Monday, February 29, 2016

Cattle Size, Before and After the EBA

I found this paper from last year.  Very interesting data with many variables that might explain the phenomenon.

From the earliest Neolithic, continental cattle become progressively smaller.  The largest crash occurs about a thousand years after the beginning of the Neolithic.  Then sometime around the turn of the 3rd millennium, cattle shrink to their smallest size, or rather their size as observed at death.  Then at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age there is a marked increase in cattle size (and people size).

The authors rule out racial introgression with wild aurochs since that would obviously make the cattle bigger, not smaller.  They don't seem to consider the reverse scenario, that is the earliest Neolithic cattle are artificially large and they also don't consider introgression from newly introduced domestic races, such as steppe cattle or longifrons, both of which could impact this chart.

The authors consider two probable hypotheses, one being dairy intensification (very plausible), the other is breeding springers and slaughtering cows thereby decreasing calf size due to calving issues. 

I'm not sure I understand this second hypothesis because suggests a herd mix that is opposite of hypothesis 1.  Also, the decrease in cow size would seem to more often cause calving problems, but whatever.

There's about fifty different potential causes for the decrease in cattle size from the beginning of the Neolithic, all a totally valid and together may help explain much of this.  OTOH, it's hard to look at chart that parallels that of human size during a period of epic mobility.

Size Reduction in Early European Domestic Cattle Relates to Intensification of Neolithic Herding Strategies

Katie Manning, Adrian Timpson, Stephen Shennan , Enrico Crema  [Link]

Published: December 2, 2015
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141873


Our analysis of over 28,000 osteometric measurements from fossil remains dating between c. 5600 and 1500 BCE reveals a substantial reduction in body mass of 33% in Neolithic central European domestic cattle. We investigate various plausible explanations for this phenotypic adaptation, dismissing climatic change as a causal factor, and further rejecting the hypothesis that it was caused by an increase in the proportion of smaller adult females in the population. Instead we find some support for the hypothesis that the size decrease was driven by a demographic shift towards smaller newborns from sub-adult breeding as a result of intensifying meat production strategies during the Neolithic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Economic Foundations of Social Supremacy to Beaker Groups (Guerra Doce and Von Lettow-Vorbeck, 2016)

"Analysis of the Economic Foundations Supporting the Social Supremacy of the Beaker Groups"

You can access the compendium which is open access from Archeopress [here]

These papers look at the monopolization of intercontinental and intracontinental trade that distinguish the Beaker Compelx in prehistory.  Beaker Incorporated, L.L.C. appears to have executed a "hostile takeover" of many local industries and trade routes throughout Europe.  I think you see this everywhere, from Poland to Perdigoes. 

Think of the 'Beaker package'.  All of its constituents (v-perforated buttons, amber whoring, daggers, etc) belonged to different and preceding cultures from around Europe, but the Bell Beaker integrated the materials because it controlled of all of it.  This is partly why I'm weary of a 'Beaker package' because distracts from the ideological and ethnic core of people, who liked stuff.

In the contribution over the salt trade by Doce, she makes reference to the argument of Van der Noort that the settlement patterns of Beakers are largely determined by nautical avenues, something that should be increasingly obvious.  Lermercier has described a similar pattern in Mediterranean France to which he calls the 'Greek Implantation Model' via maritime avenues.

I may continue with another post on stateless economies in the near future.  Aside from genetics and worldview, I think the economic question is in the top three concerns of the Beaker phenomenon to explore.

