Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Beaker Year Wrap-up!

2015 is the year the "pots not people" pyrocumulus mushroom-cloud started expanding on the horizon.

Certainly people change over time, but genetic evidence is building that large folk movements are the usual catalyst for major social change.

That creates a lot problems, questions, where-froms and everything else.  Here's a few things I found interesting this year...

Things Beaker people did.

We learned that throughout the entire British Beaker period to the Late Bronze Age, mummification was a normal treatment for the dead.

Disabled Central European Beakers were assisted for long periods of time and received normal treatment in burial.

Beaker women with knives, daggers and male accoutrements in Central Iberia are examined in this paper.

In Central Europe, DNA showed that a Beaker diagnostic male grave was actually a woman, or at least what we interpret to be a warrior's burial.  There may be quite a few of these.

Surprisingly, it appears that a large amount of Beaker gold and copper was panned or fleeced from water, possibly through sluicing systems.  In my own wild ass hypothesization I proposed that chronic mercury poisoning could be from contaminated water supplies as a result of the amalgamation process used in hydraulic mining.

Leading mining was taking place in Western Britain as well.

A few new Beakers emerge

There was Marlborough Man (actually a kid) wearing an awesome amber necklace located near a henge.  A warrior's grave in Scotland near Loch Ness.  The Polish region closest to Belarus has turned up quite a number of Beaker artifacts and human remains.  Most interesting is the recurring, intentionally shattered and half missing pottery at this site.  Seems to have been a common practice around Europe.

I failed to cover the discoveries at Perdigoes this summer.  Partly because I have trouble understanding what it is, but also because it seemed that there might have been a full burial.  But you can see some of what Perdigoes is churning out...

Perdigoes Research Site 2015 [Link]

Monuments and things uncovered or analyzed

The Dartmoor Arc appears to be about as old or older than Stonehenge.  A Sicilian celestial megalithic site is analyzed,  Another logboat keel was discovered in Canterbury in deep mud.

A few favorite posts

The Smithy, Beakers in Hofestede' Paradigm, Corded Cultures deep genetic links, The Brachycephalic Problematic, Sailboats and Solarboats, How ceramic pottery came to the West.

Animal DNA

A few things about domestic pigs, and bees, and cattle,

People DNA

Of course this was the Mittle-Saale burials from the Haak paper and Bavarian and Czech burials from the Allentoft paper.  We now have the Ratlin burials, two Vučedol period men, basically a night and day situation.

We've learned that Beakers were indeed an ethnicity with a genetic profile that extends across Europe.      

Next up, 2016 and expectations for the year ahead.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rathlin Burials (Cassidy et al, 2015)

For all intents and purposes, a 'Bronze Age Food Vessel burial' on either side of the Irish Sea is essentially a Beaker burial*.  So now with this new paper on the first ancient genomes of Ireland we have three more Beaker men to throw on the pile of diagnostic Beaker men, of whom are to this point uniformly R1b, in stark constrast to the previous ages (still not proven at this point).

If you want to know a little more about these men, check out some of the material from Brian Sloan from Queens College [here].  I'm not a hundred percent sure these are the exact men that were tested, but I believe these three men are from the glebe-land of the local parish.  This guy below might be one of them.  Also, Sloan's page [here]

A Rathlin Food Vessel Burial (Sloan, 2006)
In any case, if you read this blog then you're probably are reading the blogs in the sidebar, so I won't rehash those discussions (but I'd stay tuned in since this is one of a number of papers that will be looking at the Atlantic Neolithic, the Isles in particular)

Much of Ireland and half of Britain was underneath a large ice cube during most of the Paleolithic, receding slowly to oak stands and natural clearings.  Aside from fishing, the number and size of mammals in the Isles is and was very limited and this in turn limited population strength and density of the hunters.

That changed when the baby machine of the Neolithic invited itself into the Isles.  This interaction really is best understood using fourth grade math.  The farmers could generate food, certainly babies and live in larger, protected communities.

The important thing about the farmer food machine is that labor is proportional to food production. It's an economy of scale.  More babies = more food.  Each new worker reduces the individual burden of security, management or harvesting, thus freeing up more time to do other things (like making babies) or building things.  This is kind of a backwards to the Mesolithic economic person/food ratio. Numerically, farmers dominated Ireland.

Finally, the amphibious Bell Beaker phenomenon runs up nearly every beach of the Isles.  The old cultures don't die out either; rather, they seem to be grafted into larger social systems with Beaker culture being the dominant force leading to the regular Bronze Age.  The food vessel tradition is a good example of two cultures fusing.

See also [Eurogenes], [Dienekes], [Razib], and [Dispatches]

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice 4:49 GMT

Funny that I'd check solstice time against my local time, and because I have impeccable timing it so happens to be that exact moment.  Score again.

It's the time of year for weirdos with tambourines to be pissing on and carving their names into ancient megaliths.  In fairness, it's probably true to purpose anyway.

Anyhow, the Telegraph UK has a quick trivia guide to solstice day [here].

Speaking of which, if you scroll down in the Telegraph article, there is indeed a weirdo with a tambourine!  Score yet again!

Similarity Matrix and mtdna Math (Revesz, 2015)

The conclusions here aren't really new, just another way to get there.

Everyone understands the data is fragmentary and their is bias in the selection of diagnostic remains.  No real surprises, but here its quantified in a way that's a little more stark.

A Computational Model of the Spread of Ancient Human Populations Based on Mitochondrial DNA Samples, Peter Z. Revesz (2015)

Chronology, Innovation and Memory (Müller, Hinz, Ullrich 2015)

Let me condense this down to a sentence:

Within the Rhine-Main-Neckar regional group of the Bell Beakers, it is rigorously demonstrated that there is a stylistic cycle, periods of variation followed by a more conservative periods.

This may seem a little dense or not that interesting, but hang with me for a moment...

Here, Beaker pottery seems to have an ebb and flow pattern in stylistic variation:
"What triggered BB communities to develop pottery styles in such a cyclic rhythm, which involved the creation of innovative styles..."
"We suggest that the construction and creation of new design systems and their function for individuals and societies is influenced by the nature of memory, in particular social memory in non-literate societies. (Forty and Kuchler 1999)"

If I understand the conclusions of Muller, Hinz and Ullrich correctly, they seem to rightly point to social memory and cyclical nature of human society.  They go further and reference what practical, realistic social memory means in a non-literate society.  From this, they seem to suggest that linear, cultural transmission becomes jumbled past a certain number of generations and this is the cause of the punctuated periods of variation in Rhine-Main-Nectar pottery.
"In a recent study, Whittle came up with 100-200 years duration for memory transmission in non-literate societies (Whittle et al. 2011, 911-914) as some type of real social memory in contrast to 'mythical time'."
"To sum up, approximately 4-8 generations of more or less unchanged memory transmission seem to guarantee the prerequisites for the transmission of ideological basics within an unaltered societal background."
I take a slightly different view on what this means for the Beaker society.  Rather than social chaos and the limits of faithful cultural transmission, I would interpret this as a normal ebb and flow of any society, literate or illiterate. 

