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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Europe's ancient proto-cities may have been ravaged by the plague


The Cucuteni-Trypillia culture of the Eneolithic Balkans and Eastern Europe is best known for its mega-settlements or proto-cities, each one featuring hundreds of homes, temples and other structures, and likely to have been inhabited by as many as 20,000 people. But from around 3,400 BC these mega-settlements were no longer being built, and a few hundred years later the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture vanished.

Two main explanations have been given for its rather swift demise: violent invasions by steppe pastoralists from the east and/or a massive out-migration by its people as a result of environmental impacts from rapid climate change (see here). However, these theories have failed to gain wide acceptance due to a lack of hard evidence in their support.

Now, another potential explanation is being offered, and it is supported by hard evidence. According to Rascovan et al., the plague may have been a key factor in the decline of not only the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture, but much of Neolithic Europe (see here). From the paper, emphasis is mine...

Between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, many Neolithic societies declined throughout western Eurasia due to a combination of factors that are still largely debated. Here, we report the discovery and genome reconstruction of Yersinia pestis, the etiological agent of plague, in Neolithic farmers in Sweden, pre-dating and basal to all modern and ancient known strains of this pathogen. We investigated the history of this strain by combining phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses of the bacterial genome, detailed archaeological information, and genomic analyses from infected individuals and hundreds of ancient human samples across Eurasia. These analyses revealed that multiple and independent lineages of Y. pestis branched and expanded across Eurasia during the Neolithic decline, spreading most likely through early trade networks rather than massive human migrations. Our results are consistent with the existence of a prehistoric plague pandemic that likely contributed to the decay of Neolithic populations in Europe.

...

In this work, we report the discovery of plague infecting Neolithic farmers in Scandinavia, which not only pre-dates all known cases of plague, but is also basal to all known modern and ancient strains of Y. pestis. We identified a remarkable overlap between the estimated radiation times of early lineages of Y. pestis, toward Europe and the Eurasian Steppe, and the collapse of Trypillia mega-settlements in the Balkans/Eastern Europe.


Citation...

Rascovan et al., Emergence and Spread of Basal Lineages of Yersinia pestis during the Neolithic Decline, Cell (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.11.005

See also...

Migration of the Bell Beakers—but not from Iberia (Olalde et al. 2018)

Late PIE ground zero now obvious; location of PIE homeland still uncertain, but...

"The Homeland: In the footprints of the early Indo-Europeans" time map

92 comments:

Davidski said...

I wonder if the Burned house horizon of Neolithic/Eneolithic Europe was a direct result of the plague?

I mean, why would you burn down settlements, including even huge proto-cities, regularly and rebuild them if you weren't trying to get rid of something at all costs and start over?

Burned house horizon

Them meee said...


Woah. You can’t describe how monumental this is.

Though we’ve known for a while that the plague ravaged Neolithic Europe to an ugly degree, the confirmation of strong links between the timeline of its spread and Cucuteni-Trypillia’s collapse, one of archaeology’s biggest misteries, and one that no earlier theory was truly able to decipher, is truly something else.

What else can I say?

AWood said...

Did the plague not hit Italy and Spain or something? How is it that there was a bounceback of female EEF lineages and ancestry, yet the bulk of the post-Neolithic male lineages seem to be derived from the Eurasian steppes?

Toby_P said...

Hhmm. I'm not sure the dates add up. The lineage shifts in western Europe occurred with Bell Beaker, and thats almost a thousand years after Cucuteni ends. It seems like they're trying to associate a series of events to one cause.

BTW anyone notice fig 5A & 5C. Are they suggesting that CHG expanded into the south steppe between 8000 and 5000 BC (''expansion of populations from Iran/Caucasus to Eursian steppe) ? Are these tjhe same Danish consortium working on Shuvaleri etc ?

Ric Hern said...

My guess is that those who survived were mostly herders in Mountainous areas. So any bounce back would have occurred from the Mountains...

Davidski said...

@Toby_P

I think the idea is that the plague caused a demographic collapse and a downward trajectory in demography among the European farmers that they could not get out of, and pastoralist groups from the steppes and their descendants took advantage of that over a long period of time.

In other words, the rise of R1b in Western Europe need not overlap with the major prehistoric plague pandemics.

Davidski said...

By the way, these Neolithic plague pandemics might also explain the bounce back in hunter-gatherer ancestry in much of Europe, perhaps because the farmer groups that lived further away from the main settlements and maybe had more diversified subsistence strategies survived better and were able to then occupy some of the empty land even before the steppe pastoralists showed up.

Ric Hern said...

I wonder if the Pile Dwellings were a result of trying to escape rodents which would have been attracted to grain and other foodstuffs ? Rodents are the main carriers of the fleas which carry the Plague....An extensive herding system had the least chance of attracting rodents.

Bogdan said...

@Davidski:

Quite possibly your best blog post. This is the big one folks....

Bob Floy said...

@Davidski

"I wonder if the Burned house horizon of Neolithic/Eneolithic Europe was a direct result of the plague?

I mean, why would you burn down settlements, including even huge proto-cities, regularly and rebuild them if you weren't trying to get rid of something at all costs and start over?"

