Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ye Behemoth Almost Cometh (evening update)

Eurogenes put up a particular abstract that will be presented at the Archéologie et Goblets conference in Kiel.  It will be a summary of the larger behemoth paper to come by Olalde, Reich and others, as Craig mentioned below (was unable to see the abstract link this morning)

Right now I want to focus on what will be the most sensational and newest material from the paper Western Europe during the third millennium BCE: A genetic characterization of the Bell Beaker Complex.
Woman of Kingsmead Quarry (Wessex Archaeology)

I'll post the abstract and make a few observations below:
The Bell Beaker Complex (BBC) was the first widely distributed archaeological phenomenon of western Europe, arising after 2800 BCE probably in Iberia and spreading to the north and east before disappearing at the latest by 1800 BCE. An open question is the extent to which the cultural elements associated with the BBC spread through movement of ideas or people. We present new genome-wide DNA data from 196 Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans – the largest report of genome-wide data in a single study to date – and merge it with published data to form a dataset with 109 BBC individuals that provides a genomic characterization of the BBC across its geographic and temporal range. In contrast to people of the Corded Ware Complex who were partly contemporaries of the BBC in central and eastern Europe and who brought steppe ancestry into central Europe through mass migration and replacement of local populations, we show that the initial spread of the BBC into central Europe from the Iberian Peninsula was not mediated by a large-scale migration but rather through communication of ideas. However, the further spread of the BBC beyond central Europe did involve mass movement of people. Focusing on Britain, which includes 81 of our new samples in a time transect from 3900-1300 BCE, we show that the arrival of the BBC around 2400 BCE was mediated by migration from the continent: British individuals associated with Beakers are genetically indistinguishable from continental individuals associated with the same material culture and genetically nearly completely discontinuous with the previously resident population. Such discontinuity persists through to samples from the Bronze Age, documenting a demographic turnover at the onset of the Bronze Age that was crucial to understand the formation of the present-day British gene pool. The arrival of the BBC in Britain can thus be viewed as the western continuation of the massive movement of people that brought the Corded Ware Complex and steppe ancestry into central Europe a few hundred years before. 

  • "Nearly completely discontinuous" population break in Britain.  Not a lot of room for interpretation.  One of the paradoxes of the Early Bronze Age is the relative lack of evident violence compared to the Middle Neolithic and subsequent Bronze Age cultures.  Despite the Beaker warrior gear and intrusive settlements, often Beakers seem to live in close proximity with other peoples and borrow from their cultures.  My hunch is that a great deal of social downward pressure has sculpted the European genome since the Bronze Age, however the speed of this 'turnover' in the EBA does make you wonder.
  • 'Ideas from Iberia'.  Totally possible, but what were we expecting to see, a load of MN Iberian in Germany?  What percentage of the Iberian population considered themselves ethnic Bell Beakers?  And why does this strange and expansive culture appear in 2800 B.C. in certain Iberian places and not others?  Coincidence?  I think a fair position is Volker Heyd's latest paper.  
  • British Beakers are indistinguishable from German Beakers - mostly expected.
  • Maybe I'm being a lawyer here, but "western continuation of the massive movement of people" doesn't say Corded Ware, unless they're sitting on a stack of L51 Protruding Foot Beakers.  I also can't tell if they propose that the Beaker 'stuff' was a leading edge or a trailing edge on a wave that brought the Corded Ware Culture into Europe, or if it already existed in Eastern or Southeastern Europe. 


  1. I don't think this is the abstract for the Behemoth itself. Iñigo Olalde and David Reich are doing a presentation at a workshop at Kiel University that runs from May 17 to 22. Their presentation will focus on population turn-over in Britain associated with the arrival of the Bell Beaker phenomenon there, using new data from Britain, and new and previously published aDNA from other countries for comparison.

    The main news here, I think, is that results from the Behemoth study are currently embargoed till publication, and, by the time of the workshop, they no longer will be. The abstract for Reich and Olalde's upcoming presentation in Kiel provides no insight into what was going on in Iberia and Ireland in the same time period, but the Behemoth paper itself probably will (and hopefully they'll have some data from France as well). That's my take on this anyway.

    1. Thanks for clarifying this Craig and thanks for adding to the dates to look forward to.

    2. I think the Behemoth abstract will be very similar, if not practically the same.

    3. I think so. I'll be interested to finally see some Neolithic British

  2. When you get a chance, don't miss the other abstracts in addition to the star of the show. There is plenty of good additional detail there, particularly the presentation immediately following the big paper on patrilocality and female migration.