It's a difficult case to make that durable materials are subject to the limits of social memory when they are in fact, durable.  This means that he who makes a spear point different from his father does so, knowingly.  (because he is a bratty teenager that doesn't want to listen)

So how does this apply to a modern person? 

In the English-speaking world, given names are cyclical on a 100 year to 150 year basis.  It makes sense that younger generations want their own stylistic expression and identity, but also borrow from and pay homage to their family and heritage.  After a while, old-fashioned names loose their oldness and become sexy and attractive once again.  Some names, like some pottery design features, will be more enduring because of a religious nature.

If you are to believe the Strauss-Howe Generational Cycle of American history (the structure of which is not unique to America), then we have completed the third turning, or unraveling phase, in which institutions have been deeply distrusted (the media, the government, the church) and have now splashed into the fourth turning of crisis and survival, a period of increasing nationalism that may climax in a decade or two.  Then the first turning begins.

Everything is cyclical.  Hope to see more from this book soon...

Taken from this from this book [The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe.  Prieto-Martinez, Salanova 2015]

The full article can been seen [here]

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Linguistic Roots of Europe (Mailhammer, Venemen, Nierfeld, Olsen, 2015)

Here's a short preview of an interesting compendium.  The first two articles can be previewed for free:

Link to the book [here]

Archaeologist Marc Vander Linden's article, "An Impossible Dialog", looks at the interface between archaeology and linguistics within the scope of the Indo-European question.  He juxtaposes two radical views, the archaeology-centric position of Colin Renfrew and a more linguistic-centric position of Marija Gimbutas.   Both theories have flaws and he shows why, in Renfew's case, the dismissive approach to linguistics was a major liability for his Anatolian theory.

Vander Linden suggests comparative philology is the bridge between the two as he sees embedding relicts of an older cultural system, sometimes archaeologically visible.  I'd add that comparative mythology could be bolted on to this as well.  I think there is mountain of physical material to reconstruct Bell Beaker religion and that can tell us more about their origins, social structures, world view, etc.

Robert Mailhammer examines linguistic diversity of Europe before the emergence of Indo-Euorpean, specifically he looks at the old European hydronymy, plausibly pre-European.  

Mailhammer is concerned with two questions in which he models after Australian languages. 
1)  Linguistic diversity in pre-IE Europe to which is sees a more uniform linguistic landscape
2)  Nature of those pre-IE languages in which Basque may provide a loose proxy.

Some discussion is given to Proto-Uralic in the Eastern European Sub-Neolithic.  (Previously, I've commented on a genetic/cultural shift ultimately stemming from the Baikal region [here].  Also, Proto-Uralic's closest genetic relative may be from the Yukaghir language; so it also makes sense that the Pit-Comb ware of the Karelia folks would be similar to that of this same location.)  Petri Kallio continues in the next chapter with the earliest languages in Northeastern Euorpe, making it clear that Uralic pre-dates any IE language.  Unfortunately, that's the preview. Hopefully we'll see more soon.

The Linguistic Roots of Euorpe (2015) Museum Tusculanum Press

LMU-Symposium im Jahr der Geisteswissenschaften am 03. Dezember 2007 [here]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Twilight of Enclosures (Valera, 2015)

This is from a group of papers from a German conference about what you might call the Copper Age collapse, explosion, whatever.  None endorse any theory, but rather discuss changes taking place around Europe at this time.

Antonio Valera lays out this narrative in a way that is a little more understandable than I've seen previously.  The period in question for simplicity's sake nominally begins sometime at the end of the Middle Neolithic in which a great acceleration in economic complexity, social inequality, and monumentalism begin in the region.

This process peaks in the Chalcolithic with some of Europe's first stone fortresses and intense, long-distance trade, but then it is rather abruptly followed by a strange period of monumental silence.  Since this paper is still not yet available, I'll condense to what I think is the most important take-aways below.

Outeiro Alto Sinuous Ditched Enclosure
Across Portugal, but especially in the Alentejo region (the southern third of the country), there is a great concentration of ditched enclosures that become increasingly large and complex.  From the earliest Neolithic they are thought to have been originally foundations for celestially aligned palisades as you would find across Central Europe, but the purpose of these ditches become less clear as enclosures become larger and more numerous, especially when the ditches are quickly infilled with little evidence of timber posts.

As the ditched enclosures become larger they are at some point joined by walled enclosures [here1]
[here2] in the 3rd millennium.  These stone forts are perched on high terrain and have every strategic indication of fortification, both having defensive features and favorable terrain but also a considerable amount of projection on the landscape.  (The builders of these forts were not Beakers or not yet Beakers.)  (Again me: another interesting relationship between the walled enclosures and the large, ditched enclosures of Alentejo, appears to be the fact that copper used in the large forts like Zambujal appear to have come from the Alentejo region)  ((more wild ass speculation))

Things begin changing around the time in which Bell Beaker culture emerges, although it is not clear that it is Bell Beaker that is the reason for these changes.  (It's possible societal collapse preceded the Beaker phenomenon)  Up to this point as Valera describes, much of the structures in the landscape are positive in nature... large monumental structures for burial, for living, for defense, all large, all imposing on the landscape.  You may expect this type of behavior from people continually establishing their entitlement to the land in which they live.

They had many iconographic displays of people, creatures and plants, sometimes in a more schematic format, but other times more naturalistic.  However this society, as understood, comes to an end.  As the monuments fall into disrepair, no others will be built.  The positive tombs and forts in the landscape are replaced by negative structures.. pit graves, cairns, hypogea.  Sometimes a megalith is re-used as a grave for a Beaker person, and even less so is a fort or ditched enclosure maintained for a while, but nothing new is built, and for the most part these great fortresses collapse.  Hillbilly Bell Beakers build huts on the ruins and throw their beer cans in the front yard.  (your's truly)

It is during this period that Valera describes as being almost iconoclastic, rejecting the naturalism and iconography of the megalithic-chalcolithic tradition for a more subtle geometric art, but a continued taste for loud, gaudy materialism.

Why all the ditches?

The purpose of a desert kite is so simple it's stupid.  It could be ditches and cross ditches just keep retarded goats from climbing fences.  Ditches are still to this day one of the simplest and most effective defensive obstacles.  But if these were the case then why did it stop?

"Social change in the late 3rd millennium BC in Portugal: the twilight of enclosures" Valera, Antonio (published 2015)  "2200 BC - A climatic breakdown as a cause for the collapse of the old world?"  Landesamt fur Denkmalpflege und Archaeologie Sachsen-Anhalt:  Mitteldeutscher Archaologentag. 

Beaker Beer

Been doing some brewing the last few weeks.  I broke down and did the last two beers with malt extracts, but still have a lot malted barely to go.