FYI, Cucuteni's Anatolian ancestors were doing something similar at Catal Hayuk, and I think at a few other sites.

Folker said...

Burning of CT settlements was very likely linked with religion. The frequenty seems always the same periodicity (around 60/80 years). Unlikely to be linked to plague. Mind that the largests settlements could have ben far more than 20 000 (Maydanets could have been home to around 46 000 at its peak). Another remark: the assumption that those settlements where egalitarian with no mega structures is obsolete. Some mega structures have been found, meaning at least some kind of organization.

Fanty said...

"Burning of CT settlements was very likely linked with religion."

Isnt BUILDING "megastructures" not usualy linked to religion? Not burning them down. Except if its the megastructures build for a different religion of course. ;-)

Bob Floy said...

@Folker

"Burning of CT settlements was very likely linked with religion. The frequenty seems always the same periodicity (around 60/80 years)."

I'm inclined to agree. And like the habit of building megalithic structures, it's a practice that seems to have been brought from the farmers' ancestral homeland. Of course none of this rules out the idea that the plague was a factor in the decline of neolithic Europe, it might well have.

Matt said...

Good post.

Having skimmed the paper, I guess I would add a couple of question marks that:

- Gokhem4 is pretty late in the day for Funnelbeaker, at 2900 BCE. That's practically overlapping with early Corded Ware, so I don't know if it totally does for yersinia pestis being steppe origin.

The argument is that there is inferred branching between 4000 BCE - 3000 BCE, but I don't know if that can be shown that they are necessarily evolving in different populations for most of that time. I mean, most likely they would be, because otherwise they'd be in close direct competition with each other, but maybe not.

Even if these plague strains did evolve in separate populations though, I'm not sure the evidence that they evolved in CT is necessarily persuasive.

They've just made the argument that practically any level of population contact is sufficient for plague to evolve.

- The argument is the Gokhem strain is virulent enough - "At the genomic level, these strains contain the plasminogen activator gene that is sufficient to cause pneumonic plague—the deadliest form of historic and modern plague (Zimbler et al., 2015)". But surely the divergent then dominant steppe strains must have been more virulent or their clade would not be the dominant surviving clade? Rather some EEF version would be.

So there may still be some biological advantage from having a bit of preadaptation to a nastier version of plague. I don't then know if we can totally but away the idea of disease facilitating population movements in the manner previously theorised.

Also doesn't seem to favour the idea that the nastiest version evolves necessarily in the densest farmer populations (which itself throws a bit of uncertainty on the idea of most virulent plague evolving in CT).

Ric Hern said...

@ Folker

Are you referring to something like a townhall ? Well usually some practices were incorporated into religion in order for people to take them serious. It became the recipe for survival in certain circumstances....

George said...

Hi,

“The Black Death epidemic had run its course by the early 1350s, but the plague reappeared every few generations for centuries.” This fits the ~60 year cyclic burning of the C-T villages.
Quote from: The Air of History (Part II) Medicine in the Middle Ages, the Black Death Section: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573364/

Fire was used to contain the Plague in 1900 Honolulu. “Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu's Chinatown”, By James C. Mohr (2004).

There are of course other possible reasons. Deliberate house-burning in the prehistory of Central and Eastern Europe by John Chapman http://dro.dur.ac.uk/5987/1/5987.pdf?DDD6

“… the ritual burning of a Neolithic house in the middle or end of its life-history is a good example of domithanasia” from Weaving house life and death into places: a blueprint for a hypermedia narrative by Ruth Tringham. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.461.1359&rep=rep1&type=pdf


Davidski said...

@George

This fits the ~60 year cyclic burning of the C-T villages.

Yep, I don't see any contradiction between the burning of the settlements being a response to a fairly regular plague pandemic cycle and a religious ritual.

I think that these sorts of major social upheavals like regular plague attacks would have had a profound effect on the beliefs, superstitions and religion of these people.

Them meee said...

@Toby_P

“BTW anyone notice fig 5A & 5C. Are they suggesting that CHG expanded into the south steppe between 8000 and 5000 BC (''expansion of populations from Iran/Caucasus to Eursian steppe) ?”

That’s interesting. Wonder how they came to that conclusion.

That is, if they have any new samples showing that, then it looks like Davidski was right on track once again.

It is best to wait though.

Leron said...

Indo-European since its inception has always been a language of trade and commerce. Cucuteni-Trypillia, the godfather of IE culture and language, met it's demise at the hands of the plague because they preferred inhumation for their burials. While their western steppe confederates survived in greater numbers because they opted for cremations instead. The early IE tribes absorbed as much as was necessary, including genes, from this advanced society and carried on the tradition of commerce after the epidemic subsided. Following more lucrative paths, they were led south and eventually came to Anatolia.

It was not wild and rambunctious steppe men on horses that spread Indo-European. This was the job of more enterprising people like the Hittites. That made Old Assyrian merchants cross Cappadocian mountain ranges, a feat later Neo-Assyrian armies still dreaded, just to make business with them. And it even led their army to touch Babylonian soil a thousand years before Alexander.

