Friday, December 26, 2014

Review 2014

Quick, quick review of 2014

"A tree from Beaker times" Wales News Service, 2014
Four and a half thousand years ago, a Beaker bowyer looking for stavewood glanced at the trunk of this gnarled yew tree before moving on through the woods.  This tree sticks out in my mind as something uniquely special that is a living relict of that ancient age.

But trees aren't the only living relicts of those ancients.  We see their faces when we look into the mirror and DNA may make 2015, 2016 and 2017 the biggest years in the study of Beakerfolk of the last 100 years.

Here's a few highlights from 2014 that stick out in my mind:

1.  Even though there hasn't been much published Bell Beaker DNA in 2014, there have been quite a few important studies on remains of Neolithic and Paleolithic Eurasians to add to last year's.   A larger picture is continuing to develop of the genetic situation leading up to the Chalcolithic and the metal ages that followed.

There were two important studies updating the branching dates of Europe's biggest Y-Chromosomes, R1b (Larmuseau et al, 2014) and R1a (Underhill et al, 2014).  Whatever the mechanism, it's clear that a rapid accession of foreign male lineages supplanted native European ones around 5,000 years ago.  It probably didn't happen in a day, as you can see from the Kromsdorf cemetary, it may have involved the burden of a landed class smothering peasants over many, many centuries.

Autobahn Girl, 2014  (Photographer Steffen Schellhorn)

2.  A tiny segment of a hemp bowstring was preserved over a copper Palmela point in Portugal.  (the braid was not measurable and the twist pattern has not been identified)  The yew longbow with a linen string has probably been the backbone of European archery since the Neolithic.  However, hemp adds a new dimension to Beaker bowyery.  Stuart Piggott suspected at some point Beakers were using doubly-recurve composite bows with sunken gripes.  I think the "radial class" (as I put it) stone bracers* may further evidence along with hemp the brief presence of recurve composites.

3.  A number of personal artifacts were recovered.  The Kirkhaugh second half was discovered after 70 something years and reinforced the notion that 'basket earrings' are always pairs.  The Danish Dagger showed us for the first time what the birch-bark hilt of the Scandinavian daggers looked like.  A metal detectorist in Britain found another lunula, more minature items were recovered from the graves of Bell Beaker children.

4.  Bell Beaker people were unearthed everywhere.  Two children from Buckinghamshire.  A young woman killed by a hammer blow was found near the Autobahn in Germany.  A double burial in Scotland.   A woman in the Highlands, a noble woman in furs and jewelry in the south.

5.  The realm of the Beakers continues to expand, both at its margins in Northeastern Europe and Africa, but also its saturation level in places where Beaker artifacts hadn't been found before.

And of course, the heretical Bell Beaker Blogger made its debut.  Next up, things to come and predictions for 2015.

* BTW, I haven't forgot about my floundering and poorly named Beaker bow draw weight series.  I've put it off awaiting something else.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thanet Arch Acacia motif? (footnote)

At the hip of this Thanet, England beaker and you'll notice what appears to be an Acacia Leaf motif.

At first appearance, it might be taken as cordage, or pho-cordage, but it doesn't look like a typical corded braid.

"Woman's Burial" (1cm inc) Thanet Arch

I've speculated [before] that Iberian acacia-leaf pottery might be appropriately named and that its derivatives (in keeping with Andrew Sherratt) were taken as a psychoactive, either in tea form or as an additive to alcohol.

I assumed that only a stylized version would have left Iberia, but it appears in this beaker and in other EBA pottery, usually a well depicted, single band is maintained in numerous potteries that went afar.

*Update 1*

The good people of Thanet Arch provided some closeups of the beaker comb impressions and the waist decoration.  See [here]   (I just realized that the hyperlinks have been ghosting instead of turning blue.  They're now blue, see above.)
In a previous post, linked above, I wondered if the herringbone is in fact, stylized acacia.  I think you see this trend with proto-writing as the natural became stylized, divorced from its original expression.
The naturalness of this beaker's waist caught my attention.

