The importance of fine-scale studies for integrating palaeogenomics and archaeology

eurasian-genomes-published

Short review (behind paywall) The importance of fine-scale studies for integrating paleogenomics and archaeology, by Krishna R. Veeramah, Current Opinion in Genetics & Development (2018) 53:83-89.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

There has been an undercurrent of intellectual tension between geneticists studying human population history and archaeologists for almost 40 years. The rapid development of paleogenomics, with geneticists working on the very material discovered by archaeologists, appears to have recently heightened this tension. The relationship between these two fields thus far has largely been of a multidisciplinary nature, with archaeologists providing the raw materials for sequencing, as well as a scaffold of hypotheses based on interpretation of archaeological cultures from which the geneticists can ground their inferences from the genomic data. Much of this work has taken place in the context of western Eurasia, which is acting as testing ground for the interaction between the disciplines. Perhaps the major finding has not been any particular historical episode, but rather the apparent pervasiveness of migration events, some apparently of substantial scale, over the past ∼5000 years, challenging the prevailing view of archaeology that largely dismissed migration as a driving force of cultural change in the 1960s. However, while the genetic evidence for ‘migration’ is generally statistically sound, the description of these events as structured behaviours is lacking, which, coupled with often over simplistic archaeological definitions, prevents the use of this information by archaeologists for studying the social processes they are interested in. In order to integrate paleogenomics and archaeology in a truly interdisciplinary manner, it will be necessary to focus less on grand narratives over space and time, and instead integrate genomic data with other form of archaeological information at the level of individual communities to understand the internal social dynamics, which can then be connected amongst communities to model migration at a regional level. A smattering of recent studies have begun to follow this approach, resulting in inferences that are not only helping ask questions that are currently relevant to archaeologists, but also potentially opening up new avenues of research.

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine, reference numbers removed for clarity):

There are two major, somewhat intertwined, problems that currently exist.

First, archaeologists are not critiquing whether the migrations identified by paleogenomics using sophisticated population genetic machinery are actually occurring. Instead, the technical criticism arrives in terms of how these migrations are being ascribed to specific cultures. In many paleogenomic papers, there is a tendency (and often an analytical and technical need) to associate samples with particular archaeological cultures, for which all samples are then treated as possessing some kind homogenous and pervasive social identity that is bound in space and time. The major critiques of this thus far have been directed to those studies examining Corded-Ware and Bell-Beaker-related individuals and their potential relationship to the Yamnaya [Vander Linden (2016), Heyd (2017), Furholt (2017)], but are applicable to many other ‘migration’ scenarios described in the recent literature. This is compounded by the use of sometimes small numbers of samples to represent certain cultures from a particular geographic area as representatives of the entire culture at a supra-regional level. Yet often these archaeological cultures such as Corded-Ware and Bell-Beaker themselves show considerable variability in space and time, and even within cemeteries, which is not factored into the genetic analysis.

From a population geneticists point of view, this kind of simplification is somewhat understandable and will often likely have very little impact on the final analysis, given that the primary goal is usually to use ancient samples to better understand modern genetic variation. Though there may be a specific historical interest in some of these past events, I would argue that the aim for most population geneticists at a higher level is to try and fit modern patterns of genetic variation using the simplest models possible that take into account past demographic events (for example fitting f-statistics using the ADMIXTUREGRAPH approach), as this is how we are trained. Although sharing an archaeological culture may not mean that a set of individuals are part of the same homogeneous social group in reality, this approach may be a good enough heuristic to find broad genetic connections compared to another group represented by a different culture, which can then ultimately help understand and model modern human population structure. However, for an archaeologists interested in the ancient individuals themselves and their social identity, this lumping is unsatisfactory, where sophisticated narratives of the individual migrants and their ancient communities are the intended goal.

eurasian-genomes
From the paper. Barplot showing cumulative number of ancient Eurasian genomes published on a yearly basis up to 8th July 2018. Includes samples undergoing both whole genome shotgun and SNP capture sequencing.

