Friday, February 27, 2015

The Ivory Road

Towards the end of the 4th millennium, strategic fort building emerged in pre-Beaker, South-Central Portugal and Southern Spain.  Walled enclosures grew to perch over the avenues to inner Iberia and the Atlantic.  Their rise accompanies intense trade between Morocco and the Portuguese region before the rise of a Beaker identity.
Castro do Zambujal.  Initial build-up of Vila Nova de Sao Pedro culture, Portugal (photo O. Lemercier)
This economy projected itself on Western Europe and was instrumental in the promotion of the early Beaker identity throughout Europe.  It may offer insight of those who chose to settle in distant corners of Europe and those who adopted the culture or viewed it favorably.

Savannah Elephant Ivory, S.W. Spain  Photographer: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia (Schuhmacher, 2012)
This pre-Beaker economy seems to have been fueled by in the importation of exotic African goods, notably ostrich eggs and elephant tusks.  (Schumacher, Cardoso, Banerjee, 2009)   The hardening of the Portuguese and Southern Spanish coasts is difficult to explain with no internal or external threats.

'Pineapple Vessel' from Valencia de la Concepcion, Seville, Spain.  Also known from Perdigoes & Morocco
(foto Blanco de la Rubia)

The provenance of Elephant ivories and products positively connects this pre-Beaker import culture with Western Morocco.  (Garica-Sanjuan et al, 2013)  That's a pretty big deal when considering the very origins of the Beaker phenomenon because it is in these fort interiors that bell beakers first appear who might have some material precursors (pottery decoration and lithics) with Morocco.

Again, this region almost appears to exist because of these western lanes.  From Schumacher, Cardoso, Banerjee (2009):
"Whereas in Portugal we find a majority of African savannah elephant in the Early Chalcolithic, in south-eastern Spain on the contrary we cannot identify this type of ivory before the Early Bronze Age (end of the third and first half of the second millennium BC). So the analysis of ivory from various tombs from the necropolis of Los Millares (Almeria) revealed a majority of Asian ivory (Elephas maximus) (Figure 6). The situation in south-western Atlantic Spain, on the other hand, coincides with the one in Portugal, where African savannah elephant ivory can be found in the Early Chalcolithic."
"This speaks for the existence of an Atlantic route of contact and exchange for the western part of the Iberian Peninsula already in the first half of the third millennium BC. Finds like the necropolis of Rouazi-Skhirat (Morocco) with cylindrical ivory containers similar to others from the Iberian Peninsula, could, in fact, sustain this idea (Daugas 2002). Could it therefore be possible that the African savannah elephant ivory coming from Atlantic North Africa is in agreement with the mentioned hypothesis of Harrison and Gilman?"
Crystal & Ivory from Valencina de la Concepción, S.W. Spain Garcia SanJuan et al
(foto: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia)

A man from neighboring Seville (Drawing: Miriam Luciañez Triviño)
In this sense, the African Steppe could be viewed as a sort of "African Silk Road", one that connected semi-sedentary cattle communities across the steppe with opportunities for transporting exotic materials that ended up in the Tagus and Guadalquivir estuaries.  Their identities and relationship to the later Beakers become problematic when looking at their lithics and pottery decoration.  From Schumacher, Cardoso, Banerjee (2009):

"Harrison and Gilman had already noticed the difficulties of applying this scheme to the Pre-Bell Beaker Chalcolithic, commenting, ‘. . . no characteristic Millaran or VNSP pieces have been found in Northern Africa’. And they asked themselves, ‘. . . why were no VNSP channelled, pattern-burnished copos (the so called Importkeramik) sent to North Africa like the luxury ware of a later time (Beakers)?’"
(Ukraine, Russia and Horses not depicted)
It is rather curious that Bell Beaker pottery is locally made in the Maghreb and appears in rather humble settings.  At the height of the ivory trade this would probably indicate that Beakers were trading with Beakers, not Beakers trading beakers.  But when exploring the issue deeper, Harrison and Gilman's original question as to why importkeramik never influences Africa in the earliest time makes you wonder who exactly was it on the other end of this trade.

Regardless, its spread from the end of the continent is rather apparent, not because of radiocarbon dating, but as was observed nearly eighty years ago, based on decoration and typology.  I think Lemercier's map below can help relay the significance of these connections.