The closeups are great.  Hat tip Thanetarch.

*Update 2*

IOT avoid confusion the title was updated to say "motif?".  Hopefully what I am trying to express is coming out clearly.  It is a single motif embedded within a larger expression that I find interesting.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poll Closed (split decision)

This poll will stay open till Christmas Eve.  Please include justification in the comments section if you dare.

*Update*  I am unable to update the poll, however the "Heavy Pastoral" option, not overweight pastoralists, I have a brief explanation.  The Early Pastoral in North Africa is characterized by the introduction of domesticated bos taurus primagenius, aka Longhorn.  The Middle Pastoral begins around 4000 B.C. and ends around 3100 B.C. or thereabouts.  The Middle Pastoral is characterized by dairying [here] and bovid rock art.

What is the origin of mtdna H among Malians, Libyans, Algerians, Mauritanians, Burkinabe, etc?

Retraction: Lanskie community apparently Corded Ware

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Archaeoastronomical Findings in the Alto Belice Valley (Sicily)

Researchers present astronomical findings from the previous two years of research in Sicily.
The Summer Solstice on Cozzo Perciata

The calendar is located within the valley of Alto Belice and overlaps the periods of the Bell Beakers and the Castellucciano Culture of the Bronze Age.  Scuderi, Polcaro and Maurici suggest it began use around the last part of the third millennium.  Underneath one of the monuments is the grave of a man with some bell beaker fragments.  Bell Beaker fragments are found at all the sites.

The calendar is very, very large.  The most distant points are about 6km.  Large megalithic eyelets channel light from the rising Solstice Sun to a central alter where, apparently, after walking up the steps, something gory took place.

Campanaru (the Bell Tower) on Monte Arcivocalotto
These artifacts provide an important insight into pan-European Beaker religion and religious holidays.

Click on the site below and zoom in to take the street tour. 

Campanaru           Pizzo Pietralunga          Pietralunga altar        Cozzo Perciata

NEW ARCHAEOASTRONOMICAL FINDINGS IN THE ALTO BELICE VALLEY (SICILY), Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 14, No 3, pp. 93-98, Alberto Scuderi, Vito F. Polcaro, Ferdinando Maurici, 2014 [Link]

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The westernmost “Cypriot” knot-headed pin from Aïn Smene (Morocco)

Thomas Schuhmacher has a paper on a knot-headed pin from a Bell Beaker context in Fez, Morocco.

He dates this pin to around 2300-2000 B.C.  It appears that knot-headed pins were used to fasten clothing at the neck as indicated in European burials, replacing the bone toggle. [See Stuart Piggot here]

As you can tell from the map below, a different style was popular in Atlantic Europe, which may have been the wheel and cross pin-head, which looks like a big letter opener.

Although not shown in the map, Gordon Childe commented a little more in depth on knotted pin-heads of pre-dynastic Egypt, the Upper Euphrates and the Indus [here].  There is also a single example from Tunisia, not shown. The European examples are from the Early Bronze Age or a little earlier for those of copper. 

It's interesting that the distribution roughly squares with the "bow-shaped pendant" [here] which also seems restricted to east of the Rhone, except again, Morocco with another single find.

Both objects could have an origin, or at least very early representation, in SW Egypt.  [here]  Hippo tusks or bone were also carved into some sort of similar,  non-functional device.   This could be the result of  trade along the Rhone to places like Tunisia. 

It seems the Beaker cultures to the left or right of the Rhone and Rhine quickly developed unique fashions for their regions.  This map may show how trade influenced these differences in style.

Dancing in the Dark? The westernmost “Cypriot” knot-headed pin
from Aïn Smene (Morocco). 
Thomas X. Schuhmacher
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2014 [Link]

The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe (Maria Pilar Prieto Martinez and Laure Salanova)

Pre-orders are now available for this book coming in June, 2015.

Remember - Most public libraries will pre-order books as requested by the public.  Educational books like this are easy to justify in your on-line request.


