Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Dwolfggy Puzzles

Is this mutt a wolf or a dog? 

It could be that at its age it is genetically equidistant from modern domestic dogs and modern wolves.  It could also plausibly represent a population from which dogs had already been drifting as a human-controlled population.

If the pup represents the dog branch, it'll be interesting to see finer hypotheses on how it's specific adaptations contributed to the lifestyle and mega-hunting in this harsh region. 

"Russian Scientists present ancient puppy found in permafrost" via AP

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Brachyceros in Baden (Horvath, 2019)

Back to a subject of critical importance to the development of the Beaker Phenomenon and its life ways.

Tunde Horvath examines "Cattle Deposits of the Late Copper Age and Early Bronze Age in Hungary"

The paper is about cattle burials, but something else caught my attention.

from Fig 3. "Idealized picture of Budakalasz" (Judit Torma, 2005)
Although there is a smattering of research on classifying cattle races in archaeological deposits, archaeology is only now beginning to take the racial classification of domesticated animals seriously, or at least archaeologists have renewed faith that these questions can be settled with modern methods of verification.

This Horvath paper is one of the few examples that I can think of where he has clearly separated the brachyceros/longifrons and frontilis races from the common taurine beef cattle.  Identifying the longifrons (the long face, short head) is important because these are commonly used as dairy cattle and they spread rapidly throughout the continent and North Africa about the time of the Bell Beakers.

They were identified as being present as early as the Late Neolithic in the Swiss Cultures, but here they are clearly present throughout the Baden Culture horizon including Hungary.  Importantly, he points to the heterogeneity of the cattle sub-species within these cultural contexts which suggests an intent to use animals with different characteristics for certain purposes, such as dairying, traction, ranging, etc.

An excerpt:
"A heterogeneity could be noted among the individuals based on the horn-cores and the height at the hindquarters. Small-bodied (dwarf) cattle appear during the Baden period in Europe, but large-sized and very large-sized cattle breeds are also known. A short-horned brachyceros breed and a frontosus breed with wide forehead could be distinguished on the basis of the skull, the horn-cores, and the heights at the withers and the hindquarters. The frontosus and small-bodied brachyceros breeds are forest and mountain ecotypes, while the large-bodied brachyceros and primigenius breeds represent lowland ecotypes. The cattle at Balatonőszöd were milk breeds, and the proportion of the sexes was even. There was no apparent preference for a particular type among the cattle selected for sacrifice. The sacrificial animals included individuals of both sexes and all age categories: embryos, newborn and older calves, cows and bulls. However, we did note a 12.3% increase among young individuals selected for consumption and sacrifice in Baden culture compared to Boleráz culture within the Baden complex."

This isn't a simple change in preference, it is a cultural breakthrough and social revolution

It still doesn't resolve exactly where the longifrons evolved or developed.  One theory is that it may have been intentionally developed in cultures like the Alpine Horgen Culture as a cross between a Taurine bull and some sort of unidentified auroch cow from the mountains.

See also,
Busa Cattle, Cetina Culture and the Balkans

The Brachyceros and The Brachycephlics


Dunstable Echinoid Burial

Cattle Size, Before and After the EBA

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Taubertal (update)

Source for Beaker male lineages?

This grave is classified as part of the Corded Ware Culture in the Taubertal, and two paternal lineages are what we have come to expect as the near-exclusive Bell Beaker lineage M269.

That we'd see Beaker lineages in a Corded Ware communities is not surprising; they married well and often.  But to have no meaningful ancestry in line with most Beakers and at this age certainly raises the eyebrows.  Actually, a few things raise the eyebrows.  Apparently, more L51 lineages are on the way that are further East and pretty early.  We'll see.

Update, adding this "Das schnurkeramische Gräberfeld von Lauda-Königshofen im Taubertal"

See Deutschordensmuseum Bad Mergentheim

"Althäuser Hockergrab" from Althausen'

We've seen a lot of jumping to conclusions with previous ancient individuals where there was obvious cultural and genetic admixture.  But if it turns out that we begin seeing more of this in the right contexts and much earlier, then one of the oldest questions regarding the origin of the Beaker phenomenon may have an answer pretty soon. 

(Holger Uwe Schmitt)

See also
"Diet and Mobility in the Corded Ware of Central Europe" Sjogren, Price, Kristiansen, 2015

"The Stone Age Plague and Its Persistence in Eurasia:"


Friday, October 11, 2019

Lech Valley (Update 1)

This post will be updated throughout the weekend.

If you're looking for some eye-poping graphics and a great story, see Haaretz's coverage "Prehistoric Downtown Abbey: Bronze Age Germans had Earliest Known Household Staff" (again Ruth Schuster)

The Lech Valley paper is an intimate, peering-through-the-window experience of Bell Beaker households in a way that borders time travel.