This is some of about sixty pounds I malted last year.  Some of it was over-malted because I wasn't turning it enough, but most of it came out pretty decent. 

I think I have some basic malts down.  My crystal malt is crystalline, pale is pale and I have some darker malts that are close.
I'll never use this method again.  Rather than using a mash tun, I tried this ridiculous idea using liter jars to control the mash temperature.  Instead of doing this once, I did this three different times.  I guess the first time didn't suck enough.  Good grief.  Now I'm looking at building a real-deal mash tun, one where I don't have to work and where I can get some re-circulation and good sparge.
Rather than use a conventional wort chiller, I made this jockey box(?) type of thing on a recommendation.  So basically 5 gallons of wort goes from 200F to around 60F in just a few minutes and all I have to do is open the valve on the kettle.
And below, I'm done bottling except for maybe small experimental beers.   Everything else goes in a keg.

Finally, I noticed the juniper trees where I live are full of ripe berries of the semi-edible sort.  I plan on filling a bag or freeze drying some to try do some old world gruit beer or many Finnish sahti later in the year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Corded Ware Cultures Actually Related? (Semenov, Bulat, 2015)

Previously I hypothesized that ceramic pottery technology was part of a package brought by immigrants from the Baikal region sometime before the end of the PPNB and that these people, to the West at least, were members of the R1 paragroup (also Q).

This paper discusses a possible genetic relationship and deep ancestry of the Corded Ware cultures. 

Corded-style pottery can also be found in the Americas and South Asia, which sounds nuts that they would be somehow related but makes total sense since we are dealing with Holocene depopulation of the Trans-Baikal area at about the same time.  Semenov and Bulat make a case for the Americas, however there's several paths that I see that can get us there.

It's unlikely IMO, that R1a or Q had any significant input into Japan before the Kofun Period (as the authors suggest for the cording style around 3k B.C.  Also high quality Jomon pottery at that point was already around 7,000 years old or more.  But it's also possible there was insignificant communication or gene-flow between the continent and Japan at that early time and maybe that explains some of the stylization.  They make this latter case.

I suspect another interesting story beyond the scope of this paper will be the changes that were happening in the Euphrates and Zargos region around the same time (R1b largely IMO).  It's pretty clear to some that the ethnic composition and social structure changed, not evolved, around this time in certain communities.  I can't comment more, however I put it out there for discussion, argument, kindling, whatever.

Again, 'Desert Island Gold Watch'.

Possible North-Eastern Connections of the R1a1-populations of Corded Ware Culture According to the Archaeologic and Paleogenetic Data, Alexander S. Semeno, Vladimir V. Bulat   Russian Journal of Biological Research, 2015, Vol. (5), Is. 3 [Link]

Our new work considers the problems of paleogenetics, archeology and antropology connected with origins of Corded Ware culture and early migration of Y-DNA R1 carriers. This work considers the Second Corded Ware Center on the Far East and Yakutia and its connection with the Eastern European one. Authors examine the hypothesis that the two Corded Ware cultures have the common source.
Keywords: R1a1, Mesolithic, Yuzni Oleni Ostrov, paleogenetics, paleolinguistics, subclades, Yakutia, Na-Dene.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Unetice Isotopes (Knipper et al, 2015) *Update*

Unetice had at one time been viewed as a chronological development of the Early Bronze Age, basically evolving out of some tentacle or bastard child of the Bell Beaker movement.  However, in a [recent post], Stockhammer et al showed that Unetice stuff is earlier, advanced and alien to its western reaches, which somewhat jives IMO with the 'so-far' DNA (100% I2 Y-dna of elite burials, as opposed to Bell Beaker 100% R1b of diagnostic burials)

I believe Eurogenes has the several genomes somewhere midway between Beakers and Corded folks, which also makes sense if a small number of elites had originally come from Slovenia or thereabouts.  I think sensing this for a while, the authors of this paper are trying to pick through certain grave diagnostic categories and identify immigrant groups.

Unetice Pit Grave [University of Wroclaw]


Now having read it (thanks to Davidski, see link in comments section) I can condense this, although it is a fairly readable and short paper.

The majority of Unetice graves are single, crouched burials in a cemetery.  The deviant graves are sometimes two or several people piled in a grave.  Archaeologists have debated and seek to better understand why some people were grouped in settlement pits.  Are they foreigners, slaves, people who are in someway rejected.  Or possibly, did ordinary Uneticians sometimes prefer these types of burial arrangements?

Fig. 4. Images of the investigated human skeletal remains in situ. A): Karsdorf, Feature 3835; B): Esperstedt, Feature 6128;
C): Esperstedt, Feature 6130; D): Pl€otzkau, Feature 31; E): Pl€otzkau, Feature 30; F): Pl€otzkau, Feature 28; G): Leau, Feature 3001; H): R€ocken, Feature 370; I): R€ocken, Feature 163; J): Serbitz, Clipping of Feature 142 (Photographs: LDA Sachsen-Anhalt and LFA Sachsen). [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at]
The results seem to indicate that the people buried in settlement pits had a similar diet as the majority, there also being no evidence of violence against them.  From the paper:
There is no indication that being of non-local origin was a major reason for being entombed deviating from the majority of the contemporaneous population.
There is no indication that the inhumations in settlement pits represent a distinct part of the Early Bronze Age society, which stood out by a higher or lower percentage
of nonlocal individuals or contrasting dietary habits including the consumption of larger or smaller shares of animal-derived food or aquatic resources in comparison to normative single burials
In fact, almost all individuals regardless of location or burial seem to be locally born and bred.  Since few of the individuals in this study had the diagnostics of elite Unetice burials, that might be expected. 

The Unetice story may develop into a scale comparable to the Norman caste of England.  By and large, the overwhelming majority of the population is essentially Saxon-Celtic, but a tiny group of sophisticates dominate trade and religion for several hundred years.

Knipper, C., Fragata, M., Nicklisch, N., Siebert, A., Szécsényi-Nagy, A., Hubensack, V., Metzner-Nebelsick, C., Meller, H. and Alt, K. W. (2015), A distinct section of the early bronze age society? Stable isotope investigations of burials in settlement pits and multiple inhumations of the Únětice culture in central germany. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22892 [Link]



Inhumations in so-called settlement pits and multiple interments are subordinate burial practices of the Early Bronze Age Únětice culture in central Germany (2200–1700/1650 BC). The majority of the Únětice population was entombed as single inhumations in rectangular grave pits with a normative position of the body. The goal of the study was to test archaeological hypotheses that the deviant burials may represent socially distinct or nonlocal individuals.

Materials and Methods

The study comprised up to two teeth and one bone each of 74 human individuals from eight sites and faunal comparative samples. The inhumations included regular, deviant burials in so-called settlement or storage pits, and multiple burials. We investigated radiogenic strontium isotope compositions of tooth enamel (87Sr/86Sr) and light stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen of bone collagen (δ13C, δ15N) aiming at the disclosure of residential changes and dietary patterns.


