Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Dwolfggy Puzzles

Is this mutt a wolf or a dog? 

It could be that at its age it is genetically equidistant from modern domestic dogs and modern wolves.  It could also plausibly represent a population from which dogs had already been drifting as a human-controlled population.

If the pup represents the dog branch, it'll be interesting to see finer hypotheses on how it's specific adaptations contributed to the lifestyle and mega-hunting in this harsh region. 

"Russian Scientists present ancient puppy found in permafrost" via AP

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Brachyceros in Baden (Horvath, 2019)

Back to a subject of critical importance to the development of the Beaker Phenomenon and its life ways.

Tunde Horvath examines "Cattle Deposits of the Late Copper Age and Early Bronze Age in Hungary"

The paper is about cattle burials, but something else caught my attention.

from Fig 3. "Idealized picture of Budakalasz" (Judit Torma, 2005)
Although there is a smattering of research on classifying cattle races in archaeological deposits, archaeology is only now beginning to take the racial classification of domesticated animals seriously, or at least archaeologists have renewed faith that these questions can be settled with modern methods of verification.

This Horvath paper is one of the few examples that I can think of where he has clearly separated the brachyceros/longifrons and frontilis races from the common taurine beef cattle.  Identifying the longifrons (the long face, short head) is important because these are commonly used as dairy cattle and they spread rapidly throughout the continent and North Africa about the time of the Bell Beakers.

They were identified as being present as early as the Late Neolithic in the Swiss Cultures, but here they are clearly present throughout the Baden Culture horizon including Hungary.  Importantly, he points to the heterogeneity of the cattle sub-species within these cultural contexts which suggests an intent to use animals with different characteristics for certain purposes, such as dairying, traction, ranging, etc.

An excerpt:
"A heterogeneity could be noted among the individuals based on the horn-cores and the height at the hindquarters. Small-bodied (dwarf) cattle appear during the Baden period in Europe, but large-sized and very large-sized cattle breeds are also known. A short-horned brachyceros breed and a frontosus breed with wide forehead could be distinguished on the basis of the skull, the horn-cores, and the heights at the withers and the hindquarters. The frontosus and small-bodied brachyceros breeds are forest and mountain ecotypes, while the large-bodied brachyceros and primigenius breeds represent lowland ecotypes. The cattle at Balatonőszöd were milk breeds, and the proportion of the sexes was even. There was no apparent preference for a particular type among the cattle selected for sacrifice. The sacrificial animals included individuals of both sexes and all age categories: embryos, newborn and older calves, cows and bulls. However, we did note a 12.3% increase among young individuals selected for consumption and sacrifice in Baden culture compared to Boleráz culture within the Baden complex."

This isn't a simple change in preference, it is a cultural breakthrough and social revolution

It still doesn't resolve exactly where the longifrons evolved or developed.  One theory is that it may have been intentionally developed in cultures like the Alpine Horgen Culture as a cross between a Taurine bull and some sort of unidentified auroch cow from the mountains.

See also,
Busa Cattle, Cetina Culture and the Balkans

The Brachyceros and The Brachycephlics


Dunstable Echinoid Burial

Cattle Size, Before and After the EBA

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Taubertal (update)

Source for Beaker male lineages?

This grave is classified as part of the Corded Ware Culture in the Taubertal, and two paternal lineages are what we have come to expect as the near-exclusive Bell Beaker lineage M269.

That we'd see Beaker lineages in a Corded Ware communities is not surprising; they married well and often.  But to have no meaningful ancestry in line with most Beakers and at this age certainly raises the eyebrows.  Actually, a few things raise the eyebrows.  Apparently, more L51 lineages are on the way that are further East and pretty early.  We'll see.

Update, adding this "Das schnurkeramische Gräberfeld von Lauda-Königshofen im Taubertal"

See Deutschordensmuseum Bad Mergentheim

"Althäuser Hockergrab" from Althausen'

We've seen a lot of jumping to conclusions with previous ancient individuals where there was obvious cultural and genetic admixture.  But if it turns out that we begin seeing more of this in the right contexts and much earlier, then one of the oldest questions regarding the origin of the Beaker phenomenon may have an answer pretty soon. 

(Holger Uwe Schmitt)

See also
"Diet and Mobility in the Corded Ware of Central Europe" Sjogren, Price, Kristiansen, 2015

"The Stone Age Plague and Its Persistence in Eurasia:"


Friday, October 11, 2019

Lech Valley (Update 1)

This post will be updated throughout the weekend.

