Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Minute Review of 2016

In a few weeks 2016 will be a distant memory because some spectacular papers are about to parachute in.

Here's a few things that were memorable.

From the "Beakers & Bodies Project" (British Archaeology, 2017)

1.  One of the best forensic reconstructions of an ancient person was brought to life:  "Ava of the Highlands" 

2.  There was the release of a paper "The Beaker People Project" that gave some support to the idea that flatheads could have been a product of infant rearing practices.

My view for a long while has been that flattened occiputs are enticingly a tell-tale sign of infant cradleboard use, most common in North Asia.  That, in combination with a strong genetic disposition for brachycephaly, made for some strange new head shapes in the Beaker period.   (Being Tall)

Discussed this a little further here VanderWaals, 1984

3.  Very recently there was a 'Neolithic Eyebrow' raising paper from Christina Roth, 2016.  I suspect this is part of a drip from a bigger paper, but in any case the Mesetan Beakerfolk clearly have unexpected maternal profiles that are not native to the plateau lands of Iberia.

Roth's paper agrees to some degree with Brotherton et al, 2013 in that Iberia has the kind of components that later appear elsewhere in Europe, while the reverse could also be true in the Mesetas and the Tagus estuary.  Some sort of reflux in one direction or the other seems likely.

On the other hand, kept in mind Hervella et al, 2015 who suggested that the dominant Beaker maternal profiles (H + V) were largely a contribution from a later Neolithic influx (relatively speaking) from Anatolia which also began to expand with the Beakers.

4.  Ancient Canary Islander DNA introduces some intriguing possibilities.   The bottom line is that R1b owes much less to the mission period than expected.  It could predate Berbers.  It's probably not Roman either.

The most backwards, isolated, hayseed hicks of the Canary Islands tested from a millennium ago are also the most Atlantic-like.

5.  Beer can literally be brought back from the dead.  [here].  This is more than analyzing ingredients and reproducing a beverage; it's actually reanimating surviving yeast (gives beer most of its unique character).

If beakers meant for drinking were periodically waterproofed with beeswax, then it's possible that yeast migrated into the liner and survived the harsher processes of decomposition.  Reproducing those yeast cells and then reusing (by the right hands, Alex McGovern?) could tell us volumes about the stages, temperatures and conditions in which that particular beer was made and stored (even if it was a relatively wild and uncontrolled yeast).

That would tell us if there was a radical difference in alcohol content in the funeral beakers of children, women and men.  Also, I suspect Neolithic beer was fermented in 1/4 oak log barrels (which is basically a hallowed-out oak log proofed with wax).

This next year looks to be a good one.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

North-East Scotland, Age of Metal (British Archaeology 16/17)

A short article by Neil Curtis and Neil Wilken covers some of the highlights of the Scottish "Beakers and Bodies Project", which was an associate project of the British "Beaker People Project", previously blogged.   It is published in the British Archaeology magazine.  (article is linked below)

Northeast Scotland has a relatively high (or apparent) density of Beaker culture materials.  Its river valleys may have desirable to people wanting access to Ireland, the Netherlands and all of the North Sea.  Curtis and Wilken seem to speculate this might partly have been resource driven in combination with location.  In this article, they look at this region's funerary beakers.

Curtis and Wilken build on a theory by Alexandra and Ian Shepherd that the pottery decoration and styles reflect gender and age differences.  Aside from unique local beakers, Tall-Short Necked Beakers are associated with established, older men.  A more balanced Basic-S profile beaker is associated with women, and another with young adults, etc.  An exception is the squatty, short-lip beaker below, which is a local thing.

It also appears likely all funerary beakers in NE Scotland once contained white inlay paste, not unlike most of Europe.  Even if we had a time-machine and were able to ask people why they insisted on doing this, I doubt most could tell you.  I suspect that in its earliest form, white inlay on an iron oxide background was used to paint a schematic, allegorical expression of the underworld in the Beaker mind.  [previously]

A Globular Very Short Necked Beaker

As you can see in the first graphic, NE Scottish Beakerfolk appear to have often been buried in a gendered, East-West manner, similar to many of the Corded Ware.  As we look for ancient DNA in the months to come, it will be interesting if there is a genetic connection that is more direct between the two.

Neil Curtis, Neil Wilkin (2017) "North-east Scotland in the first age of metal"

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bodiless on Broadway (Worcestershire)

Archaeologists Rob Hedge and Jane Evans discuss some of the unique items coming out of a pit this week.

Broadway is a village in Hobbit Country (The Cotswolds) of Worcester. Captions are available.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte - SALZLANDKREIS

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is a reconstruction of the "German Stonehenge" based on the archaeological findings.  It is more comparable to Woodhenge and is roughly contemporary. 