Through commercial prowess and just a fair amount of conquest, IE became the lingua franca over its other sister languages to the north that were cruder and slightly more reminiscent of Uralic (although they separated some thousands of years before).

Them meee said...

@Leron

“It was not wild and rambunctious steppe men on horses that spread Indo-European. This was the job of more enterprising people like the Hittites.”

Then how do you explain Indo-Iranian? Doesn’t look like just commerce did it. They were among the most “wild and rambunctious” steppe peoples, but yeah, it was totally spread by commerce only, and the Scythian were only known as merchants and not warlike nomads. Sure.

Davidski said...

@Leron

I guess you missed the part where the cultures of Eneolithic Europe west of the steppe collapsed, and were replaced by those derived from the steppe.

In other words, Cucuteni-Trypillia wasn't Indo-European. It vanished and was replaced by Indo-Europeans.

Leron said...

Them meee:

Indo-Iranian came very late in the development of IE, so there's no need to attribute them a quintessential character of IE as a whole. Perhaps they are the most romanticized in this field. Archaeology and history would let us know early IE people were best adapted to thrive in settled regions and in cities, interspersed by mountains to act as natural barriers. The open steppe allows for mobility but there are other groups that by nature seem to have been better at it, and hence why Iranic languages exploded in the south but barely few remain in the north. You should also be aware that "Scythian" was not exclusive to Iranians but could represent many distinct groups unless they were overtly Eastern in appearance. Even a group of Jews today are known as "Scythian" (Ashkenazi) which should let you know how loose has always been.

Davidski:

Collapse does not mean total extinction. The few that remained were enough to carry the C-T legacy forward. I also believe the survivors had significant steppe ancestry (although not evenly distributed) and spoke the proto-IE language that replaced the Kartvelian-like C-T language. This is where IE picked up those Kartvelian words that linguists have pointed out, rather than all the way in Georgia and surrounding areas. And it would be the western steppe folk that were primarily involved in the formation of IE. Those further east were later to receive IE culture, although adapted to fit their environment.

Them meee said...

@Leron

“Archaeology and history would let us know early IE people were best adapted to thrive in settled regions and in cities, interspersed by mountains to act as natural barriers.”

Which is why Indo-Europeans conquered half the world, from Ireland to India, in a few short pulses and their speech became the most widespread in the world.

Because they were settled urbanites, and not at all pastoralist nomads, let alone good at it.

Right?

Toby_P said...

@ Them meee

Yes exactly I was just wondering if they now have some sample to based it on, or are still jsut speculating ...

Ric Hern said...

Indo-Europeans are good adoptors and adaptors. That is I think what gave them the edge...

Bob Floy said...

@Leron

"Cucuteni-Trypillia, the godfather of IE culture and language..."

Huh?

Leron said...

Them meee:

To put it simply, most IE were looking for new homes to settle and new venues of trading to feed and expand those settlements. They were not Mongols. Finding grazing land was not their main objective. Although they were proud of their horses, so were Assyrians and other urban civilizations. The Rig Veda threw light into a relatively short span in time when cities were mostly not in their possession but quickly changed perspective when they got them. The Greeks and Hittites looked down on those who just wandered around without a large city to call their own.

Ric Hern said...

Leron did you in any way look at the Genetic evidence of Ancient samples ?

Bastian Barx said...

Getting seriously tired of Leron's unfounded extrapolations. Too much imagination, and too little intellectual honesty, is what it's about.

Davidski said...

Leron obviously hasn't heard of ancient DNA yet.

Them meee said...

Doesn’t seem terribly knowledgeable in archaeology either. Don’t know how he came to the conclusion the Indo-Europeans were city dwellers and not at all steppe nomads, who weren’t at all looking for new grazing lands, when the Greeks even described the arrival of the Mycenaeans or a similar group happening this way.

Also I can’t see how C-T could have spoken a Kartvelian-like language.

PF said...

By the way, these Neolithic plague pandemics might also explain the bounce back in hunter-gatherer ancestry in much of Europe, perhaps because the farmer groups that lived further away from the main settlements and maybe had more diversified subsistence strategies survived better and were able to then occupy some of the empty land even before the steppe pastoralists showed up.

This is a pretty great insight. Looking back, the HG resurgence was always a clue that farmer societies suffered some sort of internal collapse before the the steppe migrants came and mopped things up.

At the same time, this doesn't mean that there wasn't violent population replacement by the steppe migrants. It's difficult to write off facts like G2a disproportionately surviving in mountainous areas and almost nowhere else, the sex bias in uniparentals, etc.

epoch said...

I recall that La Brana 1 already had derived adaptive variants on loci involved in immune responses. I never saw anything similar checked in other papers, but it would be interesting to see if farmers had similar variants.

"For the remaining loci, La BraƱa 1 displayed the derived, putatively adaptive variants in five cases, including three genes, PTX4, UHRF1BP1, and GPATCH1, involved in the immune system (Table 1 and Extended Data Fig. 8). The latter is associated with the risk of bacterial infection."

Dmytro said...