Here's a rundown the papers:

Foreword to the XVII UISPP Congress Proceedings Series Edition 
Luiz Oosterbeek

Elisa Guerra Doce and Corina Liesau von Lettow-Vorbeck

Graves of metallurgists in the Moravian Beaker Cultures
Jaroslav Peška

Bell Beaker funerary copper objects from the center of the Iberian Peninsula in the context of the Atlantic connections
Concepción Blasco Bosqued, Ignacio Montero and Raúl Flores Fernández

Bell Beaker connections along the Atlantic façade: the gold ornaments from Tablada del Rudrón, Burgos, Spain  Andrew P. Fitzpatrick, Germán Delibes de Castro, Elisa Guerra Doce
and Javier Velasco Vázquez

Prestige indicators and Bell Beaker ware at Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain)
Ana Pajuelo Pando and Pedro M. López Aldana

Some prestige goods as evidence of interregional interactions in the funerary practices of the Bell Beaker groups of Central Iberia
Corina Liesau von Lettow-Vorbeck

Salt and Beakers in the third millennium BC
Elisa Guerra Doce

The role of flint arrowheads in Bell Beaker groups of the Central Iberian Peninsula
Patricia Ríos Mendoza

El Peñón de la Zorra (Villena, Alicante, Spain): change and continuity in settlement pattern during Bell Beaker
Gabriel García Atiénzar

Elements for the definition of the Bell Beaker horizon in the lower Ebro Valley: preliminary approaches
Anna Gómez, Patricia Ríos Mendoza, Marc Piera and Miquel Molist

Monday, February 22, 2016

Orkney Woman in the Foreshore (Lorena Innes)

More Sea Urchins.  This is a news report from Past Horizons: "Cist in the Foreshore"

This is Early or Middle Bronze Age burial has a wide wiggle range, but it was probably an EBA burial.  The full archaeology report can be found here "ARO19: The Cist on the Foreshore at Lopness, Sanday, Orkney" by Lorna Innes  (search AR019)
Woman from Lopness on Sanday
The westward facing woman was a middle aged and had worked hard her whole life with some osteoarthritis in later years.  Her bones indicate some repetitive activity, so it's thought maybe mending fishing nets or textile work. 

Although there is no diagnostic pottery, there is in addition to sea urchins, lobster, fish bones, and two baby lambs. The radiocarbon date, taking other variables into account, is 1890 - 1520 B.C.  The grave roof appears to have collapsed, possibly during the lifetimes of those who buried her, and it was again filled through the crack with more offerings (if I am reading this correctly).

It sounds as if the burial was covered with a large mound of dirt from the inland.   Apparently this had nondescript pottery fragments and knapping debitage.  

You have to wonder if there was a special desire by the deceased to be buried by the sea just as someone might request today..?

What's remarkable about modern Orkney is that R1b and R1a constitute about 93% of male lineages.  If you assume that the large portion of R1a comes from Northmen, the highest percentage in the Isles, then must certainly accept that the majority, if not the totality of the 8% haplogroup I did as well. 

After removing that, what are we left with?  What components of Orkney or Shetland could represent the male posterity of the Neolithic?  It's may sound ludicrous, but it's looking like 0%.

The only other scenario that's halfway plausible is that the Orkney grooved ware tradition was in fact Western Iberian in origin and the island was overwhelming R1b prior to the Beaker advance.  If this was the case, then the R1b-ization of the Isles could have begun several hundred years before the Beaker times with the Grooved Tradition.  I don't lean this direction, just saying it's remotely plausible.

See the paper, lot of interesting thingsMore on the Neolithic excavations, see:

Orkney Jar

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ava of the Highlands (BBC)

From the BBC: "Effort to unlock secrets of 3,700-year-old woman 'Ava'"

Hat tip, Mandy Chamberlin!

When you read the BBC story, don't get wrapped around the axle of periodization.  This is a late Beaker burial, directly carbon dated to 3700 B.P.

It is a particularly interesting burial for a number of reasons.  I'll go by the numbers starting with the news story in the BBC.  As you can tell, this young woman was hyper-brachycephalic bordering on ultra-brachycephalic based on the measurements of archaeologist Maya Hoole, who's managing "The Achavanich Beaker Burial Project". (see website)

The Young Beaker Woman (modified, via The Achavanich Burial Project)

I've previously hypothesized that the already meso- to brachycephalic ethnic Beakers were intensely swaddled as infants using cradle boards, further deforming their heads in some cases.  Comparing the two women of Achavanich (Highlands) and Camino de Yeseras (Madrid) might be a useful place to start (scroll down on this post).