Fig 3, Olivier Lemercier "Le Campaniforme et l'Europe a la fin du Neolithique"

Antonio Valera writes that beakerware never appears in small ditched enclosures in Western Iberia.  In larger enclosures it becomes prevalent, usually one type.  Only in the largest walled enclosures are multiple beaker forms present.  It's a strange situation.

In my own view, I think it is probable that Western Iberia was overcome by the trading cartels.  Whether or not this included immigration or not, who knows.  Ancient DNA from Neolithic Saharan Africa would be a good start.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Discovery - Interesting Cist Near Loch Ness

At Drumnadrochit, an interesting rectangular, stone-lined cist was discovered several weeks ago.
I found this at the North of Scotland Archaeology Society (NOSAS) blog [here].

There's actually two cists next to each other.  The rectangular one has a flexed body with no grave goods, the oval one next to it only has grave goods with no body.  Since they appear to be contemporary, it's theoretically possible the grave goods were purposefully separated from the body or inserted after the body was buried.
Construction workers lifted the slab and found an ancient grave (Mary Peteranna, copied from NOSAS)

The bracer survived burial so given it's bright appearance it must either ceramic or stone.  Most bracers in the Isles are greenstone, slate or a reddish stone.

Wrist-guard.  What material? (Mary Peteranna, copied from NOSAS)
Below is a beaker with what looks like a pin-wheel technique.  The beaker supposedly contains residue from its original contents from 4500 years ago.  Although there have been a number of studies on beaker contents around Europe (mostly inconclusive), I don't remember of any that had actual residue.  It'll be interesting to see what it was.

Beaker sherd with pin-wheel technique (Mary Peteranna, copied from NOSAS)
This Beaker-billie is pretty far north.  Take a look at Loch Ness on a map.  It may give you a sense for how far these people traveled within the span of a few generations.  Northern Scotland is not that populous now, what was it like 4500 years ago?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bella Vista 5 (Valera)

Almost a year ago, Antonio Valera announced the discovery of a Palmela point with a fragment of preserved string of cannabis sativa from the last quarter of the third millennium, one of the earliest representations in Western Europe.  Now that the paper is out (free); here's a little more background.

Bella Vista 5 is a double ditch enclosure with about eighty or more offering pits but so far yielding only one central grave.  The enclosure opening was aligned to the summer solstice and within the inner circle is pit 1 which contains the body of a woman.  She was buried with pottery, an arsenic copper Palmela point and a copper stylus.

Ferradeira Woman in Pit 1

The woman's grave has the diagnostic of the problematic Ferradeira Horizon which in a simple narrative heralds the EBA (or Epi-Chalcolitic) in Alentejo as a distinct culture apart from, but containing, Bell Beaker influences. 

A. Stylus B. Palmela Point and Braided Hemp String

The elemental composition of the woman's Palmela point is a high arsenic copper, but certainly not provable to be intentional bronzing.  I thought initially the braided hemp was part of a bowstring (not knowing how small a diameter the string was), however the paper seems to indicate the presence of resin that would indicate it was used to secure the point to a shaft, maybe like a javelin point.  This is probably correct given the graphic above. (You can see how tiny the string is in the blown up graphic)

Hemp is mentioned as curiously absent from the palynological record, at least so far this period in Northern and Central Europe (Valera).  But it was certainly grown and perhaps lacking in quantity to reveal itself just yet.

The woman's grave goods
There have been some papers on 'girls with guns' of Central Europe and how political power has traditionally been expressed with certain regalia, such as Egypt.  Given the seeming importance of this woman in burial, a fair guess may suggest that the arrowhead or spear indicates she came from a noble situation.  The many votive pits that surrounded her burial may have contained the offerings from the miserable souls her family ruled.

BELA VISTA 5:  Um Recinto do Final do 3º Milénio a.n.e. (Mombeja, Beja)
António Carlos Valera (Coordenador) Era Monográfica 2 ISBN: 978-989-98082-1-8 (2014)

Monday, February 16, 2015

R1 and the Dispersal of Ceramic from the Far East

This map shows the spread of ceramic pottery1 from its birthplace in East Asia where it slowly treks to the West.