The first culture to leave its materials here were the Corded Ware Culture, followed by Bell Beaker and then the Unetice.

Admission and directions on the website.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mesetas Beaker Tool-Belt

You may want to read this post and comments from Eurogenes for some context prior to this post.  I won't rehash back to where babies come from, but here's an acceptable background:

- Big DNA study 
- Bigger DNA study
- Biggest DNA study (coming soon)
- Surprising Bell Beaker mtdna from Spanish Mesetas (Roth, 2016)

Otero, 2005

I'll start with the unusual Beaker mtdna profiles of Mesetas.  Firstly, this dataset clearly shows discontinuity and social demarcation during the Beaker period of this region.  The Mesetan Bell Beakers were reasonably a close nit group of people who came from somewhere else.  Coming aDNA may tell us more.

Weirdly, the Mesetan maternal profiles are distinguished by the relative absence of Haplogroup H, especially those subclades presumably native to Iberia*.  That was so far observed or inferred to be the norm for Beakers outside the Meseta.  (Botherton et al, 2013)  and that was easily extrapolated on the Isles and other places given additional information.  In any case, the Mesetan Beakers (Ciempozuelos) have a preponderance of U5a, which have may come more directly from the mouth of the Tagus; but as Roth notes, is more often associated with Eastern Europe.

That's not really the focus of this post necessarily, and I'm not advocating any sort of interpretation.
However, it is interesting to view this new information through the lens of various theories on Beaker origins.  One of the Beaker elements that is clearly foreign to Iberia is the growing corpus of All-Over Corded Beakers (AOC), which as Richard Harrison observed, are typically found in the Iberian littorals).

I'm not sure Steppe ancestry in the Meseta will tell us more than expected, but the early emergence of corded pottery may tell us something in the near future or not.  And so, some links...
Suarez Otero

Susana Jorge

To be clear, I'm not suggesting any meaningful presence of AOC in the Mesetas, but could it be another indicator of a reflux movement of people from Northern Europe?

It's seems more likely that the Mesetan Beakers came from Central Portugal based on, at least the Maritime pottery...
"Castillo’s model was not challenged in Spain until Harrison’s book (1977), which adopted Sangmeister’s dualist model (1963), and postulated an origin in central Portugal for maritime Beakers and a central-European one for the later incised forms of decoration.  Harrison compiled the information then available and suggested that both the Maritime and Ciempozuelos complexes were intrusive in the Meseta" (Garrido-Pena, 1997)
 Certainly is looking to be the case.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sounds of the Neolithic (Tenores di bitti)

Over at Eurogenes there is a paper containing the full analysis on 3,000 something Sardinian genomes.

The paper notes the exceptional closeness of the Gennargentu Regione to that of Neolithic genomes; Sardinians are already close, perhaps the closest of any living people.

Bitti hugs this range for which this strange style of music, tenores di bitti, is known.  Always a quartet, the men sing in octave 5ths, and the base is guttural, which occurs nowhere else in the modern West.

It has been proposed that some of the Neolithic monuments provide acoustics suitable for this style of music, specifically for the tholoi of the North Middle East.  Sorry, can't remember the author at the moment.

Many great songs on Youtube.  Also, on the Wiki page the voices are broken out See demo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Once Upon a Time in the West" DNA (Roth, 2016)

Here's a doctoral thesis by Christina Roth which includes quite a bit of Iberian mtdna.  The most interesting aspect of this paper concerns Beakerfolk maternal lines which presents an interesting situation.

The publish date is 2016 at the University of Mainz website.  She has been a co-author of several of the large DNA papers in the last year or so.  I believe this is includes a large amount of unpublished data, but I don't have time to look at it closely.  You can dig in at page 134.

"The two Bell Beaker groups [North and South Mesetas] show significant differences on haplogroup level to Chalcolithic non-Bell Beaker from the Southern Meseta and all Early and Late Neolithic groups with strong genetic hunter-gatherer background...They are clearly separated from all other Chalcolithic groups in PCA, cluster analysis, and MDS...Furthermore, AMOVA supports – though not significant – separation of Bell Beaker and non-Bell Beaker groups (see table 21, p.104). The Fisher-test with superordinate groups supports significant differences between Chalcolithic Bell Beaker and non-Bell Beaker groups as well (see table 14, p.92). Genetic differences between the two Bell Beaker groups are low but not significant while higher and mostly significant FST values to the Chalcolithic groups of the Southern Meseta and East Spain can be observed (see table 16, p.94)"


"The genetic distinctness of the Southern Meseta Bell Beaker and non-Bell Beaker groups can even be observed on the same sites: Camino de las Yeseras and Humanejos provided both, non-Bell Beaker and Bell Beaker individuals."

