalcolithic Bell Beaker people in the area. Traumatic lesions suggest that males were more physically active than females in all three periods, including violent encounters. Even though violence was recorded in all three periods, especially in the western part of the region, and the intensity and brutality of the assaults appears to increase in the Chalcolithic and culminating in the EBA. In addition, poorer health status of EBA children was recorded, possibly related to more marked social differentiation in the period. In general, poorer health was implied for the prehistoric populations of today’s Slovakia. The results of this study can serve as the basis for future research and contribute to a more comprehensive image of lifestyle and development of prehistoric populations in the study area."

Friday, July 21, 2017

DNA - Protocogotas (Esparza et al, 2017)

Hat tip Bernard and Davidski

This triple burial dates to early Proto-Cogotas, sometime between 1918 and 1772 B.C.  The two women and unborn baby were buried atop a mattress, pillows or other organic material that decomposed, allowing rotation of the bones.

LTB-03 was a young woman who died while she was at full-term pregnancy or in labor with LTB-01, also a girl.  The nuclear and mitochondrial DNA further demonstrate this relationship beyond all doubt.  The older woman was not maternally related, but considering the nuclear DNA, the possibility of a paternal aunt or grandmother was not excluded.  (surprising that it's inconclusive)

Esparza et al highlight the importance of DNA in determining relationships of the past.  Before DNA was conducted, it had been thought that the elder woman was a man due to the robustness of the cranium and to the (seemingly) diagnostic posture; and that this was a small nuclear family that died under unfortunate and contemporary settings.  However, further osteological analysis of the cranial and post-cranial remains started to sow doubt about the 'man', and DNA finally revealed that she was a woman of uncertain relationship.

Triple burial from Fig 2.  (Esparza et al, 2017)
In past generations, many touching assumptions seemed reasonable of Early Bronze Age burials:  A man and woman in a pit grave were husband and wife.  A woman embracing a small child was the child's biological mother.  They weren't bad assumptions, most are likely correct; but they are not facts.  Obviously, DNA has excluded certain relationships in this burial.

Before getting to the gender identity of LTB-02, quick background. Esparza et al, 2012b previously came up with a theory for the gross lack of Cogotas Horizon burials in Central Spain, attributing them to exposure or something.  For the few discovered burials, when they did occur, they were exceedingly those of females.  They essentially make a case that Cogotas people dealt with taboo deaths, such as a woman dying in labor, differently from the general population.  In other words, this burial from Los Tolmas might have had been associated with a taboo death.  They make a compelling comparison to the treatment of taboo deaths of pregnant women in colonial Ghana.

Next, they offer some alternative scenarios for the relationship between these women from discussions at a recent workshop.  One proposal was that the elder woman was a mid-wife, who for whatever reason, was volunteered into this situation.  Given the lateness of the pregnancy, and obviously the poor outcome, it seems possible the mid-wife found herself in an inescapable cloud of superstition.  It's also possible that the pregger died before labor and some unfortunate, lower-class soul got the honor to deliver her lady's child in the next world. 

Given the manliness of the elder woman and the orientation of the burial, the conversation drifted toward 'gender identity'.  But in my view the circumstances surrounding this burial make more sense when focused on the tragedy of a very pregnant woman dying unexpectedly. 

Protocogotas is the tail end of Bell Beaker in this region, so their genomes might offer a fuller picture of the Mesetan ethnicies from the previous period.

"Familiar Kinship?  Palaeogenetic and Isotopic Evidence from a Triple Burial of the Cogotas I Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age, Iberian Peninsula)"
ÁNGEL ESPARZA, SARA PALOMO-DÍEZ, JAVIER VELASCO-VÁZQUEZ,
GERMÁNDELIBES,EDUARDOARROYO-PARDOANDDOMINGOC.SALAZAR-GARCÍA
OXFORD JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 36(3) 223–242 2017
"Summary. This paper examines the identification of kinship relations in
archaeological multiple burials and advocates the application of different
methods and lines of research to clarify such issues in relation to funerary
practices. Recognizing family relationships – an important task in research on
prehistoric societies – is especially complicated and interpretations have often
been made without an adequate empirical basis. Bioarchaeological, isotopic
and DNA analyses applied to the triple burial of Los Tolmos (Cogotas I
archaeological culture, Iberian Bronze Age) have provided direct information
on this issue. In this respect, the new results also imply the need to consider gender
constructs in greater depth and to be more open-minded towards other forms of
relationship in the past beyond the traditional heteronormative nuclear family."