The test result of haplogroup [R1a in a Northwest Russian Karelian released this week] confirmed for me the probability that ceramic technology entered the West as a result of a population movement in the early Holocene.

Trek of Ceramic Technology, From Asia to the West (Jordan & Zvelebil, 2014)
This correlates well with the movement of a foreign knapping technology [here], solar religion and other materials.  Most importantly, the results of last week provide genetic evidence connecting ancient peoples who lived in the vicinity of the Siberian Pit and Combed Ceramic Tradition from Karelia (R1a) to Lake Baikal (R*).  Although the individuals of Mal'ta-Buret' were very early pre-ceramic people, the Lake Baikal area would eventually provide the precursor for the kind of pottery used by Karelia man.

In time it may be shown that the transmission of ceramic pottery technology to the West came as the result of a population movement of R1 lineages creeping from the Altai into the Urals and the Southern Caspian where the technology appears simultaneously.

Similarly, the transmission of [ceramic technology into the New World] probably comes from the Yenisei region in a somewhat later movement of R1's brother haplogroup Q's subclades moving in the opposite direction, both descended from P-M45.

Quickly, here's a some comments regarding ceramic's Central Asian trek by Jordan & Zvelebil:

"After c. 7,500 BC (9,500 BP), in the context of early post-glacial environmental conditions, pottery is dispersed further to the north-west, via the northerly route through central Russia, the Upper Volga, into Karelia and beyond, forming various local traditions of pointed-based pitted and combed ware, such as the Sperrings pottery of Finland, and entering the East Baltic and northern Scandinavia by about 5,000 BC"
"More tentatively, it is possible that as a part of this general process of ceramic dispersal, the production of pottery also spreads via a more southerly route from Central Asia along the eastern shore of the Caspian south, into northwest Iran and northern Syria."
Also from the Haak paper was the presence of R1b among an early Cardial farmer in Northern Iberia. This certainly shows that early R1b was in contact with either Byblian or Thessalonian farmers in the final days of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B.  We know that the end of the PPNB saw sweeping changes from pottery cultures of Eastern Anatolia and further East.

*Update*  Added this map to help illustrate dates on the upper map (book is preview)

A couple of footnotes:

* We should be careful not to get wrapped around the axle of periodization and technological classification.  The Karelian and Samaran are referred to as belonging to the "Mesolithic" or "Neolithic" or "Hunter-Gatherer", none of which is equivalent those of Western Europe in terms of technology or age. Within a certain context they have meaning, otherwise they are confusing or misleading.  I would focus on calendar dates and understand the changes taking place in these regions that are being settled by a continuous stream of peoples from the Southeast.

(1)  Ceramic pottery is distinct from prehistoric ceramic technology.

Ceramics Before Farming:  The Dispersal of Pottery Among Prehistoric Eurasia Hunter-Gatherers. Left Coast Press.Jordan, Zvelebil (2009) [Link]

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Resurrection in Beaker Religion?

I continue to pick away at the Valera, Evangelista, Castanheira paper on zoomorphic figurines of Iberia's Early Chalcolithic.  It had come out months ago, but was not accessible till recently.

Although the following tradition straddles pre- and early Beaker culture, so many cultural elements of this region are carried forward into Europe that perhaps this is one early manifestation of a wider belief system (maybe not rabbit iconography per se).

These little grave rabbits are sometimes found with the dead in parts Western Iberia. The one above is from Perdigos(?), but they also were abundant in Zambujal as well. Rabbits appear to have a special, symbolic meaning as a grave offering.

Reading the Valera paper, the symbolic value of these rabbits is something that seems to stand out among the figurines.  The authors' discussion on these items provides some fascinating insight:
And within this broad sense related to an idea of reproduction we may look at the double lagomorphs as if sprouting from a common base or multiplying, suggesting that this representation supports the main idea behind these objects: renewal. Expressing and acting over the capability of regeneration, these objects (most of them pendants) may have been used as amulets, revealing an ability to act in transforming reality. Although arguing for a different meaning, by associating underground movements of rabbits to the return to the earth expressed by funerary monuments, the proposal of Thomas and Waterman (2013) follows the same general view of rabbit figurines as metaphors.
Easter Egg Hunting, An American Variation of the Tradition
Maybe it is possible to see some parallels in pre-Christian Europe.  The rabbit was in ancient times associated with Germanic, pre-Christian Easter whose symbolism was adopted for expressing Christian concepts.  Its ancient meaning allowed the rabbit to represent the burial and resurrection of Christ.  Other Easter icons such as the Easter egg and the lamb were re-used to represent rebirth and the innocent sacrifice. All of these things are metaphors for the central message of Christianity.