Before preceding, I'll give you my two cents on flatheads.  It is clear to people-not-on-drugs that there is an identifiable ethnic core to the pan-Euro-African Bell Beaker phenomenon and that these people are easily distinguishable from the local substrate, in terms of height, skull characteristics, teeth, toes, and now by ancient DNA, etc.

But it seems that some Beaker heads are also outside 'normal' dimensions, unless they all had some kind of congenital deformity, which is not likely.  That leaves environmental concerns as the likely cause of a flathead like Hoole illustrates for Achavanich girl below.
A Pancake Head! by Maya Hoole (modified, via The Achavanich Burial Project)

Part of why I'm confident Beaker babies were strapped to cradle boards is really fourfold.  The first is the deep paternal ancestry of Beaker men, which quite clearly takes us to North Asia where there is plenty of ethnographic examples on both sides of Beringa.  We can see similar occipital flattening in Mongolian or Navajo babies of varying intensity.

The second question is really about mobility.  Beakerfolk were not 100% copper-wielding, warrior men walking around like roosters.  They were all ages, but more often children and babies.
So when we talk about Beaker mobility we must remember who is mobile.  You will remember a post recently on disabled Beaker folk and you may remember that even the Amesbury archer was crippled and may have needed a walking cane since one of his knees was blown out.  We can at least solve the baby mobility problem.

Navajo Woman and Child (Commons)

Thirdly, Europeans have a long and rich tradition of border-line child abuse swaddling.  It's only been in the last century or two that old school swaddling has died out, although its still customary to tightly wrap an infant in blankets.  Really it comes down to cradle boards, intensity and folk beliefs which have varied in intensity.

Finally, intentional head deformation, as practiced on every continent by every people since the Paleolithic, aims to lengthen the skull.  Intentional skull deformation is often very dramatic and highly differentiated, not something requiring giant calipers. 

Lapp Family (UMD Sweden)
This leaves us with an elegant solution, that the folk beliefs of the Beaker culture encouraged binding infants to cradle boards to include the head.  Mongolians did this to increase the child's height and 'make them strong and upright'.  Europeans generally believed it helped build the character and keep them out of trouble.

If this was the case, it could complicate other aspects of research though.  One is that cradling has been linked to an increase in infant hip dysplasia and the malformation of the acetabulum.  These types of patterns may have been (instead) used to indicate frequent horseback riding in Germany.  I don't know if developmental and adult deformities are easily separated or not.

Now moving on to this oddly decorated beaker.  Some of it seems to have some Grooved Ware character with the palm leaf pattern.  It's considered remarkable by Hoole for the number of techniques used to create it. 
The Clarke N4 Short Neck Beaker (modified, via The Achavanich Burial Project)

And now for one last comment on the burial.  Within in rock-cut pit there was placed a cow scapula, which is the shoulder blade.  There is no mention or expectation that it was ever notched, however this particular bone was a common burial artifact among the 'Sea Peoples' with connections to Cyprus, among others.  I believe cow spatulas are also found in Iberia; I'll have to research this further.  Perforated cow spatulas are also found in Northern China.

It has been variously proposed that notched and un-notched scapulas were musical instruments (David S. Reese, 2002), either a harp body or possibly a sound board like a turkey slate*, except for musical purposes.  
A Sea Peoples Scapula
A little of topic, this website of the Sea Peoples epic, has a pretty good breakdown of Sea People groups. 

Overall, there's quite a bit of Bronze Age activity around Caithness, especially at Achavanich.

* a turkey slate is load friction based soundboard used for hunting turkeys in North America

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lager Yeast Not Ancient? What!

I read this on Science 2.0:  "Lager Yeast - Beer Making Microbe Gets An Origin Story"


It refers to this 2015 paper "The genome sequence of Saccharomyces eubayanus and the domestication of larger-brewing yeasts" as appeared last August in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution. 