Could the circulation of objects or ideas and the mobility of artisans explain the unprecedented uniformity of the material culture observed throughout the whole of Europe? The 17 papers presented here offer a range of new and different perspectives on the Beaker phenomenon across Europe. The focus is not on Bell Beaker pottery but on social groups (craft specialists, warriors, chiefs, extended or nuclear families), using technological studies and physical anthropology to understand mobility patterns during the 3rd millennium BC. Chronological evolution is used to reconstruct the rhythm of Bell Beaker diffusion and the environmental background that could explain this mobility and the socio-economic changes observed during this period of transition toward Bronze Age societies.

The chapters are mainly organised geographically, covering Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean shores and the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, includes some areas that are traditionally studied and well known, such as France, the British Isles or Central Europe, but also others that have so far been considered peripheral, such as Norway, Denmark or Galicia. This journey not only offers a complex and diverse image of Bell Beaker societies but also of a supra-regional structure that articulated a new type of society on an unprecedented scale.

Table of Contents

1. Preface
Maria Pilar Prieto Martinez and Laure Salanova

2. Introduction. A Folk who will never speak: Bell Beakers and linguistics
Alexander Falileyev

3. Bell Beakers and Corded Ware People. Anthropological point of view in the Little Poland Upland
Elżbieta Haduch

4. Personal identity and social structure of Bell Beakers: the Upper Basins of the Oder and Vistula rivers
Przemysław Makarowicz

5. Bell Beaker stone wristguards as symbolic male ornament. The significance of ceremonial warfare in the 3rd millennium BC Central Europe
Jan Turek

6. The Emergence of the Bell Beaker set: migrations to Britain and Ireland
Andrew P. Fitzpatrick

7. Bell Beakers – chronology, innovation and memory: a multivariate approach
Johannes Müller, Martin Hinz and Markus Ullrich

8. The long-house as a transforming agent. Emergent complexity in Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age southern Scandinavia 2300–1300 BC
Magnus Artursson

9. Expanding 3rd millennium transformations: Norway
Christopher Prescott and Håkon Glørstad

10. The Bell Beaker Complex: a vector of transformations? Stabilities and changes of the indigenous cultures in south-east France at the end of the Neolithic period
Jessie Cauliez

11. The dagger phenomenon: circulation from the Grand-Pressigny Region (France, Indre-Et-Loire) in Western Europe
Ewen Ihuel, Nicole Mallet, Jacques Pelegrin, and Christian Verjux

12. Long-distance contacts: the north-west Iberia during the 3rd millennium BC
Carlos Rodríguez-Rellán, Antonio Morgado Rodríguez, José Antonio Lozano and Francisco Rodríguez-Tovar

13. Early gold technology as an indicator of circulation processes in Atlantic Europe
Barbara Armbruster and Beatriz Comendador Rey

14. Environmental changes in north-western Iberia around the Bell Beaker period (2800–1400 cal BC)
Manuela Costa-Casais, Lourdes López-Merino, Joeri Kaal, and Antonio Martínez Cortizas

15. Evidence of agriculture and livestock. The palynological record from the Middle Ebro Valley (Iberian Peninsula) during the 3rd and 2nd millennia cal BC
Sebastián Pérez Díaz and José Antonio López Sáez

16. Bell Beaker pottery as a symbolic marker of property rights: the case of the salt production centre of Molino Sanchón II, Zamora, Spain
Elisa Guerra Doce, Francisco Javier Abarquero Moras, Germán Delibes De Castro, Ángel Luis Palomino Lázaro and Jesús Del Val Recio

17. Exploring social networks through Bell Beaker contexts in the central Valencia region from recent discoveries at La Vital (Gandía, Valencia, Spain)
Oreto García Puchol, Joan Bernabeu Aubán, Lluís Molina Balaguer,Yolanda Carrión Marco, and Guillem Pérez Jordà

18. Dynamism and complexity of the funerary models: the north-west Iberian peninsula during the 3rd–2nd millennia BC
Pablo Vázquez Liz, Laure Nonat and Maria Pilar Prieto Martínez