Site-specific strontium isotope data ranges mirror different geological properties including calcareous bedrock, loess, and glacial till. Independent from burial types, they disclose low portions of nonlocal individuals of up to some 20% at the individual sites. The light stable isotope ratios of burials in settlement pits and rectangular graves overlap widely and indicate highly similar dietary habits.


The analytical results let to conclude that inhumations in settlement pits and multiple burials were two of the manifold burial practices of the Early Bronze Age. The selection criteria of the individuals for the different forms of inhumation remained undisclosed. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Long Distance Trade from El Portalon (Alday et al, 2015)

Figure S11. Different views of the button shaped like a spindle with a transversal perforation represented in Figure 7(f). It is
similar in shape to the V-perforated tortoiseshell buttons found in some other sites from French Atlantic facade and Northern
Iberian Meseta. Made out of bone. Scale is 1 cm.

This paper covers really two chunks of the history of Portalon; the Early Neolithic and a later period containing Beaker associated materials, these time frames being when materials are sufficiently available.  The materials are laid out on a regional scale by item showing that this place was far from isolated.

It's probably worth keeping this in mind as genetic studies progress.  You'll remember that there is now an individual from Portlon from the LN that is R1b and this is less than 100 miles (as the crow flies) from a similar pastoralist of El Torcs from the EN.

From the paper:
At this time in Europe the sociocultural context encourages supra-regional relationships (the Bell Beaker culture is a good example), and the great value of the metals and the need to locate outcrops are another incentives. Furthermore, it is highly suggestive to relate these cultural dynamics to the latest hypotheses derived from genetic studies, which highlight the importance of post-Neolithic demographic processes and the current characterization of the gene pool of recent Europeans (Brandt et al., 2013; Kind, 2010; Ricaut et al., 2012). In this situation, where local and foreign products are mixed (as is the case of El Portalón), it is difficult to recognize whether the ideas, objects or persons (or a combination of the three) are involved. And we should alsoremember the complexity of the funerary world at this time (reusing dolmens, building burial mounds, digging graves and using caves). The complexity of these rituals and the richness and variety of grave goods help us to understand the awl made from a human bone founded at El Portalón, a symbolic element in a time of great social development.

Figure S9. Prismatic V-perforated buttons from El Portalón; (a) and (b) also represented in Figure 7(a) and Figure 7(b) respectively.  Scale is 5 cm. (a) ATP 01-10; (b) ATP 01- 11; (c) CM 5380; (d) ATP 07-10; (e) ATP 07-11.
Alday, A. et al. (2015). Proofs of Long-Distance Relations between Central Europe and Inland Iberian Peninsula during Neolithic and Bronze Age. Evidences from the Material Culture of the Site of El Portalón (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). Advances in Anthropology, 5, 294-323.

El Portalón of Cueva Mayor is one of the present-day entrances to the Cueva Mayor-Cueva del Silo karst system located in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). It is an important archaeological site with extended Holocene occupation which has been subjected to a number of excavations since the nineteen seventies. From its significant collection of bone and antler industry, for this work, we have chosen artefacts indicating local production and others evidencing contact between this part of the Iberian Peninsula and other areas of the Mediterranean Basin. Wishing to emphasise this symbiotic relationship, we have likewise presented a special collection of Neolithic Boquique
pottery. The data confirm that, far from being occasional, the relationship of the groups
living in the area around the Atapuerca Mountains continues unbroken for several cultural episodes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Impaired Beakers from Cemetery in Kolín (Brzobohatá, Šumberová, Likovský, 2015)

This is a paper that appeared in Archeologické rozhledy. The scientists look at three Beakers who required long-term care by others. They are an archer, another probable man and a woman with a congenital deformity.

Several months ago there was a paper about a child with Downs Syndrome from an early French burial of the Medieval period. His burial was no different from any of the others and obviously he had been taken care of, and at least in death, was considered a full participant in society.

Different societies treat the lame, crippled, sick and incompetent in different ways. While they may be cared for, maybe they are rejected by society or their treatment in death requires they be buried in a separate location. Disabled Beakers at Kolín appear to have had the same treatment as others.

Fig. 5. Kolín, section II-3, F. 4073, detail of the right hand with the finger ring (Bison bone?).

(4071*) This man was buried with archery equipment and pottery. It's interesting that he'd be buried with a bow since the authors exclude the possibility that he would have been able to shoot it given his physical state.

This individual was a man, about 20-39 years old according to the teeth, or 30-50 based on the pubic bones, had permanent damage as a result of at least two separate incidents. One was a serious fracture to his right arm, an oblique fracture of the right ulna through the radial notch (I'm curious if this individual was weak-sided or left-handed shooter as I've considered this type of injury as a shock injury to a bowman's shooting arm?) If that didn't set him back, he also had another injury that hobbled him for a length of time.

(4073*) This individual, the young 18-20, flat-headed (uncertain gender) seen above, appears to have been the victim of tuberculosis. It's more probable that this individual was a young man and that the left half of his body was severely stunted during development by TB, making gender identification impossible without DNA (hint). In any case there was thinning of the long bones and general weakness. Given the deformation of the hip, this person would have been required help moving.

(4104*) This was a younger woman (20-30) buried with pottery. It appears she has a congenital abnormality of the left hip, leg and part of the spine. She would have been immobile and would have required care her entire life.

(4211) A non-disabled person, but an interesting grave nonetheless. Pottery and apparently, had a horse and stag sacrificed as a grave offering if I understand correctly. (?) (This has been previously suggested an indicator of a Diana-like cult for a similar EBA grave in Ireland. (?)

Discussion follows with the authors citing other examples from other studies, a few from the Morvian region. Clearly these three individuals were non-productive members of society, yet they enjoyed the full status and identity of the community, each having the diagnostic materials of other members of society.

0447842 - ARU-G 2016 RIV CZ cze J - Článek v odborném periodiku
Brzobohatá, Hana - Šumberová, Radka - Likovský, JakubPohřby jedinců s postižením pohybového aparátu na pohřebišti kultury zvoncovitých pohárů v Kolíně, střední Čechy. [Burials of mobility impaired individuals from the Bell Beaker culture cemetery in Kolín, central Bohemia.]

Archeologické rozhledy. Roč. 67, č. 2 (2015), s. 193-212. ISSN 0323-1267

Grant CEP: GA MK(CZ) DF12P01OVV032

Klíčová slova: Eneolithic * trochanteritis * Bell Beaker culture * paleopathology * congenital hip dislocation * ulnar fracture * spatial structure of cemetery Kód oboru RIV: AC - Archeologie, antropologie, etnologie

Antropologická analýza kosterního materiálu z hrobů kultury zvoncovitých pohárů (KZP) odkrytých při záchranném výzkumu silničního obchvatu Kolína (2008-2010) poukázala na koncentraci paleopatologických nálezů na ploše II-3. V příspěvku je popis patologických změn doplněn o spektrum jejich funkčních důsledků a případných limitací určitých aktivit. Příčiny vzniku a rozsah chorobných změn pohybového aparátu se u studovaných jedinců různí (trauma, specifický zánět a vrozená vývojová vada), u všech tří se ale nepochybně jedná o postižení dlouhodobé či (v jednom případě) celoživotní.