There's two basic styles of beer: Ales and Lagers.  Ale ferments around 65 (18 C) degrees and reaches final gravity usually in about two weeks.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the original Near Eastern cereal yeast for bread and beer.
Lagers are 'lagered' at a temperature close to 40 (4 C) degrees and since the yeast work slower lagering, finishing can take some time.  This yeast is Saccharomyces pastorianus, for a few years now recognized as a hybrid.  It produces a crisper, cleaner beer.  This accounts for about 95%~ of the world's crappy, mass-produced beers.

According to Baker et al's molecular clock estimate, the hybridization between Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces eubayanus creating Saccharomyces pastorianus (lager yeast) occurred about 500 years ago.

This timeframe might sound rather convenient given European contact with the Americas, but eubayanus has been found in Tibet, Mongolia and China within the last several years as well.  Lagering is also described as early as the 1300's so contact with the Americas would be too late to explain the birth of lager yeast.  Admittedly though, we're dealing with two secondary evidences 1) monks and 2) molecular clocks. 

Hopefully Making Beer
What I have always assumed is that Saccharomyces pastorianus (lager yeast) was native to Northern Europe and that the first farmers would have unknowingly promoted the more adapted native strains through constant brewing.  In other words, beer was sometimes unknowingly made with this yeast in Northern Europe for as long as beer has been made in Northern Europe, despite what it is called.

Because hybridization requires the presence of both components at the same place from the beginning, we can go ahead a cross Europe off the list of likely points of origin.  The Baker paper doesn't give a whole lot of wiggle room either, even if their estimate is too young.  So when and where did lager yeast develop?

The obvious location would be 1) an environment where S. eubayanus was native 2) that was also being settled by folks who cultivated cereals with naturally occurring s. cerevisiae.

Kind of sounds like the North Pontic-Caspian region, maybe Northwestern China.  The next question is age, not that yeast floating in the air require an archaeological context.  Whenever this question is sufficiently resolved, it may tells us a little more about prehistoric brewing.

It seems like the Corded Ware people, as one example, had beer year round to place in burials.  That means they either brewed year round and were able to control the primary fermentation temperature or were able to store large amounts of beer in barrels.  Or again...they were able to ferment in the lager range.

See also - German Beer Institute

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Alien Minorities in Crete and Cyprus

Again, impeccable timing.   Eurogenes has a paper on Cypriot M269 just now, I believe constituting about 10%~ of Cypriot y-chromosomes...I'll address at the end.

We might expect the full gamut of human interaction during the third millennium and every region and island is going to have a different set of circumstances and histories save one common denominator; a great number of cultures appear to be responding to the Beaker phenomenon.

It's probable, but not yet provable, that the Eastern Mediterranean had some kind of mild reaction to the Beaker advance around 2,500 B.C. and it is more than plausible that this involved small scale settlement in areas initially favorable for wind and surface currents, like Northeastern Crete or Western Cyprus.  These people wouldn't fall within the strict definition of a Bell Beaker as understood in Central Europe, but when we consider the cultural transformations and as the genetic situation becomes more clear, we may have people that are very similar or owe some portion of their ancestry to those changes pulsing through the continent.

So today I'll pick up with some familiar looking images.  A good place for some background is an article by Volker Heyd examining the primordial stew of the sub-Aegean Early Bronze Age in the shadow of the Bell Beaker.*  He also contributed to this beginning on page 47, which I am re-reading on continuous-loop.  I won't interpret or mis-interpret his positions or inklings, you can read for yourself, and some of it can be rather dense; but it's a subject that is rather novel at this point and I think if it continued to develop many things could be turned on the head.