The second related problem is that ‘migration’ in the sense used currently in the paleogenomics literature lacks sufficient detail to be of much use for an archaeologists attempting to disentangle the complex social dynamics within and between communities. To truly understand the role of migration as a social process and its contribution towards cultural changes, it is necessary to describe it as a structured behaviour, rather than treating it as an explanatory ‘black box’. Are the migrations occurring as a result of short range waves-of-advance movements, or as long-distance movements via leapfrogging models or stream migrations along established routes dependent on key kinship networks. Are there return migrants, and are some subset of individuals more predisposed to migration driving the signals? Although such models were implemented in past studies (even with classical markers [1]) and are part of the population genetics literature, they are lacking in the current paleogenomics literature when discussing migration. The finding that there is an increase of 12.3% of ancestry type X in population A compared to the preceding population B that is suggestive of a migration, is not particularly useful for examining these kind of models. It is also unclear to what degree standard population genetic parameters estimated from genomic data such as effective population size, Ne, and gene flow are relevant to models studied in archaeology, given they reflect (somewhat undefined) long-term population sizes and average rates of movements over time, rather than reflecting any kind of reality of census size and mobility in the ancient communities the archaeologists are actually attempting to study.

The text goes on to talk about ways of studying fine-grained social dynamics of local cultures, such as:

define levels of genetic relatedness, but also in terms of material culture, age, sex, stress and activity indicators, stable isotopes for diet reconstruction (nitrogen, d13C and d15N, carbon, 13C/12C) and strontium and oxygen isotopes for mobility (87Sr/86Sr, d18O). Where possible, sites should be examined over multiple generations. In addition it will be incredibly useful to characterize the impact of disease in these communities, which is also proving to be a highly fruitful realm for paleogenomics.

I would say that the main problem is not the obvious limitations of palaeogenomics in terms of identifying prehistoric ethnolinguistic communities and their evolution, which is why it is just another tool to complement archaeology and linguistics. The main problem is the narrow understanding that some people have of the inherent limitations of palaeogenomics – especially when it interests them – , when publicizing simplistic conclusions based on these tools and their results. And I am not referring only to amateurs.

Related

On applications of space-time modelling with 14C age calibration

neolithic-europe

Open access On Applications of Space–Time Modelling with Open-Source 14C Age Calibration, by T. Rowan McLaughlin J Archaeol Method Theory (2018).

Abstract (emphasis mine):

In archaeology, the meta-analysis of scientific dating information plays an ever-increasing role. A common thread among many recent studies contributing to this has been the development of bespoke software for summarizing and synthesizing data, identifying significant patterns therein. These are reviewed in this paper, which also contains open-source scripts for calibrating radiocarbon dates and modelling them in space and time, using the R computer language and GRASS GIS. The case studies that undertake new analysis of archaeological data are (1) the spread of the Neolithic in Europe, (2) economic consequences of the Great Famine and Black Death in the fourteenth century Britain and Ireland and (3) the role of climate change in influencing cultural change in the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Ireland. These case studies exemplify an emerging trend in archaeology, which is quickly re-defining itself as a data-driven discipline at the intersection of science and the humanities.

Interesting excerpt on Neolithization:

An enduring topic of wide interest is the neolithization of Europe, a cultural and economic development of virtually unparalleled significance given subsequent world events and the permanent environmental changes that were a result. This process began when early Neolithic culture moved from the Near East and Anatolia first through Greece around 7000 BC, then viathe Balkans and peninsular Italy to the interior and western edge of the continent. Much of central Europe was colonised by a distinctive cultural group known as the “LBK” around 5500 BC—an important few centuries that also saw the arrival of the Neolithic in Iberia and intensive activity throughout the Mediterranean region. The Neolithic eventually spread to Britain and Southern Scandinavia shortly after 4000 BC. The remarkable time depth to the process has led to a rich tradition of debate regarding the process of cultural and/or demic diffusion. Thanks to the success of recent, well-funded research projects, a large amount of spatial and radiocarbon data relevant to the phenomenon has been drawn together, much of which made freely available on the internet. A simple but visually effective animated radiocarbon map of the phenomenon can be drawn using data supplied (for example) by Pinhasi et al. (2005), who gathered together radiocarbon data addressing the earliest occurrence of Neolithic cultures in European, Anatolian and Near Eastern settings.(…)

neolithization-europe
Example frames from an animated map of the spread of farming in Early Neolithic Europe, plotted using data from Pinhasi et al. (2005) and the R code supplied in the supplementary materials

