Friday, November 10, 2017

Brit Women Liked "Wasted Studs"

Via LincolnshireLive UK:

Sorry gents, that'd be earrings.

This particular ear plug, or waisted stud, was found near the early Bronze Age burial mounds on the north bank of the Witham.  It's a stray find that may have been unearthed during a previous excavation and mishandled.

Jet ear plugs have so far only been found with women in Britain.  I believe most anything jet in the EBA is usually, or only, found with women. 
Via LincolnshireLive
It's likely that some men had plugs of a more perishable material, and certainly not a chicky color.  Otzi and Tutakhamen bookend the periods before and after the Beaker Period, and both of those individuals had stretched earlobes - so it's possible.

Totonac Ceramic (Vassil)

Plus, in the Irish Late Bronze Age, these spools become very dramatic and are worn by men.  Given that the material was gold, that makes one wonder if plugs of similar size were worn in the Beaker period but no evidence survives.  Who knows.

Depiction of a Late Bronze Age Irish-Hawaiian.  

I'd imagine that some sort of balance would be sought for a woman wearing jet earrings.  Possibly charcoal eyeliner, facial tattoos or facial art in order to bring it all together.  Looking at Pre-Columbian Indians and the Western Pacific, probably. 

Here's a paper by Mary Cahill concerning the ear spools of the British Isles.

"Unspooling the Mystery"

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Homestead in Hrbovice? (Ustecky Denik)

There is a spectacular Beaker site uncovered in the Ústí region of the Czech Republic in or near a town called Hrbovice, Ústecký kraj.  From Ustecky Denik

The Bohemian Bowmen are outfitted with the full warrior gear including bow-shaped pendants on the chests, quivers (one having 9 arrows), spears and at least one wrist guard.  The translation is somewhat garbled, but it appears a boat-shaped Beaker house is also discovered here with parallels to those in Hungary.

If I understand correctly, they have about thirteen graves from the Beaker Culture thus far.

It sounds as if the Beaker settlement sits on top of a very large Funnelbeaker settlement.  Archaeologist Luboš Rypka declares TRB settlement as "probably one of the largest settlements of this culture in northwestern Bohemia". 

Alexrk2 (commons)
Hrbovice is located on the Žďrnický potok (Žďrnický brook/stream), originating in the Ore Mountains that separate Saxony from Bohemia.  The area was a major source of metals in the Bronze Age.  From Žďrnický potok the water empties into the Bilina which empties into the Elbe at Ústí nad Labem, nearby.

Hrbovice (

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Johnny Klokbekker" (Fokkens et al, 2017)

Continuing with "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe", we'll now look to Oostwoud-Tuithoorn which gets to the point of the Olalde et al, 2017 paper.

This paper was just uploaded by Harry Fokkens entitled "Excavations of Late Neolithic arable, burial mounds and a number of well-preserved skeletons at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn: a re-analysis of old data" The available information is much better than many tested in the Olalde paper despite being one of the oldest excavated in the group.  Decades old information is compiled and reanalyzed; this site being important for several reasons.

"Jan van Oostwoud" The Earliest Beaker Skeleton 575 (Fred Gijbels)
One is that very few human remains have survived in the acidic soil of the Netherlands.  Tuithoorn was subject to some unusual tidal flooding and soil conditions that not only preserved the skeletal material, but made the DNA quality fairly good.  It also strangely preserved years of plow marks, which you can see below.  You'll see the blue plow marks are slightly curved around what was once a mound.  That added some interesting details to how this site was interpreted.

The other important aspect of this site is essentially the title of the Olalde paper.  The British Beakers and the Dutch Beakers are tightly clustered in several different analyses.  Whether or not the Olalde ~93% number goes up or down, one thing will remain certain - that is that the Northwest Continent was catastrophically imposing itself on the Isles during this time, especially Britain.

The graves are fairly typical of Beaker graves in some ways.  Men lay on their left side and women their right.  These men look South and women North, so in some ways it has a little CWC flavor, along with ring ditch.  Unlike other Dutch Beakers, these folks weren't buried with much of anything that could be discerned when they were excavated.  But within these plowmarks and the infills there was a considerable amount of Beaker sherds, which Fokkens speculates came to the field possibly in compost or manure.

The site is in a wetland, but dry enough for farming.  Although no homesite is provably detectable, the burial site is probably very close to one or several homesteads where the Beakers fished, farmed, hunted and ultimately buried.
‘Jan van Oostwoud’ is the oldest skeleton which lays beneath the plough marks.  He's the guy in the top picture, although his genetic results don't appear to be included in the Olalde paper.  They may have been excluded from the study because they rest in a local museum.  Fokkens speculates his grave was a flat grave accidentally plowed over by Beakers unaware, 1-3 generations later.  Still not knowing this, the later Beakers constructed the burial mound over this particular grave, perhaps recognizing the sacredness of the site generally, but not his grave specifically.

