Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reefing and Tacking, Libya to Crete

Could Bronze Age sailors sail across open water from Libya to Crete during the calm summer months?  Michelle Creisher's thesis looks at this question.

The prevailing assumption appears to be that prehistoric, Mediterranean sailboats needed to make a complete counter-clockwise tour of the basin in order to return to their home.  In other words, it is assumed that early square-sail boats lacked the versatility and the sailors lacked knowledge to sail against the wind.

There's several questions that the author asks.

1.  What were the wind conditions in the Mediterranean in the second and first millennium?
2.  Were some Bronze Age vessels built for the open water?
3.  Were Bronze Age sailors capable of reefing and tacking?
4.  Is there evidence of direct trade between two points?

Summer Wind only "Wind and Waves Atlas of the Mediterranean Sea (2004)" via Ancient Ports Blog

The paper is a good read on descriptions about sailing and weather from the ancients, but is only concerned with the regular Bronze Age.  I won't cover that here, but there's several things to note about this map (assuming that the prevailing winds had already shifted to the sub-tropic)

First, if we peel the onion back several hundred more years and look at Mediterranean wind patterns, (probable) ancient ports [see also Ancient Ports] and water currents, the settlements of Beakers in the Tyrhennian sphere make more sense (or only make sense).  Remember, the first place Beakers come to our attention is within a coastal inlet.

It is also worth noting the places that are (so far) fairly light on Beaker artifacts, Corsica, Southern Italy, Eastern Sicily, and the Adriatic.  These places have the appearance of having a common denominator of unfavorability for wind-powered boats moving with purpose.

Bell Beaker artifacts in Italy (joeyc91 2015)

Like horses and wagons, there is circumstantial evidence that sailing was changing the world in the 3rd millennium, possibly much earlier.  When you look at the behavioral patterns of the Beakers and the Epi-Beaker phenomenon, then I think it is possible to make an argument that sailing may have played a part, even though right now the evidence is limited to several (well made) cleated-plankers and logboats in anaerobic environs of the Northwest.

Square-rig sailboat with oars in 3,200 B.C. Late Gerzean Period (Bowen, 1960 Antiquity)

If you were to go back in time to 3,200 B.C. you might occasionally see square-rigged boats pulling in to Dilmun or traveling around the Eastern Mediterranean.  The same may be true for the Western Mediterranean, the Western Atlantic and to the North Sea.  I thought about this while looking at the Beaker settlement concentrations in Portugal, the Bay of Biscay and Western France.  The settlements could be interpreted in light of wind, currents and depths.

Taking to the open waters has several advantages, one being that your voyage can be two weeks instead of ten months.  That's pretty important if you are a trader and you like your job.  The other aspect is security, especially if you're transporting things other people might want.  When you go out to the blue water you really don't need to worry pirates and general shenanigans of thugs, tyrants and tributes.  The sail (invented at least before 5,000 B.C.) took a rower out of the boat and put something of material value in his place.

I have 2 more posts on the ancient DNA papers of late.  Unfortunately, I will be busy for a few days and will not be responding to comments or posting during this time.

*See also - "The Navigator's Tale:  Exploring agency behind the Beaker phenomenon" VandeNoort, 2012*

*And Related: 1 "Grey waters bright with Neolithic argonauts? Maritime connections and the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition within the ‘western seaways’ of Britain, c. 5000–3500 BC"  Garrow & Sturt


Bronze Age Sailors in the Libyan Sea: Reconsidering the Capacity for Northward Voyages between Crete and North Africa, Michelle Creisher, Brandeis University, May 2015[Link]

"This thesis re-examines the factors which would have allowed for the possibility of a direct northward trade route between the North African coastal ports and Crete during the Bronze Age. The subject has been the topic of much scholarly debate over the years with various features being hailed as sticking points for any model of a two-way trade system in the Libyan Sea in the second millennium B.C. This paper offers a systematic discussion of each of the three major factors which have been purported by scholars as prohibiting northward voyages: the patterns and characteristics of the winds in the Mediterranean Sea, Bronze Age ship technology and the sailing techniques and practices of the time and finally, the physical evidence, both literary and archaeological, which supports a bi-directional theory."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