The example animation (see Fig. 4 and the supplementary animation file) illustrates the nature of the process; rarely is the progress across the landscape smooth and progressive, instead activity jumps from place to place and appears in quite distant regions rather suddenly. A particularly notable moment occurs around 5500 cal. BC, which sees sudden expansion across several fronts. The intermittent patterns of movement evident throughout the animation call into question a Neolithic “wave of advance”; something that can be modelled in terms of a wavefront moving a certain number of kilometres per year. Instead, a more realistic model is one where people move sporadically, using multiple points of entry into new regions, and travel across both land- and sea-based routes, and “appearing”, archaeologically speaking, in new areas once a certain pattern of behaviour is established—a process that may take more than a few years (Drake et al. 2016). An alternative explanation, and a clear limitation of the conclusions that may be drawn from this case study (where “only” 765 dates span a 6000-year period in Europe and the Near East), is that the sudden appearance of the Neolithic in new and distant regions could be due to the poorly powered dataset.

See also:

Sintashta-Petrovka and Potapovka cultures, and the cause of the Steppe EMBA – MLBA differences

bronze_age_early-sejma-turbino

Interesting recent papers on Sintashta and related Volga-Ural MLBA communities, with relevant excerpts (emphasis mine):

Social Organization of the Sintashta-Petrovka Groups of the Late Bronze Age and a Cause for Origin of Social Elites (Based on Materials of the Settlement of Kamenny Ambar), by Chechushkov et al. Stratum Plus (2018) Nº2.

Abstract (official, in English):

The formation of social complexity often unfolded in non-unilineal ways in those regions of the world where the surplus product remained low enough to support institutionalized power and state bureaucracy. The Bronze Age of Northern Eurasia is a vivid example where social complexity arose based on herding economy, while population density remained low enough not to form territorially separate competing groups. Studying of such societies sheds light on how and under what conditions the social elite emerged. The undertaken analysis suggests that the formation, development, and decline of social complexity in the Bronze Age steppe societies were directly related to the intensification of subsistence practices and colonization of new territories. At the same time, some members of the society took upon themselves the role of community life’s managers, and, in return, received privileged statuses. The environment and the economy changing, the need for such functions disappeared. As a result, the Bronze Age social elites dissolved in the mass and lost their privileged statuses.


Open access Sintashta as a transcultural phenomenon, by N.B. Vinogradov, Архив Поволжская археология №1 (23) 2018.

Abstract (official, in English)

The paper features a substantiation of the understanding of Sintashta-type monuments dating back to the boundary of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages in the Southern Trans- Urals as a transcultural phenomenon, the establishment and operation of which has been associated with the clans of miners, smelters and smiths of the Southern Ural cultures of the studied period. In the author’s opinion, the variety of ceramic complexes from Sintashta burial mounds suggest a reconsideration of several cultural traditions and the peculiar nature of family and marriage relations practiced by the clans of Sintashta-type communities.

Interesting excerpts, from the conclusion (translated from Russian):

1. In contrast to the pastoral cattle-breeding cultures of the Alakul cultural-historical community, the Sintashta clan-communities, in the author’s opinion, were a more specific transcultural phenomenon with an original model of life organization, uniting clans of miners, metallurgists, blacksmiths and casters, sometimes from several neighboring archaeological cultures (my italics – N.V.), in particular, the Abashevo culture of the South Urals, some “proto-Srubna” culture of the Southern Urals and quasi-Eneolithic cultures of the Southern Urals and of Northern Kazakhstan.

