Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Epigentic traits of Bohemian Beakers (Czarnetzki, 1976)

In 1969 Alfred Czarnetzki examined a collection of ancient skulls spanning the Late Neolithic, Beaker Period and the Aunjetitz (Unetice) Culture in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia.  His analysis of early epigenetic and non-metric traits got a supporting boost from the recent Olalde paper.

Although he and his colleagues had examined numerous traits in this set, in the article he chose to focus on persistent metopism for discussion.  Commonly believed to be an epigenetic trait, he discusses the frequencies of males and females among these remains and makes some comments about gender-based mobility, ethnic intermingling and population continuity.
"Metopic Suture" Cambridge Anatomy

Persistent metopism is different from metopic craniosynostosis in that the rather than the premature fusion of the plates, the fibrous sutures between plates persist through adulthood creating a sort of soft line.

Czarnetzki found (here free to read at JSTOR after registering) what appeared to be a clear break between the Late Neolithic and the Bell Beaker where the incidence in the females is reduced in half.  The frequency between Bell Beaker and Unetice is similar, which is viewed as population continuity.  Only looking at this one trait, he proposed that during the Bell Beaker period there had being a influx of immigrants that was male-biased into the local population.  During the Beaker period he sees a leveling of sorts with male immigrants and local women, this in turn is expressed in new frequencies during Unetice.

Metopism does not appear to be correlated with common head shapes and it's probably not useful other than looking at local populations within a short period.  But older studies like this deserve a victory lap for being a vanguard of new anthropological data and for being right at the wrong time.

"Epigenetic traits: The change of frequencies during the Neolithic-Bronze Age Transition in Bohemia"  Anthropologie XIV/1,2 Alfred Czarnetzki (1976)

If I don't flunk out of this, I'll try to do some modeling of different Beaker populations within the coming days and weeks.  If you have anything of your own, please post in the comments section.  There's enough genomes now to start making some real use of what's available.  More to follow.

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