Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Anthropology of a Prospector" (Melheim & Prescott, 2016)

This chapter on Scandinavian Beakers starts with a modern witness to the graves of adventurers in the Alaskan frontier:
"In our travels along the coast we saw several graves of white men, sailors or prospectors no doubt, buried by their companions miles from home, on the shores of the Behring Sea (Jones 1927:162)"
So begins Melheim and Prescott's exploration into the "Anthropology of a Prospector".  They argue "that readily exploitable ore sources may well have been one of the factors which attracted skilled metalworkers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, spurred by a drive to locate new sources of copper ore".

They have two premises, one "that copper was an intrinsic element in the dynamics of this period, and that prospecting was the single force of BBC expansion across Europe or even Scandinavia..."

A Norse Beaker. From "Slettabo: Europe's northernmost Beaker" Precott (Kristiana Steen)
Concerning the magnet that brought Beakers into the quietest and most distant pockets of Europe, they describe 'pull factors' that might attract metal prospectors.  If framing an economic argument, the rising value of commodities (metals especially) would attract the attention of those knowledgeable in their extraction. 

Melheim and Prescott believe that it is crucial to understand the motive and model of migration to properly understand the Beaker Age.  Why would the Beakers so quickly end up in so many vastly different ecozones?  The engine of Beaker migration does not appear to have been population or ecological pressure, rather it appears to have been motivated by opportunism.

The "Anthropology of a Prospector" to be continued in the next post...

Melheim, Anne Lene & Prescott, Christopher (2016). Exploring New Territories – Expanding Frontiers: Bowmen and Prospectors on the Scandinavia Peninsula in the 3rd–2nd Millennia BC, In Anne Lene Melheim; Håkon Glørstad & Ann Zanette Tsigaridas Glørstad (ed.),  Comparative Perspectives on Past Colonisation, Maritime Interaction and Cultural Integration.  Equinox Publishing.  ISBN 9781781790489.  10.  [Link]

See also "Slettabo: Europe's northernmost beaker.  The BBC in Norway - from black box to historical watershed"


  1. The case that ore resources were a big part of the "pull factor" is quite plausible as is the opportunity to "be somebody" moving into an elite in areas like cattle husbandry, milk utilization, archery and connecting to networks of people who had installed themselves as local elites due to their superior skills in useful areas. Also, unlike the biggest IE expansions elsewhere, the Beaker expansion seems to be a bit early to be filling a climate driven societal collapse that leaves a vacuum in the power structure. But, it does still seem as if the collapse of the first wave Neolithic farming economy was already in progress when Beaker-folk arrived (perhaps due to unsustainable early farming practices rather than climate?).

    On the other hand, mass migration almost always involves both a push and a pull. If I had to make a wild guess, I'd associate the push factor with the same cultural and geopolitical forces that caused R1b Yamanaya men to be replaced with R1a men from further north on the European steppe.

    I'm not necessarily saying that the Bell Beaker migrants were Yamanaya men. The timing isn't horrible, but the R1b clades in their ancient DNA aren't necessarily a perfect fit either, although it would hardly be surprising for a fairly closely related clade to be found in a few villages in some borderland of their turf without showing up in very low sample size ancient DNA pools.

    But, it does make sense that the push factor for Bell Beakers might very well have been causally related to this dramatic Y-DNA turnover event that probably wasn't at all peaceful and happy, that (since it didn't change autosomal genetics much) must have been a rather intramural civil war kind of event as opposed to a war between people of different "nations" with deep cultural and phenotypic differences. It could be a direct flight from the conflict, or it could be a case of people on the border of this culture being pushed out as people in the cultural center become border bound refugees.

    A push event like this would also explain why this migration might be male dominated. The invaders would be monopolizing local wives leaving local young men to look elsewhere if they wanted to marry.

