Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Serving hors d'oeuvres in Devitsa

Ancient DNA has revealed the Scythian warrior bodies from a site in Western Russia are actually female [ScienceAlert].

Although these girls are Iron Age Scythians, this is a good ice breaker to discuss a paper by Jan Turek regarding gender identities in the Beaker and Corded Ware Cultures where we are able to observe a number of individuals who are treated in unexpected ways in death.

hors d'oeuvres are served!

In "Copper Age Transformations in Gender Identities", Jan Turek looks at some of the assumptions we have been making about the Bell Beaker and Corded Ware Culture based on gender distinctions in funerary arrangements.  We can assume they had an almost idealized notion of gender and gender roles, but aside from that, what do we really know?

As modern people we project quite a bit on the archaeological past to fill in the gaps of what we are able to observe.  Of course the problem is that those gaps are actually pretty huge, and the past is very distant.  So I'd like to give Turek's thoughts attention in more than one post.  But here, let's look at Amazons.

One of the Western Russia Amazon Scythians with headress

Turek cautions that we have to be careful in interpreting (for today's topic) graves of women with objects of power, prestige and warfare.  He uses the example of women pharaohs of Egypt wielding the objects of male pharaonic power, being depicted or buried as shepherd kings.  Understanding why Hatshepsut has a false beard takes a few minutes to explain in context.

Below we see Kurdish female fighters, which is an even more stark image coming from the part of the world where they are fighting.  What exactly does it mean though?  What is the message?  We have to be careful in projecting what we want it mean or don't want it to mean.  There is a context for this in Kurdish Culture and Kurdish political aims.

But as with quite a number of Scythian women, it isn't all show.  Many of them die fighting, often fairly horrible deaths at the hands of savages, and many have the notches on the buttstock to show for their time in the field.

Kurdish women fighters

I'll update this post later with a former paper showing that Beaker women may have ridden horses and shot the bow quite frequently.  

And below, a reconstruction of one of several Beaker Amazon graves.  Then the question, is she displaying icons of power, as a queen of Egypt, or, are these sentimental objects of male relations.  Or again, was she a fighter?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The genetics of the Tuatha Dé Danann

I want to link directly over to Razib Khan's "Gene Expression" comments on the Lara Cassidy paper on ancient Ireland.  Lots of interesting topics...

see below

 the "Tuatha Dé Danann"

The genetics of the Tuatha Dé Danann: The power of ancient DNA in terms of human evolution at this point is to a large extent the ability to understand the arc of human cultural history as reflected in our genealogies. Archaeologists h…

Friday, June 12, 2020

Protruding-Beakonaya (CBV95)

You may recall a lot of uninformed jerking regarding Eastern Domain Bell Beakers last year.  A few Beakers were identified as Z2103 and had elevated steppe components, so a few deep thinkers took that as direct and conclusive evidence for a founding source of Beaker heritage.  I poured cold water on that and detailed analysis added more cold water.

However...a few of these Paris Basin graves, including one from Ciry-Salsogne (CBV95) in Brunel et al, 2020's "Ancient genomes from present-day France unveil 7,000 years of its demographic history" should raise your antennas plenty.  As in the previous Harvard mega-papers, the archaeologists nominated from their x-files to get answers with genetic data.  CBV95 turned out to be from another planet (see plot at bottom).  

Here's the dig paper, "La sepulture campaniforme de City-Salsogne 'La Bouche a Vessel' (Aisne) by Hachem et al, 2011.

"Tarim woman with legs drawn up"

We have a Paris Basin Bell Beaker with typical male lineage buried with an AOO pot and a big French knife.  He's certainly the son of a number of Dutch immigrant ancestors, and given his age, we are left with no other reasonable choice other than to presume the majority of his steppe-like ancestors were PFBs. And then he's buried in a manner typical of the Steppe Cultures, like Khvalynsk-Yamnaya-Abashevo, supine-legs-drawn (as above).  And then there is his profile; makes it seem non-random.
As his maternal lineage is J2a1a1, we could probably discount the possibility that his mother was a recent immigrant from the steppe who married a Western man, thus allowing him rites in a supine-knees drawn up configuration after his mother's family.  In fact, the reverse would seem more likely and we might suspect that this orientation was more common among tribes of the SGC than available evidence is able to produce. 