19. Concluding remarks
Maria Pilar Prieto Martinez and Laure Salanova

The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe: Mobility and local evolution during the 3rd millennium BC [Paperback]

Maria Pilar Prieto Martínez (Editor); Laure Salanova (Editor)

Oxbow Books

ISBN: 9781782979272 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2015 | Language: English 216p, H279 x W215 (mm) b/w and colour illustrations
Status: Not yet published - advance orders taken

Friday, December 12, 2014

True Colors - Chemists Look at Pottery (Paper)

These guys examine the color intent of Beaker pottery in Northern Spain.

While it's not surprising that the pottery was always red and usually encrusted, it's interesting to take a fragment apart and chemically look at intended color or its post-kiln color of 4.5k years ago.

I've remarked that achieving ideal color was probably difficult for native potter houses due to European geology.  [here]  and [here] The millennia old fragments usually appear pale, pinkish, copper or blood red, as in the Mesetas, but they are always reddish.  It has only been recently that microscopic and chemical analysis has begun to reveal new details about their design.

A Pasted Bohemian Beaker replica.  "Beaker Days, 2005"


In this paper we characterise the mineralogical and elemental composition and the colour (CIELab space) of Bronze Age pottery sherds from NW Spain, using X-Ray diffraction, X-Ray fluorescence and reflectance spectroscopy, respectively. For half of the samples we also determined the content in secondary iron oxi-hydroxides (sFe, iron extracted with dithionite-citrate), using atomic absorption. The aim of the investigation was to study the relationship between the colour and the elemental and mineralogical composition, and to explore the intentionality of the resulting colour. Samples had a low luminosity and were located in the quadrant of the CIELab space ranging from red to yellow (hab: 0-90°), showing low hue variability but a wider range of variation in chromaticity. In terms of composition they showed a large mineralogical (12 different minerals were identified) and chemical (from acidic/felsic to basic-ultrabasic/mafic compositions) variation.
A principal components analysis using elemental composition and colour parameters demonstrated that luminosity (L*) depends on organic matter (OM) content and to a lesser extent on sFe content. Chromaticity (C*ab) depends on sFe content, but also on the felsic/mafic relative composition and OM content, while hue (hab) is only related to iron mineral phases. We also verified that these general trends differ to a certain extent depending on whether the pottery contains amphibole or not: the effect of sFe on L* and of OM on b* (yellowing) and C*ab was only detected for pottery sherds without amphibole, while an increase in felsic in relation to mafic minerals has a more decisive effect on the chromaticity (C*ab) of the amphibolic clays. Thus, colour seems to result from the interplay between i) the original colour of the raw material/clays, ii) compositional factors (overall composition -felsic vs mafic-, and sFe and OM content), and iii) interactions between composition and processing (sFe and firing conditions controlling yellowing). We interpret that there was an intentional selection of raw materials (felsic or mafic) and their processing (addition of iron oxides and organic matter) and a control over the firing conditions in order to give the vessels a specific colour.

The colour of ceramics from Bell Beaker contexts in NW Spain: relation to elemental composition and mineralogy.  Journal of Archaological Science.  Oscar Lantes-Suarez, Beatriz Prieto, M. Pilar Prieto-Martinez, Cruz Ferro-Vazquez, Antonio Martinez-Cortizas  (2014)  [Link]

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Brachyceros and The Brachycephlics

They say 'people look like their dogs'.  Early French archaeologists extended that to Beaker cattle, in which the racially distinct short horn (also sub-brachycephlos) appears to spread through Europe with the Bell Beakers.

Short Horn cattle (Bos taurus longifrons*) possibly appears first in Swiss Late Neolithic pile dwelling communities several hundred years before the Beaker Age.**  However, it is with the Beakers that the brachyceros (so named in continental Europe) spreads and emerges as the backbone of the Beaker economy, almost by the square inch.

