Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Kossinna's Smile" (Heyd, 2017)

Today I'll focus on a paper by Volker Heyd entitled "Kossinna's Smile".  This paper and this other paper, are meant to be read together.

Because this subject is just too dense to work left to right, I'll offer a condensed version.

"Pots are people you idiots!" -Kossinna

1.  Pots or people?  Kossinna had the ridged view that archaeological culture = ethnicity.  Then a younger generation of archaeologists lurched to the opposite extreme, discounting the validity of the ethnic question, but even the conceptual basis of a unifying 'culture' or its components, such as language.   (More on Kossinna -Roberts, VanderLinden, page 51)

Every generation is rewarded with teenagers.  At some point there is an acknowledgement that the older generation 'may have got a few things right'.  Now that ancient DNA is demonstrating clear genetic boundaries and migratory change, "culture-history and ethnic interpretations are back on the dinner table" as Heyd states.

2.  While Heyd acknowledges the genetic turnovers, he is also much more cautious than the authors of "Re-theorising mobility and the formation of culture and language among the Corded Ware Culture in Europe"

He points to a number of archaeological discrepancies and logical errors that the Nature crowd seem to be making.  I've combined several things here to save space and time.  Here's a few examples, parentheses are mine:
  • No where is the Globular Amphora Culture considered in any genetic study.  Yet, GAC has more direct contact and overlap with Yamnaya and influences from the North Black Sea are more direct.  Heyd gives the example of the Mikhaylovka Culture of the Dneiper (also mentioned is the Maikop by Mallory and Adams.  Also, see Woidich on GAC contact with the Northern Funnel-beaker Culture as one explanation for the formation of the Northern Single Grave Culture.  Woidich, 2014
  • Other evidence of earlier intrusion - Baalberge round pit barrows 
  • Seemingly domestic horses are earlier than expected, Salzmünde Group, Central Europe.
  • Suggests the possibility that Salzmünde-Eperstedt may have already been steppified, long before the CWC and BBC.
He also makes these arguments:
  • There is still very limited sampling of vast regions.  Not ready for simple conclusions.
  • CWC is not descended from Yamnaya, not directly and not partly.  The Kristensen authors (2017) admit they are using Yamnaya as a proxy, even though their own arrow maps (Nature) make this association quite clear.  There are similarities between the two, but the two cultures are nearly contemporary which is problematic. 
  • Yamnaya expanded into familiar steppe ecozones.  CWC expanded into familiar temperate forest ecozones.  The two never overlap.
  • The burials are more different than similar.  And conversely, more similar burials from other cultures offer more convincing fits.
Fig 4 (steppe sandals in pre-Beaker Iberia)

3. The emergence of the Corded Ware Culture and the Bell Beaker Culture at roughly the same time is not coincidental.  He seems to suggest the steppe component had already spread all over Europe as an incubating Neolithic elite (my interpretation) and then both cultures are born on a Neolithic substrate (again, my interpretation), one in Iberia and the other in Northern Europe.

Finally, it's important to emphasis the point Heyd reiterates.  On the facts, there is no doubt.  Eastern European Steppe influences clobbered Europe, all of it.  The Corded Ware and Beaker Cultures were born of this upheaval.  After all, that is the point of calling the paper "Kossinna's Smile". 

The real question is the specifics of social change, which will continue to come into focus with a "new archaeology", as he calls it.


  1. The "new archaeology" has been around since the 60s, which criticised migration as a cause and result for all cultural changes of previous mantra. He calls for new "new archaeology"- post processualism which re-incorporates migration into the theoretical models developed since he days of culture History

  2. Question is, if these nascent exiguious elite incorporated themselves far and wide since before 3200 Bc, I can only think of Majkop/ the Caucasus as the region of origin.?

    1. Well,I think by implication, his raising the discussion on GAC could forshadow that association.

  3. Clobbered Greece and Italy and Anatolia too? Your blog is focused on Iberia and central Europe because of it's relevance to the Bell Beaker question but Southwest Europe and Italy are crucial to answering where PIE originally came from.The steppe theory is more likely but remember that a steppe migration into Europe is in line with theories that put PIE south of Europe.In that scenario the steppe was a secondary homeland for a subset of IE languages while Anatolian and others came more directly.The Neolithic timeframe is too early but that narrows down the timeframe not the location.Greece and Anatolia will seal the deal for a steppe theory or further confuse things,depending on how many samples they have.You have a great blog keep it up.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate it. Agree that the North Pontic Caspian is most likely, at least for a secondary. Prior to this, just watching and waiting to see where things lead

  4. @Rob It just seems like what happened or what we think happened in central Europe is sometimes used to generalize about all Europe.Central Europe also means different things to different people. Davidski is careful to be geographically specific and even though he favors the Kurgan theory he lets the data do the talking.We only have a limited number of samples from a limited number of areas anyway.