2. The Sintashta phenomenon as a community of clans of miners – metallurgists – smiths functioned relatively independently, outside or under conditions of partial jurisdiction (?) Of the elites of the above mentioned cultures.

3. At the historical level, the facts presented by the author concerning both funeral rites and ceramics can be understood as a reflection of the characteristics, first of all, of the family-marriage relations system within the specialized communities. And it is not by chance that the ceramics of Sintashta cemeteries carry in themselves often reinterpreted (especially in the case of ornamentation) traces of several cultural traditions. The variety of ceramic complexes of Sintashta monuments and the rethinking, reworking of marker elements of ornament on vessels testify, in the author’s view, about the distinctiveness, the specifics of family relations in Sintashta communities.


Paleoanthropological Data as a Source of Reconstruction of the Process of Social Formation and Social Stratifi cation (based on the Sintashta and Potapovo sites of the Bronze Age), by Kitov et al. Stratum Plus (2018) Nº 2.

Abstract (official, in English):

The paper is devoted to the analysis of craniological materials from the cemeteries of the Bronze Age of the Volga-Ural region (Sintashta and Potapovo assemblages). The characteristic feature of the physical appearance of this population is the combination of different morphological variations with a dominant and the presence of the Uraloid components. At the same time, a group of individuals with a specific, different from other individuals, skull structure is distinguished: maturized, broad-faced men with a set of striking features in the face. Analysis of the funerary rites of these individuals indicates their high social status in the Sintashta-Potapovo society. The addition of such an anthropological complex occurred in the Eneolithic on the territory of modern Kazakhstan as a result of contacts of steppe sharply profiled Europeoid populations and groups of Uraloid origin. This led to the formation of a population, originally of metisic origin, conventionally called “steppe Kazakhstan”, which took part in the process of morphogenesis, and, indirectly, the cultural genesis of Sintashta and Potapovo communities.

While this paper reports mainly athropometric data, the team forms part of the Samara Valley project – including Khokhlov.

Here are interesting excerpts from the general conclusions (translated from Russian):

Summing up, it can be noted that the distinguishing feature of the carriers of the Sintashta and Potapovka traditions is the sharp heterogeneity of the anthropological features, the cause of which were active ethno- and culturogenetic processes in the Volga-Ural region at the turn of the 3rd/2nd millennium BC. One of the active components of these processes was probably a population group with specific craniological data, distinct from the rest of the craniocomplexes. These included mature, broad-leaning male individuals with a set of vivid signs in the structure of the face, such as unfolded and flattened cheekbones, and a strong nose protrusion.

The peculiarities of the burial rite speak about their high social position in the society: burials were made in large central burial pits, accompanied by abundant sacrificial remains in the form of skulls and limbs of horses, large and small cattle, rich funeral complements including bronze tools and weapons, artifacts of metal production, attributes of the chariot complex. It should be noted that such a craniological type is present in every mound of the Sintashta-Potapovka circle of monuments, and is found on the wide territory of the steppes and forest-steppes of the Volga region, the Southern Urals, and the Trans-Urals. The addition of the similar anthropological complex occurred in the Eneolithic due to the contacts, on the one hand, of steppe sharply profiled Europoid populations that extended to the east and, on the other hand, encountered groups of uraloid origin, which led to the formation of a population, originally of metisic origin, which can be conditionally called “steppe Kazakhstan”.

Related:

The uneasy relationship between Archaeology and Ancient Genomics

Allentoft Corded Ware

News feature Divided by DNA: The uneasy relationship between archaeology and ancient genomics, Two fields in the midst of a technological revolution are struggling to reconcile their views of the past, by Ewen Callaway, Nature (2018) 555:573-576.

