Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anicent Iberian DNA (new paper analyzing 2012 results)


I've had a chance to look at this and the paper referenced below by Hervella et al, essentially analyzes results from Paternanbidea and Cascajos in 2012.  You can find that paper [here].

Update 1.0

I'm going to peck at this little by little throughout the day.  I planned to shred the 2012 Hervella et al paper at a later time, but it looks like Hervella, Izagirre, Alonso & Fregel have forced my hand.

Let me say from the outset, it is not the Hervella results that bother me.  It is that their results are controversial and problematic.  It would be nice to be able to look back at our freshly excavated, viable and invincibly provenanced and attributed remains with a great deal of confidence. 

For example, we could look at La Braña and feel confident about his 1) material culture 2) stratification and age 3) his weird results that effectively eliminate contamination 4) his recent excavation 5) viability of remains 6) high resolution testing.  This gives us confidence that La Brana accurately represents what some, or most, Northwest Iberians looked like before the advent of agriculture.

The Hervella results leave me with a lot of questions.  Why do we have radically different, partially contemporaneous funerary traditions within forty miles of each other?  Why do we have surprisingly modern results?  Why were severely deteriorated remains selected for sampling?  Given the fact that the Iberian Early Neolithic is a mine field of problems, are we prepared to ascribe profiles to certain populations?

I've already commented about the results from Pasiega and La Chora and why it is unlikely that the entire continent of Europe had characteristically Mesolithic DNA, followed by characteristically Byblian Neolithic Farmer DNA (including Iberia), but Iberia was still a glacial refuge for large chunks of maternal haplogroup H?

There is little question that major clade frequencies of Europe expanded from Iberia.  This most likely happened because of Iberian Beaker immigration into Europe.  It's also possible, to a degree, that major subclades such as H1, H3 and V were present in Iberia in the Early Neolithic, so I'm not discounting the various possibilities.


An analysis of the burial characteristics of the individuals recovered from two Early Neolithic sites in Navarre (Los Cascajos and Paternanbidea), in the Spanish Basque Country, revealed a complex funerary ritual. The individuals recovered from the Paternanbidea site were distributed in three double graves and a multiple one, while the individuals from Los Cascajos were buried in individual pit-shaped tombs; furthermore, the tombs had a variety of cultural and funerary features. The aim of this study is to evaluate the burial ritual by means of mitochondrial DNA data and the funerary characteristics of 36 individuals recovered from these two sites. The results show that the diversity of these Early Neolithic burial practices from the northern Iberian Peninsula cannot be explained by means of maternal kinship relationships.

Early Neolithic funerary diversity and mitochondrial variability of two Iberian sites.  Montserrat Hervella, Neskuts Izagirre, Santos Alonso, Rosa Fregel,
Concepción de-la-Rúa, 29 November 2014 [Link]


  1. This is new as in 11/30/2014? Can you post the results, with mutations?

    1. I am looking for that information now. Unfortunately it is buried in a pay-per-view journal. I will post as soon as I can find...

  2. bellbeakerblogger,

    If all the samples we currently have from pre-Neolithic Iberia are legit, then mtDNA R0 and L3(R-) existed in Iberia before farming. Most pre-Neolithic Iberian mtDNA samples are from studies which are 10 or more years old, and so their reported results are off. The "N*"'s, actually were not tested for any N SNPs. All we know is that they had L3, and probably not R. Meaning they could have had African maternal lineages.

    The "H"'s were not tested for any H SNPs, they were tested for 73 an R0 SNP. Many of them had it, and several had HV1 mutations which suggest they very likely had H1b1a'c'd'h.

    I think it's very possible the pre-Neolithic Iberian R0's aren't from modern contamination, because the same studies also found typical Mesolithic European mtDNA, such as U5b1c2, and no J, T, N1a, X, and K which are much more popular combined in modern Euros than U5.

    Like I said before thee L3(R-) found in multiple samples from Mesolithic Portugal suggest African admixture, which also may be where the R0 is coming from. La Brana-1 suggests pre-Neolithic Iberians were apart of the same meta-population as people north of them(Loschbour), so if the Iberians had H their relatives in the north(who ultimately derived from Iberia) should have had to.

    1. Your first point regarding N* is interesting. I suppose they could be L3, maybe even likely so. I'd agree that N* before agriculture is unlikely.

      To the second and third, I'd agree that about 2/3 the results from 2012 are to be expected from Early Neolithic Iberia. There is some typical looking old Europe U5 and a typical looking Farmer J,T, N, X & K profile. This seems to show a lot of things worked in the study. I'd like to feel confident that we know whose DNA prevailed in the last third.