Grave 575 from Fig 17
One of the women tested here (243), appears to have had rickets and other conditions.  A separate paper is in the works, probably from Barbara Veselka.

Another individual (235) buried in tumulus II was head-less, although a jaw confusingly labelled 230 (a duplicate individual of tumulus I).  After mtDNA testing, it does appear this stray jaw (230 extra) could belong to 235.  Since full genome of 235 could not be obtained, it will remain unproven for now.

A relative of 236 and buried originally next to Jan the Beaker is 242.  This guy was very likely hit by the plow which is important when looking at the anomalies of the other Beaker and EBA individuals.  All of the Oostwould people appear to have been buried fairly shallow:

"We think ploughing continued, and that at some point 242/533 was hit by the plough and torn apart while the ligaments were still intact. This resulted in dispersal of body parts near their original location, but damaged and maybe even trodden into the soil. The chamber around burial 575 must have been filled-up by then, because there is no sign that the plough sank into the chamber;"
"Our conclusion is that skeleton 242/533 originally was located directly near skeleton 575, on top of the plough soil covering the older burial. According to the model the interval of time between the first events prior to the arable layer and the subsequent burials is between 5 and 181 years (at 95.4% probability). DNA gives us another clue towards dating: skeleton 236 appears to have been a second or third degree relative of 242/533. This means they were probably two or three generations apart: about 30-40 years. skeleton 242 was dated to (most probably) 2193-1941 cal Bc (95.4% probability), skeleton 236 to 2146-1925 cal Bc (table 1). Both were placed close together on top of the arable land covering skeleton 575.
With that, note that 228's arm is strangely located below the feet.  There isn't enough information to determine if the arm was amputated during this individual's life and saved for burial, if it was the cause of death, or if there was a ritual reason to disconnect it sometime after death.  It's noted that the clavicle and scapula are missing, so it may stand to reason that this individual was hit by an ancient plow and some effort was made to rebury the arm, or what was left of it.  The fact that a later supine burial (230) appears to have had its right arm ripped off and dragged (presumably by a plow) would seem to bolster this scenario. 

228 from Fig 40
Harry Folkens mentions this paper "Voorgeschiedenis der Lage Landen" by De Laet and Glasbergen 1959, which I suppose reveals the 'Beakerness' and brachycephally of the Oostwoud remains.  That may be something to look to in the future.

Unfortunately, there's a lot here for a ten paragraph blog, but I may return for a couple items of interest.  For now I'd recommend the paper [here]; it's about forty pages of text and has plenty of graphics.  Finally, something that has interested me...
"What is noteworthy at Oostwoud is the shift from a crouched burial position [Tumulus II] to a supine position stretched on the back [Tumulus I] that is visible between the two mounds."
He [they] goes on to ask why this change from crouched burials in NW Europe happened and why it was irrevocable.  I've yet to find any comprehensive research on European bedding through the ages, but I've wondered if supine burials follow changes in how people sleep.  Did families sleep together like a bunch of hamsters or did they sleep individually?  Were males and females segregated at bedtime as in some rural African societies?  If so, do gendered burials then reflect a kind of modesty of women's burials?  Do elevated beds become necessary in mice and roach infested cereal-producing societies?

 Genetic results and supplements from Olalde are inserted below:

Oostwoud-Tuithoorn (West Frisia, Netherlands)
Contact person: Harry Fokkens

In 1956 and 1957, two burial mounds were excavated at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn, with additional research in 1963, 1966 and 1978 37–39. Both burial mounds were located on a levee or crevasse splay of a large tidal creek system, about 40 km inland. The silt and clay sediments in which the skeletons were embedded provided an excellent context for bone preservation. After approximately 800 BCE the area was submerged until the building of dykes after 1000 CE. There is plenty of settlement evidence in the area from Late Vlaardingen/ Late Corded Ware groups, but few Bell Beaker associated remains. The Oostwoud-Tuithoorn burials are in that sense unique, even though they probably represent a much more extensive but difficult to detect settled landscape. The sequence at this site starts with skeleton 575, dated between 2579–2284 calBCE (3945±55 BP, GrN-6650C). After a few decades, the site was likely converted into arable land. The next stage is the erection of Tumulus II, in which 11 individuals were buried between 2200 and 1900 calBCE: eight male individuals (skeletons 127, 228, 229, 435 233, 235, 236, 239, 242) and three female individuals (skeletons 243, 247 and possibly 436 232)38. Genetic data indicate that skeletons 228, 236 and 242 are second- or third-degree relatives. Several phases of mound extension have become visible through bundles of prehistoric plough marks that surround a circular or oval mound. The arable land underlying and around the burial mound contained many Bell Beaker and pot beakers sherds (Bell Beaker settlement ware). In essence, this dates all skeletons buried in mound II to older than approximately 1900 BCE. The male individuals were all buried on their left side, facing south. The three females were buried on the right side, facing west or north. All individuals were laid down in a crouched position typical for Beaker burials. Apart from occasional flint artefacts no burial gifts were present. In the Early Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1700 BCE probably, at 20 m distance, a second burial mound (Tumulus I) was raised in which two skeletons have been interred, probably in the already existing barrow (skeletons 230 and 231). Both skeletons were buried in a manner typical for the Middle Bronze Age, stretched on their backs. Both are dated between 1880 and 1650 calBCE (3440±40 BP, GrA-17225 and 3450±BP, GrA-17226). The burial mound was surrounded by a circle of 80 cm wide pits with a diameter of approximately 20 m. Probably at the same time a 35 m long alignment of almost identical pits was dug in connection with the older mound (Tumulus II). The stratigraphy of the arable land, the graves and the pit circles and alignments demonstrate that the Oostwoud-Tuithoorn burial mounds constituted a small persistent place, a burial ground that was used intermittently but consistently, probably by several generations of a local group of inhabitants. We successfully analysed nine individuals from this site:
  • I4067/skeleton 127-M1: 1945–1692 calBCE (3500±50 BP, GrA-15602) 
    • [mtdna R1b1]
  • I4068/skeleton 228-M3: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a2a1] (26-35 years)
  • I4069/skeleton 229-M4: 2188–1887 calBCE (3640±50 BP, GrA-6477) 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a1a1] (26-35 years)
  • I4070/skeleton 230 barrow I-M7:1881–1646 calBCE (3440±40 BP, GrA-17225 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a1 + U5a1b1a]
  • I4071/skeleton 231 barrow I-M10: 1883–1665 calBCE (3450±40 BP, GrA-17226) 
    • [H6a1a] (male age 36-49)
  • I4073/skeleton 236-M13: 2196–1903 calBCE (3660±50 BP, GrA-15598) 
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + U5a2b3] (male age 36-49)
  • I4074/skeleton 242-M14: 2278–1914 calBCE (3690±60 BP, GrA-15597)  
    • [R1b1a1a2a1a2 + H] (26-35 years)
  • I4075/skeleton 243-M15: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [H5a1] (female 36-49)
  • I4076/skeleton 247-M18: 2300–1900 BCE 
    • [K1d] (female 26-35)
The skeletons are stored in the provincial depot of the province of Noord-Holland at Castricum. We thank the staff of the depot and archaeologist R. van Eerden, archaeologist of the province of Noord-Holland, for the kind permission to sample the Oostwoud skeletons. Sampling (E. Altena) and first analysis of the skeletal remains (B. Veselka) was made possible by a grant from the Leiden University Fund/Bakels Fund.

Snip from Fig S-1 of Olalde et al, 2017
"Excavations of Late Neolithic arable, burial mounds and a number of well preserved
skeletons at Oostwoud-Tuithoorn: a re-analysis of old data"
Harry Fokkens, Barbara Veselka, Quentin Bourgeois, Iñigo Olalde and David Reich, 2017


Friday, October 13, 2017

Beakers in the Polish Lowlands

Here's a chapter on Bell Beakers of the Polish Lowlands by Czebrezuk and Szmyt entitled "Bell Beakers and Their Role in a Settlement Evolution During the Neolithic-Bronze Interstage of the Polish Lowland"

Field in Kujawy (commons)
I'll summarize a few points covered in the chapter:

In Poland there was a fading of village life from the earliest Neolithic down to the Late Neolithic cultures.  Whereas in the early Neolithic people clustered in farm hamlets and villages, by the Late Neolithic evidence for settlements becomes much more sparse, especially among the Corded Ware.  This trend is considered the result of growing reliance on husbandry over cultivation.

Initially the Beaker mobility pattern is similar to the Corded Ware, but it is for the first time this trend is reversed as Beakers begin settling down and making agricultural improvements.  Beakers of the Polish lowland seem to prefer high elevations on deep, sandy soil overlooking rivers and steams.  Their houses are semi-subterranean, which may additionally have some design influences from Denmark, possibly including Danish TRB.

Keeping that in mind, we should see some Bell Beaker genomes from the Iwno group, which is an increasingly distinct type of Beaker to Greater Poland.  These remains might serve as a proxy for Danish Beakers and they'll likely have some differences from the Malopolskan and Silesian Beakers who appear to derive from the area of the modern Moravia and Bohemia in the Czech Republic.