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

In duelling 2015 Nature papers6,7the teams arrived at broadly similar conclusions: an influx of herders from the grassland steppes of present-day Russia and Ukraine — linked to Yamnaya cultural artefacts and practices such as pit burial mounds — had replaced much of the gene pool of central and Western Europe around 4,500–5,000 years ago. This was coincident with the disappearance of Neolithic pottery, burial styles and other cultural expressions and the emergence of Corded Ware cultural artefacts, which are distributed throughout northern and central Europe. “These results were a shock to the archaeological community,” Kristiansen says.

(…)

Still, not everyone was satisfied. In an essay8 titled ‘Kossinna’s Smile’, archaeologist Volker Heyd at the University of Bristol, UK, disagreed, not with the conclusion that people moved west from the steppe, but with how their genetic signatures were conflated with complex cultural expressions. Corded Ware and Yamnaya burials are more different than they are similar, and there is evidence of cultural exchange, at least, between the Russian steppe and regions west that predate Yamnaya culture, he says. None of these facts negates the conclusions of the genetics papers, but they underscore the insufficiency of the articles in addressing the questions that archaeologists are interested in, he argued. “While I have no doubt they are basically right, it is the complexity of the past that is not reflected,” Heyd wrote, before issuing a call to arms. “Instead of letting geneticists determine the agenda and set the message, we should teach them about complexity in past human actions.”

Many archaeologists are also trying to understand and engage with the inconvenient findings from genetics. (…)
[Carlin:] “I would characterize a lot of these papers as ‘map and describe’. They’re looking at the movement of genetic signatures, but in terms of how or why that’s happening, those things aren’t being explored,” says Carlin, who is no longer disturbed by the disconnect. “I am increasingly reconciling myself to the view that archaeology and ancient DNA are telling different stories.” The changes in cultural and social practices that he studies might coincide with the population shifts that Reich and his team are uncovering, but they don’t necessarily have to. And such biological insights will never fully explain the human experiences captured in the archaeological record.

Reich agrees that his field is in a “map-making phase”, and that genetics is only sketching out the rough contours of the past. Sweeping conclusions, such as those put forth in the 2015 steppe migration papers, will give way to regionally focused studies with more subtlety.

This is already starting to happen. Although the Bell Beaker study found a profound shift in the genetic make-up of Britain, it rejected the notion that the cultural phenomenon was associated with a single population. In Iberia, individuals buried with Bell Beaker goods were closely related to earlier local populations and shared little ancestry with Beaker-associated individuals from northern Europe (who were related to steppe groups such as the Yamnaya). The pots did the moving, not the people.

This final paragraph apparently sums up a view that Reich has of this field, since he repeats it:

Reich concedes that his field hasn’t always handled the past with the nuance or accuracy that archaeologists and historians would like. But he hopes they will eventually be swayed by the insights his field can bring. “We’re barbarians coming late to the study of the human past,” Reich says. “But it’s dangerous to ignore barbarians.”

I would say that the true barbarians didn’t have a habit or possibility to learn from the higher civilizations they attacked or invaded. Geneticists, on the other hand, only have to do what they expect archaeologists to do: study.

EDIT (30 MAR 2018): A new interesting editorial of Nature, On the use and abuse of ancient DNA.

See also:

Archaeological and anthropological studies on the Harappan cemetery of Rakhigarhi, India

indus-valley-harappan-rakhigarhi

New open access paper Archaeological and anthropological studies on the Harappan cemetery of Rakhigarhi, India, by Shinde, Kim, Wo, et al. PLOS One (2018) 13(2): e0192299.

Abstract:

An insufficient number of archaeological surveys has been carried out to date on Harappan Civilization cemeteries. One case in point is the necropolis at Rakhigarhi site (Haryana, India), one of the largest cities of the Harappan Civilization, where most burials within the cemetery remained uninvestigated. Over the course of the past three seasons (2013 to 2016), we therefore conducted excavations in an attempt to remedy this data shortfall. In brief, we found different kinds of graves co-existing within the Rakhigarhi cemetery in varying proportions. Primary interment was most common, followed by the use of secondary, symbolic, and unused (empty) graves. Within the first category, the atypical burials appear to have been elaborately prepared. Prone-positioned internments also attracted our attention. Since those individuals are not likely to have been social deviants, it is necessary to reconsider our pre-conceptions about such prone-position burials in archaeology, at least in the context of the Harappan Civilization. The data presented in this report, albeit insufficient to provide a complete understanding of Harappan Civilization cemeteries, nevertheless does present new and significant information on the mortuary practices and anthropological features at that time. Indeed, the range of different kinds of burials at the Rakhigarhi cemetery do appear indicative of the differences in mortuary rituals seen within Harappan societies, therefore providing a vivid glimpse of how these people respected their dead.