Anthropological analysis of skeletal remains from the Eneolithic Bell Beaker culture site of Kolín uncovered during a rescue excavations in 2008-2010 revealed a concentration of paleopathological finds in the section labelled II-3. We present three case studies, descriptions of pathologies manifested in bones and its diagnoses are completed with likely functional impacts and activity limitations. Although the impairments described in the study differ in its severity and etiology (trauma, specific inflammation and congenital anomaly), all of them show evidences of long-term (or lifelong) living with the impairment.

Trvalý link: [Link to the paper]

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beakers for Dummies (Lemercier) *Update*

Thanks to Oliver Lemercier for uploading this to youtube.  This was on the flier from two weeks ago.

Update 12/1/2015

Oliver Lemercier graciously offered the speaker's notes [here]. < ok, should be visible now.

I'll give a brief summary in English, paraphrasing everything (I believe correctly).  Remember you can cut and paste the document into the Google Translate engine.

What I've done here is summarize by slide.   I've also added time hacks to the speaker's notes if you want to do a side by side.

Slide 1:  Intro
Slide 2   (0:17)  Quest to completely immerse himself in knowledge of the total phenomenon
Slide 3   (1:17)  Prophetic words of Jacques-Pierre and André Millotte Thevenin 'If you want to understand the Beaker phenomenon, be prepared to write the history's history'
Slide 4   (1:47)  Spanning 275 years, of the thousands of references and hundreds of authors Lemercier has read concerning the Beaker phenomenon, he believes much more is out there.  Many publications are now coming to light, being digitized and translated from the many languages of Europe.
Slide 5   (4:18)  Highlights of Beaker historiography:
Slide 6   (4:36)  Beaker slowly comes to light.  Williams Stuckeley, Richard Colt Hoare, Oscar Montelius
Slide 7   (6:17)  Abercromby's "Bell Beakers", a race of invaders from Europe, then Iberia
Slide 8   (6:50)  Every region of Europe has at one time been considered the source
Slide 9   (7:01)  For fifty years, Iberia dominates, Gimpera, Schmidt, Jaroslav, Palliardi, Evans, Childe
Slide 10 (8:05)  Merchants, Warriors, Prospectors?  Iberia questioned, more questions about the relationship of Corded Ware leading to the sixties.
Slide 11 (9:55)  Sangmeister's "Ruckstrom" reconciles Iberia and Holland.  The archaeological community is split from the 60's.  The English speaking world rejects migration and culture for material causes "Functionality".
Slide 12 (11:09)  Big data transforms Beakerology in the 1970's.  "Functionalist" views dominate "Ethnic" views of Beaker in the archaeological community
Slide 13 (12:38)  The Dutch Model dominates from 1976 and twenty years thereafter.  It sees and origin in the Dutch Corded Ware.
Slide 14 (12:50)  Jean Guilaine further updates beaker typologies
Slide 15 (13:20)  Christian Strahm is one of the more important authors in Lemercier's opinion, effectively separating the early Beaker from later divergences.  At the same time, Harry Folkens looking at the regional data in the Netherlands further questions the dominance of the Dutch model
Slide 16 (13:56)  Muller and van Willigen show a clear dating cline from SW Europe to NE Europe
Slide 17 (14:16)  Laure Salanova introduces a 'standard Beaker' of the Atlantic and to the current period there is division amongst all archaeologist, mainly between the Portuguese and Dutch proponents.
Slide 18 (15:07)  The Functionalist school is still alive and well, however there is growing acknowledgement of movement and genetic population turnover among archaeologists.
Slide 19 (16:27)  Having an open mind to these questions and having studied them very well, Lemercier has arrived at some conclusions:
Slide 20 (17:06) 1.  Bell Beaker is not geographically or chronologically homogeneous.  There is an initial Beaker phenomenon, a period of substrate integration, and finally the beginning of the EBA.
Slide 21 (17:48)  2. Beaker does not replace older cultures in the initial phase, the older cultures generally continuing to contribute to the regional Bronze Age.
Slide 22 (18:15)  3.  Beaker, in the first phase, is generally a regional phenomenon, according to the area's substrate.
Slide 23 (19:02)  4.  Again, in the first phase, the 'Beaker package' is really regionally dependent.
Slide 24 (19:26)  5.  The Beaker package varies everywhere, but probably indicate important people.
Slide 25 (19:47)  6.  A codified burial rite is everywhere, maybe more such as cremation.  Collective burials are everywhere too
Slide 26 (20:16)  7.  The Beaker culture and drinking equipment appears to have its origin in Eastern Europe according to current understanding.  However, it's from the West.
Slide 27 (20:58)  8.  Beaker drinking equipment has influences from everywhere.  What influences are more important than others? 
Slide 28 (21:55)  9.  The oldest Atlantic beakers are Maritime.
Slide 29 (22:16)  10.  Mobility, migration may explain much of this, but not all of it.
Slide 30 (22:36)  11.  Many elements point to a spread South to North, West to East.  But later this becomes multi-polar exchange.  Sangmeister's "Ruckstrom", regarded as too complex originally, in later times now seems much too simple.  Alain Gallay is researching these complex networks now.
Slide 31 (23:27)  12.  Some social dimensions are observable from funerary arrangements.  It is a warrior culture.  Some ideological dimensions are easier to understand such as the drinking equipment.
Slide 32 (23:57)  13.  The Beaker phenomenon could be the result of West Iberian civilization incorporating an ideology of Eastern origin.
Slide 33 (24:09)  Lemercier makes an important case that the core archaeological sciences should not be neglected in favor of big data sciences like genetics, isotopes, etc.  He says that basic archaeological studies are still too few and there remains too many questions that risk not being developed or funded. 
Slide 34 (24:56)  Lemercier speaks of his 'Greek Colonial Model' of Mediterranean France which has been well received.
Slide 35 (25:20)  The real enigma of the Beaker Culture is not the Beakers themselves, but the limits of archaeological science given such a narrow period so distant in the past and without a historical record.
Slide 36 (26:28)  End.

Upcoming Paper on Beaker Archery...

Here's one of two theses that I'm looking forward to seeing in the near future.  This one looks to be undergoing a review at the University of Geneva.  It is authored by Master's candidate Jessica Ryan.