It observes the marriage network that certainly gave the Beaker cultural system access to distant resources and blood allegiance. These marriage patterns can partly explain the ubiquity of the M269 male lineage, especially outside of its own paternal families of origin.

dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo via Newscientist

The research group, which includes Krause and Stockhammer, examined the ancient ancestry in family cemeteries along the Lech River Valley in Southern Bavaria.  They were able to recreate six family trees of about four to five generations (below).

These are country kinfolk with extended family and connections beyond their valley.  We might imagine on several occasions of the year, people for hundreds of miles converged in one place for gambling, barn dancing, athletic contests and religious festivals.  During this time introductions, negotiations, betrothals and weddings might have been arranged.

Sciencenews quotes Phillip Stockhammer, “We were absolutely surprised to find that social inequality was a phenomenon within households rather than between households”.

That inequality existed within Beaker households is not a new idea (Liesau et al, 2015), as many Bell Beaker grave plots or mounds give the impression that some people had greater status and some had less.  In some situations the disparity was considerable enough to invite social degrees interpreted as tenants, servants or slaves.

One of the curious discoveries for the researchers was the well-decorated women who left no genetic descendants within these cemeteries.  

The authors provide a solution that makes a lot of sense in light of Medieval customs and arrangements found in cultures across the world.  That is, 'political' marriages required children born of these unions to eventually move back to their mother's family of origin.  It means (potentially) that sons born to a political wife would grow up to be favored sons in another country, having land, rights and distant, yet trusted connections. 

These particular Lech River sons would eventually head back to their mother's folks in Eastern Germany, Poland or Czechia, where they would be raised by their aunts and uncles.  These boys were the maternal grandsons of landed farmers and craftsmen, particularly during the emerging proto-Unetice. 

Hopefully I can find the complete paper and be able to post more soon...

In the news:
ZME News

Kinship-based social inequality in Bronze Age Europe
Mittnik, A. et al. Science https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aax6219 (2019).

See Also,

lechtal glockenbecher

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

More on Battle Axe Folk (Malmstrom et al, 2019)

Battle Axe Culture appears fully within the Corded Ware family system.  

This study clarifies earlier studied samples, and yet again, the two Swedish males from the Battle Axe Culture are R1a.

See also, "DNA study sheds new light on the people of the Neolithic Battle Axe Culture" at PHYS

In the media: 
"New DNA study gives researchers a fasinating look at the Neolithic Battle Axe culture" Ancient-code

The genomic ancestry of the Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture people and their relation to the broader Corded Ware horizon.  Helena Malmström, Torsten Günther, Emma M. Svensson, Anna Juras, Magdalena Fraser, Arielle R. Munters, Łukasz Pospieszny, Mari Tõrv, Jonathan Lindström, Anders Götherström, Jan Storå and Mattias Jakobsson
Published:09 October 2019 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1528https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1528

The Neolithic period is characterized by major cultural transformations and human migrations, with lasting effects across Europe. To understand the population dynamics in Neolithic Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area, we investigate the genomes of individuals associated with the Battle Axe Culture (BAC), a Middle Neolithic complex in Scandinavia resembling the continental Corded Ware Culture (CWC). We sequenced 11 individuals (dated to 3330–1665 calibrated before common era (cal BCE)) from modern-day Sweden, Estonia, and Poland to 0.26–3.24× coverage. Three of the individuals were from CWC contexts and two from the central-Swedish BAC burial ‘Bergsgraven’. By analysing these genomes together with the previously published data, we show that the BAC represents a group different from other Neolithic populations in Scandinavia, revealing stratification among cultural groups. Similar to continental CWC, the BAC-associated individuals display ancestry from the Pontic–Caspian steppe herders, as well as smaller components originating from hunter–gatherers and Early Neolithic farmers. Thus, the steppe ancestry seen in these Scandinavian BAC individuals can be explained only by migration into Scandinavia. Furthermore, we highlight the reuse of megalithic tombs of the earlier Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) by people related to BAC. The BAC groups likely mixed with resident middle Neolithic farmers (e.g. FBC) without substantial contributions from Neolithic foragers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Human Stature in Prehistoric Europe (Cox et al, 2019)

This new study by Cox, Ruff, Maier and Mathieson aims to rank the variables associated with predicted height, measured height (sitting and standing) and bone mineral density across the European ages. 

The study shows two major shifts in genetic height predisposition.  The first is the transition between the Upper Paleolithic and the L/Mesolithic, in which genetic and measured height decrease dramatically.  There is a substantial rise in genetic/observed height in the post-Neolithic, again reflecting the impact of Steppe Ancestry (to a greater extent in the Northern latitudes).

Genetic and observed height remain fairly well in sync over long periods of time and are mostly reflective of sudden demographic changes.  Sitting height remained fairly well consistent in all periods.

