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Thread: Bell Beaker Archaeology and Ancient DNA

  1. #971
    Registered Users

    Quote Originally Posted by alan View Post
    The new Alex Gibson book on beaker settlement is fascinating but like all things beaker it raises more questions and puzzles than answers. Over all, I think the model put forward in the equally recent Furholt paper 'Reintegrating archaeology: A contribution to aDNA studies and the migration discourse on the 3rd millenium BC in Europe' is by far the best fit for the evidence. The latter seems to suggest that the core of the beaker phenomenon is new lineages entered the scene c. 2500BC who initially were only visible in burial, some of which were rich and indicated stratification. The first generation or so left few traces in the settlement and APPEAR to have lived somehow parallel and side by side with the natives who are represented in many of the settlements. My personal belief is this was accomplished by a lifestyle as highly mobile (probably horsemen and boatmen) clans with ephemeral settlements who specialised in trade etc but who also likely had a protection racket (or perhaps just a symbiotic existence) with the natives. After a while this changed and beaker people seem to have expanded into more normal settlements which were more substantial. Because of their previous role's and likely initial living in parallel with the natives, these beaker settlements of the 3rd generation (or whatever) probably tended to draw partly on the local traditions as well as imposing some differences. This is probably the source of the baffling variety in the detail of beaker culture and especially settlement across Europe. Eventually they clearly outbred the natives but not before a significant period of interaction with them. These substrates the beaker people had a relationship came from a huge variety of cultures because the beaker lineages spread over such a vast area. In the north and north-central area it would be CW and GAC (and perhaps the final TRB farmers0 while in the SW it would be various pre-beakerchalcolithic groups. In the middle Danube and Balkans it was a myriad of pre-beaker chalcolithic groups.

    The Furholt model explains the apparent contraction between beaker DNA evidence for sharp change and archaeological evidence for a lot of substrate influence on regional forms of beaker culture. It matches the DNA evidence that shows that beaker culture largely corresponds to the expansion of U152, L21, DF27 lineages, none of which were very old back in c. 2550-2450BC when they spread across most of Europe. The fact that these lineages were not very old at that time does suggest their numbers could not have been vast in that main period of beaker spread. When you consider that vast swathes of Europe were settled in a single century centred on 2500BC and that their TMRCA was likely only a couple of centuries earlier then it simply had to initially be a spread of clans and branches of clans rather than huge population movements.[/b]
    This model not only explains archaeological evidence for a lot of substrate influence, but also explains how BB groups in Iberia might have taken up local neolithic languages. By the way, the Dutch coast Single Grave Culture settlement of Mienakker had an associated burial which was completely unique. There is evidence for a death bed, or at least a body that was laid openly accessible as there are animal gnawing marks. And he was buried death house construction, which is unique for Single Grave culture or even the wider Corded ware horizon. A link to neolithic long barrows is suggested. All pottery was clearly of the SGC type.

    Quote Originally Posted by alan View Post
    The imposition of their genes on a population-wide scale must have happened via advantage over many centuries. It could not have been the sudden event some of the pre-Furholt papers and bloggers seem to think it is. You only get the impression of sudden genocidal change if you DNA sample graves of classic beaker burials rather than the totality of burials of the beaker period. Same goes for all periods.

    What probably happened is relatively small numbers of largely P312 clans likely lived a parallel existence (probably a mix of symbiotic and parasitic) on the edge of local societies before their status allowed them to outbreed the locals over many generations. In some cases like Britain it appears that they never much mixed with the locals. I think the way that the isles has so many purely beaker sites in terms of pottery etc agrees with this. In contrast, in much of SW Europe it appears that pottery seems to indicate many settlement sites showed continuity and only had a small minority beaker element living and mixing with the natives. This again agrees with the ancient DNA evidence that the beaker people (including the P312 beaker people) in SW Europe did mix heavily with the locals. In the eastern fringes of the beaker world it again is clear from pottery that beaker people came to heavily interact with existing cultures along the Danube. Most of the pottery influences likely relate to wives moving (which explains how the yDNA could remain P312) but other institutions like fosterage mean some males may have moved too - that would possibly explain the non-P312 beaker people at Csepel.