2 Vučedol Period are R1b (Szecsenyi-Nagy)

"It is noteworthy that the R1b occurred first after the Middle Chalcolithic in Transdanubia. (Late Chalcolithic has not been not examined yet, and so a hiatus remains between the Middle Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age data.) The two R1b samples are dated to the Vučedol period (~2,870-2,580 cal BC) and to the Gáta/Wieslburg culture (~1,950- 1,760 cal BC). R1b is the most frequent haplogroup in today’s Europe, with a frequency peak in Western Europe (Balaresque et al., 2010). From prehistoric context, this haplogroup is known from the Late Neolithic Central Germany (Bell Beaker culture, Lee et al., 2012). The theory that R1b reached Central Europe (and possibly the Carpathian Basin as well) with the Bell Beaker migration, starting from southwestern Europe (Brandt et al., 2014) seems to be collapsing, as R1b (M269) has recently been found in Yamnaya (3,300-2,700 cal BC) population on the Russian steppe as well (Haak et al., 2015)."

I downloaded this to my phone a day ago, but haven't had time to read it.  The Gáta/Wieslburg culture is a 'child' culture of the Beakers (and/or proto-Unetice, Gimbutas) and the Vučedol is one that were influenced by the same (and Corded Ware).

Late Morning Update 2

Szecsenyi-Nagy comments on the complete absence of haplogroup R1b before the Middle Chalcolithic.  R1b frequency must have been extremely low if present at all before this time in the Western Carpathian region.

The man from Lánycsók, Csata-alja (M6-116.8) 2800-2600 would most likely descend from the Western Steppe depending on the exact date and since he is not a Bell Beaker.  Clearly this is a foreign lineage detected in this area for the first time.

This shows, though not conclusively, that R1b also expanded from the Steppe, and that the western-most fringe of Yamnaya could have been predominantly R1b in addition to its Eastern end.  Still too early to tell.

One thing to point out is that Bell Beaker is nearly contemporary with the earliest phase of Vučedol on the opposite end of the continent and the miscegenation that Gimbutas thought to occur between Steppe herders and Vučedol farmer/metallurgists over several hundred years to create Bell Beakers (based on typology) is in fact conclusively wrong as demonstrated by radio dates.  This is no different from Bosch-Gimpera's starting Bell Beaker in Western Iberia based on Early Neolithic Epi-Cardial pottery typology.

That doesn't mean the underlying conclusion of either is not correct, because there are other evidences for both, but that specific argument is no longer valid.  There are other arguments to be made for a Hungarian expansion, and have been made, begleitkeramik, buttons or encrusted ceramic. 
Unleash the arrow-mappers!

See Also


Supplemental XLS

Molecular genetic investigation of the Neolithic population history in the western Carpathian Basin