    1. "Also, unlike the biggest IE expansions elsewhere, the Beaker expansion seems to be a bit early to be filling a climate driven societal collapse"

      True. And I'll emphasize a point made by the authors that migration from population pressure looks different from more adventurous forms of migration. Here they are venturing into a rather sparsely populated and inhospitable environment, much different from that of the widely varied places Beaker artifacts are found.

  2. My bet, my personal hypothesis is that Bell Beaker culture is related with 2 male lineages: R1b L-23 and R1b L11. First, R1b L-23 appeared on the Taurus mountains where the diversity of R1b M-269 is higher. From there, it's "son" L23 expanded in two directions, one to the Pontic steppes through the Caucasus, founding the kurgan cultures (Sredny Stog culture and so on) and was indoeuropeanized by R1a-neolithic folks. The other branches of L23 went to the balkans destroying the Old Neolithic european cultures about 4.000 B.C. and creating the Cernavoda culture (and the ones similar to it) This matches more or less the diffusion of copper.

    Here is where the two lineages that later would create the Bell Beaker culture diverged. L23* (probably all lineages except L11) took two ways: one through Greece, Albania and Southern Italy, and the other one through Panonia, Northern Italy, The french and Spanish mediterranean costs, ending in Southwest Iberia. This expansion can be easily infered from the map of haplogroup R1b L23 created by Maciamo Hay at Eupedia. And it is confirmed by the iberian individual ATP3 who was R1b M269 in 3.500 BC !. This expansion didn't change really the demografhics and patrilineages of the areas conquered, ir was a "soft" conquest.
    So around 3.000 BC R1b L23 peoples were at the end of the tagus river.
    Now let's go back to the Danube. From there L51-L11 would have gone up the Danube (L51* and it's subclade R1b Z2118 are found in central Europe around the Danube) ending the neolithic cultures and bringing copper.
    So around 3.000 b.c. we have R1b L23 in the tagus and R1b L11 between the Danube and the Rhine. Their cultures and languages would have been already pretty similar. Muy bet is that their language was from the aquitano-iberic family: paleovasconic. But it was R1b L23 folks who really created the beaker package at the tagus,expanding later north, and 'meeting' in southern france R1b S116, where ended it's expansion. This end can be seen too in horse genetics and other Iberian copper/bronce age technology.

    R1b L11 had two main subhalogroups: R1b U106 went north-east following the Rhin. And R1b S116 went southwest following the Rhone.
    So it was in Southern France where the beaker culture was acquired by R1b S116 folks. Whith their amazing demographic expansion to atlantic france and the british isles (R1b L21), around 2.500 bc beaker culture (and copper) arrived there. The demic change was confirmed one year ago in a genetic study of ancient irish genomes.
    R1b S28 went north-west and brought Beaker culture to germany-alps and to R1b U106 folks.
    R1b Df27 went south conquering Iberia-southern France, changing profoundly the iberian genetic landscape, and originating the iberian genetic cluster that can be infered today with genomic statistics.
    These three genetic expansions match almost perfectly the three beaker cultures (Harrison)

    After this, beaker culture kept expanding through the Danube (Baden and Vučedol cultures)where there were similar r1b L51 ethnic groups.

    El Irrintzi irredento.

    1. "...through the Caucasus..."

      Here's one thing to consider though. Sailing from the mouth of the Volga to Baku, Azerbaijan (on the peninsula - land of fire) is maybe four to five days in a piggy boat, twice that rowing. The modern TransCaucasus Railway from Baku follows a 'natural' highway to Erzurum, Armenia at the Western Euphrates.

      So the intermingling of East European and Southern Caucasus influences from the core of Yamnaya may make sense when looking at the Caspian highway.

    2. Interesting, thank you!
      What do you think about these hypothesis?

    3. I really don't have a position at the moment. Waiting to see more ancient DNA.

    4. Yes, indeed, this hypothesis can be tested studying ancient genomes of all the cultures mentioned. I'm excited and looking forward to see published the Big study on ancient iberian genomes that was supposed to be released last year.