Early Minoan Incised Ware EM1 (University of Colorado)
At some point in the mid 3rd millennium, Crete is jolted by foreign elements in its North and East.  The native, majority neolithics in the center of the island appear to have been strongly conservative, however over time the melding of influxes sets a new national trajectory.  Like so many of the Bronze Age cultures of Europe, there seems to have been a turning point in which the native culture was electrified by the Beaker World System(1).  (Notice the body similarity of this CW pot as well)

This settlement of Eastern Crete is particularly interesting through the lens of modern y-chromosomal frequencies of the Lasithi Plateau compared the central part of the island.  We've already seen some breakout of Cretan y-trees; we also see this from the Lasithi plateau in maternal lineages [here] and [here] and if people from the West did indeed settle in Eastern Crete, it's entirely plausible they came from the southern Tyrrhenian sphere, itself crawling with South and Central European immigrants. 
Jug from Mochlos, Eastern Crete c. 2500
This attractive Mochlos (funerary?) jug also makes me wonder about a subtle meaning, something I've contemplated here.  Although the Mochlos funerary gold objects are quite different in the subject matter from Western Europe, the punched gold sheet work is not so different from that of the continent.  There are other things as well, like arrowheads.

I won't jump any further into this quicksand because the archaeology of Crete is more than I'd like to chew on, but it is interesting to zoom out and look at the bigger picture to see what's happening.
I tried finding picture of Cretan stone wristguards and can't spend too much time on it now, but I though I'd paste in this text from Heyd:
"It is a tempting thought, if the stone objects from the Tholos grave of Plantanos [tholoi here] in the Messara plain on Crete are also part of that connection, but one difficult to prove considering the long duration of the grave from EM I to MM. 41 [MM = Middle Minoan] Under those circumstances I would merely be inclined to regard the four-holed stone plate as a wristguard whereas for the majority of the two-holed plates at hand the mentioned restrictions of functional and cultural assignment apply."**

Apart from that, I've included some musings on Cyprus.  Sometime around or before 2,500 B.C., a copper-welding, cattle-and-plough people began to settle in a few places in Cyprus which propelled the island to the Philia Early Bronze Age.  They are identifiable by their red-slip burnished wares with white encrustation "Cypriot Red Polished Ware".

The foreign elements or people of the preforming Philia Culture are thought to derive from Red Slip Ware (RSW) folks from Cilicia (proto-Luwians?).
Red Polished Ware Cypriot Idol 2200 B.C.
Now it's very easy to oversell superficial similarities.  Certainly the differences outnumber the similarities when doing a 1:1 comparison and the coastal Mediterranean also has a long history of communication and shared ancestry.  (It's not even clear where the initial pulses of the Beaker phenomenon originate) But a combination of things in the right order at the right time can at least raise our antennas.

The interesting thing is that Cypriot clay bodies don't change with Red Polished Ware, but the decoration does.  To me this can signal an intrusive male population and I think we see this and will eventually be able to prove this in European pottery.

Similar Neolithic idol plaques are found in many places around the Mediterranean, Syria is the obvious choice closest in space and resemblance, but some are similar to Late Neolithic Western Iberia.

So going back to the Cypriot DNA study just out; their conclusion that Cypriot M269 is from Anatolia instead of Greek/Balkan.  This might support the idea that Cypriot Red Polished Ware is intrusive from Cilicia or Proto-Luwia and is part of a larger Red Slip Ware phenomenon punching its way up and down the coast of Anatolia.  The Cretan y-dna profiles, OTOH, look more Italian (U152?) and so the build-up of the Trojans and Hittites might be part of a differently inspired phenomenon than that of the Helladics and Cycladics, but nevertheless, it's all happening about the same time and has some interesting parallels..

(1)  The World System is more applicable to modern economics theory, but if you view the Beaker phenomenon as having a core ethnicity, then in some ways the resource exploration of Beakers could be viewed as a core nation, almost in a modern sense as lacking a center of gravity or national boundary.

*"Where West Meets the East: The Eastern Periphery of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon and Its Relation with the Aegean Early Bronze Age" Available here at "Aegeo-Balkan Prehistory"

*Published first in: Galanaki, I. et al. (eds.): Between the Aegean and Baltic Seas. Prehistory across Borders. Proceedings of the Internat. Conference "Bronze and Iron Age Interconnections and Contemporary Developments between the Aegean and the Regions of the Balkan Peninsula, Central and Northern Europe." University of Zagreb, 11-14 April 2005. Aegaeum 27: 91-104.