Fig 14.  Popular Anglo-American Beef - Hereford, Angus and Ayeshire
The short horn forms a racial category within the bos taurus primagenius subspecies.  The longifrons/brachyceros classification has been continuously upheld since its first categorization by Ludwig Rütimeyer.  Most debate since then has centered on how it is related to other taurine cattle and where and how it became refined from taurus primagenius.

The short horn is agreed to have been primarily a dairy cow, although intermixture has produced a large variety of modern beef cattle, such as the ones above.  One of the complicating aspects of its history is that its appearance in the historical record is near simultaneous in Europe, Egypt and the Near East.

Beakers were über dairyists, to the point that it was a defining feature of their culture.  This is visible in the pottery record and inferred from the archaeo-genetic record.  Their legacy defines the genetics of modern Europe as well as its regional hyper-diversity of diary products.

Before the Beakers, almost zero people in North or West Europe were lactase persisent.  After the Beakers (the full trajectory is not yet clear), basically a situation exists in which most modern people are lactase persisent.  If you remove immigrant populations from the equation, the trait essentially defines the genetic situation of native peoples.  (academia continues to flounder with evolutionary explanations for the sudden rise of European LP, which is virtually non-existent before the copper age, which basically means - get a bigger shoe horn.  See their LBK explanation [here])

A number of evolutionary zoologists have viewed the introduction of short horns into Europe as coming from North Africa via Southern Iberia around 3,000 B.C.  (Grigg, 1972)  The European short horns have their immediate relatives in the Libyan Shorthorn, Brown Atlas, Moroccan Blonde and n'damas.  Further south, most short horns have been crossed with Zebu (indicus) for heat tolerance (as is common in the Southern United States with Angus (second pane) with Brahman (indicus) to create the hearty Brangus, etc). 

More to come on cow teats and wagons as I clean out the back pages!

BTW, decent overview on cattle world:
On the History of Cattle Genetic Resources, Diversity 2014, 6(4), 705-750; Felius et al,   [Link]

*     The history of the latin of this animal is complicated.  Longifrons (long-face), brachycephlos (subtype shorthead), and both conventions are various categorized under primagenius and taurus.  Should not be confused with bos brachycephlos, which is a minature, cow-like buffalo of Northern Nubia.  Longifrons is also known as Celtic cattle.
**   The first short horns were excavated in 1844 from Late Neolithic Pile Dwelling communities of Lake Constance. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

R1b = Araratean?

To dovetail off the last paper about R1b's vanishing act, here's another one, different methodology, different results.  Yepiskoposyan was part of previous study, same topic, same results at Nature [here]

Hat tip Bernard [His Blog]

Hovhannisyan et al, 2014

So be on the lookout for a car full of academics driving off a cliff.  Here's another R1b Neolithic agricultural diffusion theory, and here's why it didn't happen [here].

What you are looking at above is the frequency and variance of R1b, J2 and G.  The variance of R1b of the Ceyhan and Seyhan rivers (or Capadocia) is probably the old Armenian kingdom, but this area was also substantially settled by the Armenian Highland during the Pottery Neolithic.

What's intriguing and unexpected is the lack of diversity they show in the Caucasus for any lineage.  That is opposite of anything I would have imagined for this mountainous region.

They have Haplogroup G hovering over the old Natufian Mesolithic, which is essentially where agriculture developed.  I guess that kind of makes sense!

Another interesting take-away is the tight concentration of R1b's diversity over a place where it is mostly a non-factor anymore.  The exception of course is Armenia itself. 

Background: The peopling of Europe and the nature of the Neolithic agricultural migration as a primary issue in the modern human colonization of the globe is still widely debated. At present, much uncertainty is associated with the reconstruction of the routes of migration for the first farmers from the Near East. In this context, hospitable climatic conditions and the key geographic position of the Armenian Highland suggest that it may have served as a conduit for several waves of expansion of the first agriculturalists from the Near East to Europe and the North Caucasus.