There's some lessons here that may be predictive when it comes to the origins of the Beaker people.  Their height, body mass, brachycephaly, coloration and bone density would suggest a large portion of their ancestry came from a shadowy, northern latitude and a cold-stress climate.

See Allen's Rule and Bergmann's Rule (mentioned in this paper)


The relative contributions of genetics and environment to temporal and geographic variation in human height remain largely unknown. Ancient DNA has identified changes in genetic ancestry over time, but it is not clear whether those changes in ancestry are associated with changes in height. Here, we directly test whether changes over the past 38,000 y in European height predicted using DNA from 1,071 ancient individuals are consistent with changes observed in 1,159 skeletal remains from comparable populations. We show that the observed decrease in height between the Early Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic is qualitatively predicted by genetics. Similarly, both skeletal and genetic height remained constant between the Mesolithic and Neolithic and increased between the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Sitting height changes much less than standing height—consistent with genetic predictions—although genetics predicts a small post-Neolithic increase that is not observed in skeletal remains. Geographic variation in stature is also qualitatively consistent with genetic predictions, particularly with respect to latitude. Finally, we hypothesize that an observed decrease in genetic heel bone mineral density in the Neolithic reflects adaptation to the decreased mobility indicated by decreased femoral bending strength. This study provides a model for interpreting phenotypic changes predicted from ancient DNA and demonstrates how they can be combined with phenotypic measurements to understand the relative contribution of genetic and developmentally plastic responses to environmental change.

Samantha L. Cox, Christopher B. Ruff, Robert M. Maier, and Iain Mathieson
  1. Edited by Richard G. Klein, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, and approved September 11, 2019 (received for review June 20, 2019)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Boobs to Bottles (Dunne, 2019)

This paper by Dunne et al, 2019 settles and demonstrates the purpose of clay, pipe-like vessels used in mainland Europe from the Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age.

The verdict?  Using lipid analyses and other data...baby bottles.

Science baby! Fig 2. From the paper (H. Seidl da Fonseca)

Typically for the first six months of a baby's life they'll be titted and then around the age where they are able to sit up and grasp things they can be weaned to a bottle.  Recently, I saw one of these in a French Bell Beaker mound and then several (similar?) from Late Neolithic Perdigoes in Portugal.

Dunne's pipes all have lipid residue, so when they have ash, what does that mean?  Could these also be used as fire starters or smoking pipes?  I suppose reside analysis can answer for each.

Some groups used a cow's horn for bottling

The study of childhood diet, including breastfeeding and weaning, has important implications for our understanding of infant mortality and fertility in past societies1. Stable isotope analyses of nitrogen from bone collagen and dentine samples of infants have provided information on the timing of weaning2; however, little is known about which foods were consumed by infants in prehistory. The earliest known clay vessels that were possibly used for feeding infants appear in Neolithic Europe, and become more common throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. However, these vessels—which include a spout through which liquid could be poured—have also been suggested to be feeding vessels for the sick or infirm3,4. Here we report evidence for the foods that were contained in such vessels, based on analyses of the lipid ‘fingerprints’ and the compound-specific δ13C and Δ13C values of the major fatty acids of residues from three small, spouted vessels that were found in Bronze and Iron Age graves of infants in Bavaria. The results suggest that the vessels were used to feed infants with milk products derived from ruminants. This evidence of the foodstuffs that were used to either feed or wean prehistoric infants confirms the importance of milk from domesticated animals for these early communities, and provides information on the infant-feeding behaviours that were practised by prehistoric human groups.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Beaker Era Crannogs?

Via Nature Magazine,

"This artificial island was built by farmers more than five millennia ago"

Ever heard of a Crannog?  What is that?

The Scottish Crannog Centre

Crannogs are man-made islands found throughout the northern British Isles.  Many of these islets were connected to land by a long pier.  The first were built in the Neolithic and the last of them were built in the Iron Age.

What were they?  Some of them might be lake dwellings for powerful families while others could have been lakeshore temples.  It's thought they may have been important in laying claim to a body of water by actually living on the water.

The Scottish Crannog Center

Bavarian Radio - Glockenbecher

Glockenbecher: Archaologie und Genetik der Jungsteinzeit


Bayern Radio interviews a number of the researchers involved in the genetics and interpretation of the Beaker phenomenon, including Phillip Stockhammer, Harald Meller and a few others.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Calpeia of Gilbraltar (Early Neolithic)

Several outlets are reporting on a new exhibit at the Gibraltar National Museum.  "Calpeia" dates to the earliest Early Neolithic in Southern Spain.  From The Sun:  Face of Neolithic woman, 40, recreated in stunning detail from 7,500-year-old skull found on Gibraltar.

DNA analysis was conducted and found that in addition to dark hair and eyes, most 90% of her ancestry can be derived from Neolithic Anatolia. 