  5. Bell Beakers are fascinating though I understand the interest, hopefully the behemoth will be unchained soon.

  6. Couldn't read this one since there seems to be no public access. From your points, I agree fully with everything he says. Has been my problem with the popular version of steppe theory for a long time.

  7. @everyone It's about spread vs origin.The steppe groups it looks did spread some IE and maybe it was the origin of IE.But if metallurgy and pastoralism came to the steppe from the south did a language also come with it?We have to find out what was going on before Yamnaya to figure that out.All the recent stuff has been about the after and the spreading.That's just one part though.It's not just about which people were the biggest badassasses and spread their genes the most.And the focus has been on Central and Northern Europe not surprisingly since a lot of people have their ancestry from there like me.

  8. IIRC Woidich doesn't argue that CWC =TRB + GAC
    He rather points out that GAC recedes at the expense of CWC, which usurped its networks

    1. Maybe I'm misreading that, but it seems to suggest that SGC emerged from GAC in the Northern TRB. It doesn't explicitly say hybridization, admittedly. I'll have to read the reference to Furholt and Johannsen and Laursen.

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  11. "Suggests the possibility that Salzmünde-Eperstedt may have already been steppified, long before the CWC and BBC."

    Salzmünde-Eperstedt genomes and mtDNA have been published. They had no Steppe ancestry. The Corded Ware genomes from the exact same location but about 600 years later, look like immigrants with no local admixture. In the Baltic Corded Ware also looks like an immigrant population with no local admixture. What I'm saying is; the sudden arrival of Steppe ancestry in Corded is just that a sudden arrival not the result of gradual sporadic Steppe migration. Corded Ware was an immigrant from somewhere in the Steppe, maybe Ukraine.

    1. Well that's where the precision comes in though because most of Ukraine is not in the steppe and the Middle Dnieper is not in the steppe. So drawing a straight line from the Pontic Steppe to CWC is difficult within a certain time frame. He's not discounting similar culture, economy, genetics or timing - only the precise geographic and cultural details.

  12. Yes, CWC Esperstedt had MtDNA H6a1a. Catacomb Culture in Ukraine had 3(?) H6's. Were the Catacomb Culture H6's a full sequence? H6a1a in Srubnaya Culture Samara also.

  13. I sense a desperate attempt to scramble through details and "save the appearances" and avoid the ghastly, intolerable conclusion that most of what archaeology has been doing over the past 60 years in large chunks of Europe has been a process of solemnly building castles on foundations now found to be sand.

    Or to put it another way, using the prehistoric past as a blank slate on which to project interpretations really driven by other considerations.

    The British Bell Beaker data is a killer: this time, the pots -are- people, or at least superglued to them.

    It was a migration, and a population-replacement level one at that, comparable to the English overrunning New England in the 17th century in its thoroughness. Nearly as quick, too; possibly fully as quick, though we'll see on that.

    But if a migration can come out of left field (or from the Rhine Delta) and completely culturally (and as it turns out, genetically) reformat the British Isles, almost certainly changing everything from the language on up, without leaving any "unambiguous" trace in the stones and non-DNA aspects of the bones that the Renfrew-esque school was prepared to acknowledge, what does that say?

    Well, for starters, it invalidates all research and interpretation which started from an assumption of population continuity as the default.

    There was a giant migration, there was fairly abundant non-DNA evidence for it, and the evidence was simply interpreted away because it didn't fit the theory.

    And more generally, it invalidates the presumption -against- large-scale population movement as an explanatory force.

    We can't say that migration is -always- the explanation (it's not for the spread of Beaker-style pottery to northern Europe) but we can say, and in fact are required by the new evidence to say, that it's a common phenomenon.

    In other words, the past 500 years of history are not unique; the same mechanisms of causation have always been there.

