Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Prince and His Twenty Wives (Garcia Sanjuan et al, 2018)

Try and wrap your mind around the size of the gigantic Copper Age site, Valencia de Concepcion.  If even a tenth of it was utilized at a time, that sector would still shadow most any contemporary site in Europe.  One of these sectors contains some very rich and interesting graves.  This large paper by Garcia Sanjuan et al is Open-Access, linked below.   

Crystal & Ivory from Valencina de la Concepción, S.W. Spain Garcia SanJuan et al
(foto: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia)

The grave above and beyond any other belonged to a man possessing this crystal dagger.  BTW, Be on the lookout for DNA that will follow these radiocarbon dates.  There is a related paper in the same journal by Antonio Blanco-Gonzales concerning demographic 'dynamics' in this region in the Copper and Bronze Age, so you know it's coming.  It'll be surprising if there are no surprises.  I'll start psyching myself out now.

The prince buried with the crystal dagger is identified in PP4-Montelirio Structure 10.049.  See also [link]   He is absolutely, positively the richest, big-man burial in all of Europe at this time with competition only from Goldfinger in Varna.

This Copper Age prince was buried in a vault at the end of a very long, stone-vaulted corridor (39 meters, or 127 feet).  The entire gamut was painted with priceless cinnabar.  Although the archaeologists shy away from any speculation based on the fragmentary evidence, it does appear that the prince of 10.049 was buried with around two dozen or so twenty-to-thirty-year-old women.

The large chamber also included a steppic-like steale and a number of gold, African ivory, ostrich and other objects.  Volker Heyd describes some of these in "Kossinna's Smile".   Using a large number of new radiocarbon dates from this tomb, a fairly secure date of build and burial puts it around 2850-2750 B.C.

In the discussion part of the paper, there is this comment:
Anecdotally, when excavations of this monument began in 2007, the Spanish media reported extensively on comments (intended just as informal remarks) by one of the team members, who claimed that the individuals buried in the main chamber (mostly women) may have formed part of the ‘grave goods’ of an important individual buried there, in a scenario similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur, in Mesopotamia.
Everything written above, including the title of the post, came from simply looking at the fact that a man buried with a crystal dagger was buried with a large number of young women.  In fact, I almost made a comment like this "similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur".  All of this without any knowledge of what was reported in the Spanish media.

If crystal daggers equal golden 9mm Brownings or gold AK-47's, and golden guns correspond to harems, then a crystal dagger correlates with roughly twenty women.  Oddly enough though, it would seem that these women wouldn't be the mothers of his children (his wives) for the reason that he would want his children to be raised successfully.

So maybe they're virgin priestesses, or the opposite of that.  Or maybe they were his wives and they were all killed by a political enemy at the same time, or an jealous wife. 

Several things I hope to see in the DNA.  1)  Verification that all the skeletal remains are women 
2)  Are the women genetically similar or are they different...flavors (Qaddafi)  3)  What the heck is this man's profile?  4)  Are the two individuals in the smaller tomb his mother and father  5)  Do any of these people cluster with Bell Beakers or other European groups  6)  Is the man racially distinct from the women, or most of them 7)  Are STD's or lethal toxins present or determinable?

Fig 1 from the paper.  Contemporary copper age sites around Valencia de C.

"Assembling the Dead, Gathering the Living: Radiocarbon Dating and Bayesian Modelling for Copper Age Valencia de la Concepcion (Seville, Spain)"  Journal of World History, 2018
Leonardo Garcia Sanjuan et al...  [link]

Abstract: The great site of Valencina de la Concepcio´n, near Seville in the lower Guadalquivir valley of southwest Spain, is presented in the context of debate about the nature of Copper Age society in southern Iberia as a whole. Many aspects of the layout, use, character and development of Valencina remain unclear, just as there are major unresolved questions about the kind of society represented there and in southern Iberia, from the late fourth to the late third millennium cal BC. This paper discusses 178 radiocarbon dates, from 17 excavated sectors within the c. 450 ha site, making it the best dated in later Iberian prehistory as a whole. Dates are modelled in a Bayesian statistical framework. The resulting formal date estimates provide the basis for both a new epistemological approach to the site and a much more detailed narrative of its development than previously available. Beginning in the 32nd century cal BC, a long-lasting tradition of simple, mainly collective and often successive burial was established at the site. Mud-vaulted tholoi appear to belong to the 29th or 28th centuries cal BC; large stone-vaulted tholoi such as La Pastora appear to date later in the sequence. There is plenty of evidence for a wide range of other activity, but no clear sign of permanent, large-scale residence or public buildings or spaces. Results in general support a model of increasingly competitive but ultimately unstable social relations, through various phases of emergence, social competition, display and hierarchisation, and eventual decline, over a period of c. 900 years.