A plague epidemic sounds like a plausible cause for the complete disappearance of classical CT in the areas which hosted the "megalopolises" (Majdanets et sim.) This seems to have occurred in the period subsequent to the last known "ritual town burning" shortly after ca. 3300 BCE. What is particularly interesting is that the ex-CT population which produced the "steppe" cultures of Serezliivka and Zhivotilovka neighbouring and /or mixed with PostStog and the "Late Trypilian" cultures (also steppe-mixed to a greater or lesser extent) does not seem to harbour cultural forms closely related to the "megalopolitic" Trypilians of right bank Ukraine. I suspect BTW (talking about fire) that the "disposal of the dead" in megalopolitan CT (and in much of CT actually) was some kind of above ground ritual burning which left no "inground" evidence such as we have for both cremations and inhumations in many other cultures.

George said...


For commentary on recurring pestilence see:
"Of Plagues And Prehistory" on www.gnxp.com

Carlos Aramayo said...

@Davidski,

Maybe it´s not the right place to comment this, but I wanted to let you know of the following recent "review" article:

"Haryana’s Rors brought Western flavour to the Indus Valley: New genetic study claims that the Rors came to the Indus Valley when it was flourishing during the Bronze Age and inducted West Eurasian genetic ancestry"

https://tinyurl.com/ycqb7bss

Maybe the academic publication mentioned in this review can add something important.

JuanRivera said...

The Indo-Europeans seem to be in many ways like the Mongols. Horses were important to them, they aided in the diffusion of plague, and they expanded over a huge area. The difference is that they left a significant impact where they went. Steppe ancestry shows from the Altai, NW China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Ireland, Iberia and the mediterranean islands (except Sardinia). It shows up in BA Europe including Ireland and Iberia (the Bell Beaker samples with no steppe ancestry are highlighted as no_steppe for a reason), in Chalcholithic Armenia and NW Iran, in Anatolia, in the Altai and even Lake Baikal and Mongolia to a minor extent, in the Tarim Basin, in BA Central Asia, and Iron Age Iran, Swat Valley and likely other Indian samples. So, a better analogy for Indo-Europeans would be all-terrain amphibious tanks.

Matt said...

Off topic from this slightly but was listening to Reich's latest video presentation, which is pretty non-novel generally, but was surprised at 48:00 to hear "(The Yamnaya) were very successful. They expanded from where they initially uh, originated, all the way from Hungary in Central Europe, all the way to the Altai Mountains, on the boundary of Mongolia" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=990052wQywM. I guess that must be a strange phrasing, rather than some kind of statement that Yamnaya in Hungary actually ancestral to other groups?

Davidski said...

@Matt

I'm quite sure that Hungarian Yamnaya isn't ancestral to Yamnaya.

Interestingly, though, the oldest Yamnaya sites are located in the west in Ukraine and in the east in Samara, rather than in between.

Not sure what that means?

Matt said...

Yep, doesn't make a lot of sense to me, wanted to check that there wasn't anything at all that could possibly support it so probably just some strange language.

Not sure about distribution of Yamnaya sites in western Ukraine and east of Samara - intermediate land not so good for their subsistence method?

Bob Floy said...

@Davidski

"Interestingly, though, the oldest Yamnaya sites are located in the west in Ukraine and in the east in Samara, rather than in between.

Not sure what that means?"

I'm not sure what it means exactly either, but I am pretty sure that L51 came from those Ukrainian Yamnaya communities.

Them meee said...

@Davidski

Maybe a very rapid expansion? Would also explain some sort of mad rush eastwards that became Afanasievo.

Or am I talking nonsense?

Philippe said...

"all the way from Hungary in Central Europe, all the way to the Altai Mountains, on the boundary of Mongolia"

Sounds like he's describing the two extremes of the land they inhabited, from Hungary to the Altai.

JuanRivera said...

So, it's becoming clearer and clearer that IE came from the steppe. The "Iran_N"-like ancestry detected in the mediterranean is clearly non-IE, being associated with Minoan , Nuragic, Iberian, and possibly Etruscan. In the rest of its, it was associated with Sumerian, Hurro-Urartian (which is one of the substrates of Armenian, as well as Anatolian languages), Elamite, and possibly Dravidian. Paleogenetics, including that of Plague strains, seem to indicate that the manner of IE expansion over Eurasia was eerily (or disturbingly) similar to that to that of Iberians in Latin America, with a similar end result.

Them meee said...

@JuanRivera

“So, it's becoming clearer and clearer that IE came from the steppe.”

It has already been clear for the last three or so years. The biggest difference is this:

https://eurogenes.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-resistance-crumbles.html

JuanRivera said...

Ultimately and likely inexorably, the steppe hypothesis is going to become the definite theory, probably at the level of those in the natural sciences. The Anatolian hypothesis collapsed, so it did out-of-india, and the correlation of relatively high levels of Iran_N and CHG with non-IE languages, both historical and present, and other things, are going to collapse the Armenian hypothesis.

Them meee said...

It’s strange that people still talk about Iran this, Iran that, when the Wang paper is out and about. Some people can’t let go of Hajji Firuz.