In old Anglo-Saxon, Eōstre means to 'face-east' which is derived from Proto-Indo-European austrōn 'rising sun', being the domain of the PIE goddess, H2eus(os).  This goddess, Eos or Aus (the dawn or morning star) was sister to Helios (the sun) and Selene (the moon), to use the Greek names.  In Germanic lands, she was the fiery red-head associated with resurrection, bunnies, Easter eggs and the vernal equinox.

Typical East-facing Beaker at Shrewton, Wiltshire
Knowing the exact meaning of the rabbits in the Iberian Chalcolithic is impossible to know for sure, but it is interesting to know that Beaker burials almost always face the rising sun.*  Additional materials may suggest respects to this heavenly trio: Eos, Helios and Selene.

We know that the most archaeologically visible aspects of Beaker material culture were drinking beakers with solar crosses, amber, gold badges and pinheads with solar crosses, lunulae of various forms, and solar calendars.  The resurrection goddess of the vernal equinox would have been extremely important to those who adorned all of their equipment with solar and lunar depictions. Theoretically, the vernal equinox (in Ēostre's month of April*) would be the holiest day in Beaker religion based on the materials they left behind.  It would also herald the first month of the calendar year (the dawn of a new year) as was common in ancient Iran and Northern India.

(* Update.  Actually, if their calendar was strictly solar, then the vernal equinox might start the month before Easter/April.  The Corded Ware calendar may have been Zodiac based looking at their burial orientation, so it its case it may have oscillated between March and April.  On the other hand, it's possible to make a case that April had been the first month in early Near Eastern religion where the similar Astarte was worshipped.  I realize this can become circular reasoning)

Items excavated from Zambujal

It doesn't appear that rabbit figurines spread to other parts of Europe, but a matured Beaker package does.  One included item that might also have had a symbolic meaning was the beer beaker that accompanied the dead.  In Ancient Egypt beer was associated with the goddess of childbirth and in Mesopotamia the goddess of procreation.

There has also been some discussion about Beaker idealism where men, women and children are buried in their ideal forms.  Young boys have little weapons, young girls are buried with little pots. This idealism may point to an underlying moral and metaphysical worldview.

Concerning idealism in death, Harry Fokkens offers some ideas on idealism in life and death; the following slide stands out in my mind.  It's hard to know if they believed they would experience bodily resurrection as they Egyptians did.  It does appear that they believed they were leaving a corrupt world and being reborn in a idealic world.

Harry Fokkens (burial of the ideal man)

*(It would be interesting to know if the slight variation in body orientation , ENE, due East and ESE, conform to the season in which Beakers died.  For example, does the palynological record jive with sun up/body orientation for that latitude?  Do winter deaths align with sun up, etc?)


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fix & Mix - Quedlinburg & Middle-Saale Beakers

The Quedlinburg man pictured in the [previous post] was a 20 year old, probably from the QUEXII plot, not the male tested for the Haak paper in the QLB/VII plot.  The R1b revealed in the paper was from a man less than 50 years old, not 20.   (Just wanted to correct myself)

Possibly I0806, A QLB man with Bell Beaker burial, Corded Ware axe [lda-lsa]
The man described in the [paper]:

"Another group of six graves was discovered at Quedlinburg reference site VII and attributed to the Bell beaker culture based on form and orientation of the burials32. We included a >50 year old male individual buried in an extreme flexed position."
QLB28/I0806 (feature 19617, 2296-2206 calBCE, MAMS 22820)

I don't know if this man is QLB28/I0806; he doesn't look to be in the extreme flexed position, but he is definitely from the same QLB cemetery and was scheduled to be DNA tested.  Harald Meller, an author of the paper, appears to be associated with this dig.
QLB28/I0806? Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (CHRIS WOHLFELD)

I believe this article describes the DNA extraction in 2010 [in German].  The mixed cultural features of his grave is the reason why he was selected to be tested.  As the article mentions, this man has a Corded Ware shaft-hole axe, seen below. 