The focus of this thesis is the Neolithic in the western Carpathian Basin, more precisely the western part of today’s Hungary, which also called as Transdanubia.rnThe aims of this work are to study the genetic diversity of the Neolithic and Early/Middle Chalcolithic cultures’ populations (sixth-fifth millennia BC) in Transdanubia from both the mtDNA and Y-chromosome perspectives, and to specify the main population genetic events during this period. Closer observing the Transdanubian sample set, the genetic regional differences are also examined. Further topic is the genetic investigation of the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition and the origin of the southeastern European Starčevo farmers. I also aim to compare the Transdanubian results with prehistoric data, especially with the European pre-Neolithic and the Central European Neolithic datasets. The parallel analyses of the mtDNA and the Y-chromosome raise the question, whether men and women had different migration patterns or Neolithisation histories. rnAltogether 32 Mesolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic archaeological sites were included in the sampling, which encompassed 323 individuals or skeletal remains from the western Carpathian Basin. Samples from 298 individuals were processed in the archaeogenetic laboratories of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. Following strict standards of the clean laboratory work and reproducing the results from at least two samples per skeleton, authenticated aDNA haplotype of the mtDNA HVS-I region were obtained in 256 cases. Furthermore, the HVS-II region sequences of 80 individuals were reproduced, detecting potential intra-site maternally kinship relations. Endogenous aDNA sequences were verified through cloning process. The mtDNA haplogroup definitions were ascertained through the analysis of 22 mtDNA coding region polymorphisms. Screening all well-preserved samples, the Y-chromosomal haplogroups were defined in 33 Neolithic and Chalcolithic individuals. For the population genetic analyses, large sets of comparative aDNA, modern mtDNA, and Y-chromosome data were collated and used. The results were evaluated with a suite of population genetic analyses (Fst analysis, PCA, MDS, ASHA, GDM, TPC).rnIt can be inferred from the mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal ancient DNA data that at the advent of the Neolithic both farmer men and women, originated from the Near East, migrated into the Carpathian Basin. The first Neolithic Starčevo culture’s people had a remarkable mtDNA variability, which were largely transmitted to the succeeding populations. The hunter-gatherers show negligible contribution in the early farmers’ maternal and paternal gene pool. The emergence and spread of the Central European LBK can be genetically traced back to the western Carpathian Basin (population of the LBK in Transdanubia or LBKT), corresponding to most archaeological assumptions (Szécsényi-Nagy et al., 2014a). The regional LBK genetic datasets show homogeneity in the maternal gene pool across large distances in Europe (Szécsényi-Nagy et al., 2014b). The genetic effect of the Starčevo population was still significant in the maternal gene pool of the Late Neolithic of Central Germany. The Early Neolithic genetic substrate dominated the Neolithic of Transdanubia as well; only few hints indicate smaller infiltration or immigration events during the Vinča, LBKT, Sopot, and Balaton-Lasinja periods. The complete Transdanubian mtDNA dataset closely affiliated to the Neolithic populations in eastern Hungary (Keerl, 2014), and the Central European sixth-fourth millennia BC populations (published by Brandt et al., 2013). rnThe close maternal genetic affinity of the Neolithic Transdanubian populations to each other got new shades when the LBKT and Lengyel datasets were split into north and south groups. The here assumed north-south genetic difference in the Middle and Late Neolithic Transdanubia should be further investigated by whole genome studies and more balanced sample distribution. rnThe observed heterogeneity of the Starčevo and LBKT maternal gene pool coupled with Y-chromosomal homogeneity in the early farming populations suggest the residential rule of patrilocality and patrilineality in these communities. The paternal diversity though raised in the Late Neolithic, the high maternal diversity still support continuous social system from the Early Neolithic onward.rnThis study presents the first detailed population genetic survey, with an exceptionally large number of ancient DNA data of the sixth-fifth millennium BC western Carpathian Basin, which was a corridor on the Continental Route of the European Neolithisation. Even if the described results in this thesis mark a milestone in the archaeogenetic research of the Carpathian Basin’s prehistory, several questions remain open for further ancient genomic analyses.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bell Beaker in Light of Yamna, Corded Ware (Allentoft & Haak) [Part 1]

I'm going to begin unpacking these recent genetic studies on European prehistory in relation to the Beaker phenomenon.  Since there's a lot to unpack for a ten paragraph blog, I'll spend the next week or two catching up with some wild-ass interpretation, as always.

Both studies (Haak & Allentoft, 2015) have largely confirmed much of what has been expected regarding Corded Ware migration into North-Central Europe but with a severity that surprised most. Although both studies largely avoided Bell Beakers, the little data from several German and Czech Bell Beakers have teasingly supported a few hip-pocket hypotheses, one being that Beakers have so far appeared genetically 'modern' in relation to Western Europeans.  Thus, the Bell Beaker saga likely proves the last episode in the genetic transformation and amalgamation of the Western Europe.  From this point forward, Western Europe becomes increasingly militarized and genetically insulated.

Consider this.  In the last 4,500 years, the Western Continent has succumbed only to a single defeat by a foreign invader and that was Allied Victory over Europe and North Africa in World War II.  This resulted in occupation but no colonization and that makes the 3rd millennium all the more interesting.

A Mittle-Saale Beaker by Karol Schauer
We now have accumulated to this point possibly as many as seven Bell Beaker men who appear to have been from the appropriately mysterious paternal lineage R1b.  It's possible to extend this slightly given a certain amount of latitude.  Nevertheless, at the moment, men of the Beaker background in Germany and Bohemia are 100% of a single West or Southwest Asian lineage and 0% of any lineage identified with the preceding Neolithic or Corded Ware.

The fact that the male population of Western Europe has been recently replaced by young founders is well known; what isn't known is the speed to which this happened.  If Bell Beaker men continue to be overwhelmingly or exclusively of one lineage, it will mean that they did not integrate other men into their society in a way that was beneficial for those men or their posterity.