The reprint may have new samples and that is something to pay attention to, but still.

Davidski said...

Well, the steppe hypothesis is not going to be totally accepted by some geneticists working on this problem as along as Hittite era samples from Anatolia supposedly lack steppe ancestry.

So where we're at now is that there's widespread agreement that late PIE came from the steppe, but the homeland of early PIE is still being debated, and might be for a while yet.

Davidski said...

By the way, I don't think it's a coincidence that image B in the figure below explicitly says that animal traction and wheeled transport spread without much human gene flow, including, and I suspect, especially onto the steppe.

Figure 5

In other words, expect more evidence soon backing this up.

Toby_P said...

Not sure about the pan-Turanist vibe people are putting out here...
Unlike Mongols and Turkics, PIEs had their own, developed Ur-Kultur. Let's not forget that, even if the northern / late or post-Late IEs which spread out relied heavily on pastoralism.

JuanRivera said...

Well, the PIE culture was unique. While it had some similarities with central and eastern steppe cultures, it had several differences such as the extensive use of farming (presumably in the rivers and forest-steppe), the existence of naval vocabulary, higher commercial activity, higher use of wheels, among others. Overall, it seems the PIEs were agropastoralist with almost equal use of its components, supplemented by hunting, gathering and fishing, and that knew both year-round houses and chariots.

Them meee said...

@Toby_P

True, but as steppe nomads they had a lot of similarities, and they were nowhere near exactly like Leron described.

Samuel Andrews said...

@Them mee,

i feel you.

When put model Hajj Chalcholithic (5000bc) you see it can't be ancestral to yamnya. Look at its ancient ancestry ratios. There's no room for such ancestry in yamnaya.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_jr6EMoG_1eFm1x8hltNHW2bE5A0lW9N7XDjCU_jO_k/edit#gid=0

Haj isn't that different from modern assyrians and neighboring people. If yamnya had legitimate mesoptainian, west asian, whatever you wanna call it ancestry we would know by now.

Wang confirms yamnya has distinct paleolithic Caucasus ancestry which was not involved with early farming or any cultural advancement in west asia. Yet the idea yamnya's southern ancestry is linked to cultural advancements stubbornly remains the official narrative.

A part of the problem is they think the southern ancestry reached russia in a migration in the same way steppe ancestry reached europe in a migration.

What probably happened is one native hunter gatherer population in russia happened to carry lots of chg ancestry. Then with a new skills they learned from the south they conquered russia and ukraine (complelty replacing natives in the process) hence making chg ancestry widespread.

But actually they didn't completely replace ehgs, because we see excess ehg in EBA Europeans and lower CHG than what a purely yamnya population would give.

Ric Hern said...

Did I hear correctly ? "...Horses hitched to wagons..."

Ric Hern said...

I wonder if he suggests that Yamnaya related groups had a lot of interaction with each other over an extremely long distance after the initial spread ? Maybe the spread of certain strains of the Plague point to that ?

Ric Hern said...

The purples line 3.9 kiloyears in Figure 5 D is also interesting. The extent of Scythian Trade ?

Davidski said...

@Samuel Andrews

What probably happened is one native hunter gatherer population in russia happened to carry lots of chg ancestry. Then with a new skills they learned from the south they conquered russia and ukraine (complelty replacing natives in the process) hence making chg ancestry widespread.

More likely the population densities were higher in the south of the steppe, and so with higher mobility and more frequent contacts during the Eneolithic, the CHG ancestry spread very quickly throughout much of the Pontic-Caspian steppe until population densities evened out, and so did the level of CHG.

Davidski said...

Wang confirms yamnya has distinct paleolithic Caucasus ancestry which was not involved with early farming or any cultural advancement in west asia. Yet the idea yamnya's southern ancestry is linked to cultural advancements stubbornly remains the official narrative.

Yeah, I really hope Broad MIT/Harvard & Max Planck Jena get over this very soon and start interpreting the data more objectively.

EastPole said...

@Ric Hern

„The purples line 3.9 kiloyears in Figure 5 D is also interesting. The extent of Scythian Trade ?”

This is something I don’t understand. There is a comment to Figure 4.:
“Similarly, massive migrations of the Eurasian Steppe populations significantly changed the genetic background of Central Europe populations after the Neolithic decline, around 4.8 kya, which was later followed by a new migration from Central Europe back to the Eurasian Steppe at 4 kya.”

And on Figure 4. Central Europe is shown as:

https://i.postimg.cc/6qj2HW5L/screenshot-460.png

I am not aware of any massive migrations from Central Europe (as shown on the map) to the Eurasian Steppe at 4 kya.

Davidski said...

The authors probably think that Sintashta formed as a result of a back migration from Central Europe to the steppe.

This might be partly true, because there's evidence of contacts between the steppe and the Carpathian Basin. But most of the back migration to the steppe was from other parts of Eastern Europe, and probably especially from the forest steppe of what is now Ukraine.

Their map shows that this back migration originated in what is now Germany. Hmmm.

Matt said...

@Philippe:Sounds like he's describing the two extremes of the land they inhabited, from Hungary to the Altai.

