Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Slovak, Czech Bell Beaker Osteology (Hukelova, 2017)

Does anyone have access to this paper?

Zuzana Hukelova apparently builds on other osteological comparisons of other researchers, and interestingly mentions the disparity, not dimophism, of the Chalcolithic individuals (noted several posts ago by Kitti Kohler).  This appears to be a larger regional study and includes Slovakian Beakers in the analysis the first time that I can see.  Spread the wealth.

"Despite the potential of a biocultural methodology, osteology and archaeology are often approached separately in some parts of Central Europe. This osteoarchaeological thesis presents a rare comparative study of populations occupying modern-day Slovakia, Moravia, and Bohemia from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (EBA). By examining skeletal indicators of health and lifestyle, it aims to contribute to bioarchaeological research within the study region. It also provides new insights into a series of important sites where no osteological evaluation of skeletal remains have previously been performed. Human remains from thirty-four sites in Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia, 152 adults and 136 subadults, were analysed. Demographic, pathological and metric data were recorded and evaluated, and compared with previously published data for contemporaneous populations in order to create a more comprehensive representation of the populations in the area. The results suggest several differences between the Neolithic and the following periods, mostly as regards health status. Higher dietary and environmental stress was indicated in the Neolithic period, as suggested by lower mortality peak (especially of females and subadults) and about 5cm shorter stature, and generally worse health status of Neolithic population when compared to the Chalcolithic and EBA individuals. The Neolithic is also the only period where females were more numerous than males. Such a trend is quite common in the Neolithic of the study region. This may be a result of increased migration of Neolithic females, as raids for wives are suggested to have been practiced. As indicated by both the osteological and archaeological record, one of the sites examined, Svodín, could have been a site of contemporary elites and their family members. Chalcolithic populations revealed differences in cranial shape, being mesocephalic (medium-headed) or brachycephalic (short-headed), whereas both the Neolithic and the EBA populations were dolichocephalic (long-headed). Differences in male and female cranial features suggest a possible mixing of indigenous and incoming populations. Such results may contribute to the ongoing discussion about the ‘foreignness‘ of Chalcolithic Bell Beaker people in the area. Traumatic lesions suggest that males were more physically active than females in all three periods, including violent encounters. Even though violence was recorded in all three periods, especially in the western part of the region, and the intensity and brutality of the assaults appears to increase in the Chalcolithic and culminating in the EBA. In addition, poorer health status of EBA children was recorded, possibly related to more marked social differentiation in the period. In general, poorer health was implied for the prehistoric populations of today’s Slovakia. The results of this study can serve as the basis for future research and contribute to a more comprehensive image of lifestyle and development of prehistoric populations in the study area."

Friday, July 21, 2017

DNA - Protocogotas (Esparza et al, 2017)

Hat tip Bernard and Davidski

This triple burial dates to early Proto-Cogotas, sometime between 1918 and 1772 B.C.  The two women and unborn baby were buried atop a mattress, pillows or other organic material that decomposed, allowing rotation of the bones.

LTB-03 was a young woman who died while she was at full-term pregnancy or in labor with LTB-01, also a girl.  The nuclear and mitochondrial DNA further demonstrate this relationship beyond all doubt.  The older woman was not maternally related, but considering the nuclear DNA, the possibility of a paternal aunt or grandmother was not excluded.  (surprising that it's inconclusive)

Esparza et al highlight the importance of DNA in determining relationships of the past.  Before DNA was conducted, it had been thought that the elder woman was a man due to the robustness of the cranium and to the (seemingly) diagnostic posture; and that this was a small nuclear family that died under unfortunate and contemporary settings.  However, further osteological analysis of the cranial and post-cranial remains started to sow doubt about the 'man', and DNA finally revealed that she was a woman of uncertain relationship.

Triple burial from Fig 2.  (Esparza et al, 2017)
In past generations, many touching assumptions seemed reasonable of Early Bronze Age burials:  A man and woman in a pit grave were husband and wife.  A woman embracing a small child was the child's biological mother.  They weren't bad assumptions, most are likely correct; but they are not facts.  Obviously, DNA has excluded certain relationships in this burial.

