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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two starkly different Neolithic traditions in the Lower Volga basin


Recent papers in English dealing with the Neolithic transition on the Caspian steppe aren't easy to find, but I managed to dig one up at Documenta Praehistorica: Initial stages of two Neolithisation models in the Lower Volga basin by Alexander Vybornov.

The author describes two highly contrasting Neolithic traditions in this region; one that is essentially a ceramic Mesolithic culture, no doubt practiced by local foragers, and the other a pastroralist culture, probably brought to the steppe by migrants from the south.

I think it's possible that these migrants could have been the main source of the, thus far imprecisely characterized, Caucasus-related ancestry in the potentially Proto-Indo-European Khvalynsk and Yamnaya peoples (see here). But it's hard to argue either way until someone sequences DNA from a few relevant skeletons.

In this paper, two groups of ancient sites located in the Lower Volga River basin are analysed. The first group is linked to the emergence of the oldest pottery in this region, which is one of the most ancient in Europe. The presence of this feature of the ‘Neolithic package’ can be dated to the middle of the 7th millenium BC. A production economy is a particular feature of the second group of sites, which can be dated to the end of the 6th millenium BC. This is one of the earliest pieces of evidence of the existence of domesticated species in Eastern Europe. These two groups of sites show the initial stages of two Neolithisation models in the Lower Volga basin.

...

The Neolithisation process in the southern part of the Low Volga region during 6500–5500 BC did not include a producing economy. From the point of view of European researchers, sites of this period could be attributed only to the ‘ceramic Mesolithic’. In the eastern European scientific world, pottery is regarded as a marker of the beginning of the Neolithic era (Oshibkina 1996), which is why these sites were classified as Neolithic.

...

The origin of Prikaspiiskaya culture is reckoned to be connected with the Lower Don region. Some migration from Western Asia could also have occurred. Thus, the Prikaspiiskaya sites in the Lower Volga region represent the second Neolithisation model proposed for this area. The model is connected with the appearance of a producing economy in the milieu of Prikaspiiskaya culture.

Alexander Vybornov, Initial stages of two Neolithisation models in the Lower Volga basin, Documenta Praehistorica, Vol 43 (2016), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4312/dp.43.7

19 comments:

visigotth said...

Hi, what is your opinion on this recently published paper:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-11629-8

They evaluate the amount of demic diffusion in Neolithic by “quantifying the space-time variation of the frequency of mtDNA haplogroup K”. They also claim that this is not really possible with the genome-wide studies.
Is this correct – and can it be done in the same way for the Bronze Age transition? Thank you.

Davidski said...

The arguments in that paper against genome-wide data don't make any sense to me, because most of the genome-wide data is neutral and not affected by selection. Even strong drift wouldn't make a mixed population, say, 50/50 forager/farmer, appear what it's not, because drift is random.

In fact, focusing on a single haplogroup like they did is problematic exactly for the reasons that they specified for genome-wide data: drift and selection.

I have no idea how these papers get published sometimes.

Kristiina said...

From the mtDNA haplogroup perspective, it is also uncomfortable for this new "K farmer haplogroup paper" that the recent paper by Mathieson et al. "The Genomic History Of Southeastern Europe" detected a lot of K1 among the mesolithic foragers in Serbia and Romania dated 9700-6000 calBCE, including K1, K1c, K1f, K1a.

Davidski said...

Yeah, this K paper is really something, for all the wrong reasons.

Richard Holtman said...

Great find Davidski. Thanks! Very interesting.

Ric Hern said...

The dates is very interesting.Domesticated Sheep already appear in the Proto-Khvalynsk if this dates are correct. Much to say about who the CHG people were....

Ric Hern said...

@ Davidski

Or maybe they were the Haplogroup Q population that we see in Khvalynsk ?

Davidski said...

Seems a good bet now that the Q1a/U4 Khvalynsk guy was derived from the Prikaspiiskaya culture in the Volga basin.

If so, it's no wonder his uniparental markers don't match his CHG-heavy genome-wide ancestry, because his ancestors would have been in the north Caspian for a while, so they could have picked up the Q1a and U4 locally, and still retain a lot of southern admixture.

Ric Hern said...

@ Davidski

Or maybe they were the Haplogroup Q population that we see in Khvalynsk ?

So domesticates arrived in the Lower Don long before the appearance of the Maykop Culture. So either the CHG in Yamnaya are Pre-Maykop or they are connected to the Lower Volga Neolithic population...

Ric Hern said...

Interesting. Thanks.

Rob said...