"The French Freak" CBV95

About half his "very large wooden grave" was destroyed by a backhoe, but having looked at the drawings for a while, is it possible he was buried in a wagon?  It's a large rectangular structure that almost looks like the shadow of a wagon-plus-axle-hubs-and-yoke with the semi-solid (?) wheels removed.  Maybe not, but the upper layers are typical of many Corded Ware Culture ring ditches, with some sort of memorial shrine erected on top of the mound and a kind of palisade around.

Laure Salanova describes in "Behind the Warriors Bell Beakers and Identities in Atlantic Europe.."
"The two AOO graves from the Paris Basin (Jablines and Ciry-Salsogne) are dated from 2570-2450 cal BC (Salanova 2011).  All of the characteristics of these graves refer to foreign burial practices, from their architecture to their grave goods, which find comparisons in the Netherlands. According to archaeometric analyses, the AOO beakers were all produced locally, despite their typology indicative of an exogenous affinity. These graves are geographically located on the road that linked the Grand-Pressigny flint workshops to the Lower RhineValley, where daggers and blades imported from the Grand- Pressigny region have been recorded and were frequently included as grave goods associated with AOO beakers (Lanting & Waals 1976; Delcourt-Vlaeminck 2004). These three graves could therefore reflect an ethnic identity, including foreign traders in charge of another exchange network, linking the Atlantic coast to the Rhine Valley. This network did not remain thereafter; importations stopped at approximately 2400 cal BC, probably being replaced by exchanges of copper daggers."

his funerary beaker via ASAVA

So what does that mean?  You may remember the "Fellow from Twello" in the Netherlands.  As Laure Salanova discusses, the classic "Dutch model" and it's variations either don't work or have problems, but  there is a Dutch something.  "Bell Beaker Chronology in Northern France" (Laure Salanova, 2011)  

You can see where CBV95 falls below.  He's the pink diamond at the bottom of the upper Steppe cluster.  Then look to the graph on the right.  Now look at the Y-chromosomal diversity through the ages.  As in Britain, Iberia and elsewhere, we have almost complete supersession of males lineages.  Wow again.

And now, something that really pisses me off.  Seriously.  How the Dutch destroyed civilization.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

France, Like the Others (Brunel et al, 2020)

FINALLY.  After years and years and years of waiting for the curtain to be pulled back on ancient France, we FINALLY have a good initial bite on the sequence of genetic relationships across the Holocene.  Certainly we've had onesies and twosies and regional papers, but nothing as comprehensive.

For a broader out-take, see Bernard's comments.  Right now I'll focus on the French Beakers.

Even though we only have two Bell Beakers examined, they're interesting discussion material.  This man at Ciry-Salsogne (CBV95) was buried in supine-knees-drawn-up-looking-East configuration as the Yamanaya culture, and also had a very high proportion of similar ancestry.

The other Beaker from the Peirieres Dolmen (PEI2) had a lower percentage (~28%) of Yamanaya-like ancestry and also had a G2a Chromosome.

Via "La Sepulture campanifomre de Ciry-Salsogne" (Hachem et al, 2011)
Above you see how the knees fell to the side during decomposition.

Although we only have two Beakers in this paper (along with those previously reported), what is very apparent is that the Beaker (or Steppe) migration into France involved both men and women, introducing both Y-Chromosomes and mtdna mito-profiles not previously seen at any time during the Neolithic.  By the regular Bronze Age and Iron Age a situation exists in which the paternity of this geographical 'nation' had been almost completely superseded by those of the Steppe Cultures.

"The Transition: Before and After"  Snip from Figure S3-1

"Ancient genomes from present-day France unveil 7,000 years of its demographic history"
Brunel et al, PNAS June 9, 2020 117 (23) 12791-12798; first published May 26,2020 