Her ancestry is important because it demonstrates a genetic connection to the Near East, especially where later styles of pottery can appear very similar to the Al Almagra styles of Southern Iberia at this time.

The most interesting and satisfying aspect of this investigation is the revelation that Neolithic ancestry slightly preceded detectable farming and herding in Southern Iberia.  I've argued recently that the mitochondrial haplogroups at the boundary between the Iberian Mesolithic and Neolithic reveal the rugged pioneers that led the wave of their expanding nation. 

Well, here's the proof:

Her hunter ancestry (~10%) may indicate that her maritime ancestors followed the North Mediterranean route.  Maybe detailed analysis can help identify how recent those marriages happened and if it was hunter ancestry specific to Iberia, Italy or somewhere else.

See also
Gibraltar Chronical
Daily Mail

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Who lived at Oberbipp? Swiss DNA surprise?

There is some subtle broadcasting that we a genetic surprise is in store from a dolmen in Switzerland.

Out recently was this, "Who lived on the Swiss Plateau around 3300 BCE?  Analyses of commingled Human Skeletal Remains from the Dolmen of Oberbipp"

Here we have a Late Neolithic dolmen containing some 44 individuals in what appears to be a gender differentiated scheme.  Some appear to have been buried supine with flexing of the legs evident in a few people.  Sounds interesting.

Inga Siebke and Sandra Losch have already hinted they detect genetic steppe influence in the Swiss plateau earlier than that in Germany, but they haven't published those findings just yet.  They have lectured on the findings but I don't think anything is publicly available.

Also out, another paper on the radiocarbon dating.

*Just to clarify.  Siebke and Losch have an additional two or three dozen individuals from other sites in Switzerland.  So I'm only speculating that within the timeline in which individuals were buried in this dolmen there was a point when individuals with mixed ancestry appears.  We see this in other Megalithic sites such as Iberia and Britain.  The question is: how early, and how early at this site?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Stunning Jet Necklace (Isle of Man)

This is a stunning 122 bead jet necklace from the Round Mounds on the Isle of Man.  Just uncovered by Drs. Chip Fowler and Rachel Crellin.  See the BBCs "Isle of Man Round Mounds: 'Spectacular' 4,000-year-old jet necklace found"

See also, the Round Mounds blog in the sidebar.
Jet plate Via BBC

It appears the archaeologists have already been able to reassemble the necklace and have said it is crescent shaped, though the final assembly has not been publicized.  Jet black seems to have been a luxury item worn by women during the Beaker period, mostly in Britain, and then mostly in Northeastern Britain.  The archaeologists seem to think this material made its way from Whitby, North Yorkshire.

This is an important find for understanding the Beaker period of the Isle of Man.  For one, it shows that the people living on Man were more connected to the outside world than previously thought.  Importantly for Man is the fact that they have skeletal remains of a (probable) Beaker for the first time (the other burials have all been cremations).  This individual (maybe a woman) may answer some questions about the settlement of the island and the integration of the previous natives if her ancestry is significantly mixed, or not.  There appears to be an isotope and DNA analysis underway and that will be huge.

jet plate via BBC

The Berk Farm necklace really changes how prehistoric Man may be viewed in the context of the neighboring islands.  These people were wealthy enough, or shallow enough, to desire fine things from distant places.  Or maybe they were just shallow people from distant places.  Isotopes may tell.

Fowler and Crellin via BBC

See the Newcastle University release

Monday, August 26, 2019

Drifting Around Denmark

Get ready for some SGC DNA.  Lots of questions and answers ahead regarding the relationship of SGC with the CWC and BBC nations.  These are the results of radiocarbon analysis on graves associated with the TRB, SGC, CWC and BBC's.  Will update later in the day, getting back in the saddle.

*afternoon update*

Here's one of the individuals that is likely to reveal the genetic affinities of the mysterious Single Gravers.  You may recognize a few of the authors of this paper, and I think a fair guess is that sometime within the next few weeks we'll have a genetic window to Denmark's past like Britain and Spain.  In those previous cases, the isotope/anthropology precedes the genetic paper by a few weeks or months.  They all have RISE numbers assigned, so they may be searchable if you know where to go.


We present results of the largest multidisciplinary human mobility investigation to date of skeletal remains from present-day Denmark encompassing the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Through a multi-analytical approach based on 88 individuals from 37 different archaeological localities in which we combine strontium isotope and radiocarbon analyses together with anthropological investigations, we explore whether there are significant changes in human mobility patterns during this period. Overall, our data suggest that mobility of people seems to have been continuous throughout the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. However, our data also indicate a clear shift in mobility patterns from around 1600 BC onwards, with a larger variation in the geographical origin of the migrants, and potentially including more distant regions. This shift occurred during a transition period at the beginning of the Nordic Bronze Age at a time when society flourished, expanded and experienced an unprecedented economic growth, suggesting that these aspects were closely related.