Boar's Tusk Pendant (Left) Meare Heath Bow (Right)

Musculoskeletal Stress Markers as Indicators of Physical Activities: A Case Study for Archery in Bell-Beaker Burials

The Bell-Beaker culture is one of the most distinguished cultures from the Final Neolithic period in Europe and North Africa due to its unique material culture, diffusion throughout Europe, and funerary processes. During this time, certain inhumations begin to contain a distinctive type of stone wrist guard. These stone wrist guards are currently interpreted as a piece of protective equipment used by archers, however their fabrication in stone and lack of evidence of usage raises the question of their practicality. Were they used in the everyday lives of warriors or were they symbolic? If these wrist guards were, in fact, symbolic, that indicates a higher importance placed on archery during this time. This study aims to answer the question of whether or not the individuals inhumed with such objects were archers themselves, an answer that could influence the symbolic interpretation of these Bell-Beaker wrist guards. This study examines archaeological archery contexts throughout the Final Neolithic Period and then applies those interpretations to individuals buried with traditional archery equipment, mainly stone wrist guards, but also artifacts associated with archery such as arrowheads and bow-shaped pendants. Secondly, the anthropological aim is to create a methodology using modern medical reports, human biomechanics, and analyses of enthesial changes and musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) in order to identify the probability that a certain individual was a specialized archer based on the presence of likely Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI). This method is applied to a control group of individuals from the 16th century coming from a known context with specialized archers, which then allows this method to be applied to a group of Bell-Beaker individuals from numerous Bohemian burials. Advancements in the study of RSIs and MSMs can better solidify the existing hypotheses pertaining to the daily activities of various individuals and cultural groups from a very important and innovative time in human history as well as contribute to the current understanding and processes of comparative human osteology. A better understanding of these individuals enhances the overall comprehension of the possible symbolic meaning the stone wrist guards particular to the Bell-Beaker culture.

If you look closely at the bow-shaped pendants, you'll notice that they have what looks like banding which would indicate the use of bows like the Meare Heath Bow, roughly contemporary with the Beaker phenomenon.  The reconstruction of that bow is roughly 90lbs draw weight, so if this was a common draw weight for an average man of that time, then there should be plenty of injuries.

In old European mythology, the moon goddess was associated with archery and boars, presumably due to the crescent-shape of the tusks.  It's possible that archers wore these amulets as protection from shock injuries, tendonitis or arthritis.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mount Holy Cow! (Huet & Bianchi, 2015)

The name of the French mountain, Mont Bégo, is thought to mean 'divine cow' in Indo-European.  This study looks at the large number of petroglyphs at Bego and tries to categorize them by age and interpret the importance of their distribution.

Lac inf. de Peyrefique, Mont Bego à l'horizo, Giovanni Prunotto

In the middle of the graphic below is a flat-faced, triangular rock, Roche de l'Autel (Rock of the Alter), that looks kind of like a dagger and it has a bunch of daggers and cow heads etched on it.  The overwhelming majority of glyphs on the mountain are cows (80%) and other horned figures.  Daggers and halberds make another 7%.

The mountain was apparently a holy place to Ligurians, although almost no petroglyphs are from the Iron Age, which may be due to the fact that the area was popsicles at this altitude at that time.  The first engravings appear in the Early Neolithic, probably by Cardial folk, then peter out in the Bronze Age.

Fig. 7.
Central East part of Vallée des Merveilles with Roche de l'Autel. View from the Lac des Conques plateau.
What's interesting is that the dagger types change through the periods, and that's basically how everything is able to be dated along with axes and halberds.  So different people over a long period of time are drawing daggers on stuff.  Even the lake, Merveilles, looks like dagger.  More >Rupestre

I wonder what's under the gravel or in the lake.  Daggers?  Cow bones?

A study of the Roche de l'Autel's pecked engravings, Les Merveilles sector, Mont Bego area (Alpes-Maritimes, France)

  • a Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis, CEPAM-CNRS single bond UMR 7264, France
  • b Université de Perpignan Via Domitia, MEDI-TERRA single bond EA 4605, France
Surfaces suitable for rock art at the base of Mont Bego, in the south-western Alps, gave rise to one of the most important concentrations of rock art in Western Europe. The open-air rock art site features some 20,000 figurative engravings pecked on 4200 rocks. The Merveilles sector was in use since the Early Neolithic, and perhaps even earlier, with the beginning of Holocene.
At the site scale, geostatistical analyses have permitted to identify geographical variables, or variables intrinsic to the rock, correlated to high concentrations of engravings. Cross checking of these results and study of superimpositions have permitted to build a provisional periodization frame for most common engraved themes.
To test the relevance of this chronological frame, we transpose some analyses conducted at the site scale to the rock scale; for the Roche de l'Autel, the highest concentration of engravings and dagger representations of the site. The rock lies in the central part of the Vallée des Merveilles, near important pastoral paths and at a gateway of the engraved area. While its location can partly explain these concentrations, the main reason may be found in the rock's triangular shape. In Western Europe, during the last part of Neolithic, triangular shapes seem to become the iconic reference for daggers.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Territorialité, transferts, interculturalités dans les contextes de la diffusion du Campaniforme en Europe [Besse]

This is a short summary of the Beaker phenomenon by Marie Besse in 2014, published in 2015.  It's only eleven pages but you'll need to translate into English.

She outlines some of the basic problems and interpretations.   Lauri Salanova, Jocelyne Desideri and Oliver Lermercier are mentioned with what appears to be approval of the notion that there were two formative phases of Beakers, an initial group and a mature hybrid group.

Some attention is given to the presence of gypsum inlay paste in the funerary pottery in certain zones.  Of course, bone paste appears more common throughout, although limestone appears in other areas.

One thing that interesting about gypsum, is gypsum veins often occur in ancient soils with high amounts of iron oxide (red).  You can see this is the graphic above or you may google an see this in various aspects.  It's interesting that funerary pottery would be so distinguished maybe as representing the underworld?  (where might we find geologies such as this?)


It seems beaker pottery is laden with metaphoric meanings, the underworld, rebirth, identity, so forth.

Territorialité, transferts, interculturalités dans les contextes de la diffusion du Campaniforme en Europe.  Marie Besse

Les systèmes de mobilité de la Préhistoire au Moyen Âge XXXVe rencontres internationales d’archéologie et d’histoire d’Antibes Sous la direction de N. Naudinot, L. Meignen, D. Binder, G. Querré Éditions APDCA, Antibes, 2015  [Link]

The end of the Neolithic era in Occidental Europe and Northern Africa is characterised
by the presence of a very homogeneous ceramic type – the bell beaker. As determining
elements of the Bell Beaker culture, these beakers in the shape of inversed bells (hence
the name), decorated with geometric patterns, are found in well-defined natural and
cultural contexts. Although homogeneous at first glance, the Bell Beaker culture does
not reveal a centralised production sites for these richly decorated ceramics. It does not
reflect an economic network, nor a single group of people. As a complex culture, the
Bell Beaker phenomenon must be studied in the diversity of its cultural components
and in the difference of its transfer mechanisms. This allows for the identification of
territoriality and intercultural components of societies of the 3rd millennium BC.
Keywords : Europe, Neolithic, Bell Beaker Culture, Interculturality, Networks