Shaft-hole axe Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (CHRIS WOHLFELD)

and a perfect bell beaker:

a glockenbecher, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (CHRIS WOHLFELD)

Reading various sources on the Quedlinburg plots, it appears many of the graves either have mixed contexts or intrude into older cemeteries.  The Haak paper mentions this, so does the lda-lsa website and several papers.

I mentioned this dilemma on my blog and at Eurogenes before, warning that the Middle-Saale Beakers will look artificially closer to an archetypal Corded person than they should.  Obviously, the Corded traits survived Beaker encroachment which became grafted into the local Beaker culture.  This will be true in many places.

Also, I don't know that all 69 individuals genetically tested were ever the subject of a concerted academic effort to begin with, where all 39 authors walked out the door holding hands.  As it seems with these Beakers, they were already being tested to help understand their mixed archaeological features. (And it is important to emphasis mixed, like a salad, not fused, per se.)

Personally, I interpreted some of the maternal DNA as looking more Corded Ware/Farmer than Iberian Bell Beaker, so they may be a literal combination of Beaker men and Corded women, or whatever.  I doubt that "Ancestral North Eurasian" will be as large a component in fringe Beakers as it is in Corded people, but who knows.  Of course identifying a Beaker profile is a catch-22.  Beakers intermingled with everyone, everywhere.  So everyone may be "half-Beaker" everywhere.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bell Beaker DNA and Quick Out-takes

I'll give a couple of out-takes from the Haak et al paper which is the biggest study of ancient European DNA ever.  I wanted to wait until I had a chance to thoroughly read the paper (linked below) and condense the most interesting points.

"das Bode-Becher" of Quedlinburg, Germany (not #I0806 who tested R1b-P312 & H1) See burial page 1*

(*Correction.  The Quedlinburg man used in the sample was 50 years old.  Pictured is the 20 year old)

The thirty-nine authors are very notable in the fields of archaeology and genetics.  A number of the authors have been mentioned on this blog before.  Unlike previous genetics papers, the appendix includes solid explanations of sites, artifacts and why remains were selected for testing.  Good.

The study confirms, more concretely than ever, that a major genetic transformation of Europe occurred beginning early in the third millennium.  This was true in Western Europe which found itself engulfed in the Beaker enigma.

As a side note, a sharp population collapse preceded the emergence of Beaker and Corded peoples.  In many areas the abandonment of tombs and fields may point to serious social problems in Europe even before the arrival of new people.  [here]

The conclusion of the Haak authors is that the genetic shift in Central Europe is consistent with migration from the North Pontic Steppe (specifically) and implicate the steppe populations as the only source of this change coming into Europe before being reduced several hundred years later by R1b Bell Beakers and later again by Unetice who had much less of the Yamnaya-like ancestry for whatever reason.
"...first, during the Middle Neolithic, when hunter-gatherer ancestry rose again after
its Early Neolithic decline, and then between the Late Neolithic and the present, when farmer and hunter-gatherer ancestry rose after its Late Neolithic decline. This second resurgence must have started during the Late Neolithic/Bronze Age period itself, as the Bell Beaker and Unetice groups had reduced Yamnaya ancestry compared to the earlier Corded Ware, and comparable levels to that in some present-day Europeans..."
They admit they really don't know where the Yamnaya-like Corded Ware people came from, especially given the fact that all of the Yamnaya individuals they produced were uniformly R1b, whereas the Corded Ware were mostly R1a.
"We caution that the sampled Yamnaya individuals from Samara might not be directly ancestral to Corded Ware individuals from Germany. It is possible that a more western Yamnaya population, or an earlier (pre-Yamnaya) steppe population may have migrated into central Europe, and future work may uncover more missing links in the chain of transmission of steppe ancestry."

Other topics to delve into later...

>  The researchers got a positive result for R1b from a 50 year old man in the town of Quedlinburg, Germany.  (I had previously thought that Individual I0806 was the other man pictured above*corrected).  

>  R1b was present in the Early Neolithic of the Ebro Valley.  An individual from the Els Torcs cave was shown to be a basal form of R1b north of L51 (corrected) with a maternal haplogroup of T.  It looks like a solid result because the individual clusters with farmers and the individual was related to at least one other individual present who is clearly not modern. (Haplogroup F?)