Here's a quick run-down and then some quick comments:

- Kromsdorf on the Ilm of Saale
(2) R1b, one of those down to P312+ (graves 5 and 8 - Adults)
- Quedlinburg on River Bode
(1) R1b-L51+ (QLB28b I0806 - Adult)
 - Augsburg on a tributary of the Danube
(1) [possibly R1b-DF27?, M12124+ below "Franco-Iberian" DF27] (RISE560 - Adult)  (this result was not published in the Allentoft paper but the SNPs were apparently identified by the Genetiker blog)
- Osterhofen-Altenmarkt on the Danube
(2) R1b-U152/S28 (RISE563 F0234 - Adult) (As reported in the Allentoft paper)
R1b-L51+ (RISE564 F0241 - Adult)  (this again not reported and not confirmed)
- Kněževes, Western Prague near the Vltava
(1) R1b (RISE566 F0521, A01168 - Infant) tested down to P310/L11

At this point we have one of the two major branches of M269 defined in Bell Beaker remains, R-P312.  As the the geographical scope begins to increase, we'll eventually see U106/S28 and probably a bunch of stray dogs and cats along with typical Neolithic and Corded lineages.

One thing to remember is that there may be a degree of selection bias in choosing archaeological remains.  While these individuals were certainly Bell Beakers, they were buried in cemeteries with certain diagnostics that have certain local interpretations.  So what we are beginning to see is not a snapshot of Europe but a snapshot of a specific population/culture within Europe.  Where this gets dicey is when there are N-S facing Battle Axe Swedes (one in this paper was R1b and more Western-like) and sometimes E-W Beakers from the NW.  Eventually it won't matter as the data piles up.

Quick thoughts before moving on to [Part 2]:

One of the more interesting out-takes, is that German Corded Ware and German Bell Beakers appear to have had starkly different paternal lineages.  This seems to indicate that violence was common between the two groups, at least in Germany which is all the more significant.

U152+ this early could have implications for the heritage of the Vulcan-worshiping Eteocretans, see [here], [here] where some genetic components differ in the modern Eastern Mediterranean.  At least it's worth looking at again, as I doubt those modern Cretans that are R1b have ever had additional SNPs. There are several papers that look at the Epi-Beaker phenomenon (or rather faint influences) including this one by Volker Heyd (2008) that looks at the influence of various Beaker cultures preceding the Aegean Bronze Age and Crete among other places.  For Crete, this is relevant given who settled the Tyrrhenian sphere beginning in the EBA because it was probably by populations in the general proximity of those in Allentoft.  This is not to say that Italian Beakers colonized Crete, because that didn't happen. Rather, communication can be demonstrated beginning in the Beaker period and this may have been followed by some migration from Central Italy in the regular Bronze Age.

On that note, it also becomes more difficult to simply dismiss Euroesque clades like U152 on the Barbary Coast as being the leftovers of Vandals or Romans (I imagine with a re-calibrated TMRCA) and again it will be important to dig down into lowest SNPs and get a better understanding of when separation may have occurred.  Bell Beakers did in fact inhabit the Oran area and there were several episodes back and forth between the continent long before the Roman Empire.

Finally, for the Y-chromosome, it will be necessary to once and for all tackle the SNPs of Northeastern Bashkirs and try and nail down the exact timeframe Bashkir U152 separated from the rest.  

Bronze Age population dynamics, selection, and the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, Allencroft et al.  Nature 522, 167–172 (11 June 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14507 [Link]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Beakers from Bavaria and Bohemia (Allentoft et al, 2015)

The metadata in this study has been really difficult to navigate, so this is kind of an incomplete post and hopefully I'll be able to re-attack once some of the data (that we care about) crystallizes.

Kněževes - grave 8 (modified from Turek, 2012)
To start, one of the more interesting things about the Beakers in this study is that Kněževes - grave 8 was actually a woman.  It's difficult to say that it is her husband's mementos because she herself is oriented like a man.  I'm hoping I have the right graphic, but you can see below the sexing was different from the genetic result.  I'm guessing there was a question here and that's why this individual and the infants were chosen by the Czechs. (Don't quote me on this)

This doesn't necessarily mean she had a man identity or complex.  Certain items were associated with power in ancient societies, such as the queen who is depicted with the false beard, crook, flail and nemes (all things associated with male pharaonic power).  Clearly, certain regalia was buried with Beaker men who were importantly viewed in their society.  Jan Turek has written on this subject.

Bell Beaker individuals in this study lack carbon dates, this being because their pottery were historically satisfactory for placing them in a chronology.  But, the cemeteries at Augsburg, Osterhofen and Landau in Germany and Knezeves and Brandysek in the Czech Republic were subject to one of the earliest and largest isotope studies.  Price et al, 1997 (Table 7) found that Augsburg Beakers were around 15% first generation immigrants, Osterhofen around 38% and Landau around 44%. [also 2004]

These same cemeteries were also lumped into a dental study by Desideri and Besse (2010) which found population movement between groups.  Here's some of the sampled individuals from Table 1 of Allentoft et al.