BESSE, Marie. Territorialités, transferts, interculturalités dans les contextes de la diffusion du
Campaniforme en Europe. In: Naudinot N., Meignen L., Binder D., Querré G. Les systèmes de
mobilité de la préhistoire au Moyen Âge : XXXVe rencontres internationales
d’archéologie et d’histoire d’Antibes. Antibes : Editions APDCA, 2015. p. 419-430

Urnfield Radio-Carbon Dates (Capuzzo, 2014)

Over a week ago, I posted a radiocarbon study by Stockhammer et al (2015) "Reordering the Central European Early Bronze Age Chronology" [the post]

To bookend this, I reached back to a radiocarbon study this last year on the Urnfielders in the Southern domain, popularly accepted by many to be proto-Celts.  The Capuzzo study takes a set of diagnostic materials like weapons or urns and lays them out spatially.  The study can be reduced down to a few points:

1)  Cremation as a dominant rite was gradual in its ascent and generally lagged behind weapons, etc.
2)  The components of Urnfield appear to have spread at slightly different times.
3)  The evidence for a massive population increase is shaky that can be explained by other factors.
4)   Things moved East to West during the entire period and this is evidence, he suggests, that Koch's 'Celtic from the West' doesn't work with as formulated:
"As a conclusion for the period 1800-750 BC we can definitely exclude the existence of a West to East space-time gradient, like that one suggested as a possible hypothesis for the spread of Celtic people by Cunliffe and Koch (Cunliffe & Koch 2010; Koch & Cunliffe 2013)."

Neither this study or the former will tell you anything about Bronze Age speech, but they offer additional hard points, or windows, in which things were likely to happen across large regions.  Capuzzo is sensitive to this since he is dealing with the proto-historic period in which language begins to be attested or deduced.  Of course I'm a bit more interested in the LN/EBA, but the Urnfield identity has implications for that earlier time.

This study by Capuzzo shows a somewhat uneven spread of Urnfield stuff, meaning that people may have accumulated diagnostic materials over a time.  This is somewhat backwards from the much earlier Beaker phenomenon IMO where the initial phase is conservative, followed by regional variation and drift.

Urnfield spread from a place where a high diversity of Centum languages existed in early history.  It's possible Urnfield planted a very hypothetical Nordwestblock language from the lower Elbe down past the Rhine (basically the blue northern coastal area in the map).  Also not shown above, is its spotty spread in the West and in Southern Britain (at least its artifacts).  

A traditional view is that Urnfielders were Celts who later spread to the Atlantic via the Iron Age Hallstatt and La Tene cultures.  If a warrior elite spread language to the Atlantic, it would have been an exceeding small aristocracy, something like the Viking kingdoms in later times.

One interesting point Capuzzo makes is this:

"It is meaningful to remember that the developing of Etruscan culture originates in the Villanovan and Proto-Villanovan cultures [a type of Urnfield] that practiced the funerary ritual of the cremation, which is also attested among the Etruscan communities"

It's possible that the Urnfield tradition or aristocracy did not speak IE at all, instead something more akin to Rhaetic, Lemnic or Proto-Eutruscan.  Perhaps Etruscan instead invaded an Italy that already had widespread proto-Italic languages.  It does appear that the rites and materials of Urnfield spread from the southeast if the continent.

There's also a few problems that Koch laid out. From "A Case for Tartessian as a Celtic Language" by Koch:
"However, once we recognize evidence for Celtic in the western Peninsula as early as the Orientalizing Period of the Early Iron Age (VIIIth-VIth centuries BC), then we confront the likelihood that the Atlantic Late Bronze Age had already been a largely or wholly Celtic-speaking phenomenon and that the subsequent penetration of the region by Urnfield, Hallstatt, and La Tène influences would not be relevant or only relevant as a matter of inter-Celtic dialectology.
"A Case for Tartessian as a Celtic Language" (Koch)

It seems the Atlantic LBA may not be the origin of Celtic names and peoples further east, but I think Koch has a point in that Urnfield has a ton of problems being 'Celtic' at the local levels, especially when the areas least affected are very Celtic.

If ALBA doesn't work, the old Centum languages in the West go back to the EBA, otherwise it's Urnfield.  It's hard to see anything else on this scale.

Space-Temporal Analysis of Radiocarbon Evidence and Associated Archaeological Record: From Danube to Ebro Rivers and from Bronze to Iron Ages.  Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.  Giacomo Capuzzo (2014) [link] or [link]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cave of Ide Kaf Taht El Ghar, City of Tetouan

I would only take guide recommendations from local consulates, however this is a pretty snappy video featuring Kaf Taht El Ghar over looking the city of Tetouan.  You can skip to the cave at 4:00m.

The cave was frequented (very early) by people of the Cardial tradition in two phases, and then by Ackakar/Skhirat ceramics and finally the Bell Beakers (below).  Palynological and archaeobotanical analysis shows the earliest Cardial folk had wheat, cattle, pigs and goats.  (Ballouche & Marinval, 2003)

About an hour southwest of this is the  "Circle of Mzoura", which is nearly the same age and size of Stonehenge in Salisbury.  It was built with the same megalithic yard system and geometry. 

Caf Taht el Gar, cueva neolítica en la región
de Tetuán (Marruecos) (TIRRADBELL, 1957)

More [Link] & [Link]

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bee-Line! (Roffet-Salque et al, Nature, 2015)

“Our study is the first to provide unequivocal evidence, based solely on a chemical ‘fingerprint’, for the palaeoecological distribution of an economically and culturally important animal.  It shows widespread exploitation of the honeybee by early farmers and pushes back the chronology of human-honeybee association to substantially earlier dates.”
This study is huge, huge, huge.  It shows, almost conclusively, that the honeybee was managed and domesticated from the earliest Near Eastern Neolithic.  It shows the ingenuity, resourcefulness and intellectual curiosity of the earliest farmers.   From Nature via Popular Archaeology

The biggest benefit of the honeybee in the West is that she is a pollinator and this increases crop yields among cereals but especially among early farmer nuts and fruits like olives, pomegranate and grapes.  (ask the Chinese guy with a feature duster wired to a stick) The distribution of wax particles in ceramic sherds as seen in the map above almost necessitates some domestication features, one being that the hive would have to produce enough honey in a place with a long winter.

Domestic bees also need to have a reasonable amount of defensive instinct to ward off all the claws that find their way into a hive, but without going ape-shit and killing the beekeeper (like Africanized European honeybees).  An important deciding factor for modern beekeepers around the world in many climes is temperament, as certain environments require a more defensive reaction to raccoon hands, wasps, fire-ants, bear claws, etc.  So bee temperament is little like the horns on cattle, good when you need them, bad when you don't.