  3. The vasconic-Bell Beaker hypothesis fits well with the high levels of R1b Df27 in the Basque Country, and with the fact that the iberian genetic cluster hits it's maximum among the basques. This genetic fact and their preindoeuropean language can't be reconciled with a "R1b-indoeuropean hypothesis" arguing that they suffered higher levels of polygamy, because it's R1b diversity and structure are similar to their iberian cousins (in fact it seems from the last study published by Maju un his blog that R1b df27 entered western Iberia through the Basque Country). It also fits well with the paleovasconic substratum hypothesis. But if you look at the proposed map of this substratum, it fits, even better than with beaker, whith the area of R1bdf27 and of R1b L21: the area of the Atlantic Bronze Age culture. The eastern limit of this substratum follows the limit between the Urnfield culture and Atlantic Bronze Age, and between the presence and absence of R1a.
    I think Unetice-Tumulus-Urnfield cultures, and not BellBeaker, are the key cultures and the origin of celto-italic-lusitanian-germanic languages. I think that Unetice was caused by the mixture of R1b U106 folks and R1a-R1b Z2013 Corded Ware folks, creating pre-proto-germanic. After this ethnogenesis,they would have indoeuropeanized nearby R1b-S28 folks originating the Tumulus Culture and proto celto-italic-lusitanian (Lusitanian is usually considered as a language between celtic and italic). R1b S28 would later expand with the Urnfield culture (without R1b U106, that was then part of the Nordic Bronze Age Culture) and after through Italy, Iberia, France and the british islands, ending the paleovasconic-bronze age cultures, and bringing Iron Age celto-italic cultures. After the conquest of western and Southern Europe, only Aquitanians and iberians inherited vasconic languages (and maybe the Picts) although the iberian one with a lot of indoeuropean influences (Urnfield culture was present in Catalonia, were Iberian language and culture theorically originated around 700 bc)
    Another argument for the beaker-vasconic hypothesis is the high levels if R1b df27 in Catalonia, where it hits another maximum, and the fact that it was the place of birth of another vasconic language.

  4. And the last four arguments for the "R1b M269 or R1b L23 vasconic hypothesis":
    1- The correlation between this haplogroup and centum indoeuropean. Centum was the way vasconic speaking folks spoke indoeuropean. In fact celtic is said to be like "indoeuropean spoken by basques". It's in this language where the possible vasconic substratum would be higher because they spoke vasconic until the late Bronze age/iron age.
    2- The striking similarities between basques and armenians in their languages and cultures. Armenian is probably the descendant of Maykop culture folks, like the Hittites and anatolians indoeuropeans one thousand years erlier. Maykop culture originated by these R1b L23 folk that brought copper from Taurus mountains to the Pontic Steppe. It was probably the most R1b of all the kurgan cultures. So the R1a influence was small and they kept many paleovasconic cultural and linguistic elements.
    3- Autosomal genetics. One of the key autosomal elements of kurgan ancestry is the presence of caucasian admixture. Well, this element is completely absent from basques, irish, welsh and scottish: the peoples with the highest percentage of R1b L11. How could this be possible if R1b L51 originated on the Pontic Steppe? There is another autosomal admixture: the gedrosia admixture. In Europe peaks in the scottish,irish,welsh. It also peaks in Anatolia, and it's absent in Ukraine, Belarus,western russian border and the baltic. It's presence in the Volga region is probably related with the high presence of R1b Z2103 during the Kurgan period. So this autosomal admixtures are very solid evidence that R1b L51 never went through the caucasus to the Pontic Steppe, and rather it went to western Europe through anatolia-balkans-Danube.
    4-Last argument is the presence of R1a and R1b Z2103 in Europe. If western Europe was coquered by folks directly descendant from the Pontic Steppe then there should be similar levels of those two haplogroups in western-easter europe, but in the western part they are absent (in the British islands their presence is due to germanic-scandinavian invasions)

    El Irrintzi irredento.