Before getting to the gender identity of LTB-02, quick background. Esparza et al, 2012b previously came up with a theory for the gross lack of Cogotas Horizon burials in Central Spain, attributing them to exposure or something.  For the few discovered burials, when they did occur, they were exceedingly those of females.  They essentially make a case that Cogotas people dealt with taboo deaths, such as a woman dying in labor, differently from the general population.  In other words, this burial from Los Tolmas might have had been associated with a taboo death.  They make a compelling comparison to the treatment of taboo deaths of pregnant women in colonial Ghana.

Next, they offer some alternative scenarios for the relationship between these women from discussions at a recent workshop.  One proposal was that the elder woman was a mid-wife, who for whatever reason, was volunteered into this situation.  Given the lateness of the pregnancy, and obviously the poor outcome, it seems possible the mid-wife found herself in an inescapable cloud of superstition.  It's also possible that the pregger died before labor and some unfortunate, lower-class soul got the honor to deliver her lady's child in the next world. 

Given the manliness of the elder woman and the orientation of the burial, the conversation drifted toward 'gender identity'.  But in my view the circumstances surrounding this burial make more sense when focused on the tragedy of a very pregnant woman dying unexpectedly. 

Protocogotas is the tail end of Bell Beaker in this region, so their genomes might offer a fuller picture of the Mesetan ethnicies from the previous period.

"Familiar Kinship?  Palaeogenetic and Isotopic Evidence from a Triple Burial of the Cogotas I Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age, Iberian Peninsula)"
"Summary. This paper examines the identification of kinship relations in
archaeological multiple burials and advocates the application of different
methods and lines of research to clarify such issues in relation to funerary
practices. Recognizing family relationships – an important task in research on
prehistoric societies – is especially complicated and interpretations have often
been made without an adequate empirical basis. Bioarchaeological, isotopic
and DNA analyses applied to the triple burial of Los Tolmos (Cogotas I
archaeological culture, Iberian Bronze Age) have provided direct information
on this issue. In this respect, the new results also imply the need to consider gender
constructs in greater depth and to be more open-minded towards other forms of
relationship in the past beyond the traditional heteronormative nuclear family." 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

DNA - Cogotas I

If anyone has access to this paper, spread the wealth:

"Familiar Kinship?  Palaeogenetic and Isotopic Evidence from a Triple Burial of the Cogotas I Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age, Iberian Peninsula)"

Cogotas I is the product of the sophisticated El Argar hegmon expanding its influence deeper into the Iberian Peninsula.  But for all intents and purposes, Cogotas folk are likely, in the greater part, the progeny of Mesetan Beakers - we shall see.  Much of that older culture is remember in the schemes of Cogotas pottery throughout the period.

White paste infill on Cogotas II pottery at Museum of Valladolid (Benito-Alvarez - commons)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barcelona Beakers (Olalde et al, 2017)

Continuing with narratives from  "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.

The Paris Street Beakers in Catalonia were mostly buried with Maritime and epi-Maritime ceramics, and two of the later Pyrenees Group.  Unfortunately, there isn't any specific information on which layer the ten individuals come from or with which ceramics they were associated with.  There was also an eleventh individual that did not make it into the study.

In a previous post, I noted that Beakers associated with the old school Maritime-inspired pottery, the best I can so far tell, appear to lack or have a reduced Steppe component.  This appears true in at least two other regions outside of Iberia [Hégenheim], and maybe a third.

The Cerdanyola newspaper reports that two of the women were first degree relatives.  If I am reading correctly, all of them were lactase persistent except for one woman.  
"Individual 5 from Level II"  Fig 1 of (Gomez-Merino et al, 2011)
Interesting are the paternal and maternal markers.  50% of the men are R1b of sorts, but essentially lack the East European ancestry.  The maternal profiles are 50% haplogroup H, 40% are H1.  No two are the same, so I'll assume the eleventh individual was a sister excluded from further analysis.

Looking on a continental scale, the Olalde authors concluded "...we could significantly exclude Iberian sources [for the Beaker complex]...These results support largely different origins for Beaker Complex individuals, with no discernible Iberia-related ancestry outside Iberia."

By "Significantly exclude", we might assume they have excluded from the continental ethnic a component directly attributable to early Iberian Bell Beakers, not just Iberians.  When the genomes are public, we might have more confidence or we might have more questions!  The unequal resurgence of hunter ancestry in the Middle Neolithic may give us some pause.