It will be interesting to see how people react to this.  One question that may not be answerable for a while is, how much of the Western R1b is descended from this early positive in the Eastern Ebro region? 

>  This paper rightly bats down the western origin or Iberian emergence of R1b and favors an eastern origin that arrived as a low frequency haplogroup in the Neolithic, this in light of the Early Neolithic Iberian who tested positive for R1b.

Some have conflated the results of the Yamnaya individuals and the favored eastern emergence of R1b to mean that the authors suggest R1b Western Europeans are descended directly from R1b Yamnayans or similar through a vehicle of choice, ie. Bell Beaker wanderers.

This is not what the authors said.  They also did not say that all Indo-European languages are best explained by the Steppe Hypothesis, in fact, the Armenian plateau hypothesis is considered just as likely.   They did not say that Bell Beaker culture is descended from Yamnaya Culture.  It is not.

Bell Beaker Culture does have some similarities with Yamnaya.  They usually used hollow base barbed points, they were solar worshippers, they drank from beakers emblazoned with solar motifs.
Bell Beaker Culture is a distant cousin and the two met at a distant time in Northern Iran/Northeast Mesopotamia, not Russia.

"It is still possible that the steppe migration detected by our study into Late Neolithic Europe might account for only a subset of Indo-European languages in Europe, and other Indo-European languages arrived in Europe not from the steppe but from either an early “Neolithic Anatolian” or later “Armenian plateau” homeland.."

Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe
Wolfgang Haak1,*, Iosif Lazaridis2,3,*, Nick Patterson3, Nadin Rohland2,3, Swapan Mallick2,3,4,
Bastien Llamas1, Guido Brandt5, Susanne Nordenfelt2,3, Eadaoin Harney2,3,4, Kristin
Stewardson2,3,4, Qiaomei Fu2,3,6,7, Alissa Mittnik8, Eszter Bánffy9,10, Christos Economou11,
Michael Francken12, Susanne Friederich13, Rafael Garrido Pena14, Fredrik Hallgren15, Valery
Khartanovich16, Aleksandr Khokhlov17, Michael Kunst18, Pavel Kuznetsov17, Harald
Meller13, Oleg Mochalov17, Vayacheslav Moiseyev16, Nicole Nicklisch5,13,19, Sandra L.
Pichler20, Roberto Risch21, Manuel A. Rojo Guerra22, Christina Roth5, Anna Szécsényi-
Nagy5,9, Joachim Wahl23, Matthias Meyer6, Johannes Krause8,12,24, Dorcas Brown25, David
Anthony25, Alan Cooper1, Kurt Werner Alt5,13,19,20 and David Reich2,3,4

We generated genome-wide data from 69 Europeans who lived between 8,000-3,000
years ago by enriching ancient DNA libraries for a target set of almost four hundred
thousand polymorphisms. Enrichment of these positions decreases the sequencing
required for genome-wide ancient DNA analysis by a median of around 250-fold,
allowing us to study an order of magnitude more individuals than previous studies1-8
and to obtain new insights about the past. We show that the populations of western and
far eastern Europe followed opposite trajectories between 8,000-5,000 years ago. At the
beginning of the Neolithic period in Europe, ~8,000-7,000 years ago, closely related
groups of early farmers appeared in Germany, Hungary, and Spain, different from
indigenous hunter-gatherers, whereas Russia was inhabited by a distinctive population
of hunter-gatherers with high affinity to a ~24,000 year old Siberian6. By ~6,000-5,000
years ago, a resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry had occurred throughout much of
Europe, but in Russia, the Yamnaya steppe herders of this time were descended not
only from the preceding eastern European hunter-gatherers, but from a population of
Near Eastern ancestry. Western and Eastern Europe came into contact ~4,500 years
ago, as the Late Neolithic Corded Ware people from Germany traced ~3/4 of their
ancestry to the Yamnaya, documenting a massive migration into the heartland of
Europe from its eastern periphery. This steppe ancestry persisted in all sampled central
Europeans until at least ~3,000 years ago, and is ubiquitous in present-day Europeans.
These results provide support for the theory of a steppe origin9 of at least some of the
Indo-European languages of Europe.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Iberian Horse Vessel (footnote)

This horse vessel is from the Iberian Early Chalcolithic.  (before proper Beaker Culture)  It probably came out of the dolmen of Valencia de la Concepcion (?)

