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Monday, September 4, 2017

Eneolithic pastoralism in the Lower Volga but maybe not at Dereivka


I'm reading a couple of papers on the Eneolithic in Eastern Europe. They're relevant to the discussions we've been having recently in the comments about the origins of pastoralism on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. I wonder what the implications of the results in these papers might be for the Proto-Indo-European homeland debate?

New insights into the subsistence economy of the Eneolithic Dereivka culture of the Ukrainian North-Pontic region through lipid residues analysis of pottery vessels

Simona Mileto, Elke Kaiser, Yuri Rassamakin, Richard P. Evershed

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.03.02

Abstract: The Dereivka site of the North-Pontic forest-steppe has been widely investigated because of its potential as a centre for horse domestication (Levine, 1990; Telegin, 1986). Despite the significant archaeological evidence available, Dereivka is considered a contradictory and complex site (Rassamakin, 1999: 143) due to a range of challenges connected with reconciling the various lines of available archaeological evidence. Consequently, a generally acceptable subsistence economic model has still to be developed, with contrasting theories remaining unresolved. This paper presents new results of organic residues analyses from the site. Forty potsherds were submitted to biomolecular and stable carbon and hydrogen isotope analyses and the results discussed in relation to previously published zooarchaeological evidence (Bibikova, 1986; Levine, 1999; Kaiser, 2010). The findings offer a further perspective on the overall subsistence economic strategies of the community, particularly in relation to the exploitation of the horse. Significantly, the biomolecular and stable carbon isotope results confirmed that Dereivka community consumed horse products predominantly, together with smaller proportions of ruminant and non-ruminant products. Interestingly, although ruminant adipose fats were recovered from some vessels, evidence of ruminant dairy product exploitation was insignificant, with only one residue displaying a possible ruminant dairy fat origin. Hydrogen isotope analysis of lipids was applied to investigate equine milk processing in pots (Outram et al., 2009) but these analyses did not offer significant new insights.

On the chronological aspect of productive economy origin in the Lower Volga region

Aleksandr A. Vybornov, Markku Oinonen, Natalia S. Doga, Marianna A. Kulkova, Aleksandr S. Popov

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2016.3.1

Abstract: The Lower Volga region territory plays a large part in studying the origin of producing economy. It is particularly important to determine the time of this process commencement. The researchers assumed the coexistence of the late Neolithic and Early Eneolithic monuments in this area. On that basis they highlighted the Neo-Eneolithic period. The researchers dated it to the middle of the 5 millennium BC. They associated this period and the emergence of producing economy at the territory under discussion. The weak point of this hypothesis was a small number of radiocarbon dates on this issue. Obtained after 2007, the radiocarbon dates on the Neolithic and Eneolithic monuments in the Lower Volga region demonstrate a 500-year chronological gap between them. That is why the hypothesis of the Neo-Eneolithic period is not confirmed. At the same time there is a reason to believe that the Late Neolithic and the Caspian Sea region culture coexisted during 5800-5500 BC. However, the referring of the Caspian Sea region culture to the Eneolithic suffers from the lack of evidence that its carriers were familiar with metal. There is also no evidence that they had cattle breeding. The situation changed after studying the Oroshaemoye I archaeological site in the Lower Volga region in 2014-2015. Cultural layer with materials from only the Caspian Sea region culture was found there. This increases the significance of the monument. The bones of domestic sheep and goats were found in this cultural layer. This is the first significant evidence of producing economy existing among the population of the Lower Volga region. AMS radiocarbon dates 4800 and 4700 BC were obtained from domestic sheep bones from this site. Thus, it is possible to make a reasoned conclusion that producing economy had being formed in the Lower Volga region among the carriers of the Caspian Sea region culture. This process can be reliably dated to the beginning of the 5 millennium BC.

See also...

Two starkly different Neolithic traditions in the Lower Volga basin

26 comments:

batman said...

Yet another evidence of the importance of the Volga river-system as a mean of communication, migration and trade between Europe and Central Asia.

In fact, the traces of traffic and trade between the Baltics and Carelia to Volga-Kama/Oka/Aral and Volga-Don was instrumental to the re-populating of the Caspian-Uralian/Aralian area after Ice-time - as the climate and the bio-production of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia gradually improved when the Atlantic climate-phase arrived. Thus we find both people, boats and dogs arriving - with goats, sheep, horses, pigs and cattles - from the west, when the Eastern steppes (as the western before them) turned from taiga and tundra to woods, meadows and grasslands.

Following the climate- and bio-zones it's obvious that the first Caspian cultures were early outliers from the NW European Mesolithic.

Ric Hern said...

So Derievka people were not keen milk consumers and liked their meat more especially horsemeat. However they do not use the word absent which should be a clue...

Ric Hern said...

Did the Cucuteni-Tripolye settlers overexploit the Dnieper Rivers resources because of their population size ?

Could this have forces Steppe people to shift to the more regular use of domesticates ?

Ric Hern said...

@ Olympus

No I am not talking about CHG, I am only proposing a reason why Steppe people shifted more towards domesticates.

Rob said...

Thanks Dave

Main conclusions

1) despite apparent cattle and other domesticate finds, Dereivka were primarily horse hunters {similar to Botai}

2) the Russian article is rather uninspiring. Typical historiographic style with minimal empiricism
It shows they still haven't sorted out their chronological system as far as Neolithic - Eneolithic goes
A new kind of pastoral economy appears c.4500BC, this could be from Caucasus or South central Asia , imo
And it appears theyre trying to downplay the cultural and chronological rift between the Samara culture period and Eneolithic

epoch2013 said...