      The main reason for my suspicion is that modern Europe is more similar to modern Northern Iberia than it used to be and looking to Brotherton, the road to this demographic change would involve a very concentrated maternal profile of low H immigration from Iberia to the continent. (H1, H2, H3, etc)

      This would mean that only some Mesolithic and Neolithic Iberian lineages were subject to severe bottle-necking.
      To illustrate with absurdity, it would be like if the only people to survive the bubonic plague had a last name that started with H, V or K. Obviously we start with a mixed population, then end up with a bunch of H's.

      It's still possible the Hervella results are 100% valid, but I think the results are controversial and, for that reason, I consider the bar to be a little higher.

  3. "The main reason for my suspicion is that modern Europe is more similar to modern Northern Iberia than it used to be and looking to Brotherton, the road to this demographic change would involve a very concentrated maternal profile of low H immigration from Iberia to the continent. (H1, H2, H3, etc)"

    That's an interesting idea. It's to simplistic to make modern Europeans a mix of the exact same hunter gatherers and farmers, and not consider migrations within regions of the new Europe(hunter+farmer) after the initial spread of farming. There isn't enough coverage of ancient mtDNA(and modern) to have any confident conclusions.

  4. Interesting article (however I took everything with a huge grain of salt, mainly when I have been reading lots of different sources about the Mesolithic period, that I don´t find to be outdated at all). I really think that some Mesolithic Muge remains have been carbon dated (and isotope studies confirmed them to be hunter-gatherers), so I would rather give credit to who work with it, than someone else. If some material needs to be researched or re-verified then that´s it, it´s better to stick with what you know (and for that we should use the ones that were safely identified as hunters/foragers). I would like to see you debating these subjects, with Maju (his blog: «For what they were we are»), because I have found him surprisingly quite well informed (and polite, not rude or arrogant) about this and other related subjects (I really like his multidisciplinary approach too). Curiously he said that knows about pre-neolithic iberian samples which presented H mtDNA haplogroup, so maybe you could talk with him about that? Just saying, do as you wish. You seem honestly interested on this subject, so I find correct to say that. Regarding the possible (I still have yet to dig the article) presence of also L3, I found it really interesting, because this should be the so-called «Eurasian Eve». As people should know, modern humans came from Africa and entered in Europe around 40.000 years ago (at least, this is what we usually read), L3 may have been present during that period. L1b in a recent study was also estimated as being pre-neolithic in Iberia (it was actually found also in modern people) and that there are still specific European subclades of L1b (we already know about the presence of L3 in some modern iberians, but I don´t know about the subclades). There are some more lineages present in Pre-Neolithic Iberians, but that´s another subject. I find La Brana, interesting, but I think that there are hundreds of Pre-neolithic Iberian remains, so why I would focus only on one? Just because the Media and propaganda/internet fever, talk about him so much? Just because, a certain Northeast European agenda, find him a bit related with them (though still pretty different)? If you read certain Scandinavian blogs, I would see my point. Some even claimed that pre-neolithic iberians move to North Europe and aren´t related with modern iberians. This is another childish mistake, that I really want to stay out from. So that´s why I have double feelings about La Brana and I find the attention around him overrated. Actually even his genes seem definitely «Asian» shifted, so that´s another reason, that I like to have a look also in other remains. Curiously, there have been «racial» analysis on Muge and several other Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic remains (Teviec, Natuffian, Brno, Predmost, Afalou, Combe Capelle, etc, etc...) and Protomediterranean/Crude Mediterranean and even Gracile Mediterranean individuals have been identified, some dated from well before the period that La Brana was living. And they looked different from him and seem phenotypically related with the oldest population strains found today, in Iberia, Sardinia, Atlas, Dordogne, Wales, South Norway/Sweden and so on. Recently a study outlined also that there was (until recent times) a «retarded» notion of what are farmer and hunter genes:
    Curiously I have pointed out this possibility on a forum (and I have the proof of it) even before this finding appear on the news.

    1. Thanks for your comment. To clarify, I do believe that the shellmidden do indeed contain mostly Mesolithic individuals. However, there are also some problems with the remains, I believe, which is difficult when the DNA results are controversial.

      I am skeptical but undecided on some of the Mesolithic remains in Western Iberia. I eagerly await more testing in this area to finally resolve some of these questions. Thanks for posting.

  5. And we are just on the beginning!

    Have a great day!