    As more studies are done, more and more of this sort of thing shows up, both on a gigantic scale like the Yamnaya/CWC reformatting of everything between Ireland and the Urals, and more modest ones local ones like the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain, now shown to have a fairly heavy genetic impact (though not nearly as overwhelming as the Bell Beaker episode).

    And what other migration events are now in the process of being revealed?

    Reich's research in India, for example, has not only essentially proved the "Indo-Aryan invasion" theory to be correct(*), but has pretty conclusively shown that Indian jati ("caste" groups) are of ancient origin and have been largely endogamous for thousands of years. So much for their being a Victorian invention.

    The emotional reactions are natural enough; whole careers are being invalidated, and it's emotionally very difficult to admit that the people you spent your life debunking were, in essence, right and you were very, very wrong.

    This general sort of thing happens repeatedly in the history of science.

    (*) India turns out to be strikingly similar to Europe; an indigenous hunter-gatherer group, an early Neolithic migration (via Iran, in India's case) that largely but not completely replaced it, and then a Yamnaya-derived Bronze Age migration that brought in the Indo-European languages. Like Europe, the Yamnaya contribution exists in various mixtures, from over 70% to less than 20% -- the latter similar to recent analysis of Mycenaean genomes vs. a vs. Minoan ones.

  14. As to the "origins" of PIE, there's a certain temporal point at which it becomes meaningless to talk about it.
    PIE almost certainly must have "originally" been a member of a language family itself, and most certainly had an ancestor, but the well of entropy has eaten it.

    All attempts to do so have failed, or to be charitable have remained extremely tenuous.

    It's now a fairly good assumption that the Yamnaya spoke PIE; and we can tell -genetically- that the Yamnaya in their "original" culture-hearth included ancestry from North Eurasian hunter-gatherers and Middle Eastern agriculturalists, but we can't know which of those groups spoke the putative ancestor of PIE.

    In any case, the unique Yamnaya adaptations -- the horse, the first forms of Eurasian steppe pastoralism -- and the language itself developed in that context, on the steppe. They were invented and/or synthesized there.

    Equally, it's both apparent that the CWC was associated with Indo-European, and meaningless to try and identify the CWC with any particular -branch- of Indo-European; that's at least a thousand years, more likely nearly two, before the emergence of say, Proto-Germanic.

    (The First Sound shift is probably around 500 BCE; the earliest loans from early Celtic in Proto-Germanic undergo it.)

    Internal linguistic evidence shows that the ancestor of Balto-Slavic was in contact with the ancestor of Indo-Iranian, which in turn shares specific innovations with the earliest Greek, and so forth.

    The earliest CWC language would have been PIE itself, only 500 years or so from the Yamnaya heartlands.

    The CWC culture, it's now fairly obvious, is a direct offshoot of Yamnaya. And then CWC spread further and faster than Yamnaya had before it, including back east into the steppe and forest-steppe zones, where the Sintashta culture, probably the original Indo-Iranian speakers, show close genetic affinities to the CWC, including European agriculturalist and hunter-gatherer ancestry not shared with the original Yamnaya. This spread was by migration.

    CWC is not identical to the Yamnaya in things like subsistence strategies, but so what? When people move into a different ecological zone, they keep what's useful or overwhelmingly symbolically important to them in their material toolkit, and adopt other things, and make inventions as well.

    To take a historical analogue; the English spread into New England after the 1620's, and by the 1720's had supplanted the previous population, except for some stray genes and encapsulated remnants; they picked up a fair bit of borrowed vocabulary and a lot of place-names too.

    But in the process, they absorbed a good deal of -material culture- from the previ,ous population.

    They grew maize, not wheat as their primary grain; they used locally-derived patterns of shifting cultivation; they made snowshoes and canoes and used wampum as a means of exchange and plugged into preexisting exchange networks for things like furs; they hunted much more than their English ancestors had for a very long time; they changed their cooking methods.

    All this was combined not only with big chunks of British/European material culture, but also with adaptations that were developed in New England and unique to the New World environment -- the settlement pattern, for instance, wasn't in the least like that of either the Algonquians -or- the migrants' English source-areas (no manorialism, more dispersed farms, somewhat different burial customs, new house-construction techniques, and so forth.)

    This hybrid subsistence strategy, combining English/European elements and Amerindian ones and entirely new developments, then spread rapidly.