RISE559 Augsburg Bell Beaker F0174, grave 4 tooth F F Adult
RISE560 Augsburg Bell Beaker F0187, grave 3 tooth M M Adult
RISE562 Landau an der Isar Bell Beaker F0228, obj. 136/92 = grave 9 tooth FF Adult
RISE563 Osterhofen-Altenmarkt Bell Beaker F0234, obj. 8 tooth MM Adult
RISE564 Osterhofen-Altenmarkt Bell Beaker F0241, obj. 25 tooth MM Adult
RISE566 Knezeves Bell Beaker F0521, A01168, gr. 14 tooth MM Infant
RISE567 Knezeves Bell Beaker F0523, A0766, gr. 8 tooth MF Adult
RISE568 Brandysek Bell Beaker F0525, A01623, gr. 16 tooth nd F Infant
RISE569 Brandysek Bell Beaker F0527, A01643, gr. 35? tooth nd F Infant

The last individual from Osterhofen F0234 is the male that is R1b U152 (not DF27) according to Richard Rocca   [See also Rocca et al, 2012].

If true, then that means that two of the Central Beakers where subclades can be discerned are U152/S28, not entirely surprising.  It's presence among Bashkirs is noteworthy however, especially given the stacks of ancient R1b coming out of the North Caspian.

*Ok, Correct map now, got a little careless.  Thanks to Krefter.

Bronze Age population dynamics, selection, and the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, Allencroft et al.  Nature 522, 167–172 (11 June 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14507 [Link]
Additional data [Link]


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10% of Bronze Age Europeans Lactase Persistent

[Lactase Persistence] we find it at most at low frequency in the Bronze Age (10% in Bronze Age Europeans; Fig. 4), indicating a more recent onset of positive selection than previously estimated
Really?  Mathematically, how does this work?  Everyone on planet Earth should be Lactase Persisent using this weird logic, really weird logic.

Were talking about about 400 generations on one hand, on the other hand a crises in the sustainment strategy or infant rearing customs so great as to winnow lactose intolerance almost completely from some parts of Europe (ie. the Bell Beaker parts of Europe).  There simply was not any event or factor that contributed to the modern frequency other than migration, founder effect and the growth of that particular population.

Really, there are two arguments here.  One is positive selection on steroids, which is ridiculous given the fact that non-LP people seem to be having plenty of babies.  The other is continuous or severe culling, and that just doesn't seem to fit anything that is known of the Bronze Age forward.

Blah, blah, blah
"The results for rs4988235, which is associated with lactose tolerance, were surprising. Although tolerance is high in present-day northern Europeans, we find it at most at low frequency in the Bronze Age (10% in Bronze Age Europeans) indicating a more recent onset of positive selection than previously estimate... Our results confirm a low frequency of rs4988235 in Europeans, with a derived allele frequency of 5% in the combined Bronze Age Europeans (genotype probability>0.85)...  Among Bronze Age Europeans, the highest tolerance frequency was found in Corded Ware and the closely-related Scandinavian Bronze Age cultures.  Interestingly, the Bronze Age steppe cultures showed the highest derived allele frequency among ancient groups, in particular the Yamnaya, indicating a possible steppe origin of lactase tolerance."
Algerian herd-women putting up a tent.  What!?

You might remember this "Guess What!? LP Allele Not Under Selective Pressure"  Obviously, the derived allele comes from Central Asia, probably in the Paleolithic.  I would take a wild guess that LP is associated with the earliest users of lactating domesticates, possibly the nanny goat for babies and cow's milk after 1 year of age.

Bronze Age population dynamics, selection, and the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, Allencroft et al.  Nature 522, 167–172 (11 June 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14507 [Link]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

63 Individuals in the Balkan Peninsula

Here's some interesting test results for 63 prehistoric individuals spanning Early Neolithic Starčevo Criş culture to the Late Bronze Age.  Hervella & co. have proposed a few interesting and plausible hypotheses based on the information.  It's open access.

A few take-aways:

(Based on mtdna alone) the researchers seem to add weight to hypothesis that Linearbandkeramik and Cardium ethnicities emerged from the Pre-Ceramic, Proto-Sesklo Culture of Thessaly, itself probably having cultural roots somewhere in the neighborhood of Çatalhöyük.