Because BBB does everything and knows everything, I can tell you having took my first hive apart three years ago it is an exercise in extreme pucker-factor.  Any beekeeper will tell you that observation is how you learn.  And for farmers this must have involved lots of watching and puckering.

In the Paleolithic, this was observation of beelines and knowing how to smoke the hive, but evidently the farmers (Çatalhöyük is earliest in this study) learned how to make bee traps and artificial hives which they were able to transport over water (assuming their harvesting was always destructive at this stage).  As the paper shows, bees were introduced by humans in Neolithic Britain, so we are absolutely dealing with human importation as this is out of worker bee range and way outside swarm range, which is irrelevant if a worker can't scout to begin with.

This study examines pottery throughout the West and finds beeswax in a good number of the interiors (this being underestimated as they note in Neolithic Spain).  As mentioned two blog posts ago, it had been theorized that beeswax had been used to 'glaze' or water-proof the interior of drinking ceramics (Heron and Evershed 1993; Charters and Evershed 1995).  [I'm guessing this was buffed into the interior walls a little like turtle wax)  So whereas mead has variously been supposed to have been a beverage of early times based on residue analysis, it may be that the beaker contained other liquids in a container sealed with beeswax.

Beekeeping is nearly impossible understand looking at a fossil record.  The authors of this study have taken an interesting way to show something very exciting.  In many ways, beekeeping is like falconry [my comments here], which is teasingly faint but present enough to make us speculate.

Widespread exploitation of the honeybee by early Neolithic farmers
Mélanie Roffet-Salque1, Martine Regert2, Richard P. Evershed1, Alan K. Outram3, Lucy J. E. Cramp1,4, Orestes Decavallas5,6, Julie Dunne1, Pascale Gerbault7,8, Simona Mileto1,9, Sigrid Mirabaud6†, Mirva Pääkkönen1,10, Jessica Smyth1,4, Lucija Šoberl1,11†, Helen L. Whelton1, Alfonso Alday-Ruiz12, Henrik Asplund10, Marta Bartkowiak13, Eva Bayer-Niemeier14, Lotfi Belhouchet15, Federico Bernardini16,17, Mihael Budja11, Gabriel Cooney18, Miriam Cubas19†, Ed M. Danaher20, Mariana Diniz21, László Domboróczki22, Cristina Fabbri23, Jesus E. González-Urquijo19, Jean Guilaine24, Slimane Hachi25, Barrie N. Hartwell26, Daniela Hofmann27, Isabel Hohle28, Juan J. Ibáñez29, Necmi Karul30, Farid Kherbouche25, Jacinta Kiely31, Kostas Kotsakis32, Friedrich Lueth33, James P. Mallory26, Claire Manen24, Arkadiusz Marciniak13, Brigitte Maurice-Chabard34, Martin A. McGonigle35, Simone Mulazzani36,37, Mehmet Özdoğan30, Olga S. Perić38, Slaviša R. Perić38, Jörg Petrasch39, Anne-Marie Pétrequin40, Pierre Pétrequin40, Ulrike Poensgen41, C. Joshua Pollard42, François Poplin43, Giovanna Radi23,
Peter Stadler44, Harald Stäuble45, Nenad Tasić46, Dushka Urem-Kotsou47, Jasna B. Vuković46, Fintan Walsh48, Alasdair Whittle49, Sabine Wolfram50, Lydia Zapata-Peña12‡ & Jamel Zoughlami5
doi:10.1038/nature15757 2015 Nature Communications [Doc Link]

See also [University of Bristol]

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Another Pig Study

Another volley in the pig domestication war continues...

Now we have this study on pigs of the Biarzo shelter in Italy, where the authors suggest that the mtdna evidence could suggest pig domestication was a continuous, native process to Europe from the Mesolithic, not necessarily the chattel of farmers from the Near East.  (Their position seems more nuanced than this, but basically that's the gist)

Wild boar are wanderers unlike most vertebrates and don't have a particular routine, territory or migratory route.  This fluidity makes genetic phylogeny-geography analyses a little shaky IMO, never mind that pigs are the most prolific mammal of its size.  I think because of this, you may get results such as:
"We found that a rapid mitochondrial DNA turnover occurred during the Mesolithic, suggesting that substantial changes in the composition of pig mitochondrial lineages can occur naturally across few millennia independently of domestication processes.  Moreover, so-called Near Eastern haplotypes were present here at least two millennia before the arrival of Neolithic package in the same area."
And then sitting up in the coffin he began speaking:
"Consequently, we recommend a re-evaluation of the previous idea that Neolithic farmers introduced pigs domesticated in the Near East, and that Mesolithic communities acquired domestic pigs via cultural exchanges, to include the possibility of a more parsimonious hypothesis of local domestication in Europe."
Sorry, I'm very cynical on the existence of Islands of Excellence.  I don't see anything worthy of parsimonious treatment either.  Certainly there were intellectually curious individuals 50,000 or 100,000 years ago.  Why didn't they domesticate the boar if domesticating the boar is both beneficial and obvious?  Maybe that's because a lot of this comes down to culture and economics, like that of the ancient Near East, and not that of heathen, spear-chucker hunters. [See Also]
A sounder eating BBB's corn!
"...Larson in two seminal papers10,35, affirms that pigs domesticated in the Near East were introduced into Europe..., but that soon after the genetic legacy of these pigs and their descendants were lost due to constant hybridization with European wild boars, replacement by pigs domesticated in Europe, or both. This hypothesis is based on two pillars: 1) temporal changes of mtDNA lineages in Europe are related to domestication, and 2) NE-Y mtDNA lineages appearing and then disappearing in some sites in Europe are genetic markers of Near Eastern domestic pigs. Clearly, our main results shake these pillars."
Fair enough.  Also, they make reference to a recent paper by Evin et al, 2015 (Ref 40 in the paper) showing a clear East-West division in the dental morphology of boars with Europe/North Africa on a western side and Russia/Near East on the other.  (In the above graphic you see essentially crosses between feral hogs and Russian boars)

Back to the pillars of parsimony.  Parsimony is savages domesticating the pig a hundred thousand years ago in Europe.  I'm being facetious, but seriously, if it is so self-evident to a hunter-gatherer to stockade a wild boar, then why wait?  The simplest explanation is that the husbandry here was done by husbandmen, with fences, knowledge, social structures, economies, etc.  I'll be satisfied to be proved wrong.

A somewhat related topic..

One interesting subject is the abhorrence to pork in the modern Middle East, which is sort of ironic given that this is likely where the pig was domesticated.  

The change in attitudes to pork appears to have been a slow process, first in the polytheistic religions and then followed by Judaism.  I came across Chapter 2 of this book: Eat Not This Flesh by Frederick J. Simoons (free via ebook) 

Vai, S. et al. The Biarzo case in northern Italy: is the temporal dynamic of swine mitochondrial DNA lineages in Europe related to domestication? Sci. Rep. 5, 16514; doi: 10.1038/srep16514 (2015). [link]