Most likely, Reich's a good scientist, but an odd speaker, I have to say.

@Davidski:By the way, I don't think it's a coincidence that image B in the figure below explicitly says that animal traction and wheeled transport spread without much human gene flow, including, and I suspect, especially onto the steppe.

I mean, you have Funnelbeaker and Central European Neolithic axleed wheels without much evidence of change in geneflow from preceding pops (though this is hard to get at because of relatedness between EEF), simultaneous axled wheels appearing in Mesopotamia and steppe. I'm not sure they have new evidence so much as there's no signal of new migrations at the 3500 BCE dates when wheels become pretty ubiquitous. Wheel seems like something which spread without demic diffusion.

@Ric Hern: Did I hear correctly ? "...Horses hitched to wagons..."

Yeah, you did. I don't know if they actually used horses to draw wagons preferentially though, or if Reich is just simplifying matters for the audience.

Ric Hern said...

@ Matt

If true about the horses it is something significant because horses can not really be hitched to the wagons the same way as oxen. Some thought that horses needed a much more complicated hitching system than oxen and the innovation for this followed only much, much later....now I wonder if archaeologists discovered something....

Davidski said...

It seems unlikely that horses were used to for traction on the steppes until the invention of chariots by Sintashta during the Middle Bronze Age.

Yamnaya and Catacomb probably used oxen to pull their wagons.

Them meee said...

What’s with these sweeping conclusions and speculative maps? Are they hiding something (new samples or archaeological evidence) or are they just assuming too much?

Richard Rocca said...

See David Reich's new video starting at 50:25

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=990052wQywM

Narasimhan's pre-print has 176 samples, but they now have 531 ancient genomes with 80 coming from BMAC city of Gonur, Turkmenistan.

Looks like they have narrowed down stepp ancestry there and in Pakistan to between 2000 and 1500 BC. Sounds like chariots and Rig Veda to me :D

Them meee said...

Noice, BMAC.

It also eereily coincides with the archaeological evidence. What a sad moment for any surviving OIT craziness there may be. In fact I wonder how some of the most adamant OIT supporters would react to this. Pure schadenfreude, anyone?

Very exciting and important overall.

JuanRivera said...

The figure of the spread of animal traction and wheels happens to look like the neanderthal range.

Grey said...

"Wheel seems like something which spread without demic diffusion."

maybe via family sized artisanal diffusion?


#

horses vs oxen

iirc the thing with this is horses can pull loads but until the invention of the horse collar it would press against their windpipe for some anatomical reason so they couldn't pull as *heavy* a load as oxen but they could pull light loads.

#

from reading up on the plague a while back

1) the fleas live in central asia and iirc once infected the rats die within a few weeks or so - you need a relatively fast vector to reach a target for infection while they're still alive (imo sugar ships in the middle age version)

2) iirc horses have some immunity/resistance to plague so i wonder if they could be infected but transmit it over longer distances cos immune?

steppe horse traders?

Ric Hern said...

Well a Breaststrap harness setup could have been used...

Bob Floy said...

@Them meee

I think that this is the point where OIT's pitiful holdout supporters give up entirely on trying to offer evidence, and just start accusing the scientific establishment of pushing a narrative that favors Europe(which is extra funny, because if anything that establishment is doing the opposite right now). The great thing about vague conspiracy theories is that they tend to do whatever you need them to.

Grey said...

"a Breaststrap harness setup could have been used"

yes - apparently they can't pull as much that way but they can some (according to the internet)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_collar

Ric Hern said...

@ Grey

How big were the Yamnaya Wagons ? As far as I can remember some other ancient wagons did not have massively big wooden wheels. After all some four wheeled Sumerian "chariots/wagons" were pulled by Donkeys or Onagers with the primitive harnessing available...and large ponies/smallish horses certainly have more weight than donkeys.

And within that link you shared more recent studies proved that horses with a Breaststrap Harness did not pull much less weight than horses with a modern collar. It basically all depends on if you can stabilise the Breaststrap in order for it not to ride up to the horse's throat.

EastPole said...

Russell Greys’ PIE theory:

https://i.postimg.cc/yxDJph0x/screenshot-461.png

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCbulVBNNUY

It follows that Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages were spoken in Armenia 8000 BC when they separated. Interesting.

Grey said...

@Ric

"four wheeled Sumerian "chariots/wagons" were pulled by Donkeys or Onagers with the primitive harnessing available"

sure, that's my point - they could pull loads just maybe not as heavy a load as oxen

https://spana.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Banner.png

knowing any possible weight differences might influence what to look for archaeologically?

e.g. solid wheels vs spoked wheels? wooden side panels vs wicker?

#

also *if* it started with travois and some bright spark decided to stick some wheels on the end of the poles it might have started with two wheeled "wagons" i.e. some early chariots might not have been chariots per se but wheeled travois for carrying loads.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRupLxEMU8zaRsdzB7GZEvOwHryGo8CYiT_yy88TGqRxjFg90WZ

thinking aloud

Grey said...

horses vs donkeys

random thought - for traction (pulling loads) is being lower to the ground better?