Mapping human mobility during the third and second millennia BC in present-day Denmark
Karin Margarita Frei, Sophie Bergerbrant, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Marie Louise Jørkov, Niels Lynnerup,
Lise Harvig, Morten E. Allentoft, …  [Link]

Update.  Nick, got your email.  Today as a bit busy so I’ll be checking it out in the morning

Monday, July 8, 2019

Even Little Blaina...

Via Wales Online

There's a quick interview with Niall Sharples of Cardiff University on the Beaker People of Blaenau Gwent.

Wales has so many sleepy towns.  It's the epitome of the countryside, and yet its settlement by the Bell Beakers testifies to the speed and omnipresence of their pioneering.

Floorpan via Wales Online
The huts across the valley were first discovered by Ian Fewings of the Aberystruth History and Archaeology society.  Above you can make out the circular impression left by a Beaker hut.

Keith Gibbs Via Wales Online
These features are still rather new, or newly discovered.  I haven't seen any papers on these particular huts, but please share in the comments if there is something out there.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

High at Haille de Pout (La Depeche)

The French website "LaDepeche" has an article about a returning campaign to a high-altitude Cirque de Troumouse burial mound in Hautes-Pyrénées.  The site, Haille de Pout, contains Bell Beaker and Early Bronze Age materials.

The following snips are from the video interview with archaeologist Maxim Remicourt seen below (beard).

If you'd like to be part of this team, L'université Toulouse-Jean-Jaures is looking for experienced volunteers for a two-week excavation August 2019.  
Archaeologist Maxim Remicourt

Here's a pretty rugged clay spoon that came out of the site.  Is that a perforation on the end?
Creuset-cuillere? (Maison 2-US 144 n* 154, Saint-Sever & Remicourt, 2017
"Des occupations d’altitude du Bronze ancien à la Haille de Pout dans le cirque de Troumouse (Gèdre, Hautes-Pyrénées)" Saint-Sever and Remicourt 2017 [also]

See more at grottesarcheologies

Friday, June 7, 2019

Real? Legal?

I am not familiar with European laws on trading antiquities, but does anyone know if this item being sold is legit or legal?

Here's the entry:  Marktplaast

My personal advice is to never buy anything unless it can be authenticated and it is legal and ethical to do so.  Using this rule, most of the cultural heritage being plundered and lost on shady sites like eBay can be quickly excluded.  Most of it is bullshit made in Algerian slums by slummy people, but every now and then a priceless artifact shows up in a garage sale.

I'm highly skeptical of the authenticity of the "beaker" above.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bohemian Burial Beheamoth

Not to be outdone, another big Czech cemetery at Slaného na Kladensku in Bohemia.  Via Ceska televize 24, Tyden.cz, and Denik.cz

(Archaeollgicky ustav AV CR via Ceska televize 24)
So far there is about fifty Bell Beaker graves in this cemetery.  They are described as deep, timber-lined graves.  There is a wealth of artifacts including the typical beakers and archery equipment.  As reported in Tyden, the archaeologists note that the gold spiral earrings of the woman are the oldest examples yet found in any Beaker context. 

(Archaeollgicky ustav AV CR via Ceska televize 24)
Drahomira Malykova and Prague Archaeological Institute AV CR are doing the rescue excavations.  Remains from a previously excavated cemetery of Brandysek in Slany were recently included in a paper on the osteological dimensions of archery by Ryan et al, 2018.  Two individuals from Brandysek were analyzed in Allentoft, 2015, but they were later excluded from further analysis after being dated to a later period.

The site via Tyden.cz

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Orignal Cornishware - Discovery Cornwall

Big discovery in Crantock, Cornwall.

There was a fully intact Beaker cazuela discovered in Southern Spain just two weeks ago, now this rare example of an unbroken bell beaker in Cornwall.  From CornwallLive


South West Archaeology has taken responsibility of the two pit graves containing three pots in a development site.   Both pits lined with slate and capped with quartz.  The beaker about is about a foot high


This broke over the weekend, hopefully we'll see a few more articles with more details in the coming days, especially concerning the remains if any were left.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Headless on the Henares

One of the notable things about the Magdalena cemetery Bell Beakers is that all but two are missing their heads.  Two of those headless Beakers are a woman and an old woman pictured below, 4598 and 4599.  Their mummified heads were cut off with a sharp instrument at some point before skeletalization, or perhaps were they alive?  This follows a series on Alcala de Henares.

The only two Beakers with their heads intact are the baby 4307 buried with the man with the most steppe ancestry (I6471), and the woman with zero steppe ancestry 4467 (I6475).  I have a hunch as to why it is these two individuals were spared head removal.

