Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Les archers d'alsace" (I1390) & (I1389)

Two Beaker brothers and well-equipped archers, or as I call them, "Les archers d'alsace", are the next two profiles.  Since they are brothers, they are both R1b1a1a2a1a2 and both X2b4a.

P312 is as far as we can go with these brother archers, but X2b4a is rather specific to the Atlantic Neolithic, so we may surmise a maternal history that is more Atlantic-like, but a cultural history that is clearly Central European.  Also, I1390 may align slightly closer to the heterogeneous cluster of Central Europeans.

After examining the bodies, Vergnaud wrote that "...the two men shared a discrete trait whose origin may be genetic", which is now confirmed by their brotherhood.

Grave 68 (I1390) and Grave 69 (I1389), male (L. Vergnaud), Antea Archéologie, "Current researches on Bell Beakers"
These brothers probably didn't die at the same time.  The archer on the left may have outlived his brother by a decade or so before he was buried in a wooden casket.  The calibrated averages seem to support this conclusion, so they may have been close in age during their adolescence.  Above the mound would have been a small timber circle to enclose the grave and then these sorts of structures were topped with a small shrine or maybe a totem to commemorate the dead.  The post holes give some indication of a super-structure.

Both bodies were laid facing the sunrise, however their orientation is looking very slightly to the Northeast, so we might guess that both had died in the summer, or possibly there is a religious significance attached to the summer solstice in their mythology.

The brother on the right (I1389) appears to have had a quiver attached to his belt on the left hip, which of course means that he was right-handed.  A peculiar oddity is that four arrowheads were concave bases and three were barb-and-tangs.  Despite the view that this is an East-West lithic tradition, I suspect this could also be a functional distinction.  Vergnaud comments on a lone weirdo arrowhead as well - javelin head?  Not enough information on it.  Beaker brother I1390 seems to have had a full quiver like his brother, but at least in the paper below the position is not discussed.

Both have some interesting personal gear, much of it and the burial manners suggestive of a more Central European direction, as Vergnaud writes, particularly "Bavaria, Moravia, Bohemia and Austria..." but "...links with the Western area, however, are noticeable, especially through the presence of barbed and tanged arrowheads."

Now contrast "Les archers d'alsace" with the much more ancient "Maritime Mama" (I1392) from the same Alsace region.  She's the first orange from the top.
Fig S1 of Olalde et al, 2017
Check out Bernard's blog entries on the Alsace cemetery.

And here's their biographies from "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genetic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2107.  The archaeology paper is at the bottom.

Sierentz - Les Villas d'Aurèle 232 (Haut-Rhin, France)

Contact person: Luc Vergnaud

"Villas d’Aurèle site is located in the municipality of Sierentz, on the left bank of the Rhine, 14 km away from the town of Mulhouse. The site is located on the summit of the Rhine river upper terrace. It was the subject of an emergency excavation in 2010, when the remnants of numerous structures from the Neolithic to the early Iron Age were uncovered. Four Bell Beaker burials, comprising a small funerary area of 55 m of length in a northwest-to-southeast axis were excavated 26,27.
Burial 68 (I1390): This well-preserved burial had a quadrangular shape with rounded corners, measuring 2.30 meters long by 1.80 meters wide. The walls were sub-vertical and the bottom was flat. Traces of lines of dark material and fragments of wood stakes, indicate that it originally contained wood, probably a structure around the body. The individual is an adult male, aged 30-59 years. He was lying of his left side, in a hyper-flexed position following a northwest-southwest axis (the head facing northwest). The body was accompanied with two decorated vessels, eight flint elements (three of them arrow points of concave base), a grooved sandstone, a stone wristguard, and a fragment of a wild boar tusk. The two vessels are beakers with an S-profile, of a beige colour and decorated with geometric, horizontal lines produced by a comb and with a cord. One vessel alternates bands of short horizontal and vertical lines with bands of incised diamonds while the other alternates oblique incised bands with herringbone patterns.  The style of the pottery indicates a medium Bell Beaker phase, although the arrow points seem to suggest an Oriental tradition of the European Bell Beakers. There are two radiocarbon dates from this skeleton and we used the union for analyses:
I1390/11-Grave68: 2566–2299 calBCE [2566–2524 calBCE (3910±35 BP, Poz-41227); 2489–2299 calBCE (3875±35 BP, Poz-41226)]
Burial 69 (I1389): This burial is well preserved, similar to burial 68. The shape of the grave is quadrangular with rounded corners, and measures 2.25 m long by 1.70 m wide.  The remnants indicate a now-missing wooden structure around the body. The individual is a male with an age around 17-19 years. He was left lying at the center of the pit, in a flexed position over the left side of the body, along a northwest-to-southeast axis (the head facing northwest). Genetic data indicate that this individual is a first degree relative of individual I1390. They share both mitochondrial and Y-chromosome haplogroups, which points to a sibling relationship 264 (brothers). The funerary goods consist of two decorated vessels, thirteen flint elements (eight of them arrow points), a grooved sandstone, a fragment of marcasite and a pendant made of bone. The two beakers are very similar to those from burial 68, although the decorations are different. The style of
the pottery also indicates a medium Bell Beaker phase. There are two radiocarbon dates from this skeleton and we used the union for analyses:
I1389/10-Grave69: 2468–2278 calBCE [2481–2289 calBCE (3935±35 BP, Poz-41229); 2468–2278 calBCE (3925±30 BP, Poz-41228)]"

Here's the original archaeology paper:

 "The Bell Beaker funeral group from Sierentz "Les Villas d’Aurèle" (Haut-Rhin, France)"
Vergnaud, Luc (from "Current Researches on Bell Beakers") [Link]

"The site of Sierentz, Les Villas d’Aurèle Alsace, France, excavated within the framework of a salvage archeology project in 2010, is part of the recent data renewal on Bell Beaker culture in the south of the Upper Rhine plain. Four graves were found, each containing at least two decorated bell beakers. In one of these graves, which was uncommonly well preserved, some signs of a wooden structure were discovered.  This element makes this site one of the richest burial assemblages of the region."


  1. If as it now seems solid BB East come from Yamnaya or like group, where and how do you suppose they picked up the customs of archery and wrist guards, seen to be west European traditions since as long as the Mesolithic; whilst the Balkans / Yamnaya area had shaft-holed axes, and CW had battle axes

    1. I remember someone suggesting the stone wrist guards first evolved from elongated river pebbles in CE. I'll have to see if I can find where I read that. I suppose the emphasis on archery as a status symbol is an Atlantic tradition but I'm really not sure to be honest.

    2. Turek


  2. Rob,3B,

    A news on the aDNA :

    Reich’s team calculates that Britain saw a greater than 90% shift in its genetic make-up. But Roberts says he doesn’t see evidence for such a huge shift in the archaeological record. The rise of cremation in Bronze Age Britain could have biased the finding, he cautions, because it might have eliminated bones that could have been sampled for DNA. Although archaeologists are excited to see ancient DNA yield breakthroughs in problems that have vexed their field for decades, says Linden, he expects some push back against the latest study’s conclusions. “It’s not at all the end of the story.”


    1. That is true but we'll have to test this with modern populations.
      Several scenarios could modify this story. One is that a Neolithic subpopulation, such as Peterborough, was more vanilla (NE Europe) than the Grooved Ware and Irish Neolithics.
      That would skew the actual picture of turnover. I haven't been about to look closely at the Neolithic contexts, but that could end up being problematic if they didn't, or something like that.

      With that Peterborough was in around the Netherlands too, I believe. That could present several problems​