This is weird...

"A common feature that is shared between the two Bell Beaker groups [in the Mesetas] and that separates them from other Chalcolithic groups is the low amount of haplogroup H and the presence of haplogroup U5a, which was – apart from the Bell Beaker groups – only found in one Late Neolithic individual from Portugal and the Portuguese Chalcolithic site of Perdigões."  (remember a U5b Phoenician..)

and weirder...

"The only new haplogroup found in the Bell Beaker dataset was the sub-Saharan lineage of haplogroup L1b in the Southern Meseta."

Christina Roth then continues with some interesting interpretation.  In total, this part of the paper is maybe 10 pages or so, but the whole thing looks like a good read when time comes available.

"Once upon a time in the West : paleogenetic analyses on Mesolithic to Early Bronze Age individuals from the Iberian Peninsula" Christina Roth.  Mainz : Univ. 236 Seiten.  [Link]

Abstract: While the amount of ancient Iberian genetic data has increased over the last years, few studies have focused on population dynamic processes beyond the immediate period of the Neolithic transition. In this study, the Iberian dataset was enlarged by SNP-based haplogroup information for 249 new Mesolithic to Early Bronze Age individuals and 187 reproduced HVR I sequences. These new data allow confident insights into post-Neolithisation population dynamic processes on the Iberian Peninsula and make it possible to compare the development of Iberian and Central European groups over a time span of about 4,000 years.
The results of this study reveal a strong genetic regionalization of Iberian groups throughout the Neolithic and partially in the Chalcolithic. A considerable amount of hunter-gatherer maternal heritage persisted during the Iberian Early Neolithic. The greatest amount of “Neolithic” lineages/haplogroups (HV, J, K, N1a, T2, V, and X) has been found in Northeast Spain and Aragón, suggesting these regions were the main entrance for Neolithic lineages into the Iberian Peninsula, while the amount of mitochondrial hunter-gatherer influence increases with growing distance from these regions, pointing to various forms of Neolithic transitions on the Iberian Peninsula. In some areas genetic continuity between Early and Late Neolithic seems highly likely (Ebro Valley) while other regions show large genetic differences to the preceding period (Central Portugal, Northern Meseta). Central Iberian Bell Beaker groups are genetically distinct to most other Chalcolithic groups.
Although a substantial number of Early Neolithic Iberian individuals share direct sequence hits to contemporary individuals of the Central European Linear pottery culture, the amount of hunter-gatherer mitochondrial heritage is considerably greater in all regions of the Iberian Peninsula than in Central Europe. No genetic connection between Iberian and Central European Bell Beakers or the Corded Ware culture could be found. When focusing on the distribution of sub-clades of haplogroup H, differences between the Iberian Peninsula and the groups from other parts of Europe were recognizable. In the Iberian samples set only sub-haplogroups H1 and H3 could be identified. While H1 was present in all Early and Later Neolithic groups from Central and Western Europe, H3 shows strong Western European affinities and is not detectable in Central Europe before the Middle Neolithic. While no strong differences in sub-haplogroup H variability among Iberian groups of different epochs could be detected, a clear shift between Central Europe´s Early and Middle Neolithic is recognizable.

Monday, December 5, 2016

200 Bell Beaker Genomes Tea Leaves

If you read Beakerblog, you are already aware from Eurogenes of the "Bell Beaker behemoth coming real soon"  This is the combined 200 ancient Bell Beaker genomes from all over Europe.

*Update*  To clarify after Jean Manco's spanking, I'm not suggesting that the genomes will be published in Antiquity or by any of the authors mentioned.  I mistakenly thought Richard Harrison would co-author a paper in Antiquity with Heyd.  Regardless, I think my assumptions would be reasonable to suggest new information supporting Harrison's 1974 hypothesis.  Apparently I'm wrong!

This March paper in Cambridge's Antiquity (could have been) a revisit of an important paper that appeared in Antiquity in 1974, "Origins of the Bell Beaker cultures" by Richard J. Harrison.  Harrison proposed a model for the formation of the Bell Beaker culture, which you can see below in diagram #7.

Another assumption is that the papers in Antiquity incorporate knowledge of the yet-to-be-published genomes that are out there.  I would assume that would be the case, but I don't know.
Took from a presentation by Jan Turek.  (Fig 3.  Harrison, 1974)
Another paper will be penned by Kristain Kristainsen, that I have a hunch will concern the origins of the (specifically) Dutch Single Grave Culture.  I don't know this.  It could be all broad strokes.  But it looks like a re-attack on an older question within the context of a looming genome bonanza. 

If you know better, then point me in the right direction.

Also, here's some older posts that may be of interest...