    1. Thanks for the heads up Andrew I'll check it out

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    1. "Totally possible, but what were we expecting to see, a load of MN Iberian in Germany? "

      If I recall, when I played around with runs, I get that the MNE in German BB is mostly from Central and southeast Europe. I suspect the paper from the big boys will clarify it

    2. My point is that I never really expected Iberian Beakers to be native Iberians or native North Africans to an exceptional degree. The earliest Iberian Maritime influences may have been themselves, Eastern European-like amongst a native population. It is certainly a cultural 'break' in many regards and certainly intrusive to key geographical areas.
      Volker Heyd pointed to a few of these 'East Euro' influences in high ranking individuals from the Early Copper Age of Southern Spain.

      Even previously I was concerned that there would be hasty conclusions from what seems to be a rather poor representation of actual diagnostic Beaker graves in Iberia. Even now almost a totality of the Beaker samples are from Britain and Germany. So I'm afraid that a couple of Iberian individuals associated with beaker pottery from a Dolmen or two or three Mesetans might give a misleading picture if we are not careful.

      If some Iberian Beakers do eventually have East European influences, then the reasoning can become circular.

      Secondly, it has always been widely accepted that the largest migration of Beakerfolk came from the lowlands and Germany where it is assumed they mixed heavily with Corded Ware folk, but now mixture from Iberia? I'm not convinced their evidence will be compelling, but I'm eager to see!

    3. "but no admixture from Iberia?" -misspelled no, not now

    4. Gotcha
      I agree I hope they have sampled Iberia adequately, not just random Megaliths with some BB ceramics strewn threw :)

  4. Possibly explanatory:

    Did Neolithic farming fail? The case for a Bronze Age agricultural revolution in the British Isles
    Chris J. Stevens (a1) and Dorian Q Fuller (a2)
    Published online: 02 January 2015
    This paper rewrites the early history of Britain, showing that while the cultivation of cereals arrived there in about 4000 cal BC, it did not last. Between 3300 and 1500 BC Britons became largely pastoral, reverting only with a major upsurge of agricultural activity in the Middle Bronze Age. This loss of interest in arable farming was accompanied by a decline in population, seen by the authors as having a climatic impetus. But they also point to this period as the time of construction of the great megalithic monuments, including Stonehenge. We are left wondering whether pastoralism was all that bad, and whether it was one intrusion after another that set the agenda on the island.

  5. "the initial spread of the BBC into central Europe from the Iberian Peninsula was not mediated by a large-scale migration but rather through communication of ideas."

    Why is one put in opposition to the other, as if there could be no middle ground? Like, for instance, a small-scall migration? And what, exactly, do they mean by 'communication of ideas? It's not like the peoples of Europe could watch a documentary on the Beaker phenomenon in Iberia and then copy them, like women buying little dogs after they see photos of Paris Hilton. Unless you imagine ten thousand men standing in a line across the sub-continent, each one listening on one side, and passing on the message to his neighbor on the other. And that sounds like a Monty Python skit, not archaeology.

    1. Baaahahaha. Razib make a valid point about Roman Catholicism in the New World be mediated by the Spaniards. But I agree that in this case I have a difficult time seeing the clearly intrusive nature of the Maritime Beakers and their clearly eastward advance as communication of ideas and little else.

      One of the main problems is the stunning uniformity of CWC lineages. When you prune back the so-called 'Battle Axe' of Sweden, it's rather uniform. Parts of Germany that previously had R1a lineages, then had R1b with Bell Beaker.

      Again, they may have found PFB's with L51 or something. But if it's only one or two Western-type lineages, that doesn't necessarily say much. If the CWC harbored maybe 10% of lineages that were Western, it doesn't preclude the likelihood that that is only an artifact of a Western or Northern steppe heritage where that may have been more common, which still doesn't tell us about how Western Europe became so uniform to the exclusion of East Europe lineages.

      Also, the CWC isn't necessarily a cohesive cultural body either. It's entirely possible again, that 100% of the PFB's had the R1b lineage or that R1b had already taken root in a MN culture like Michelsburg, Rossen or whatever . But I guess they'll tell us.

      Either way, both lineages have an eastern origin, the ideology is eastern, it's all the little details that are so important.