Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lepenski Vir? (Harvard Beaker Notes)

Let's go back and revisit an old hypothesis before getting into these two papers from Nature (1, 2).

This hypothesis by Hervella (2015) was a new alternative to Brotherton (2013) concerning the dramatic rise of haplogroup H in MN Central Europe.  It's an important topic because most Beakers outside of Iberia are distinct for their impenatrable and exclusive male-cousinship and fairly elevated levels of mtdna H.  Examining Balkan mitolineages of the Neolithic, the Hervella people came up with an alternate hypothesis concerning H:
"...none of the models studied to date have taken into consideration another possible and obvious explanation, namely a new wave of Neolithic migration into Europe through the ‘traditional route’ of the Balkan Peninsula. This new wave of Neolithic migrations are represented by Vinča and Dudeşti cultures (5500–5000 BC), that trace their origin in North-West Anatolia on the basis of ceramics features [28]. The Boian, Zau and Gumelniţa cultures from Middle-Late Neolithic (M_NEO) from Romania are the direct continuation of this cultural complex; the M_NEO group from Romania displayed differences in haplotype (S5 Fig) and haplogroup distributions (S4 Fig) with the Middle Neolithic from Central Europe.
The hypothesized contribution of Middle Neolithic migrations from North-West Anatolia into the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe may explain the position of the BBC (Late Neolithic in Central Europe), close to the M_NEO groups from Romania in the multivariate analysis (Figs 2 and 3)."
Mesolithic Lepenski Vir "Lotus Burial" Looking East (Boroneant & Bonsall, 2012)
*See also "Burial Practices in Iron Gates Mesolithic" [Link]

As of recently, we know Hervella's hypothesized NW Anatolian H-people were indeed expanding into the ancient domain of R1b in the Iron Gates region and Wallachian Plain.  This was already evident in the skeletal record...
"Human skeletons exhibit both extremely robust and gracile features throughout the sequence.. [between Mesolithic and Neolithic] (Dusan Boric, 2002 [Link])
So now let's expand on Southern Romania and Eastern Serbia at later R1b Lepenski Vir graves; we see a confirmation of the Hervella paper hypothesis in mtdna (75%) and confirmed by autosomal DNA with a single male being R1b 100%.
"A notable finding from the Iron Gates concerns the four individuals from the site of Lepenski Vir, two of whom (I4665 and I5405, 6200–5600 bc), have entirely northwestern-Anatolian-Neolithic-related ancestry. Strontium and nitrogen isotope data38 indicate that both these individuals were migrants from outside the Iron Gates region and ate a primarily terrestrial diet (Supplementary Information section 1). A third individual (I4666, 6070 bc) has a mixture of northwestern-Anatolian-Neolithic-related and hunter-gatherer-related ancestry and consumed aquatic foods, and a fourth and probably earlier individual (I5407) had entirely hunter-gatherer-related ancestry (Fig. 1d, Supplementary Information section 1). We also identify one individual from Padina (I5232), dated to 5950 bc, who had a mixture of northwestern-Anatolian-Neolithic-related and hunter-gatherer-related ancestry. These results provide genetic confirmation that the Iron Gates was a region of interaction between groups distinct in both ancestry and subsistence strategy."
What does that mean?  When we look at the end of Rossen in Western Europe and the emergence of sites like Gougenheim and Blatterhohle, we might see a source for certain cultural traits in certain SE European Cultures.

"The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwestern Europe" is published in Nature and makes this comment:
"at Szigetszentmiklós in Hungary, we found roughly contemporary Beaker-complex-associated individuals with very different proportions (from 0% to 75%) of steppe-related ancestry. This genetic heterogeneity is consistent with early stages of mixture between previously established European Neolithic populations and migrants with steppe-related ancestry. One implication of this is that even at local scales, the Beaker complex was associated with people of diverse ancestries."
I'd count Harvard's argument as evidence against a source for Beaker lineages.  Of all the male Bell Beaker lineages sequenced in Europe, the one Beaker with the highest proportion of Steppe DNA is Z2103 and in an area that was settled by Alpine Beakers from the West in an area adjacent to actual Yamnaya.  In other words, he is an outlier in several different ways, none of which point to him being ancestral to anyone further West.