There is stratospheric (58%) occurrence of haplogroup H by the Middle Neolithic (about 13 un-named haplotypes)  The only population with a frequency higher than this is SW Libyan Berbers.

There is at least one or two disruptions following the Early Neolithic with what may be additional migration events.  The Hervella researchers hypothesize that this is may be owed to additional farmer intrusions from the Near East and that these movements probably spread into Central Europe, changing the maternal haplogroup frequecy there.

Maternal haplogroup N, previously associated with Neolithic migrations, is so far absent.

Finally, they offer an alternative hypothesis for the formation of Central European Bell Beaker maternal profiles in the Late Neolithic. 
Several scenarios have been proposed to account for this genetic shift between Early/Middle and Late Neolithic in Central Europe, suggesting an influence of the CWC (Corded Ware culture) from the East and of the BBC (Bell Beaker culture) from the West in the Late Neolithic. The impact of people of the CWC culture, in turn massively influenced by a possible influx of populations from the East from the Yamnaya culture, has been proposed to be especially important [41]. While this idea is certainly possible, none of the models studied to date have taken into consideration another possible and obvious explanation, namely a new wave of Neolithic migration into Europe through the ‘traditional route’ of the Balkan Peninsula. This new wave of Neolithic migrations are represented by Vinča and Dudeşti cultures (5500–5000 BC), that trace their origin in North-West Anatolia on the basis of ceramics features [28]. The Boian, Zau and Gumelniţa cultures from Middle-Late Neolithic (M_NEO) from Romania are the direct continuation of this cultural complex; the M_NEO group from Romania displayed differences in haplotype (S5 Fig) and haplogroup distributions (S4 Fig) with the Middle Neolithic from Central Europe.
The hypothesized contribution of Middle Neolithic migrations from North-West Anatolia into the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe may explain the position of the BBC (Late Neolithic in Central Europe), close to the M_NEO groups from Romania in the multivariate analysis (Figs 2 and 3).

The hypothesis put forth by Brotherton et al, 2013, is that the expansion of the BBC from the Iberian Peninsula might best explain the change in frequencies in continental Europe during the Late Neolithic.

As an alternate hypothesis, Hervella et al suggest that some Middle Neolithic Cultures of the Balkans, such as the Vinča culture, may represent later migrations of early copper-wielding, hyper-H Western Anatolians who then moved into the Balkans and possibly to Central Europe.  Assuming Central Europe was sufficiently shifted as apparent in the Balkans, it would then largely or partly explain a number of Beaker populations.

(And to clarify the last point, we are talking about the percentage of the maternal stock, not the impetus of the Bell Beaker Culture.  The question is the degree to which the earliest Beaker migrants mixed with the local Central European populations, which we already know was a lot.  Also, to what degree were those Central Europeans similar to Middle Neolithc Balkans)

Hervella M, Rotea M, Izagirre N, Constantinescu M, Alonso S, Ioana M, et al. (2015) Ancient DNA from South-East Europe Reveals Different Events during Early and Middle Neolithic Influencing the European Genetic Heritage. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0128810. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128810 [Link]


The importance of the process of Neolithization for the genetic make-up of European populations has been hotly debated, with shifting hypotheses from a demic diffusion (DD) to a cultural diffusion (CD) model. In this regard, ancient DNA data from the Balkan Peninsula, which is an important source of information to assess the process of Neolithization in Europe, is however missing. In the present study we show genetic information on ancient populations of the South-East of Europe. We assessed mtDNA from ten sites from the current territory of Romania, spanning a time-period from the Early Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. mtDNA data from Early Neolithic farmers of the Starčevo Criş culture in Romania (Cârcea, Gura Baciului and Negrileşti sites), confirm their genetic relationship with those of the LBK culture (Linienbandkeramik Kultur) in Central Europe, and they show little genetic continuity with modern European populations. On the other hand, populations of the Middle-Late Neolithic (Boian, Zau and Gumelniţa cultures), supposedly a second wave of Neolithic migration from Anatolia, had a much stronger effect on the genetic heritage of the European populations. In contrast, we find a smaller contribution of Late Bronze Age migrations to the genetic composition of Europeans. Based on these findings, we propose that permeation of mtDNA lineages from a second wave of Middle-Late Neolithic migration from North-West Anatolia into the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe represent an important contribution to the genetic shift between Early and Late Neolithic populations in Europe, and consequently to the genetic make-up of modern European populations.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Genomes from Portalón of the Cueva Mayor of Atapuerca

Eurogenes posted a few abstracts on ancient genomes that should be published in the next few days, including 8 individuals from the Portalon Cave from Sierra de Atapuerca.