Blanco de la Rubia via Valera, Evangelista, Castanheira (2014)

There's several interesting out-takes from the Valera, Evangelista, Castanheira paper on Zoomorphic Figurines of Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic Iberia.  For now, I'll just make a few comments on this horse.

Zoomorphic vessels are not exceedingly abundant in Iberia but several have been taken from funerary contexts, like all other zoomorphic creatures.  The vessels feature birds, pigs, cows and this one horse.

For a wild and free animal, this horse looks cumbersome and burdened.  On it's own merits, it'll never resolve the debate of horse domestication in Iberia much less its own categorization, but it's depiction needs to be remembered as discussion on morphology and genetics continues in Europe.

Chicken Hen?!
Another issue is its presence among the other animals mentioned.  Two of the four are certainly domesticates, cows and pigs.  The fourth is the bird depicted above which comprises the majority of the collection.  What type of bird?

It appears to be a bird from the order of Galliformes.  Is is a native black grouse hen?  or a chicken hen?
It's head shape looks like a grouse, a fat, wild bird used for eggs and meat.  In Iberia, this would probably be the black grouse, a bird distantly related to chickens.
Domesticated chickens (jungle fowl) appear in Europe around this time (West and Zhou (1988, 1989) also (Zlatozar Boev, 2009)  Either way, it looks more like a captive bird than a wild and free bird.

The 'vessel-ization' of these animals seems to me to indicate these animals were viewed as resources for exploitation, not idealizations.


Friday, February 6, 2015

DNA - "Grass Fire Pattern"

The map below will go a long way for understanding the puzzling presence of R1b in the under-gird of North Africa.  Taken with a host of other artifacts, such as lithics, pottery, metallurgy and domestics, it offers at least one explanation for the changes in Western Iberia in the late 4th millennium B.C.

North African climate change is a slow and steady process punctuated by sudden collapses.  One collapse began in the early 4th millennium (5.9 kiloevent) and possibly flooded the Upper Nile valley with immigrants from the Acacus (c3,600 B.C.).  At the same time, this process pushed immigrants to Western Morocco (also archaeologically detectable) and eventually Iberia (IMO) which also experience dramatic social change and traditions. 

The important point here is to note the population peak of grassy Sahara during its pastoral/dairy phase, followed by a burnout in which the population center begins shifting South and West, to the Sub-Sahel and the Oases.  This burnout progressed since then; the Western Desert (Morocco, not Egypt) once respectably populated, is now in modern times completely uninhibited -completely-.
Still frames from the kernel density animation showing the key stages of demographic development across time and space. A shows initial Early Holocene incursions into the Sahara between 14,000 and 11,000 years BP, B–C show gradual population increase across the Sahara between 11,000 and 10,000 years BP, especially in the eastern Sahara and northern Air mountains, D shows exponential growth especially in the eastern Sahara, E shows the early Holocene population peak around 7500 years BP with most regions, except the western littoral being populated, F shows population retraction, especially in the central Sahara and the start of occupation along the western littoral, G shows renewed population expansion in the Middle Holocene, H shows retraction in all areas coinciding with the termination of the AHP, and I shows the de-population of the Sahara and southwestward movement of late Holocene populations.

The presence of R1b in Northern Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, etc, is the most likely the result of those immigrant populations looking for greener pastures.  This is important in light of the modern emergence of Afro-Asiatics like the Berbers (at least the male half) that developed a nomadic life-style in the (now) desert based on browsing domesticates.  (They apparently coming from a more easterly direction)

One thing worth checking out is Andrew's blog where he discusses the dichotomous situation between the genetics of Western Europe and Northern Africa.  I think he has laid some of the problems out a little better than I've tried to.

The demographic response to Holocene climate change in the Sahara, Katie Manning, Adrian Timpson, (2014)  [Link]

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lead Mining in the British Isles (1800 B.C.)

This paper by David Barrowclough examines evidence for the earliest lead mining in Northern Europe. 