I'm not saying L51 came from the West, it didn't.  But based on the evidence so far, Hungary isn't a stepping stone to Western Europe no matter how geographically convenient it may be.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Origin of Iberian Beakers (Bernard)

Read this post by Bernard "L'origine Ibérique de la culture Campaniforme mise à mal par la génétique".

You may wan to pop that into the Google translate.  Don't get too comfortable with any narrative yet.

There's about four big Beaker papers that just dropped.  It's dump truck season.  I'll try and get to those this evening.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Not Thy Botai (Gaunitz et al, 2018)

A poster at Eurogenes linked this from Science Magazine "Ancient DNA upends the horse family tree"

The dominant opinion on horse domestication has been that horse hunters progressively managed herds, earliest in the Botai Culture, and this interaction led to more extensive use of the horse as a work animal for busy hunter-gatherers.    

There was already a lot of skepticism to David Anthony's bit-wear analysis ("Botai and the Origins of Horse Domestication" Marsha A. Levine, 1998).  Much of the Botai evidence, such as lipid residues or accumulation of horse pies, are interpreted as supporting facts to other facts, whose correct interpretation is supported by those other facts, which contribute to the growing weight of facts that all point toward domestication and/or husbandry at this site.  I imagine Heidi Cullen flying over the Botai ranch on a broomstick.

In this paper "Ancient genomes revisit the ancestry of domestic and Przewalski's horse" (Gaunitz et al, 2018), the authors make it clear that Botai and Przewalski's are not in the line of modern domestics (at all).  They seem to fall into the same trap of assuming that the Botai horses actually had improved morphological features and that Przewalski's are just 'feral' domestics.

The Backbreeding Blog also questions the notion that Botai horses were substantially improved, being that it was so early and so short of a period that almost nothing about Przewalski's could be described as feral even if they were descended from Botai. 

The evidence for horse domestication is probably right under our nose (as seems to be case in Neolithic Europe) and those first horses and asses will be found to be deeply integrated in cattle herding societies that first made use of horses.  I'll put money on that.

There is a symbiotic relationship between some members of these animal families that may tell us a little about aurochs behavior and the behavior of Early Neolithic Taurine cattle.  Unfortunately, so many of these Eurasian animals are extinct or endangered that it's difficult to find large enough herds in a wild environment to study how the more social animals once behaved.  But the above cave painting might be a clue.  See this post Guard donkey.

Gaunitz et al figure about 2.5% of Botai in domestic lineages.  That might be a clue to how far west you need to go before you'd see a real horse several thousand years ago.  I'm guessing the European Plain.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Domesday, 4066 (Brace et al, 2018)

Even though population replacement should be expected at the start of the British Neolithic, the degree to which it appears to have occurred is stunning.  The numbers are roughly close to the ~93% figure that Harvard estimated in the Early Bronze Age (once you exclude the possibility of full-blooded Anatolians parachuting into the Isles).  In any case, take that percentage of surviving British HG's and then factor its surviving portion into the EBA.  It's not a lot, even in the extremities of the Isles.  In Wales, it's probably zero.  Stunning.

The notion of spear-chuckers snapping spears over their legs and adopting the farming lifestyle didn't happen in Britain.  It looks like they were just out-produced, out-bred and over-run.

Farmer baby machine aside, they make a comment that is difficult to escape...
"In summary, our results indicate that the progression of the Neolithic in Britain was unusual when compared to other previously studied European regions. Rather than reflecting the slow admixture processes that occurred between ANFs and local hunter-gatherer groups in areas of continental Europe, we infer a British Neolithic proceeding with little introgression from resident foragers – either during initial colonization phase, or throughout the Neolithic. This may reflect the fact that farming arrived in Britain a couple of thousand years later than it did in Europe. The farming population who arrived in Britain may have mastered more of the technologies needed to thrive in northern and western Europe than the farmers who had first expanded into these areas. A large-scale seaborne movement of established Neolithic groups leading to the rapid establishment of the first agrarian and pastoral economies across Britain, provides a plausible scenario for the scale of genetic and cultural change in Britain."