Results: Here, we assess Y-chromosomal distribution in six geographically distinct populations of Armenians that roughly represent the extent of historical Armenia. Using the general haplogroup structure and the specific lineages representing putative genetic markers of the Neolithic Revolution, haplogroups R1b1a2, J2, and G, we identify distinct patterns of genetic affinity between the populations of the Armenian Highland and the neighboring ones north and west from this area.

Conclusions: Based on the results obtained, we suggest a new insight on the different routes and waves of Neolithic expansion of the first farmers through the Armenian Highland. We detected at least two principle migratory directions: (1) westward alongside the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and (2) northward to the North Caucasus.

Different waves and directions of Neolithic migrations in the Armenian Highland, Investigative Genetics, Anahit Hovhannisyan1, Zaruhi Khachatryan, Marc Haber, Peter Hrechdakian, Tatiana Karafet, Pierre Zalloua, Levon Yepiskoposyan, 2014 [Link]

Turkopoles Fathered Near Eastern R1b?

Mike Maglio argues in this paper that R1b does not have a deeper structure in the Near East than it does Western Europe.  From his point of view, most of the Near Eastern/Middle Eastern R1b could be attributable to Turkopoles (or Turk-child, sons of the Crusaders).

First, I always appreciate someone who can upset the applecart of uncritical thinking.  People are way too comfortable with the usual conventions.  He does have some valid points, one being that R1b was apparently flung at the map with little perceivable evidence of its past. 

I don't know enough about the more basal twigs of R1b's tree, so I can't really speak to his methodology.  However, the conclusion is supported by a weak argument, I think, basically that an historical event saturated the region with DNA from Northwestern Europe.

I take issue with the logical tool known as the proverbial "black gladiator" being used to explain away minority haplogroups in any one region.  A lot of people use this device and it drives me bananas.

There are several reasons to believe that the R1b we see in places like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is indeed pre-historical or proto-historical.  One is the percentages roughly square to the overall picture of R1a and R1b in the surrounding regions.  Whether its Bedouins, Azerbaijanis, Iranian Assyrians or Kurds, both R1b and R1a are omnipresent in any population from Baluchistan to Sudan and this definitely isn't due to Crusading.  [See here]

Second, the Crusade entourage to the Middle East was overwhelmingly from the incestuous French landed classes.  As we saw from Richard III's recent DNA, the nobility wasn't uniformly R1b.  It would appear possible or likely that the Plantagenet patriarch, Fulk V was G2a. 

The French nobility could possibly be described as a combination of  "Scandinavian" and "Pyrenne".  I could be wrong, but I really don't see this type of paternal ancestry among the referenced populations.  At the macro-level, compared to the surrounding populations, even less so.

Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup R1b Diversity in Near East is
Structured by Recent Historical Events
, Michael R. Maglio, 2014 [Link]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Haplogroup H and Modern Europe

One puzzling aspect of Northeast European genetics is what appears to be a maternal heritage that has a fair degree of "Western" members.  (i.e. an Iberian cluster identified by Brotherton and others)

The spacial diversity of the entire Haplogroup H comfortably suggests origins in the Northern Euphrates (Roostalu, 2006)  Within the westernmost portion of its original realm, the eldest daughter lineages were party to the earliest PPNA/B expansions across the Bosphrous, the later Danubian and Cardial expansions, ultimately arriving in the North Pontic, North Africa and Europe. (Haak et al, 2010)

Achilli et al, 2004
However, many of these elder daughter H's went extinct or were greatly diminished in later pre-history (Adler, 2012; Brotherton et al, 2013)  On the other hand, a sizable chunk of the modern European distribution within Haplogroup H is characterized by subclades that came of age (at some point in history) either within Western Iberia or Western North Africa (IMO) and expanded from there in a meaningful way.  (Achilli 2004, Brothernton 2013, Roostalu 2006, etc, etc, etc,)

I've used an older graphic of H1 from Achilli for zing factor, but when you look closer at sub-subclades like H1b, H2a & possibly V (characteristic to Russian plain and Siberian H) and then look at coalescent ages, you have no option other than a Holocene expansion, both for its age, frequency coupling and the archaeo-genetic mosaic emerging from Holocene Europe.  Further, this later expansion was not a timid exchange of pottery by pony-tailed people; it involved relocations [See here]  in which certain letters of the alphabet greatly increased in concert, by region, while others greatly decreased.