Sierra de Atapuera (photo Mario Modesto)
I don't think that there is anything really surprising here in the Gunter et al paper; Neolithic Portalon individuals are initially Near Eastern Farmers (as expected) and progressively become more 'Western-like' going into the third millennium. This same resurgence occurs over much of Europe.

The common explanation for the uptick in Hunter-Gather related ancestry is that a gradual miscegenation occurred between the Farmers and local Hunter-Gatherers over many hundreds of years.  This implies that the local Hunter-Gatherer populations were large enough to impact the farmer populations through whatever mechanism and that they were in a position to do so, (ie. not being dead)

I have my doubts about the locality of this Western ancestry.  After all, you might see a resurgence of Amerindian-like ancestry in North America at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  But this modern resurgence is from North/Central and South America.  The real Native North Americans (Pamunky, Caddo, Seminole, etc) were pretty much obliterated, at least their genomic relevance anyway.  While still possible, I think there may be other reasons for the WHG ascendancy in the 4th millenium. [link]

The Chalcoltihic individuals are apparently close to Basques, not surprising since it's near Burgos, Spain.  Hopefully the paper will include archaeological information on each of the eight individuals when it is released.

Günther T1,Valdiosera C1,2,3,Malmström H1,Ureña I3,Rodriguez-Varela R3,Sverrisdóttir Ó1,Daskalaki E A1,4,Skoglund P1,4,5,Naidoo T1,Svensson E M1,6,Bermúdez de Castro J7,Carbonell E8,Storå J4,Iriarte E9,Arsuaga J3,Carretero J3,9,Götherström A4,Jakobsson M1

The consequences of the Neolithic transition in Europe – one of the most important cultural changes in human prehistory – is a subject of intense study. However, the consequence of this transition on prehistoric and modern-day people in Iberia, the westernmost frontier of the European continent, remains unresolved. Here we present the first genome-wide sequence data from eight human remains, dated to between 5,500 and 3,500 years before present (Chalcolithic and Bronze Age), excavated in the El Portalón cave at the Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. We show that these individuals emerged from the same ancestral gene pool as early farmers from other parts of Europe suggesting that migration was the dominant transfer-mode of farming practices throughout western Eurasia. Early farmers, including the El Portalón individuals, were found to have mixed with different local hunter-gatherers as they migrated to different parts of Europe and that the proportion of hunter-gatherer related admixture into farmers increased over the course of two millennia. Among all early farmers, the Chalcolithic El Portalón individuals show the greatest genetic affinity to Basques. These El Portalón genomes reveal important pieces of the demographic history of Iberia and Europe and advance our understanding of the relationship between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and how they relate to modern-day groups.

Atapuerca UNESCO

Also, El Portalon (the larger cave):

Ana Ortega Martinez [Link]

Friday, June 5, 2015

Gold Rush in Cornwall

From the IndependentUK - David Keys

Cornwall was scene of prehistoric gold rush, says new research

A detailed analysis of some of Western Europe’s most beautiful gold artefacts suggests that Cornwall was a miniature Klondyke in the Early Bronze Age

Quick thoughts from the article:

"Geological estimates now indicate that up to 200 kilos of gold, worth in modern terms almost £5 million, was extracted in the Early Bronze Age from Cornwall and West Devon’s rivers – mainly between the 22nd and 17th centuries BC."

200 kilos comes out to around 440 lbs.  That's enough gold to create 200,000 wedding bands or a zillion hammer sheet trinkets that were so popular at this time.  At first the number seemed ridiculously low, but most goldwork at this time is foil and then you still need to take the human population in generations across the EBA and do some division.  1/4 ton is probably passable, but it would be the floor.

“The available evidence strongly suggests that in Bronze Age Cornwall and West Devon, tin wasn’t obtained through mining, but was instead extracted from the areas’ rivers, probably through panning or sophisticated damming and sluicing systems,” said Dr Standish. 
“But, as well as finding tin in the sand and gravels of the streams and rivers, they also found gold,” he added.
Indeed, fine woolly sheepskins may well have been used to ‘catch’ the tiny grains of both tin and gold – in a technique similar to that which, in ancient Greek mythology, probably gave rise to the concept of the Golden Fleece.
The authors seem to come to this clever conclusion by looking at the ratio of gold to tin among EBA artifacts mined from this area and the ratio of metals obtained through placer mining.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hut hut hut (Százhalombatta, Museum)

Reconstructed Bell Beaker Boat Shaped House, Százhalombatta Archaeological Park, Hungary (Bozor Magdi)

In Százhalombatta, Hungary there is the "Matrica Muezeum Es Régészeti Park" [Link] which is a combination of artifact exhibits and open field tumuli and reconstructed homes.  If you are bored looking at glass cabinets, this might be more your type of thing.