@Rob

First: I am going to keep this civil. Please do the same. Last time wasn't and I don't like that, not in the least place because I often enjoy discussing with you.

I don't think the case for hunting has been made, because this study basically looked for traces of fat (found) and dairy product (found in only one case). But I read up on this a tad and I found that while a lot can be said against the case for horse riding that doesn't necessarily mean these were hunted. It could very well be they kept horses for meat.

One of the things that is being brought up against Anthony's theory of horse riding at Deirevka is the age distribution as studied by Marsha Levine in this paper:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265425122_Domestication_and_early_history_of_the_horse

She compares a "Carnivorous Husbandry Model", created by superimposing upon "the slaughter of individuals at around the age of two to four years" upon "a pastoral nomadic attritional pattern (Levine 1999a)".

I don't think that is the correct way to explain the finds as I have a hunch that only the remains of slaughtered horses will pop up in a settlement.

Also, Anthony replies to the paper by showing a similar age distribution of horse remains was found in the Roman settlement of Kesteren (NL), stating that Romans undeniably held horses:

https://erenow.com/ancient/the-horse-the-wheel-and-language/the-horse-the-wheel-and-language.files/image056.jpg

So, to me it looks like all options are open, apart from milking horses.

epoch2013 said...

@Rob

Both Levine and Anthony agree on one thing. There had to be a trajectory towards use of horses as riding material, it looks nearly impossible that they were domesticated for riding strait from wild animals. So a stage where they were held for meat seems logical.

Ric Hern said...

How can horses be herded without a rider ? On foot it seems impossible...

Ric Hern said...

Horses can be ridden without a bit or even reigns.So I think the first evidence of horse riding will be seen at the Vertebrae rather than the Teeth.

epoch2013 said...

@Ric Hern

Whatever it is, I think it would be highly interesting to see DNA being taken from the horse remains. Or the cattle remains from some Sredny Stog sites, for that matter.

epoch2013 said...

@Ric Hern

You certainly have a good point there, though. Same goes for cattle I'd say.

Ric Hern said...

Cattle tend to form a defensive ring before fleeing becomes an option. Horses rather flee...

Rob said...

@ Epoch

"I don't think the case for hunting has been made"

Well, that's what the authors tend to favour. "Thus, in the absence of other reli- able evidence supporting domestication, we must assume that Dereivka horses were primarily hunted"

But I wouldn't disagree with the idea that horses were on a trajectory to be domesticated , even if this study left the question open
Wrt riding, I agree with the tide of archaeologists who point to a much later period (after mid M3). I reject the false analogy of Nubian infantry or Irish hoplites.

Ric Hern said...

Horses and sheep can survive better on short grass than cattle can. Cattle only have teeth in the Lower jaw....so it makes sense that Steppe people would have domesticated the animal which survives the best in their environment.

The Yakut horses can survive out in the open where cattle will perish if not housed/stabled and properly fed.

Ric Hern said...

@ epoch2013

Yes some DNA would be nice. One of those Cucuteni-Tripolye Toys resembles Scottish Highland Cattle. Short head, long horns and a brindle colour which is mostly seen among British cattle.

Grey said...

Ric Hern said...
"Horses can be ridden without a bit or even reigns.So I think the first evidence of horse riding will be seen at the Vertebrae rather than the Teeth."

that sounds like it could be a very productive line of investigation

Numidians etc rode horses using only a rope halter so if the early steppe riders were the same then the only evidence of early riding might be skeletal effects on the horses back or legs.

Grey said...

also another thought

i don't know what skeletal effects (if any) are produced by riding but if there are some then there might be a correlation between those effects and age of slaughter (i.e. animals slaughtered young for food might not have those effects while older animals that had been ridden, would)

Grey said...

apols spamming but apparently there have been numerous studies on the effect of riding on horse bones (important inf for race horses)

http://bitesizevegan.com/ethics-and-morality/is-horse-riding-cruel-is-it-vegan/

"While many people start riding their horses around age 2 (in racing) and 3 (in leisure riding), Dr. Bennet’s detailed schedule shows that the last plates to fuse are in the vertebral column, and this does not occur until the horse is at least five and a half years old, with taller horses and males taking even longer.

According to 2002 study, Practical Anatomy and Propaedeutic of the Horse, the length of time for complete growth of the epiphyseal plates (cartilage) in the body of the lumbar vertebrae of thoroughbred horses, for example, is not until they are (on average) between 6 and 9 years old!"

seems like a lot of the necessary research might be already available.

epoch2013 said...

@Rob

I think we can agree that this begs for DNA research such as the research in Central European early neolithic pigs DNA.

Ric Hern said...

@ Grey

Yes especially jumping over obstacles as it creates undue stress on their lower forelimbs. Older horses backs sag...

Ric Hern said...

Thanks Grey.

Bob Floy said...

@OM

"My God... why is there always one like you? the pet one?"

My God...why does there always have to be one like you?
The delusional asswipe who's way too emotionally invested in his stupid pet theory? I guess we should be grateful for the comic relief.

Ric Hern said...

A while back Davidski posted a DNA study about the Tabiano coloured horses spreading from the Urals and reaching Central Europe around +-3100 bC.if I remember correctly.

Ric Hern said...

It could be difficult to trace cattle since early farmers bred their cattle to the local Aurochs groups as seen in Britain and Switzerland.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151026092912.htm

Ric Hern said...

Maybe sequencing remains of Oxen could point more accurately to human migration since it takes a longer time to train oxen and they are usually used for many years.

Grey said...

horse skeleton spam

i assume you can tell male and female horse skeletons apart?

if so, if most of the slaughtered animals were young males that might be a clue they were being herded?

(although maybe less so if the weren't milking the females?)