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...


  1. The 1974 model looks incredibly baroque. I think it suffers from failure to see for the forest for the tress disease.

  2. I assume they have some evidence that they think is supportive of that. I'm just guessing, though.

  3. Can't believe how much traffic that little entry on the Beaker paper is generating for my blog.

    Anyway, two points...

    - It's unlikely that all of those 200 ancient samples will be from Beaker burials. Rather, they will be samples from a variety of cultures relevant to the Beaker question.

    - The ancient DNA paper will probably come out much sooner than March, and it'll probably be in Nature.

    1. Thanks for the clarification.

    2. There is good reason for this to be a high interest paper. As I preface it in my blog post:

      "One of the biggest mysteries in the study of the historical linguistics and population genetics of Europe is the role played by the Bell Beaker culture.

      One view sees it as a small number of culturally influential traders, craftsmen and priests. Another sees it as a major folk migration. Its putative origins range from North Africa to Iberia to Germany to the Balkans to the Baltics to Crete to the European Steppe. Some see it as a linguistically Indo-European source for the Celtic languages. Others see it as linguistically Vasconic, a language family now represented by only one living language, Basque."

      Almost everybody sees the Bell Beaker culture as much more pivotal than they used to, now that genetics has revealed that it coincides with the last major population genetic upheaval of Western Europe before the present, which resulted in substantial changes from first wave Neolithic which in turn changed substantially from Mesolithic and pre-LGM Europe in term of population genetics. But for the Bell Beaker era, Western Europeans would be a lot more like Sardinians.

    3. @ Davidski,
      No kidding, the internet blows up. Thanks for pointing that out. Definitely, DNA from different times and cultures will make it stronger. Hope to see the genomes sooner than later.

      @ Andrew,
      Yeah, with a bigger number of individuals and over greater distances, I hope we'll have some idea just how related Beakers were to each other, or at least what the common denominator was.

  4. @bellbeakerblogger,
    Arent the BB in lower rhine actually very late? like 2400bc?

    1. 2600 or slightly earlier. Radiocarbon dating wouldn't be much help anyway at a certain point because the material components of the international culture weren't fully formed, so then it is really open to interpretation what constitutes early Beaker.

      If you ask a Dutchmen, that's early AOO corded ware and gendered burials in the lower Rhine, if you ask someone else, it's Iberian pottery. The 200 genomes in this paper may help give a better idea.

  5. Amazing how people can misinterpret what I write. Where am I going wrong? Thanks to Davidski for riding to the rescue above. Here follows more clarification.

    The two papers in the March issue of Antiquity will be on archaeology. They were requested as an archaeological response to the aDNA papers that came out last year regarding the Yamnaya and related cultures, which found a Yamnaya genetic element in both Corded Ware and Bell Beaker. The paper by Heyd will not copy or revisit any paper of the 1970s, not even one by his former colleague Harrison. It will be bang up to date, and aiming to take us further than Harrison and Heyd 2007 (which was not remotely a repeat or revisting of Harrison 1974).

    The paper by Kristian Kristiansen will be on Corded Ware - a culture also known in places as Single Grave Culture. It was not confined to the Netherlands. Far from it. Nor can I see any reason for Kristian Kristiansen to confine himself to any one part of its massive range.

    1. Thank you for clarifying. I thought Harrison and Heyd were co-authoring the next paper. Wrong in that respect.

      I wasn't suggesting the paper in Antiquity would be anything other than an archaeological one, nor would I expect a genetics paper from Antiquity or a DNA paper from (not Harrison)and Heyd. You have an inside scoop from Heyd concerning topics he may cover, which I do not have, so reading tea leaves is standard fare.

      Based on what you know, apparently concerning the content of Heyd's paper, my hunch is wrong. That's fine. I looked at the timing, especially with the large swath of genomes that will likely come out before or after and saw some significance in returning to Antiquity on this particular topic, given the prior relationship that you mention.

      So concentrating on the lower Rhine based on that assumption seems to make sense. I'm also well aware of the extent of the SGC and Kristainsen's writings on Denmark. I only assumed (apparently incorrectly) that there is information bolstering Harrison's model lurking out there.

      No conspiracy here. Not trying to misrepresent anyone. Just guessing.

    2. It seems silly to pronounce some great finding, not give the main point, and expect no one to speculate. I love your blog by the way.