Compelling evidence of lead mining in Anglezarke‐Rivington shows predicted spikes in the Heavy Metals Assay and the Saturated Isothermal Remanent Magnetism (SIRM) of radio-carbon dated peat bog sections.  The results appear to show spikes corresponding to the times when lead smelting was active.

Additionally, the presence of galena crystal over the Collared Urns* of two Early Bronze Age individuals seems to confirm that the site was active by at least 1800 B.C.  To Barrowclough, this suggests an association between these individuals and the mines.
Lead Mines in Lancashire

These finds continue to show the sophistication of the metalworking craft that came to the Isles in the second half of the third millennium.  The spikes also show what may be a fairly significant lead smelting industry.  If the individuals associated with the galena specialized in a lead extraction operation, then it certainly indicates that lead was widely used for something.

As Barrowclough mentions in this paper, it's easy to become ensnared in viewing ancient metallurgy through the warped lens of periodization.  Lead has an ancient history and surprising uses.

What could lead have use for in the Early Bronze Age? 

Lead sulfide (galena) can be used to make domestic pottery glaze which is honey-colored but can also be made, orange, copper or red.  Lead was also used in cosmetics, paints and sweeteners?!

The Earliest Evidence for Lead Extraction in Northern Europe and Possible Lead Miners’ Burials: Early Bronze Age Lead Mining dated to the Second Millennium BC.  David Barrowclough, University of Cambridge (undated) [Link]

*Collared Urns and Food Vessels probably developed from interaction between Bell Beakers and the native Peterborough.  Both retain the somewhat older Beaker motifs and develop alongside the lagging Beakers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

AOO Beaker Deposited in Urnfield Culture Cemetary?

Below is an AOO/AOC (All over corded beaker) that was found with a cremation in an Urnfield Culture Cemetery.  The authors argue against intrusion and instead suggest potential reuse of pottery. Regardless of the validity of this particular case, numerous examples of very late contexts with Beaker material can be found in other places.

(As a side note, Harry Fokkens thankfully makes this clarification for non-Dutch speakers [here], which is that within the Netherlander Archaeological community AOO Beakers are generally considered Single Grave Culture (as in this paper, Drenth and Hogestijn*) or Intermediary; outside the Netherlands they are considered Bell Beaker with possible SGC influences)**

AOC Beaker with cremation from Urnfield Cemetery

Here's an interesting except concerning this AOO Beaker:

It's associated pottery suggest a Late Neolithic date for the Vaassen grave, but things may not be as straightforward as they seem.  Theoretically, the Vaassen grave could represent an anachronism.  Occasionally typologically older artefacts are encountered within a demonstrably younger context, which suggests that some items were being reused (in the widest sense of the word).  An example is provided by barrow 9 at Mainzlar-'Schabenberg', Landkreis Giessen, Germany.  Here, an AOO beaker of type 2IId (after the typology by Lanting & van der Waals, 1976: 6) was discovered on the old surface, placed upside down over a cremation (Jorns, 1976: 29 and pl. 29.2).  A sample of the incinerated bone has been radiocarbon dated to 3090 +/- BP (GrA-16041; Land & van der Plicht, 1999/2000: 81).  This date points to the Middle or Late Bronze Age.  We know of two comparable finds from the Netherlands.

These examples suggest that some Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age artefacts were being reused during the Middle Bronze Age and the Urnfield period.

Other examples can be pointed to.   Drenth and Hogestijn give examples from the Netherlands and Germany, but there are Iberian examples as well.  So rather than one or two outliers or grave intrusions, there may be a widespread phenomenon of occasional beaker reuse.

It makes you wonder if grave robbing was so pervasive in the Bronze Age that the burial rites were actually modified to protect the deceased?

* It seems to me that Drenth and Hogestijn give evidence to contradict the notion that AOO Beakers should be associated with SGC.  As the mention in their concluding remarks, cremation is virtually unknown to SGC in this region, wheres the Beakers were more accepting of this practice, included the cremated individual in this AOO Beaker.

**Several Early AOC Beakers in Iberia would seem to give some support to the later.

A Cremation Grave with AOO Pottery at Vaassen (Epe, prov. of Gelderland, NL)  Notae Praehistoricae, 34/2014 : 105-113, Erik Drenth & Willem-Jan Hogestijn (2014) [Link]