Good paper.
If i understood it correctly, he posits a complex picture, with the earliest ceramic traditions being rooted in a northern, Volga-Kama tradition, which paradoxically finds most anchoring in the southern part of the lower Volga steppe, and a 'north Caspian' ({?west Kazakh) one more pertinent in the northern sector of the Volga steppe. Coincidentally, in an earlier paper Vybornov and others (Vasilieva) draw analogies between the Elshanka culture ceramics in of the Volga bend region with the Aral region (Keltaminar).

Now, the appearance of productive economy he links to the so-called Pre-Caspian culture (5500-4800 BC), which precedes the Khvalynsk culture, and is typified by sheep. HE links this to a different direction still - the Lower Don. To me this raises the possibility of some kind of early links with the Caucasus and/or Crimea also.

Hopefully somebody is sampling more late Neolithic - Chalcolithic steppe samples, because it would be more informative than Yamnaya, which shows extreme local flunder effects.

Gioiello said...

@ Kristiina
"From the mtDNA haplogroup perspective, it is also uncomfortable for this new "K farmer haplogroup paper" that the recent paper by Mathieson et al. "The Genomic History Of Southeastern Europe" detected a lot of K1 among the mesolithic foragers in Serbia and Romania dated 9700-6000 calBCE, including K1, K1c, K1f, K1a".

As usual I have broken in pieces this paper in the Haplogroup K page of FB and elsewhere. The authors are from Iberia, as in many other fake papers of the past (you know that I think to know who funds them). The incredible is that since now also Chinese "geneticists" are sponsored as in the other fake paper about hg. Q...

Slumbery said...

Rob:
"If i understood it correctly, he posits a complex picture, with the earliest ceramic traditions being rooted in a northern, Volga-Kama tradition, "

It says that these ceramics are the oldest in the entire Volga-Kama basin (according to another referenced article) and the southern sites by the sea are older than the northern (but overall still quite southern) sites. Also states that the relatively northern sites were developed under southern influence.
The article says nothing about this tradition being rooted in a northern Volga-Kama tradition, it only mentions Volga-Kama to point out that these ceramics are the oldest in a much wider region. All the sites actually studied or referred are very southern inside that bigger region.

The lower Don source of agriculture is interesting. Makes me wonder if that was actually the usual route for Caucasus influence later too.

Samuel Andrews said...

@Kirstina,

I posted about mHG K on my blog last month....btw I'm building a new mtDNA blog.
http://mtdnaatlas.blogspot.com/2017/08/mtdna-kuhg.html

The mHG K results from Mesolithic Southeast Europe did come as a surprise. However, there's nothing strongly suggesting a large fraction of (Western) European mHg K is not of Neolithic Anatolian origin. I say (Western) European because I only have good mitogenome data from Western Europe so I don't know what mHG K in Eastern Europe is like.

The oldest examples of the mHG K characteristic of (Western) European mHG K pop up in Neolithic Spain and Britain and Northern Bell Beaker.

Rob said...

@ Slumberry

I think it says just that "Pottery attributed to the Kairshak type was made from silt naturally tempered with the shells of freshwater molluscs. This ceramic technology is thought to be the most ancient in the Volga and Kama basins"
If it is most ancient in the Volga-Kama, then the Caspian sites with similar ceramic technology must be somehow linked to it, no ?

Slumbery said...

Rob: My interpretation is that the sites in discussion are themselves in the "Volga and Kama basins", in the lower Volga basin. The "Volga and Kama basins" are not referred in the article as an outside area, but as the wider region where the discussed sites lie.
At second read your interpretation is possible just from what is written in that part.

However the article still explicitly claims that the more southern sites are older that the more northern ones, and, at least in the geographical range actually studied here, the usage of ceramics spread from the south to the north. This makes unlikely that with the "This ceramic technology is thought to be the most ancient in the Volga and Kama basins." part they meant a far northern root for the local ceramic industry. At least it would be a bit contradictory.

Rob said...

@ Slumberry

Yes I think that's true, it's part of a broader context
In fact, it seems that the more northerly steppe sites come into being when the southern ones are temporarily abandoned in the arid episode

Richard Holtman said...

Well to me anything Neolithic is very interesting. I'm in the miniorty but I find the Neolithic Revolution very important to European History and is often overlooked and under appreciated. No it's not like the steppe invasaions but it's still has an impact on are genetic profiles today. All European's carry EEF just varing degrees.

jv said...

Thank you for finding this article. Very interested in the Pre-Khvalynsk, Pre-Yamnaya populations as my mtDNA H6a1 ancestor made it to the PC Steppe possibly during this time.