Nope to Nabta Playa (Brass, 2017)

People, pots and domesticates move together.  In North Africa, this started around 6,500 B.C.

Early North African Cattle Domestication and Its Ecological Setting: A Reassessment
Michael Brass (March 2018) Journal of World Prehistory.  Volume 1 / 1987 - Volume 31 / 2018

Nearly four decades have passed since an independent North African centre for cattle domestication was first proposed in 1980, based on the Combined Prehistoric Expedition’s work in the Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba region of southern Egypt, and the initial rigorous debates between Andrew B. Smith and Fred Wendorf, Romuald Schild and Achilles Gautier. More recently, geneticists have entered the fray with determinations on the spread of haplotypes, and the timing thereof, that extend the scope and increase the complexity of the debate. Here, a new look at the botanical data and a re-analysis of the geology of Bir Kiseiba–Nabta Playa rejects the ecological foundations of the early African domestication model, while a detailed examination of the published osteological and radiometric data from the same area reveals a more nuanced picture than has been recognised to date. These results are placed into context by a wider review of the genetic and other archaeological evidence from the Western Desert of Northeast Africa, where no other cattle remains designated as domesticated have been found. It is concluded that (a) Bos remains from the early Holocene at Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba were those of hunted aurochs; (b) domesticated caprines were likely present in Northeast Africa before domesticated cattle; and (c) the domesticated cattle spreading across Northeast and northern Africa, including Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba, from the late seventh millennium BC or early sixth millennium BC onwards were descendants of Bos taurus domesticated in the Middle Euphrates area of the Middle East.
A recent theory proposed by David Wright is that the sudden expansion of domestic cattle in the Sahara contributed greatly to the speed of catastrophic desertification.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hepititis B-eaker (Muhleman et al, 2018)

The Dailymail reports:

"Strain of hepatitis B found on a 4,500-year-old skeleton is the oldest human virus ever to be discovered"   .

As promised by David Reich, research into ancient remains is yielding information that may help conquer some of our most deadly diseases.

Glockenbechergrab ORF.

Although HBV is now known to be millions of years old, scientists are trying to understand how and when it started infecting mammals and finally humans.  Some theories suggest it was party to the OOA exodus, others say it may be more recent.

The infected Bell Beaker man was RISE563 from the cemetery of Osterhofen-Altenmarkt, Germany.  In addition RISE386 from the Sintashta Culture in Russia and a number of other Scythian related groups of Asia have HBV infections of different variants.

The Bell Beaker and a few other individuals belong to a HBV sister clade of the Chimpanzee-Gorilla node, which these scientists points to a more recent infection from Africa spreading into Eurasia.  But a cluster HBV clades in Asian steppe pastoral cultures point to some variants having a deeper history in Eurasia, however deep.

The position taken in this paper is that HBV diversity in moderns is not that informative in light of the high mobility seen in these samples and in recent papers.  (In fact, this grave at Altenmarkt was shown by Douglas Price et al years ago to belong to a high mobility isotopic group)  With that and the extinction of this old clade, the scientist claim that HBV may be overwriting its geographic positions and that the only way to formulate a hypothesis of its human relationship is through direct evidence on ancient human remains.

* News outlets are reporting that the oldest sample is 7,000 years old.  That's because they cut and paste each other without reading the paper.  RISE563 is the oldest reported in this paper.

"Ancient hepatitis B viruses from the Bronze AGe to the Medieval period"
Nature 2018.  Muhlemann, Willerslev et al. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0097-z 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bear Claw to LPIE

A lot of fur has been flying in the PIE debate recently which has been brought about by the addition of the most recent Near East genomes.  Enjoy the wonder while you can.

I'm now going to take a big bear claw to the notion that PIE can exist without EHG.  A number of the chief Harvard scientists are essentially suggesting this possibility, Lararidis, 2018.  As a consequence, LPIE becomes a chapter in a kaleidoscope narrative.  I'm all about some Gordon Whitakker Proto-Euphratean, but that's a separate topic.  This is about PIE, exterior day 1.