Százhalombatta means, 'field of a hundred kurgans' which mixes Bronze and Iron Age. Százhalombatta
is about thirty minutes south of Budapest along Route 6.  There, you walk through the center of a real Kurgan, but there are also home reconstructions, a Roman fort, and this Bell Beaker home!

There is a paper by Emilia Paztor (2005) [Link] about the directional orientation of the Csepel Group Beaker homes, several foundations of which were discovered in the vicinity of the archaeology park.  They appear to have been oriented toward the sunrise at the winter solstice; they were also unique constructions for that area at that time.

See Also:
Régészeti kutatások az M0 autópálya nyomvonalán.  Budapesti Történeti Múzeum, 1992, 29 cm. 2. kötet

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ancient European Cattle Genomes (Scheu et al - Paper)

This is an important study of ancient domestic cattle by Scheu et al.  There's quite a few Taurine genomes here, and importantly, several from Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The paper is linked below, but you can also get some spreadsheets in the supplementary for actual sites and dates.  [here]

The most distant relationships are between those of Central Europe and Iran, the latter being in the vicinity of where domestication may have occurred.  The CE group includes the Early Neolithic Viesenhäuser Hof, Stuttgart at around 5,200 B.C. and Middle Neolithic Chasséen Culture from France.

The Cardial and Epi-Cardial cattle from France and Spain may be the product of early Cardial island-hopping from Anatolia.  The Western Cardial and Linerbandkeramik cattle are the most distant from the domestication event in time and space, and for haplotypes, the least diverse.

From the paper:

"The oldest (Neolithic) groups with the greatest geographical distance from each other, namely Iran and Central/Western Europe and Southern France, show the highest FST values (0.47 and 0.4, respectively). Smaller genetic distances are observed between more adjacent areas, such as between Iran and Western Anatolia and between Iran and Southeastern Europe (0.11 and 0.17, respectively)."

"Neolithic cattle from Iran yield the highest value for haplotype diversity in the whole
dataset (0.96). Haplotype diversity consistently decreases along the proposed two main Neolithisation routes, with the lowest values in remote areas, i.e. in Neolithic Central/
Western Europe and Southern France (0.22 and 0.00, respectively), while intermediate values are observed in between."

"The genetic distance between Southeastern Europe (6,200-5,500 BCE) and Central/Western Europe (5,400-4,400 BCE) is unexpectedly high (0.27)."


"The pattern of decreasing diversity in the direction of the Neolithic expansion and the correlation of genetic and geographical distances is considerably weaker in modern-day cattle breeds than in the Neolithic.  It is not clear yet to which extent human migrations
from the East as postulated for the Bronze Age [61] influenced the already existing cattle stock in Europe."
The last point made by the authors is critical.  This study only covers Neolithic longhorn cattle, bos taurus primagenus, at least in parts of Europe and the Near East.  In the Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic of Western Europe there is a major change in the morphology of cattle in many places that may contribute substantially to the genetics of modern Atlantic herds. 
Pizza slice to punchbowl:

They found no evidence of maternal auroch introgression into Southern Italian breeds based on mitochondrial haplotypes.   Well, for one thing, it's there... Maybe not yet, maybe not visible by haplotypes, but I'd bet cold cash that it happened.  That will also be true for the exceedingly ugly Highland and Norwegian breeds and the stumpy auroch that inhabited those lands.

Uni-parental markers might tell you a few things in some populations, but in heavily domesticated and back-bred cattle it tells you jack-squat about population dynamics, especially bottlenecks. [see here]  At least this study is of ancient autosomal dna, so it's a good day.

So now that we have Middle Pleistocene genomes of fruit bats and iguanas, can we get a few Bell Beakers?!

The genetic prehistory of domesticated cattle from their origin to the spread across Europe

Amelie Scheu12*, Adam Powell1, Ruth Bollongino13, Jean-Denis Vigne3, Anne Tresset3, Canan Çakırlar4, Norbert Benecke2 and Joachim Burger1
BMC Genetics 2015, 16:54  doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0203-2
The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2156/16/54