** More from Heyd:
"Going back to the title of this contribution and, moreover, to the concern of this whole conference it should have become clear that marginal Bell Beaker elements of the mid-third millennium BC have reached the Aegean, whether or not one accepts the comb-stamp decorated sherds dating to EH II from Lerna and Eutresis, as well as the ‘wristguards’ from Crete – or relies on the Cetina finds from the Peloponnes alone. In no instance, though, could the phenomenon gain ground and trigger an independent Bell Beaker development. The incentives were too few, the ideology not persuasive enough, the distance to the nearest core too large and, in the case of Cetina, the arrival in southern Greece apparently ‘too late’. Therewith, only one side of the interrelation between the Bell Beaker phenomenon and the Aegean Early Bronze Age is recorded here. But there was no intention – nor the space – to trace and evaluate the finds and findings of Aegean provenance of the third millennium BC in the central Mediterranean distribution area of the Bell Beaker phenomenon. This applies primarily for Malta, Sicily, Apulia and also Dalmatia, but possibly even beyond that."

"The Early Minoan Period:  The Settlements" , "The Tombs" Dartmouth

"The Prepalatial Cemeteries at Mochlos and Gournia and the House Tombs of..." Soles

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Badger Digs Up Beaker

The Wiltshire story here at the BBC.  Hat tip Mandy Chamberland.

Look at these tools!  They look this good after four thousand something years.  It appears a badger was making a mess of things on military property. 

Clearly it has copper patina but is unevenly distributed.  I'll guess this is arsenic bronze?

A very fine greenstone bracer.  This one is rather interesting in that it appears to have been repaired.  Like so many bracers it has a broken corner but this one appears to have been re-drilled to make it functional.  There are two arrowshaft straighteners, or rather shaft extruders (to make uniform shaft weight IMO).

I'll take a total wild crack at this and guess this is a Primary Series collard urn, being defined by Ian Longworth in his book "Collard Urns of the Bronze Age in Great Britain and Ireland" having ancestral elements with the Mortlake and Fengate styles of Peterborough Ware (herringbone and repetitive vertical short-line motifs and maybe a pudding texture on the exterior.)

Longworth notes:
"to some extent, absorption of ideas from that source [Beaker] had already begun to take place before the close of the Peterborough tradition.  Zoned decoration in the form of split heeringbone, for example, a recurrent motif on European/maritime Beakers... is already found on rare occasions on Mortlake Ware....."
And it continues.  Got a bit of track but I had to read that for myself.  I kind of hypothesized this was the case that Bell Beakers had meaningful contact with the hillbilly Peterborough folk and so there is a disproportionate influence compared to the Grooved tradition that give birth to some of the incredibly ugly potteries of EBA Britain and Ireland, expanding beyond its original domain.

You will note a final chapter in Longworth's book on the association with wool remains and collard urns.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Egyptian Funerary Boat c. 2500 B.C.

Not a Beaker discovery by any means, but I'll be watching this closely...

From "Well Preserved 'Solar Boat' Found Under Egyptian Tomb"

Excavation work on the incredibly fragile, but unusually well preserved, timber boat from 2550BC. Picture: Czech Institute of Egyptology / V. Dulikova
The 3rd dynasty boat is interesting because it is contemporary with the Bell Beaker phenomenon and because it is a plank style boat.  So the construction techniques will be interesting for several disciplines, but also to see if there are any discernible patterns to European plankers. 

Of course, the title brings up a common question about Norse or Egyptian burial boats, that is the purpose of the burial boat and if it is purposed to be a solar boat or something else.

I've made a case that Beaker religion had a cosmology that may have been widespread at that time, in a way comparable to the Egyptian religion, but excluding the necessity for a direct genetic link.  This involves travel of a boat in the afterlife, piloted by the sun god.