I'll offer a short narrative below to mete out where I think the stronger points can be found to dispel a southern, one half of itself origin.  Maybe I'll expand on these later.

"Strange Wives Part 1"

1.  Proto-Indo-European was the inevitable development of a world-system seeking to gain access to patrilocal, riverine communities in its periphery.  Traders cemented their interests with these fisher-woodsmen around the northern half and western inlets of the two seas the old fashioned way - by making them cousins.  Look no further than academia or entertainment to see what factors drive marriage decisions (and to see how quickly they dissolve when nepotic incentives dry up).  For incipient IE, this had to have happened at leadership levels and perhaps on a more massive scale involving women.

Since these rather small riverine villages were strongly patrilocal, the issues of trade - protection, passage and privilege - could be cultivated by the marriage of a southern-speaking daughter to the foreign lord, with loyalties and shared interests being nursed and expanded generation after generation.  There was an incentive for southern outfits in this global economy to develop these relationships, if for no other reason than to crowd out competing interests.

Make no mistake, the contribution of southern ancestry in PIE (the steppe) originates from this sophisticated world-system on a continuous basis, not some well-positioned archaeological culture in the northern reaches.  These northern and southern ancestries combined to create PIE.

The development of PIE at its most fundamental level requires interaction between these two spheres.  In all likelihood, a global trade language emanating from the Southern Caucasus/Northern Euphrates was widely understood in the basins of both seas, its river villages, and - apparently in many northern homes.  Perhaps a dynamic was in place for hundreds and hundreds of years in which very fertile crescenters overwhelmed the men of renown.

"Strange Wives Part 2"

2.  What is Late Proto-Indo-European?  What should it be?

LPIE is the Corded Ware-ization of the surviving IE groups, excluding Anatolian, Tocharian and Euphratean (if that exists, which I think it does).  That means all surviving IE cultures, to which I would include the Bell Beakers, have significant CW ancestry by different means.  In the case of the Beakers, it is strangely female-mediated over a short segment of time.

Am I wrong about those points?

One point worth considering is the similar but different situation at transitioning Lepenski Vir.  A similar bridal arrangement tamed these patrilocal barbarians, except the stream of ladies is coming from Western Anatolia it seems.  You can see the social process is similar, and necessary.  What this shows is that the situation was the rule, not the exception.

It's exceedingly difficult to see IE developing south of the seas.  The social and linguistic ingredients just aren't there.  Well, half of it is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Iberian After All (Alberto's Runs)

Let's look at a Szigetzentmiklos Bell Beaker with zero Steppe ancestry, grave 49, I2741.

Previously, I had wondered if this guy was a Spaniard.  I'm pasting what Eurogenes Alberto came up with, although I don't know what methodology or tool he's using (otherwise I'd comment on everything)


Iberia_Southwest_CA 48.44%
Czech_MN 28.91%
Baden_LCA 6.25%
Tisza_LN 4.69%
Wales_N 3.91%
Globular_Amphora 3.12%
Koros_HG:I4971 3.12%
Ukraine_Eneolithic:I4110 1.56%
Distance 1.875%

Everything looks pretty square for a guy from Budapest...... except for the Iberia_Southwest_CA 48.44%!
How about another one.

Grave 2 Beaker, (Moslein, 2005)

This is one of two brothers that have the same mother in Alburg, Bavaria, Germany.  Maternally H1e1a.  Since CWC is excluded from these analysis (which is fine), we get inflated Yamnaya, Ukraine and Sweden MN, since it wants to find a big chunk of CW that isn't there.  This small cemetery is described by Heyd as belonging to the later begleitkeramik phase, so we should have a trickle of weird Balkanesque stuff that became increasingly prominent in those Csepel communities early on.  Check.

Again in this example, we're poking around at SW Europe in the mid to low teens.  And what is the inspiration for a decoration such as this?


Sweden_MN 33.59%
Yamnaya_Samara 33.59%
Ukraine_Eneolithic:I6561 14.06%
Iberia_Central_CA 11.72%
LBKT_MN 5.47%
Greece_N 1.56%

Distance 2.3907%

Most of these folks are within a few generations of being mixed so it's especially important to look at individuals and context.

Anyhow, Iberian (or wherever) is all over the place, albeit very unevenly distributed if real.  Hopefully someone can try Hegenheim again.