From Cabrera et al, 2012

But first, let's look at these headless women.  Cabrera et al, 2012 seem to suggest somewhat cryptically (no pun intended), that the two women were human sacrifices for a third headless woman (Beaker associated) buried underneath to which they were intentionally segregated.  To be clear, let me say that that is not Cabrera et al explicitly said but my interpretation of how they have framed the evidence (which is why their quote is below).  Only DNA could resolve this question, for if they are all closely related, like aunts or sisters, then sacrifice is much less likely.
"Más difícil de interpretar es la presencia, en una tumba del yacimiento de La Magdalena, de dos mujeres “decapitadas” a las que les faltan también las prime- ras cuatro vértebras cervicales. Están colocadas sobre el sellado de una inhuma- ción con ajuar campaniforme, al parecer removida (HERAS, GALERA y BASTIDA, 2011:19) y, quizás, depositadas tras dicho expolio. Aunque resulta difícil saber si su presencia está relacionada con la acción de violación de la tumba del individuo campaniforme o por su posible vinculación, en vida, a este personaje. Sea cual sea la causa de la inhumación de las dos decapitadas, lo que sí queda claro es que hubo una intencionalidad en no asociar directamente sus cuerpos con los restos del primer inhumado pertenciente a un colectivo campaniforme."

Whether or not the two women were sacrificed, beheading doesn't seem to provide any positive evidence for a sacrificial act since almost everyone was beheaded regardless of their position or status. Heras and Galera make this observation in Antropoarqueología en la Magdalena:
"Un claro ejemplo de acción antrópica es una de las tumbas campaniformes (Figura 07) en donde se han encontrado los esqueletos de dos mujeres, una adulta y otra madura, en conexión anatómica y, debajo de ellas, huesos dispersos de otra mujer también adulta. Las tres carecían de cráneo y de las primeras vértebras cervicales (C1 a C4). No se ha podido determinar la presencia de marcas de cortes en la vértebra C5, debido al mal estado de conservación del hueso. Es interesante destacar que de los 10 individuos campaniformes, únicamente en 2 casos conservan el cráneo la mujer 4467, y un niño el 4307. Parece que los campaniformes tenían algún tipo de ritual que consistía en el culto a los antepasados, centrado en los cráneos a modo de reliquia."
If we were get DNA on the three headless women, I think we'd find that they were first or second degree relatives deposited at different times.  The intentional segregation of the primary grave from the other two could be interpreted as an attempt to maintain distance between a putrefied, rotting corpse and a fresh interment.

Of course if that isn't true, and there is no meaningful genetic relationship between the three, then some other explanation would be required, and of course that doesn't necessarily require contemporary executions.  If I had to guess, we have something along the lines of a mother/daughter/daughter-in-law type of situation in which the grave was re-opened up to three times.

To the head-chopping.   Although it is possible that these Beakers were engaged in some sort of pre-Celtic head worship, and though the preservation and display of mummified relicts appear to have been in place with British Beakers, I'm somewhat skeptical that this is the case at Magdalena.

I find it interesting that the only graves with meaningful copper are those with heads, whereas in the case of 5005 above, we have evidence that copper was in the grave and is now gone (green stains on the phalanges).  I think what were are dealing with is smash and grab grave robbing (If you're German you may be re-reading that last bit).  Smash and grab.  As far as head removal, either these graves were intentionally desecrated or the heads were removed by the robbers for other reasons.

I'll guess the reason why 4467 (I6475) was spared the looting and head removal is because her grave was not apparent to the pillagers from the surface.  Was her grave older than the rest?  The robbers digging through the mound probably were not even aware a child was buried there as well.  They would rightly assume that it was a man's grave, which they found and looted before the sunrise.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Veiling the Dead - Part III (Interpreting Red Burials) asdf

Why are so many ancient burials red? 

Part 1 considered the widespread 'evil eye' superstition and red veils.
Part 2 considered resistance to red apotropaism in the Christian period.

The Red Ochre Tradition (ROT) is summarized in "The Geologic Model of Religion" by (Andrew Clifford 2012) starting on page 95.  While I don't subscribe to all of his hypotheses, it's good starting place for understanding the antiquity and continuity of this practice. 

He describes it as a component of the human Inner Core Religion; ROT being the oldest material evidence for spiritual belief.  At least within the core Neolithic sphere, I think some circumstantial evidence may suggest a certain kind of red apotropaism is the main cause for its inclusion in those burials.

Gøngehusvej [Mesolithic]...ochre are especially in the head and pelvis areas." (National Museum of Denmark)
The most common surviving burial pigment is red ochre (iron oxide).  In the Mesolithic Ertebolle Culture, folks often had their heads covered with red ochre.  Is covering the head or the whole body intended to hide the deceased?

In Egyptian mythology, the extermination of the human race by the 'Eye of Ra' was thwarted by creating a concoction of beer and ochre and pouring the blood-like mixture on the ground to fool the eye. (Remler, 2010.  pg 51)  The use of ochre as a war paint is attested around the world for similar spiritual concerns.