Let's be clear.  We are talking about a fairly substantial Late Neolithic population movement that included women of certain profiles.

Looking at the map above, it might be tempting to find a proto-historical or historical event to explain changes in the maternal frequency of Slovenia, the Baltic States or the Russian Plain.  But that's a losing proposition, especially after you consider a similar phenomenon for Crete (Hughey et al, 2013), Malta, Sardinia (Francalacci et al, 2003), Corsica and the Balearic Islands.(Morelli et al, 2007)

We have a pretty good idea of what a Cardial Island Hopper/Coast Hugger profile looks like, so that doesn't adequately explain the H1 + H3 frequency in Sardinia, Cyprus, Malta or SW Libya.  We also have predicted coalescent ages for many of these subclades, which by even the most conservative estimates, are probably too young to form any sort of Paleolithic or Mesolithic substrate across Europe and also in the Mediterranean.*  also (Loogvali, 2004)

There is a fairly tall-and-deep stack of studies showing a structure (for variously H1, H2, H3, V, etc) that is deeper in the Iberian Peninsula, having expanded the modern frequency of Europe no earlier than the Late Neolithic.  (Lee et al. showed in Germany 2014)  Even though some of the logic below is contradictory, these studies and a few others have seen a maternal expansion from the West:
(Alvarez-Ilesias et al, 2009; Loogvali et al, 2004, Roostalu et al, 2006; Pereira et al, 2005; Achilli et al, 2004; Behar et al, 2012; Cardoso et al, 2013; Brotherton et al, 2013, Garcia et al, 2011, etc, etc.)

But the plot thickens.  The following authors showed a very similar structure in North Africa, especially among Berbers.  (Ennafaa et al, 2009Ottoni et al, 2010; Bardo et al, 2013; Bekada et al, 2013).  More contradictory, the Enafaa team insisted the structure of African H1 & H3 is older than a Holocene immigration from Iberia, which basically takes us beyond the predicted ages of some of these sub-clades and paradoxically lessens the probably of a late proto-historical event.

Also noteworthy, but not necessarily informative, H1 in particular reaches its maximum human frequency among Berbers of Southwest Libya (near the Acacus and Tassili n'ajjer)  This is achievable if you are willing to accept an invasion of amazonian women from Iberia, otherwise we have severe uni-parental mismatches between the various regions. 

As Brotherton showed, and as more recent ancient DNA studies have supported, the maternal situation of modern Europe was recently transformed, apparently during the Chalcolithic.  Brotherton & co. viewed this as indicative of Late Neolithic/Bell Beaker migrations from the Iberian peninsula.

So going back to Eastern Europe...  The Bell Beaker phenomenon has in years past generally viewed in Eastern Europe as an imitation or trade.  However the situation has been changing rapidly with new or re-interpreted discoveries in Baltic states.  Recently, I reported a rather unspectacular but important find from Suprasil [here] that people possessing a Bell Beaker identity or worldview were living on the Polish/Belarus border.  In light of Suprasil, now serious consideration must be given to consider the actual genetic impact of migration.

This now raises some interesting questions about the maternal contributions to modern Eastern and Western Europe.  As Janusz Czebreszuk put it to  paraphrase, Beaker culture may have been the largest pan-European network in history comparable only to the European Union.

What else could connect Libya to Russia and Cyprus to Britain and Iberia?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Etymology of "Witch" and witches

I was brewing beer late last night since it is the season for brewing and hunting, which I do happily.

As I was boiling a large kettle of wort, I thought about how this was done in ancient times, surprisingly or not the domain of women.  In almost every beer society brewing was done by women, probably older women.  Later on Christian monks assumed much of the market and still later, professional guilds.