If you're looking for some eye-poping graphics and a great story, see Haaretz's coverage "Prehistoric Downtown Abbey: Bronze Age Germans had Earliest Known Household Staff" (again Ruth Schuster)

The Lech Valley paper is an intimate, peering-through-the-window experience of Bell Beaker households in a way that borders time travel.

It observes the marriage network that certainly gave the Beaker cultural system access to distant resources and blood allegiance. These marriage patterns can partly explain the ubiquity of the M269 male lineage, especially outside of its own paternal families of origin.

dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo via Newscientist

The research group, which includes Krause and Stockhammer, examined the ancient ancestry in family cemeteries along the Lech River Valley in Southern Bavaria.  They were able to recreate six family trees of about four to five generations (below).

These are country kinfolk with extended family and connections beyond their valley.  We might imagine on several occasions of the year, people for hundreds of miles converged in one place for gambling, barn dancing, athletic contests and religious festivals.  During this time introductions, negotiations, betrothals and weddings might have been arranged.

Sciencenews quotes Phillip Stockhammer, “We were absolutely surprised to find that social inequality was a phenomenon within households rather than between households”.

That inequality existed within Beaker households is not a new idea (Liesau et al, 2015), as many Bell Beaker grave plots or mounds give the impression that some people had greater status and some had less.  In some situations the disparity was considerable enough to invite social degrees interpreted as tenants, servants or slaves.

One of the curious discoveries for the researchers was the well-decorated women who left no genetic descendants within these cemeteries.  

The authors provide a solution that makes a lot of sense in light of Medieval customs and arrangements found in cultures across the world.  That is, 'political' marriages required children born of these unions to eventually move back to their mother's family of origin.  It means (potentially) that sons born to a political wife would grow up to be favored sons in another country, having land, rights and distant, yet trusted connections. 

These particular Lech River sons would eventually head back to their mother's folks in Eastern Germany, Poland or Czechia, where they would be raised by their aunts and uncles.  These boys were the maternal grandsons of landed farmers and craftsmen, particularly during the emerging proto-Unetice. 

Hopefully I can find the complete paper and be able to post more soon...

In the news:
ZME News

Kinship-based social inequality in Bronze Age Europe
Mittnik, A. et al. Science https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aax6219 (2019).

See Also,

lechtal glockenbecher

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

More on Battle Axe Folk (Malmstrom et al, 2019)

Battle Axe Culture appears fully within the Corded Ware family system.  

This study clarifies earlier studied samples, and yet again, the two Swedish males from the Battle Axe Culture are R1a.

See also, "DNA study sheds new light on the people of the Neolithic Battle Axe Culture" at PHYS

In the media: 
"New DNA study gives researchers a fasinating look at the Neolithic Battle Axe culture" Ancient-code

The genomic ancestry of the Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture people and their relation to the broader Corded Ware horizon.  Helena Malmström, Torsten Günther, Emma M. Svensson, Anna Juras, Magdalena Fraser, Arielle R. Munters, Łukasz Pospieszny, Mari Tõrv, Jonathan Lindström, Anders Götherström, Jan Storå and Mattias Jakobsson
Published:09 October 2019 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1528https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1528

The Neolithic period is characterized by major cultural transformations and human migrations, with lasting effects across Europe. To understand the population dynamics in Neolithic Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area, we investigate the genomes of individuals associated with the Battle Axe Culture (BAC), a Middle Neolithic complex in Scandinavia resembling the continental Corded Ware Culture (CWC). We sequenced 11 individuals (dated to 3330–1665 calibrated before common era (cal BCE)) from modern-day Sweden, Estonia, and Poland to 0.26–3.24× coverage. Three of the individuals were from CWC contexts and two from the central-Swedish BAC burial ‘Bergsgraven’. By analysing these genomes together with the previously published data, we show that the BAC represents a group different from other Neolithic populations in Scandinavia, revealing stratification among cultural groups. Similar to continental CWC, the BAC-associated individuals display ancestry from the Pontic–Caspian steppe herders, as well as smaller components originating from hunter–gatherers and Early Neolithic farmers. Thus, the steppe ancestry seen in these Scandinavian BAC individuals can be explained only by migration into Scandinavia. Furthermore, we highlight the reuse of megalithic tombs of the earlier Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) by people related to BAC. The BAC groups likely mixed with resident middle Neolithic farmers (e.g. FBC) without substantial contributions from Neolithic foragers.