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Tuesday, April 21, 2020


During the early 3rd Millennium BC much of Central and Northern Europe was being infiltrated by pioneer herders, often young men, from the east associated with the Corded Ware culture (CWC).

In some important ways, this expansion may have been very similar to the European colonization of the more remote parts of the Americas during the 16th and 17th centuries.

For instance, the European newcomers weren't always able to dominate the indigenous peoples, and, sometimes, instead of trying to impose their culture on them, they accepted theirs.

I suspect that Aesch25, an ancient sample from the recent Furtwängler et al. paper on the social and genetic structure of the prehistoric populations of the Swiss Plateau, represents a similar case.

Aesch25 wasn't buried with grave goods so he wasn't given a cultural context in the said paper. However, dated to 2864-2501 calBC, he's the earliest individual in this part of Europe with the originally Eastern European Y-haplogroup R1b-M269 and a CWC-like genome-wide genetic structure.

Indeed, the other fourteen samples from the same burial site, dated to more or less the same period as Aesch25, are overwhelmingly of local Neolithic farmer origin.

In any case, irrespective of his cultural affiliation and life story, Aesch25 represents an important data point in the search for the homeland of the so called Bell Beakers who spread across much of Europe during the Copper Age. That's because most Bell Beaker males belong to R1b-M269 and are very similar to Aesch25 in terms of overall genetic structure, apart from an excess of Neolithic farmer ancestry.

My view is that the Bell Beakers were an offshoot of the Single Grave culture (SGC), the westernmost variant of CWC. Of course, the SGC was centered on what is now northwestern Germany and surrounds, and didn't reach into the Swiss Plateau. However, in all likelihood it was founded by men closely related to Aesch25.

Below is a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) based on Global25 data featuring Aesch25 and several other individuals from the Furtwängler et al. paper. To view an interactive version of the plot, copy paste the data from the text file here into the relevant field here, then press Add to PCA. Also, you should copy paste each population separately to make sure that they don't form one grouping in the PCA key.

Aesch25 can easily pass for a CWC individual from what is now Germany (DEU_CWC_LN). On the other hand, the CWC samples from the Swiss Plateau (CHE_CWC_LN) are clearly shifted "south" relative to the German CWC cluster, which suggests that they harbor more Neolithic farmer ancestry. Indeed, they all belong to Y-haplogroup I2, which is especially closely associated with Middle Neolithic European farmers.

MX265, from Singen in southwest Germany, is the only sample in the Furtwängler et al. dataset that belongs to Y-haplogroup R1a. This is a somewhat unexpected outcome, because R1a is, overall, the most common Y-haplogroup in CWC males (see here).

Another surprise is that this individual is dated to just 763-431 calBC, which is a period that overlaps with the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures in Central Europe. Considering that these cultures are often associated with early Celts, was this person perhaps the speaker of a long lost Celtic language?

See also...

Single Grave > Bell Beakers

Dutch Beakers: like no other Beakers

Hungarian Yamnaya > Bell Beakers?

Hungarian Yamnaya predictions

The Battle Axe people came from the steppe

Friday, April 17, 2020

Corded Ware cultural and genetic complexity (Linderholm et al. 2020)

Open access at Scientific Reports at this LINK. Although very useful and broadly accurate, I'm really not sure what to make of this paper yet, especially in regards to its more nuanced inferences. I'll need to look at the genotype data at some point. Worthy of note is that most of the Corded Ware males sampled by the authors belong to Y-haplogroup R1b-M269, rather than R1a-M417, which is the dominant Y-haplogroup in previously published Corded Ware samples. From the paper:

During the Final Eneolithic the Corded Ware Complex (CWC) emerges, chiefly identified by its specific burial rites. This complex spanned most of central Europe and exhibits demographic and cultural associations to the Yamnaya culture. To study the genetic structure and kin relations in CWC communities, we sequenced the genomes of 19 individuals located in the heartland of the CWC complex region, south-eastern Poland. Whole genome sequence and strontium isotope data allowed us to investigate genetic ancestry, admixture, kinship and mobility. The analysis showed a unique pattern, not detected in other parts of Poland; maternally the individuals are linked to earlier Neolithic lineages, whereas on the paternal side a Steppe ancestry is clearly visible. We identified three cases of kinship. Of these two were between individuals buried in double graves. Interestingly, we identified kinship between a local and a non-local individual thus discovering a novel, previously unknown burial custom.


The PCA revealed that despite geographical proximity there is a distinct genetic separation between CWC and BBC individuals from southern Poland. The genetic variation of CWC individuals from southern Poland overlaps with the majority of previously published CWC individuals from Germany while the eight published CWC individuals from the Polish lowland [10,11] more closely resemble BBC individuals (Fig. S21). This fact is not unexpected if we consider the CWC communities in Polish lowlands as representatives of north-western parts of the CWC world called as the Single-Grave culture (see supplementary information). The genetic variation of BBC individuals from south-eastern Poland overlaps with the broad variation of BBC individuals from Central Europe (Bohemia, Moravia, Germany, south-western Poland and Hungary) (Fig. S22) which corresponds well with archaeological data.

Linderholm, A., Kılınç, G.M., Szczepanek, A. et al. Corded Ware cultural complexity uncovered using genomic and isotopic analysis from south-eastern Poland. Sci Rep 10, 6885 (2020).

See also...

The Battle Axe people came from the steppe

Is Yamnaya overrated?

Single Grave > Bell Beakers

Friday, April 3, 2020

Latest on Sintashta-Petrovka chariots (Lindner 2020)

Open access at Antiquity at this LINK. As far as I can tell, several individuals from the graves analyzed in this paper are in my ancient DNA dataset and the Global25 datasheets. Sample I1064 from the Kamennyi Ambar 5 cemetery comes to mind. Here's the abstract:

In Eastern Europe, the use of light vehicles with spoked wheels and harnessed horse teams is first evidenced in the early second-millennium BC Sintashta-Petrovka Culture in the South-eastern Ural Mountains. Using Bayesian modelling of radiocarbon dates from the kurgan cemetery of Kamennyj Ambar-5, combined with artefactual and stratigraphic analyses, this article demonstrates that these early European chariots date to no later than the first proto-chariots of the ancient Near East. This result suggests the earlier emergence of chariots on the Eurasian Steppe than previously thought and contributes to wider debates on the geography and chronology of technological innovations.
See also...

The mystery of the Sintashta people