Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Pattern of Behavior?

Let's go now to the rumor mill.  Eurogenes says there is an ancient man analyzed from Belgium that may be older than Aesch25 from Switzerland (c. 2500-2800 B.C.)  Again, we don't know how old or the cultural affiliation, but if he is L51 and has Steppe admixture, then this could a be very significant in the developments of the early Beaker phenomenon.  

For the sake of discussion, let's go with this ancient possibility and continue walking out on the ice. Anyone want to take a gamble at where in Belgium this ancient L51 is located?  Let me make a suggestion.

The Island Robinson near a something-border between Belgium and Netherlands

So let us remember a recent grave from Twello in the Netherlands.  The Twello Fellow had an axe and a flint that could be provenanced within a day's walking distance of either side of the Meuse, at or around Liege in Belgium.  In fact, you can nearly draw a line between Twello and Liege along the Meuse.

Although the Twello grave is later, the significance of an ancient R1b-L51 man in Belgium (and we will pretend that his grave is from Wallonia), means that people like that of Twello may not have been trading with their neighbors, they might have been trading with themselves!

In other words, it was immigration that facilitated this trade.  This is part of a "pattern of behavior" we see in the later Bell Beaker phenomenon.  In sourcing raw materials, they are not simply meeting strangers for honest trade.  They are immigrating to the sources of raw materials, taking control of them by marriage or force and then peddling commodities out in their long-range networks.  I think we see this from Southern Spain, to the Irish Sea, to the Northeast.  Purpose driven immigration and prospecting, marriage when it makes sense.

Steppe admixture in Belgium this early needs to come from the Netherlands because of Belgium's geography and surrounds.  The obvious conduit is the Meuse.  But why stop with Belgian flints and dolorite? 

Might we find that even more southerly trade and contact are not the product of mutual interests between cultures, but expressly intrusive behavior early on.  It would be interesting if the GP flint trade into the Netherlands wasn't the expansion of existing trade, but a change in management.

Fichera, Alessandro (2020) Archaeogenetics of Western Europe: the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.


The transition from hunting to farming started in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, about 12 thousand years ago (kya). During the following millennia, farming spread across Europe largely due to migrations of people from a source in western Anatolia. The aim of this thesis is to investigate and assess the relative contribution of local hunter-gatherers and dispersing farming groups in a region of Western Europe where the archaeological evidence suggests potential complexity. In order to do so, two parallel approaches were carried out: i) the study of human remains from three archaeological sites in Belgium; and ii) a broader phylogeographic analysis of modern mitochondrial DNA sequences belonging to haplogroup HV.

Here I report the first genome-wide analysis of one Mesolithic and 32 Middle to Late Neolithic Belgian individuals. The Mesolithic individual was largely similar to other Western European Mesolithic and Late Palaeolithic samples. However, within the Neolithic group I observed two genetic clusters. The first cluster appears to be the result of an admixture between local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers of Anatolian descent. However, the Mesolithic component was much larger than seen to date in other west European Neolithic samples, with a possible sex bias towards local males carrying Y-chromosome haplogroup I and dispersing females. The second, less numerous genome-wide cluster revealed admixture from a Pontic-Caspian Steppe related population, further indicated by the presence of Y-chromosome R1b-M269.

The phylogeographic analysis of modern mitochondrial haplogroup HV confirmed an Upper Palaeolithic Near Eastern origin. The new findings suggest an early introduction of several HV lineages into the north coast of the Mediterranean from the Late Glacial onwards, which increased during the Neolithic. In particular, the Mediterranean area appears to have served as a reservoir of HV lineages and as a source of later migrations in both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

1 comment:

  1. Geographical analysis of thousands of modern R1b-L51 samples by SNP and STR divergence estimates coalescence back an estimated point of common origin in Northern France, so I think it is reasonable to expect to find early L51 in Wallonia. However, if L51 people were migrating around to wherever raw materials could be found, marrying locals and peddling commodities out in long range networks (and I think you are right in saying this), then I see no reason to pinpoint them to one particular location like Holland, or indeed the Steppe. Yes, there would have been L51 men located at various points between the Steppe and Belgium, but their paternal lineages look to have struggled for survival before eventually flourishing in Western Europe.

    Two 'by the ways':
    1. The idea that Steppe DNA emerged from the Steppe only in the early third millennium BC after having been locked down in the Steppe for thousands of years is a modern myth. Steppe people were naturally mobile and migratory, and traces of their DNA appear all over the place in samples from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic and onwards.
    2. I wouldn't identify Neolithic farmers as necessarily being of Anatolian descent. Similar DNA was present at an early stage in a purer and better-matched form in Greece, making this the more likely point of origin in my view.