Djumbulak kum burial [Iron Age] (National Geographic)
In this Djumbulak kum burial, the red shroud over the face appears to have been dyed with Madder root.  Within the context of Greek mythology (Herodotus iv. 189), a madder-dyed cloak is emblematic of Athena's tasseled aegis.

The attributes of Athena are apotropaisms associated with those for warding off the evil eye.  They included the oculos, the gorgoneion, and the aegis, the last of which combines several apotropaic devices in a single garment (being golden tassles, a gorgoneion and a red color).  Athena's bright eyes (possibly blue) are also significant in a Mediterranean context.  (See also Sulis)  This is in contrast to the wild eyes of the Gorgons whose damning stare causes immediate death.

Presumed wife of Yax K’uk’ Mo, covered with cinnabar.  Margarita Tomb [Late Classical Maya] Copan, Hondoras (ASC)
Above is a burial typical of many royal tombs in the Americas.  Cinnabar is also very common to burials beginning in the Mesolithic of Southeast Asia, Chinese Late Neolithic and the El Argar cultural remains of Bronze Age Spain.

As hypothesized in Part 2, elder dye may be the source of a fairy tale red cloak. 

This has a relevant meaning to pigments because it prevents any one source of red dye from having the exclusive apotropaic power against the damning stare of Gorgons or whatever. 

Mulhouse-Est Grave 2 Linearbandkeramik [Early Neolithic] (Antiquity)

"Colored Bones, Varied Meanings" Katy Meyers

"Why is Ochre Found in Some Graves" National Museum of Denmark

"Red Lady of El Miron" New Scientist

If at any moment the beliefs and rituals of the Ertebolle people seem two dimensional, a small baby buried in the wing of a swan helps us realize how real the pain of death was even for tough log boatsmen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Heras Hermanos (Olalde et al, 2018)

I'll assume these two samples represent brothers because samples 11 and 12 are consolidated under I6472.  It may be the samples are from the same individual.  In any case, one or both under I6472 was R1b1a1a2 and HV0b.  This La Magdalena grave follows the last post on a girl.

Before continuing, Heras, Galera and Bastida (2012) enumerated three possible individuals in this scrambled up grave (5005), labeling individuals 5010a, b and c, being so they thought, a male and two females.  So the two samples are from the one man, or brothers.  The grave was a mess and perhaps the archaeologists took a chance on two bones.

From Olalde et al, 2018 supplement:
"The artificial cave 5005 was found greatly altered because it was opened and closed multiple times. This caused the breakage of the slab that acted as a door. This structure presents the inhumation of two undetermined adult men buried at different phases. The earliest one presents red ochre sprinkled on it (I6472). Two non-decorated bowls are bound to this structure, but it is impossible to determine to which remains they were associated with.I6472/RISE701, RISE702, sample #11,#12, STTL 5010: 2500–2000 BCE"
I find it interesting that at La Magdalena features a male doubles grave and a female doubles grave. Actually, the female doubles grave is really a triple, since the headless hermanas are laying on top of another headless woman from which they were intentionally segregated (Garrido Pena). The Heras Hermanos may be one guy and two chicks - Regardless, no heads!

Tomb 5005 Individual 1050a and 1050b (Heras and Galera, 2016)

It's less likely that either instance is a case of human sacrifice, instead it looks to be the case in the headless women that the heads were removed during the decomposition process and evidence from the grave confirms that these graves were opened on more than one occasion.

The view in Cabrera-Jimenez is that this represents some sort of cultic practice involving the head of ancestors.  There are reasons this is probably the case, but there is another fascinating element mentioned by Heras, Galera and Bastida - missing copper rings.

One or several phalanges in this grave were stained with green copper oxide, but no rings were encountered in the grave.  I find this suspicious because reverent, ancestor-head-worshipping relatives wouldn't steal the rings from the fingers of their dead relatives would they? And yet this grave is smashed beyond all comprehension.  This was only a fragment of copper laminate left is this grave.  Was this grave smashed and robbed?

I6472, up one from highlighted area.  Olalde et al, 2018 sup

Notice not only the position of I6472, but see that the Spaniards that are shifted to the left are all from Humanejos, Camino de Yeseras and La Magdalena.  See the map and comments in the last post.

This link actually includes about four papers in one pdf referenced here:

Cabrera-Jimenez et al, 2012
"El Campaniforme en la submeseta surEstudio antropológico de los restos esqueléticos de la Magdalena I (Alcalá de Henares)"

Heras, Galera and Bastida
"Enterramientos y ritual funerario en una necrópolis calcolítica con campaniforme en la submeseta sur: El Yacimiento de “La Magdalena” I (Alcalá de Henares)"

Sunday, May 12, 2019

La Heredera de Henares I6475 (Olalde et al, 2018)

Let's refocus on the Mesetans*, a people that deserve a much closer look.