I'm eager to see if it's possible to tease out some structure to the farmer groups in Britain based on geography and cultural context.  It seems that could be the case.

Population Replacement in Early Neolithic Britain

Selina Brace1*, Yoan Diekmann2*, Thomas J. Booth1*, Zuzana Faltyskova2, Nadin Rohland3,
Swapan Mallick3,4,5, Matthew Ferry3,4,, Megan Michel3,4,, Jonas Oppenheimer3,4, Nasreen
Broomandkhoshbacht3,4, Kristin Stewardson3,4, Susan Walsh6, Manfred Kayser7, Rick
Schulting8, Oliver E. Craig9, Alison Sheridan10, Mike Parker Pearson11, Chris Stringer1, David
Reich3,4,5#, Mark G. Thomas2#, Ian Barnes1#
bioRxiv preprint first posted online Feb. 18, 2018; doi:


The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100 years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Anatolian ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain c. 6000 years ago (kBP), a millennium after they appear in adjacent areas of northwestern continental Europe. However, the pattern and process of the British Neolithic transition remains unclear. We assembled genome-wide data from six Mesolithic and 67 Neolithic individuals found in Britain, dating from 10.5-4.5 kBP, a dataset that includes 22 newly reported individuals and the first genomic data from British Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Our analyses reveals persistent genetic affinities between Mesolithic British and Western European hunter-gatherers over a period spanning Britain's separation from continental Europe. We find overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced by incoming continental farmers, with small and geographically structured levels of additional hunter-gatherer introgression. We find genetic affinity between British and Iberian Neolithic populations indicating that British Neolithic people derived much of their ancestry from Anatolian farmers who originally followed the Mediterranean route of dispersal and likely entered Britain from northwestern mainland Europe.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bracers of Budakalász (HORVÁTH, 2017)

In this paper Horvath examines stone equipment from the large Budapest cemetery, Budakalász, which lies on the West bank of the Danube in Hungary.

A number of stone items are interpreted as plausible metal-working equipment, including these large river pebbles with a straight groove.  A case is made that these were used to manufacture pins of sorts, either by casting, shaping or polishing.  One artifact shows evidence of what may be hot shaping from burn marks and the uniformity of the examples are noteworthy.

Cold molds or polishers? (snip, fig 5)

Most interesting is the take Horvath has on the functional use of the wrist guards.  He notes that most of these in Hungary, despite being located on the lower left arm, are actually placed on the outside of the arm rather than the inside.  Horvath makes this comment:

"Perhaps the wrist-guards were also used to sharpen the daggers (the copper’s hardness is 2.5–3 on the Mohs scale: since wrist-guards are harder, they could have been used for this purpose)"
I don't believe I've heard this particular argument before and it does make a lot of sense if the use-wear analysis supports this hypothesis.  Previously, I assumed these bracers were rotated to the outside of the arm when they weren't being actively used, but that really doesn't help much if they were set in a cuff.  Several streams of circumstantial evidence do suggest that many were only part of a larger cuff assembly.

Snip from fig 9
Like the other authors who have written on the topic of bracer placement (Folkens, Smith, Turek), putting percentages to the exact position of these bracer stones on arms doesn't have a clear answer because as Horvath notes, many of the Beaker graves were excavated before quality dig records were made and before this was a topic of interest.

Since copper is rather soft, blade edges would need to be re-shaped frequently.  The magnified micro-edge of the blade would tend to curl after several uses and this is essentially what curved honing steels do for modern knives. 

Finally, you can see that in fig 9 that some bracers were repaired after what should have been throw-away time for looks or any practical use as a bracer.  But they are still valued after repeated corner brakes.  Several other characteristics are worth a second look, like the fact that they are about the length of a blade and that these items die off with the emergence of bronze!?

"The stone implements and wrist-guards of the Bell Beaker cemetery of Budakalász (M0/12 site)" Vjesnik Arheološkog muzeja u Zagrebu, Vol.50 No.1 Prosinac 2017