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  3. #972
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    Quote Originally Posted by razyn View Post
    I think it is the best fit with what Generalissimo deduces from the contemporary autosomal evidence (available so far). Definitely worth further study, as a paradigm (i.e. whether there turns out to be more evidence, or less, that supports it).

    Another basic concept worth hanging onto -- keeping it on the front or the back burner, as geographically feasible, but anyway not forgetting (or dismissing as "crazy"). Also, the hive mind working on these things includes a pretty small contingent of specialized boat guys; and I think that's a weakness that needs more academic buttressing. Given the apparent routes taken, we particularly need more scholarship on sewn-plank boat technology (of the north, not of Egypt and environs); and perhaps a little less affection for coracles in the north and west, or for reed boats in the south and east. If this is pursued with any diligence, the significance of trees (of species from which one might locally make a boat, or fix a broken one) may be more of a factor than it typically is today -- particularly with researchers who gravitate toward materials that biodegrade slowly, if ever.

    I'd agree with the second passage I have highlighted, if I were more convinced that the first is a "fact." But I think it's more of a "best guess;" and I strongly suspect that those mutations (and their early genetic branching, downstream) will prove to be a little older than our current models suggest. Counting SNPs and multiplying by a mutation rate may lead us in the right direction. I'm glad we have such a tool. But it's based on probabilities, not a ticking clock (radioactive decay), cycles of the seasons (dendrochronology), Arctic ice cores and the like.

    Just offering some potential guideposts for your map, I think you're heading in the right direction.
    Yeah that is fair comment. However, very very few would think that the three big subclade branch SNPs of P312 are older than say 3000BC. I dont think anyone is arguing its that old. I believe some think c. 2500BC is too young and would push it back to perhaps 3000BC. However, the mega branching under P312 is not compatible with total invisibility in the ancient DNA record pre 2550BC if you try to push it TOO MANY centuries further back. Personally I suspect it dates to around 2800BC give or take a century and may have been a minor element within CW and started to have expanded under it.

    However, I dont want to lose the main point - even if we quibble over a few extra centuries, we are talking about a geographical spread of sudden visibility by c. 2500-2400BC across almost the entire European Union area! So even if P312 dated as far back as 2900BC, it only had 450 years to expand from one man to cover an entire continent. That still is likely to have been a very thin spread, even if the lineage was astonishingly successful and had produced tens of thousands of descendants in that period, spread across an entire continent would still be a very thin spread. And if such an expansion took place 3000-2550BC before beaker, it is a mystery why it only becomes visible at the end in the ancient DNA record. Its more likely that the expansion of early P312 was not quite on a Genghis Khan scale. I mentally picture that there were maybe probably a dozen or so separate P312 clans of a few hundred each wandering Europe by 2500BC, a few of whom really hit the bigtime around 2550-2400BC.

    The clans probably were likely very similar to early Medieval Irish ones and unlikely to be massive hoards. That kind of clan tends to start to start to fray as the relatedness gets stretched past 5 or 6 generations (of say a notional 100 men) and tends to shed branches and geographically expand constantly as it grows because no warrior wants to sink to far labourer. Half a dozen of those units of more distant relations could stay together by political agreement and form petty kingdoms (Irish laws said they had 700 men). Beyond that its really unstable and down to strength and political skill to hold larger units together but I dont think there were large stable territorial units in the beaker era.

  4. #973
    Registered Users
    Virginia, USA
    DF27, FGC15733

    I let more than 24 hours slip away, before I dug up the url to a site I mentioned here several years ago. At that time the English side of it was broken, so only the Russian text was visible. But now it's working properly. (However, if you can read it, the Russian text is much more complete -- and there are many more photos on that side.) It would amplify this part of my earlier post, that I can't edit:

    Quote Originally Posted by razyn View Post
    Given the apparent routes taken, we particularly need more scholarship on sewn-plank boat technology... If this is pursued with any diligence, the significance of trees (of species from which one might locally make a boat, or fix a broken one) may be more of a factor than it typically is today...

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