"Genomic studies conducted on ancient individuals across Europe have revealed how migrations have contributed to its present genetic landscape, but the territory of present-day France has yet to be connected to the broader European picture. We generated a large dataset comprising the complete mitochondrial genomes, Y-chromosome markers, and genotypes of a number of nuclear loci of interest of 243 individuals sampled across present-day France over a period spanning 7,000 y, complemented with a partially overlapping dataset of 58 low-coverage genomes. This panel provides a high-resolution transect of the dynamics of maternal and paternal lineages in France as well as of autosomal genotypes. Parental lineages and genomic data both revealed demographic patterns in France for the Neolithic and Bronze Age transitions consistent with neighboring regions, first with a migration wave of Anatolian farmers followed by varying degrees of admixture with autochthonous hunter-gatherers, and then substantial gene flow from individuals deriving part of their ancestry from the Pontic steppe at the onset of the Bronze Age. Our data have also highlighted the persistence of Magdalenian-associated ancestry in hunter-gatherer populations outside of Spain and thus provide arguments for an expansion of these populations at the end of the Paleolithic Period more northerly than what has been described so far. Finally, no major demographic changes were detected during the transition between the Bronze and Iron Ages."

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Color Me Beaker (Berlin and Kay)

Did you know that many languages have no words for colors like orange, purple or green?

This short video describes Berlin and Kay's "seven-stange evolution of color terms" in languages.  From this, we might ask if there is physical evidence to infer the lexical colors of Beaker language*.

I have some ideas, but first, check it out...

Let's apply this theoretical scheme to the Bell Beaker Culture.  Remember that WHITE, BLACK and RED are Stage 2 development (and as a side note, these three colors are the only PIE lexical colors that can be reconstructed with any certainty.  In fact, they may be the only true lexical colors of PIE, the rest being descriptive, such as "shining", "glimmering", "lightish", "wine-red sea", etc)

What are lexical colors in the Beaker world?

A very decent case can be made that Bell Beakers distinguished BLACK, WHITE and RED.  In fact, we might suspect this just from the antiquity of their culture.  This three-part color scheme appears to have been the decorative colors of Atlantic Megalithic Culture (Bueno Ramirez et al, 2015, below), as well as, the roughly contemporary PIE Culture.  There's a few other circumstantial arguments we can delve into, but let's look at the material evidence.

Beaker Culture seems to have an almost dualistic tendency in contrasting various ideas, from gender to celestials, and probably, coloration.  The contrast between red and white is most apparent in the funerary pottery and a name for the two colors seems likely.


Red and white pottery, red and/or red and white cattle, probably reddish horse coats, red and white petroglyphs, red and white textiles, red-dyed wool or linen.  Certainly they often used ochre or cinnabar in burials.  Some of that was from dyed blankets, in Iberia that might have sometimes included red facial shrouds.  Red hair would have been worthy of linguistic distinction.  Of course, pure copper would belong in the red category (using the Berlin and Kay definition).  Semetite amber is red.   (Baltic amber is lighter, but we can't be sure they made any lexical distinction at this stage.  More on this in a moment...)


Quite a few things of importance were almost contrastively white in their culture.  Dairy products are uniquely white.  The inlay paste of their funerary pottery was usually gypsum, bone or other combinations. The ivory buttons and toggles must have accented darker clothing.   Whalebone pommels would have been striking.  Their cows may have been a single coat of red, but some may have had white faces or bellies.  Wooly sheep are white.  Salt is white, and interestingly the etymology of the Basque word for white probably comes from a word meaning 'salt'.

Of course every language understands black, as white and black are Stage 1 colors.  Jet would have been the most striking, but bitumen would be known to many men making arrows.  Charcoal is black, and that would have made pigment for tattoos and paint.

Beyond this, it is very difficult to imagine much else in the color palette of the Beaker tongue.  For one, it appears unlikely that many peoples of this time distinguished between green or blue, much less anything more interesting like purple (which obviously came very late).

Proto-Indo-Europeans, for example, seem to have had difficulty expressing many colors as distinct lexical terms.  A lot of the examples that could be used to describe a greenish-blue sea or gold, seem to use descriptive words like 'shimmering' or 'shining'.  A lot of words for these other colors are interchangeable and describe totally different colors in the daughter tongues.

Stage III?

It is possible that another color existed in Beaker Culture/PIE Culture *-ghel.  From this we get a color yellow from 'shining' which can be used to describe the Sun, gold and (quite specifically) Baltic Amber.  The debate is whether this had crystalized into an actual lexical term that literally meant YELLOW, or does this apply to anything shiny like the sparkle of the sea?

There is one other color in Stage III, that is green.  This is another debate topic for PIE, but what about Beakers?  Greenstone bracers seem to have been prestigious among Beaker archers.  In the age before this the green axeheads.  Obviously the oxidation of copper is green, and copper ores would be green as well.