Fig. 7 of (Frances et al, 2006)
And the Harvard Team seems to be pausing in releasing the genomes.  Fine tuning?  Probably not, but the Middle Neolithic seems like it might have a few more surprises.

The narrative from Olalde et al:

"Paris Street (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)
Contact person: Joan Francès Farré

During urban construction work at Paris Street in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Vallès Occidental, Barcelona province) in 2003, a large amount of skeletal material and associated pottery was unearthed. Follow-up excavation uncovered a Chalcolithic hypogeum with more than 9,000 human remains as well as lithic and ceramic material, the latter assigned to the Bell Beaker tradition.  The hypogeum displays several occupational phases. The 59 oldest one presented an ash layer underlying the first inhumations that could have a ritualistic significance. Charcoal from that basal layer was dated to 2878-2496 calBCE (4110±60 BP, UBAR-817). The first funerary phase (UE-15) shows a large number of successive inhumations (minimal number of individuals 36) that are still in anatomical position, placed in lateral decubitus and with flexed knees. Seven arrow points were retrieved from this layer. A thin, upper layer (UE-5) probably represents a re-organization of the existing funerary space, prior to the second funerary phase (UE-2). At UE-5, two Bell Beaker vessels of maritime style were retrieved. The UE-2 layer comprises fewer inhumations, and all of them were accompanied by typical Bell Beaker vessels: three in Maritime style, and two in epi-Maritime style. There were also numerous additional pieces of diverse typology. Over this layer, a final one, labelled UE-3, contained two more skeletons arranged over riverbed pebbles with a Bell Beaker vessel of a regional style known as "Pyrenaic". A bone from this layer yielded the youngest date in the hypogeum of 2469-2206 calBCE (3870±45 BP, UBAR-860). We recovered ancient DNA data from 10 individuals:
I0257/10362A: 2571–2350 calBCE [R1b1 + H1ax]

I0258/10367A: 2850–2250 BCE [H1q]
I0260/10370A: 2850–2250 BCE [I2a2a + K1a2a]
I0261/10378A: 2850–2250 BCE [R1b1a(xR1b1a1a2a) +U5b1i]
I0262/10381A: 2850–2250 BCE [U5b3]
I0263/10385A: 2850–2250 BCE [X2b+226]
I0823/10360A: 2850–2250 BCE [H1]
I0825/10394A: 2474–2300 calBCE (3915±29 BP, MAMS-25939)  [G2 + K1a4a1]                                                                  I0826/10400A: 2833–2480 calBCE (4051±28 BP, MAMS-25940) [H1t]
I1553/10388A: 2850–2250 BCE" [pre-H103]

From Fig S1, Olalde et al, 2017

The article concerning the testing of DNA

L’hipogeu calcolític del carrer París de Cerdanyola del Vallès, 2006 [Link]

Gibaja, J. F., Palomo, A., Francés, J., Majó, T., 2006 – Les puntes de sageta de l’hipogeu calcolític del carrer Paris (Cerdanyola): caracterització tecnomorfològica i funcional. Cypsela, 16: 127-133. [Link]

G. Gómez-Merino, T. Majó, C. Lorenzo, F. Gispert-Guirado, M. Stankova  et J. Francés, « Identification of Cinnabar by non-Destructive Techniques on a Human Mandible from Carrer Paris Chalcolithic Hypogeum (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain) », ArcheoSciences, 35 | 2011, 241-247. [Link]

"Els grups del neolitic final, calcolitic i bronze antic.  Els inicis de la metal-lurgia"
Araceli Martin Colliga.  Cota Zero n. 18, 2003. Vic, p. 76-105 ISSN 0213-4640 [Link]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Liff's Low Beaker Reconstruction

Here's a facial construction of a man burial in a 'bowl barrow' at Liff's Low in Derbyshire, England.
The story from LiveScience 'Striking Face' of 4500-Year-Old English Man Revealed.

"Beaker reconstruction" Face Lab/Liverpool John Moores University

When Liff's Low was originally excavated, the first body included an unusual pot that Stuart Piggott believed might have been Peterborough Ware related (L.V. Grisnell, 1936 page 17).  The site was excavated years later revealing another cist containing a bell beaker pot and a skeleton [Historic England].  This individual appears to have been from the second excavation.