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!

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