The conventional wisdom (now) is that the root relationship between Iberian and Continental Bell Beakers is merely a cultural one, and not much more.  That's retarded, but ok, we'll start addressing this now.

This young wife, labeled I6475, tells us part of her people's story.  She has no appreciable steppe ancestry and, looking at her mtdna (U5b3), we can comfortably presume that her maternal stock is native to the Spanish interior where it enjoyed a relatively high frequency since the Middle Neolithic  (Szecsenyi-Nagy et al, 2017).

La Heredera de Henares, I6475, 4463 in the dig
However, her extended community in Alcala de Henares does have steppe ancestry, and I'd bet dollars to donuts her husband did as well.  Certainly the other two samples from her cemetery, the man in the mound I6471, and the Henares Hermanos I6472, had steppe ancestry.  The bros (I6472) were R1ba1a2 and the man with the baby (I6471) is negative for everything other than R, but lacks resolution.

So far it seems that the heterogeneous Beakers within the Madrid/Castile watershed generally do have steppe ancestry, and about the amount you expect for the offspring in the initial stages of admixture.  Most likely, this young lady represents one of the many mixed marriages between Beaker men and local women, and fully recognized and honored marriage, not just a woman being ravaged while thatch-roofed huts burn in the background.

She is clearly a full member of the Beaker society and her fine grave goods testify to this.  She appears to have either been sprinkled with cinnabar and ochre (more likely a red dress or blanket) and she had a v-perforated button of African ivory.  She holds a hardened copper awl in her left hand, and interestingly, a boar's tusk near her neck.  It also took some effort to dig this grave.  And more to the point, the presence of the copper awl in her left hand signifies her idealized status as the lady of a home (perhaps 'matron' if she had lived past her teenage years).

If you look at her head shape I think it would be fair to assume that she did not have a Beaker babyhood but was instead integrated into this local community by marriage (similar situation to I2787 Szigetszentmiklós).  Or was it the other way around? Maybe it was her husband who benefitted most from what she brought to this union -  ranchland along the river?

Although she was only buried with a cooking pot, some of the other cemetery ceramics are typical of the Ciempozuelos style and tradition  (Heras, Cubas and Bastida, 2012)

Above you can see just how different this girl (I6475 highlighted) compares to the man with the baby in the burial mound (I6471).  That guy is at the high end of steppe spectrum, so high the Olalde authors had to break out Alcala de Henares into MAD1 and MAD2 groups.

(Barroso et al, 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.5209/CMPL.62583)
All of the below is from the big Beaker paper, and I've included this map to show the proximity of the follow sites.  This demonstrates that we're not dealing with one-offs in this area, but that the entire region has this mixed ancestry.  From the Olalde et al, 2018 supplement:

"Presence of steppe ancestry in five individuals from Camino de las Yeseras, LaMagdalena and Humanejos (Madrid, Spain)"

"Similar to the previous case, we show in Table S2 f4-statistics of the form f4(Mbuti,Test; BK_Spain_MAD1, BK_Spain_MAD2) and f4(Mbuti, Test; BK_Spain_MAD1,BK_Spain_Mag1). These statistics support the presence of Steppe-related ancestry inBK_Spain_MAD2 (individuals I6472, I6623, I6539 and I6588) and BK_Spain_Mag1(individual I6471), in contrast to the remaining 7 individuals from Madrid region(BK_Spain_MAD1) who lack this genetic signal. Sample I6471 is assigned a different label as it appears to have significantly more Steppe-related ancestry than theBK_Spain_MAD2 group (Figure S2a)..."

This matters because the truly diagnostic, bona fide Bell Beaker graves in the heart of Iberia, are all heterogenous steppic communities with native women and foreign men. I6475 is a snapshot of this process. Bros are in the next post.

"The archaeological site of La Magdalena is located on the youngest terrace of River Henares, on the right margin, northeast from the city of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). This site is traversed by at least four paleochannels that lead into the previously mentioned river.
The artificial cave 4463 is the best preserved one. It is a single inhumation (I6475) of a young woman between 16 and 20 years old. She was buried with a V-perforated button made from African ivory and a suid canine next to her neck. Near her head, a non- decorated vessel and an arsenical copper awl in her left hand, were found. She was sprinkled with red ochre containing cinnabar."

The site was straight back, riparian zone of Henares in the background

Rio Henares (Raimundo Pastor, commons)

*Mesetan is used liberally to include the topographical mesetas, but also the Extramadura and the badlands suitable for ranching within the Spanish interior.  Most anywhere the expansive Ciempozuelos group lands, with the assumption that they represent a tribe or confederation of some sort, to be distinguished from other peoples.