(i.e. better leverage with shorter legs?)

conflict between wanting bigger horses for riding and shorter legged ones for pulling might be relevant in some way (or not)

#

plague and horses

if you read around on bubonic plague you get a lot of comments like this

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/blackdisease_01.shtml

"The plague generally left untouched the indigenous nomad population, because rat fleas do not like the smell of horses, with which the nomads lived in close proximity."

there's other tales of merchant caravans leaving a town and all dying leaving the horses coming back to town on their own.

imma gonna guess no one has actually ever tested and proved plague fleas "don't like the smell" of horses and imma gonna guess the actual explanation may be relevant to the question on this thread (and possibly medically useful as well).

Davidski said...

@EastPole

Russell Greys’ PIE theory:

It follows that Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages were spoken in Armenia 8000 BC when they separated. Interesting.


I wonder who was speaking them there at the time?

Definitely not our ancestors.

epoch said...

@Grey

One of the findings of the ancient pest investigation is that the older pest variants weren't transmitted by fleas. For that to work Y. Pestis must be able to survive flea intestines and if I recall correctly one of the pest papers found ancient Y. Pestis couldn't. The point is once Y.Pestis can survive there is clogs the intestines of the fleas so much it will starve and in the process will attempt to suck blood from any available warm blooded animal, in vain. This, however, will transmit the bacteria.

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/plague-in-humans-twice-as-old-but-didnt-begin-as-flea-borne-ancient-dna-reveals

Matt said...

Hmm... Gray, looks like he's got a brand new tree - https://i.imgur.com/BePr17W.jpg. Shows coalescence about 4000 BCE (e.g. closer to the PC steppe time than late Anatolian time of 6000 BCE or beyond he normally goes for). It's triple structured with a split of southern from European, then Balto-Slavic, Western IE split. Given he's talking about a tripartite geographical separation of IE through Anatolia, PC-steppe and Iran, now, it looks like he's suggesting that Yamnaya/Corded Ware are proto-Balto-Slavic, while Western IE descends through some other channel.

Browsing around for anything Gray published in 2018 found this set slides - http://indoeuropean.wdfiles.com/local--files/abstract/SS2017_Gray_slides_Pavia2018v2.pdf.

This seems to have been given by at http://indoeuropean.wikidot.com/program - which links to his

"A new hybrid hypothesis for the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages - Russell Gray (MPI Jena)"

Abstract: For over 200 years scholars have vigorously debated hypotheses on the origins and spread of IndoEuropean languages. From Hindi to Icelandic, distinct cultures and populations all speak languages derived from a single source − Proto-Indo-European. But from where, when and why these languages spread remains an enigma. Recent archaeogenetic findings and contentious results from computational phylolinguistics have further fuelled these controversies.

The debates have focused on two leading hypotheses: an origin either on the Pontic Steppe c. 6000 BP associated with horsebased pastoralism or in Anatolia c. 9000 BP associated with the spread of farming. In this talk I will summarise the state of the art in both genetics and linguistics, and outline a novel hybrid hypothesis that proposes an origin in the eastern Fertile Crescent c. 8000 BP.


From the slides I'd gather that the Jena team seem to have adapted to try and beat Chang's method that revised the dates substantially (although still placing them too deep for Yamnaya as such). They seem to have some criticism of Chang's data coding and forcing of written known varieties to be ancestral (I'd gather one of these is date compression among known written varieties).

I still can't believe Gray's got it right - the idea that three varieties of IE would split off in different directions, that the presence of a variety of non-written sources in different regions is simply random, as well as the wheel reconstruction and so on, seems just far too much to bear (plus the genetic aspects as we've all discussed). Still, let's see him try his luck with his model.

(Of course, the key figures about both what Gray and Jena's hybrid model and the what the new methods in language phylogenetics are, are unfortunately absent from the above link! No spoilers I guess...).

Matt said...

The French dub of the video linked upthread seems to work better than sticking auto-translate on the German dub - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a34TgLS9Tj8, if anyone is interested in what is actually said. (Still not very well, and non-dubbed version would be more ideal for English speakers of course! Or actually speaking the language...).

Also extended a bit so he shows the genetic basis for their Armenian hypothesis (of course this is perhaps more doubtful given Wang's paper?)

Davidski said...

What really strikes me as odd about these proposals from Gray and others from Max Planck is how they don't have any real support from ancient DNA.

It seems like Gray doesn't understand the ancient DNA data that's being generated at Max Planck Jena, and his colleagues there, namely Haak and Krauze, don't want to explain it to him.

EastPole said...

@Davidski
“What really strikes me as odd about these proposals from Gray and others from Max Planck is how they don't have any real support from ancient DNA”

Maybe genes are not so important. But I have a question then:
If Indo-Iranian languages (red arrow) and Balto-Slavic languages (blue arrow) separated around 5000-4000 BC:

https://i.postimg.cc/NjZSfPQb/screenshot-462.png

and Balto-Slavs went north to the steppe and Indo-Iranians went east to Iran and India, then what language was spoken by Andronovo pastoralists who came from Central-Eastern Europe (CWC>Sintashta>Andronovo), migrated to India around 1500 BC and ,as we know from aDNA, were autosomaly still close to Balto-Slavs at on the border of India?

epoch said...