So where were the Beakers?  Probably somewhere between 2 and 3.

See also:

Mallory and Adams in "The Oxford Dictionary of Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World"

"Natural and artificial colors: the megalithic monuments of Brittany" (Bueno Ramirez et al, 2015)
Antiquity 89 (2015): 55-71.  toi: 10.15184/aqy.2014.29

Proto-Indo-European Etyma.  University of Texas at Austin

"A Taste for Green..." (Rodriguez-Rellan et al, 2020

* Let's not be retarded.  Beakers certainly were able to communicate with each other in a commonly understood language even if the language of their household or communities varied significantly.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Time Team!! (Migdale Astro-Archaeology)

Ever heard of the Migdale Hoard?  Ever heard of a crannog?  Ever heard of Bell Beaker?  pbbbt!

This is a great Time Team episode to beam to the smart tv when you settle down this week.  (The conclusion of the video starts at 45:00 with Tony Robinson questioning Allison Sheridan.)

In the Highlands of Scotland there is a Loch (Lake) named Migdale nestled in several hilly mountains.  The saddle of two mountains forms a point where the sun rose during the Beaker era equinoxes.  Of course, our solar-focused Beakers made this perspective in the landscape, with sacrifices, henges, burials and dwellings.

One of the early discoveries in the area was the Migdale Hoard (seen below).  It's not just a bunch of expensive items deposited in a crevice.  These are some of the earliest and finest bronzes anywhere, with stylistic connections from Ireland to Bavaria.  The sheen of the axehead would have appeared almost silver.  There are bangles and anklets.  The tubular necklace was positively dated to 2,200 B.C. based on the elm(?) inter-tubuals.

What's new is that the original find-place of the Migdale Hoard was positively identified by an elder local woman who was taken to the find spot as a girl.  Not surprisingly, we learn that the hoard was deposited in an astronomical alignment to the rising sun equinoxes.

The crannog appears to have been built within the alignment at least by the Iron Age.   However, the timber that was carbon dated may have only been the most recent rebuild of the decking.  The exact age of the crannog, for now, is only as old as the Iron Age.

The state of preservation in the anaerobic conditions is astounding, and for the first time in Britain, there is evidence of alignment wedges and alignment posts.  We may assume that thousands of the British enclosures had these kinds of sight posts in conditions that weren't conducive to their survival.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Beakers Spoke LPIE (Victor Mair)

Victor Mair now sees evidence that the Bell Beakers were Into-European speakers.  (Hat tip Andrew)

In the linked thread he includes personal communications with linquists James Mallory and Asko Parpola concerning the details of a new Beaker burial at Lechlade-on-Thames.  (LiveScience)

I commented on this burial several posts ago before any details were known.  One man was seated "Indian style" facing another important-looking man in a tightly flexed position.  The archaeologists believe the seated man was some kind of shaman and the flexed man some sort of princely man.

Head and Hoof Sacrifice (via LiveScience)

As far as I can see, the seated configuration seems most closely related to those "shaman" burials of the Maros-Yamnaya type and, at least to me, look like some kind of praying or meditative-type pose.  Hopefully we'll get some photos that show the position of the hands and ankles of the seated man.

Anyhow, without waxing too long on this, I've believed for a long time that Bell Beakers spoke LPIE, and not just some of them, but probably all of them up to a point (including the interior of the Iberian Peninsula).  Aside from the head and hooves burial, other burials have characteristics that seem to point toward IE metaphors or celestials, such as the "thunderstones" or the reversed sexual polarity of lunar and solar divinities.

Any other peculiarities that support (or provide evidence to the contrary) IE speech among the Beakers?

*As a side note.  One question I would like to see answered here is the dietary habits of the seated man.  If he was indeed someone with a religious vocation, it is quite possible there will be evidence to support a social division of diet.  This seems to have been very common throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages, and we see this in the Bible oftentimes as well.

Also, is there anything about his skeleton that is out of the ordinary.  Was he especially slender and tall?  Did he have osteoporosis?

Maybe, maybe not.  But I think we might expect a few specialized religious vocations among the Beakers, such as singers, diviners, healers and priestesses.  It's quite possible that some of the Beaker men buried in the woman's position were of these sorts.  That's up next...