The symbolism of older women brewing over large black cauldrons goes back at least to the Bronze Age.  That got me thinking about the original "craft" and the interesting etymologies of the word "witch" in Western Indo-European languages.

Here's some possible, non-linguist etymologies for various Western words for "witch", just for fun. 

De Lamiis et Phitonicis Mulieribus, 1493 [Cornell]

In the Iberian Romantic languages, a witch is called a bruja or bruxa [bru-ha], which could very simply descend from Proto-Indo-European brewwaną.  These may descend from Celtiberian or a more basal collection of pre-Celtic languages in the Peninsula.

Non-Iberian Romantic languages use the pure latin form of the striga, from which Italian Strega descends.  The etymology of this word originates most likely with strix, the screech-owl and possibly a sacred grove.  This word descends from Proto-Indo-European streyg (line) and includes in its descendants the word 'strike'.

I'm curious if streyg is related to another dark PIE work stug- or steu- from which the river Styx derives its name, being a gloomy boundary between worlds.  The root of that word suggests striking as well.  Maybe the image of primeval claden black, old flying crones "daughters of the Earth and night" derive from a particular conception of the Erinyes or Furies, having a special association with Athena.

To make this fully circular and removed from any sort of logic and accountability, the etymology of Erinyes is suspiciously interesting as to suggest 'raise, stir and excite', which is also a title of Demeter, mother of Persephone and giver of life a cereal corn.

Two Basque words for witch are sorgin and beragin.  The Basque etymological dictionary suggests origins meaning [to give life + maker] and [grass + maker] respectively.  Basically, you have roots for sorcery and beer + maker.  (obviously a non-IE language)

Germanic languages use the word wicce [witch].  Wicce could descend directly from Proto-Indo-European, to mean to bend, modify or change.  Convenient because she is a shapeshifter, or does conversion mean fermentation, which curiously denotes a process after the boil?  When you try and unscramble the egg with the very complicated sound changes in Pre-Pt Germanic, more possibilities come to the surface.

Pitch, as to pitch yeast during brewing descends from PIE pech which variously gave us words for pitch, as a plant resin used to modify, also pitcher as a small beaker for drinking (not for pouring koolaid) or for black.  The word bitch possibly also descends from pech as describing a she-wolf or a whorish woman, which may have frozen in Lappish pittja.

In Irish, Welsh and Scottish there are several words for witch/hag/wretch that have meanings that are curious.  Báirseach and cailleach are two words in Irish referring to witches.  A direct etymology is possible for the first (beer + leach) or (maid + leach).  The proper name would be Cailleach Bhéara or Cailleach Bheur.  The mash process (or the conversion) is basically when sweet liquor is leached from the barely mash.  The proper etymology refers to a place where witches reside, however looks like beer to me.  Whatever. 

I would imagine that within the social framework of early cereal cultivating societies that beer brewing often fell to older women.  Brewing beer may have earned them a place in society that they otherwise wouldn't have had.  Since beer was not hopped originally, other interesting herbal adjuncts (in addition to the ones we already know about) may have given beer other mystical effects that truly made them witch's brew.

**Update 12/14 - I was watching a program on early Scandinavian brewers using brewing 'magic sticks' kept in cool places to maintain yeast cells.  This works in a cool climate with lager yeast, itself probably native to Northern Europe.  I haven't found a clear answer to how top feeding beer (ale) yeast cultures were maintained in warmer climates.  It seems a starter may have been made using old bread or old wort, more likely.  Wild yeast seems less likely, however the wild yeast of Europe may be more suitable that my ruined American beers.

Along with "pitch", the word "beaker", as in glockenbecher or klokbeker, also descends from pech.  In non-largering regions, pitching the yeast may have been somewhat similar to what we do now with a starter, which is pitched into the wort.

A history of the study on etymology for Old English wicce is given in Anatoly Liberman's book on English etymologies [beginning on page 215].  Excite, stir, one-who-knows, modify, change.  All words proposed as meanings of the original word.