Thursday, June 29, 2017

Samborzec Beakers from Małopolska, Poland (Olalde et al, 2017)

Polish Bell Beakers can be divided into three distinct, relational clusters most likely reflecting their places of origin.   Czebreszuk and Szmyt outline these groups in "Bell Beakers and the Cultural Milieu of North European Plain".

Essentially they define (1) a northern group of Beakers, with strong ties to the Danish Single Grave Culture and CWC, (2) a southwestern group in Silesia, with ties to the Bohemia Basin (3) and in Southeastern Poland or Małopolska (Lesser Poland), they are more directly connected to, or largely originate from, Moravian Beakers.  The latter two groups belong to the Eastern Domain and the former to the Northern. 

The three individuals profiled in this post are from "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.  It follows several related posts of the past few weeks of individuals sequenced from this study.

From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak
The Samborzec Beakers are typical of the Beaker ethnic as repeatedly described by osteologists, being an often tall, powerfully built, short-headed people with a flattened upper occiput bone (among other hereditary and environmentally-influenced characteristics). (1)  The features of the skull are discussed in (1) and by Elzbieta Haduch in "Bell Beaker and Corded Ware People in the Little Poland Upland - An Anthropological Point of View".

So far genetically, these Beakers are very similar to other Beaker groups, especially the Eastern Group of Central European Beakers.  There is a great deal of heterogeneity in the Csepel Group, with sites like Szigetszentmiklós being very differentiated, but the profile flattens west of Hungary, possibly reflecting the founder phenomenon.

Haduch appears to suggest (1) that within this Upper Vistula Beaker community there are at least four local Neolithic women that married Beakers based on their hereditary characteristics compared to the previous populations.  Maybe as more Southern Polish Beakers are sequenced we'll see greater diversity than exists so far.

And to illustrate just how weird the Beakers are, the graphic below from the same paper:

Weirdos.  From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak

Examination from this older study showed that the boy in grave 1 (I4252) may have died of craniosynostosis, in which the plates of the skull fused too quickly.  Two other people, including the woman above, died of multiple myeloma cancer.  Despite this, a lot of the Upper Vistula Beakers lived to a ripe age, much like those of Bohemia and Moravia.  Grave 7 (I4251) is a radiocarbon outlier (as discussed on Anthrogenica), and this is also mentioned on page 167 of (1), believing the date is out of sync for a number of reasons.

Here's the narrative from Olalde et al, 2017:

"The site was located on the loess upland in the vicinity of the Vistula valley (western Małopolska; SE Poland). The excavations were conducted in the 1960s. A complex of small cemeteries dated to the late and final Neolithic has been found (Złota, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker graves). The cemetery from the Bell Beaker period consisted of 10 graves. The features were linearly structured and oriented on the N-S axis. Grave pits presented simple rectangular constructions without any additional outer elements. The deceased were lying in contracted position, males to the left side and women to the right side. Their equipment was typical for the Eastern group of the Beaker complex. Anthropologically, the skeletons from Samborzec show very characteristic morphological traits distinguishing them from other Neolithic and Early Bronze groups from SE Poland. The skulls are classified as short or very short. Their main characteristic is the shape of the back part, namely the distinct flattening of the upper part of the occipital bone and of an area of the parietal bone. Such a morphology suggests that this population was genetically foreign to the territory of Małopolska. We obtained genome-wide ancient DNA data from three individuals:

I4251/RISE1122/grave no. 7: 2837-2672 BCE (3990±60 BP, Ki-7926). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years) with northwest-southeast orientation, located on the left side. The grave goods consisted of two vessels (bowl and unornamented cup), a flint blade dagger and a flint scraper.  [R1b1a1a2 + H1]
Tablica XVIII

I4252/RISE1123/grave no. 1: 2463-2142 BCE (3820±50 BP, Ki-7921). Child inhumation burial (11-13 years; genetically male) with northeast-southwest orientation, located on the left side. There was a ceramic bowl and an undecorated cup.  [R + U5a1a1]
Tablica XI
I4253/RISE1124/grave no. 13: 2571-2208 BCE (3920±60 BP, Ki-7929). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years), with N-S orientation, located on the left side. The only element of equipment was a ceramic bowl, posed in the northern part of the grave." [R1b1a1a2 + U5a2c]
I'm not quite sure about this number 13.  The quote specifically mentions 10 graves from Samborzec to the Beaker period and those ten graves are discussed in (5).  So it may be a misprint, not sure.


(1) "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland" Budziszewski, Haduch & Włodarczak
(2) "Personal Identity and Social Structure of Bell Beakers: The Upper Basins of the Oder and Vistula Rivers" by Makarowicz.
(3) "Northern and Southern Bell Beakers in Poland" by Makarowicz
(4) "Chronology and Bell Beaker Common Ware"  by Piguet and Besse
(5) "Kultura pucharów dzwonowatych na wyżynie MałopolsKiej" Budziszewski & Włodarczak, 2010


  1. You wrote in this post:
    “within this Upper Vistula Beaker community there are at least four local Neolithic women that married Beakers based on their hereditary characteristics”

    I saw the summary of mtDNA from the South Caucasus on Davidski’s site and his conclusion that “it's pretty clear that the sampled ancient groups could not have contributed maternal ancestry to the Yamnaya people.”

    Your mention of “local Neolithic women” reminded me again that at least half the question of early Indo-European languages -- and how the Beaker culture was involved -- is about women.

    Were these “local Neolithic” women from an earlier EEF population? Or Corded Ware? Or both? Would these marriages mean language change?

    Could it be that women were driving the spread of the Beaker culture? Could it be that they were inviting in this innovation?

    If women were the core of settlement and food production from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in Europe, then maybe they were also the ones transforming it, by the husbands they chose.

    If you were looking for maternal ancestry for Yamanaya, I suspect you might not look to the Caucasus, but to a culture like Cucuteni-Trypillia, mothers and wives that could deliver a pretty good level of economic punch. (The trouble may be that Cucuteni did not bury many of their dead, so we don’t have a good idea of what the aDNA says.)

    If you were looking for personnel who knew how to harvest the barley for making good bread and beer, I imagine you might go looking for a wife who knew how to manage that.

    Either way, it changes your perspective on what language the kids would speak.

    A interesting quote from the Bible might remind us that linguists say children learn natural language “on their mother’s knee” -- not their father’s.

    “In those days also I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; and their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke the language of various peoples.” Nehemiah 13:23

    1. I'm pretty sure the metrics indicated locals, although I don't recall if a certain culture was implicated. These four will likely be high priority in future studies

  2. Maybe local wives indicate that the Beakers were invited in. I wouldn't think the Beakers would have cared how steppes their local wives DNA were. But if the Beaker network had it's own language, then we might be looking at bi-lingual families, especially this far east. I don't think the archaeology supports a strong cultural network in Corded Ware. Not much that would necessitate a common language between them. The opposite seems true for the Beaker folk. We might expect that the Beakers were carrying, along with all their other cultural innovations, a language with them. Somewhere on this eastern edge, that universal Beaker language might have caused bi-lingualism. And a substrate like the one that often been mentioned in connection with German.