@Davidski

Also, the slides seem to suggest that it is between him and Chang 2014. But he seems to miss entirely the point that this whole Bayesian modeling both of 'm use could be completely useless.

JuanRivera said...

As the Anatolian hypothesis collapsed, its proponents shifted to the Armenian one. It was a predictable thing. They still don't get that the PIE speakers were most likely inner eurasians north of the Black and Caspian seas.

Matt said...

@Davidski, Yeah, I think it's really hard to see how it fits easily with the genetics; it seems like you need a lot of big language switching despite minority component and dilutions to happen, and that's assuming that we've just missed some Eneolithic signal in the steppe. IE from the steppes has less of that on the whole (India, Mycenae, Hittite? where genetic influence is fairly low and language switching seems high).

And it's hard to see how the Western branch even works at all, in the sense of having a genetic correlate to its expansion (unless we are to say that the correlate is the CHG like pulse through Greece to Sardinia, and Mycenean reflects a further pulse out from Anatolia of the southern branch, which all seems quite difficult).

@EastPole, I'd assume that following Gray's model, if I understand right how it works, Sintashta and Andronovo (and indeed all early EMBA-MLBA steppe societies that are assigned as Indo-European) were not proto-Indo-Iranian, but they spoke a very early form of proto-Balto-Slavic. Then they would've language switched as they were absorbed into more numerous Indo-Iranian speakers to the south (probably with some influence from this very early Balto-Slavic dialect and religion etc. into Indo-Iranian?).

Under this model the existing Balto-Slavic languages would only represent a linguistic subset of a larger related family which once dominated NE Europe / Western Russia and the Pontic-Caspian steppes, rather than proto-Indo-Iranian.

JuanRivera said...

I recently ran models of iberians, the Seh_Gabi_ChL component used is higher in the south, mediterranean coast and Galicia, whereas it's lower in the interior and absent in the portuguese. It doesn't bode well for the Armenian hypothesis, as the south and mediterranean coast are known to have been non-IE-speaking until the romans came, and the interior was IE-speaking.

JuanRivera said...

The same could be said for non-steppe CHG. Overall, I don't know how the Armenian hypothesis proponents reconcile that distribution in Iberia, as well as the fact that Sardinia was non-IE-speaking until the romans, and that Germanics nor Balto-Slavs have none of it.

bellbeakerblogger said...

There was another European population collapse in animals at this time: domestic pig 1.0.

Since the authors show the phylogenetic root of yersinia pestis in the Nordic-Baltic area, and since yersinia pestis apparently wasn't spread by the flea...
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/10/bronze-age-plague-wasnt-spread-fleas

I wonder if European domesticated pigs of that time were being infected by Eastern Baltic boars.

http://bellbeakerblogger.blogspot.com/2017/03/and-bronze-age-pigs-caliebe-et-al-2017.html

Anyhow, It'd be interesting to compare the human decline with that of Neolithic farmer pigs. Might be a little tautologous, unless those pigs were infected at considerable rates.

And also, I think Razib predicted a similar situation in Uruk, and again I believe this pig turnover happened there as well.


a said...

Davidski said...

"I wonder who was speaking them there at the time?"

Definitely not our ancestors.

Have you seen any studies showing the survival rates/ancient plague- blood type ratios?
One of the dominant Steppe blood types A-.

George said...

Hi,

Blood Type Biochemistry and Human Disease:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5061611/pdf/nihms804234.pdf

From page 8
"Type O blood group is associated with increased incidence of plague, cholera, mumps, and tuberculosis infections; type A blood group is associated with increased incidence of smallpox and Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection; type B blood group is associated with increased incidence of gonorrhea, tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, E. coli, and salmonella infections; and type AB blood group is associated with increased incidence of smallpox, E. coli, and salmonella infections"

Please see the summary in Table 2 on page 28.



a said...

George said...

"Blood Type Biochemistry and Human Disease:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5061611/pdf/nihms804234.pdf"

I remember vaguely AE. Mourant's work-frequency of A+ regions Armenia/Balkans etc...-. It would be interesting to plot the mutations of Yersinia pestis;and heavy urbanized areas within Europe-Anatolia[Justinain plague for example]and the evolution of blood types.

Samuel Andrews said...

New Neolithic DNA available from Poland. Published October 2018.

A genomic Neolithic time transect of hunter-farmer admixture in central Poland
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-33067-w#Sec21

Who were the farmer ancestors of Northern Bell Beaker, of Sintashta, of proto-Germans, of Slavs. These are important questions for the origins of the bulk of modern Europeans.

At this point it is unknown. There's a huge collection of candidates. So this new data from farmers in Poland is important.

Davidski said...

@EastPole & Matt

I'm kind of shocked how incompetent this supposedly new interdisciplinary Indo-European homeland theory from the Max Planck linguists looks.

It's nothing more than a revised Anatolian theory, although still mostly at odds with the latest archaeogenetic results.

But hey, the positive thing is that this leaves it to others to really work things out.