rakhigarhi-harappan
Harappan sites where skeletons were discovered (indicated by dots). Red dot: Rakhigarhi site; dashed dot: skeletons from non-cemetery area; black dots: cemetery sites other than Rakhigarhi.

This is a must read for anyone willing to analyze in detail the upcoming Rakhigarhi samples, which will bring more information regarding the Neolithic population of the Indian subcontinent before the migration of Indo-Iranian peoples.

Related:

Science and Archaeology (Humanities): collaboration or confrontation?

Allentoft Corded Ware

Another discussion on the role of Science for Archaeology, in The Two Cultures and a World Apart: Archaeology and Science at a New Crossroads, by Tim Flohr Sørensen, Norwegian Archaeological Review, vol. 50, 2 (2017):

Within the past decade or so, archaeology has increasingly utilised and contributed to major advances in scientific methods when exploring the past. This progress is frequently celebrated as a quantum leap in the possibilities for understanding the archaeological record, opening up hitherto inaccessible dimensions of the past. This article represents a critique of the current consumption of science in archaeology, arguing that the discipline’s grounding in the humanities is at stake, and that the notion of ‘interdisciplinarity’ is becoming distorted with the increasing fetishisation of ‘data’, ‘facts’ and quantitative methods. It is argued that if archaeology is to break free of its self-induced inferiority to and dependence on science, it must revitalise its methodology for asking questions pertinent to the humanities.

Commentators in the discussion include:

The answer of Sørensen to them is on Archaeological Paradigms: Pendulum or Wrecking Ball?. Excerpts:

Thus, I argue that what we are witnessing with ‘the third science revolution’ (Kristiansen 2014) is precisely the proliferation of an already very authoritative science ideal in archaeology. And I worry that this dominance will limit research possibilities and potentials rather than encouraging plurality and radical experimentation with different forms of knowing.
(…)
I do believe in the coexistence of disparate academic principles and that collaboration is very often necessary, but I am also of the conviction that some degree of epistemological friction keeps both fields of research progressing. Nurturing distinctions, in other words, is no less useful than aiming for assimilation. What I am arguing for is thus a more respectful friction than the one characterising the processual/post-processual collisions, hoping for an academic environment where differences between research ideals are humbly accepted and cultivated precisely for their disparate strengths.
(…)
So, what I am arguing for is a more kaleidoscopic academic landscape, where different positions do not always have to assume a defensive or compromising stance, especially in confrontation with paradigms that are prospering politically. This also implies that science is not simply in the service of archaeology, as Lidén argues, but that we need to consider how archaeology may benefit science more generally by continuing to debate epistemological grounds, methodology and our modes of inquiry. And so, my fellow archaeologists: ask not what science can do for us, but what we can do for science.
(…)
In my original article, I addressed the widespread tendency in archaeology to disseminate research findings with sometimes too much conviction, where ambiguous results (and limited statistical data) are adopted with little concern for the inherent uncertainties. It is precisely this valorisation and authority of scientific observations that I claim to lead to an implicit devaluation of studies based in the humanities. The problem is – as stated numerous times in my original article – not science, but the consumption of scientific observations in archaeology, where the subtleties and not least ambiguities of scientific results are filtered out, leaving space almost exclusively for scientifically ‘proven’ facts and unequivocal results. This mode of consumption stands in direct contrast to the epistemological observation in the sciences, dictating that ‘“proof” and “certainty” are actually in short supply in the world of science’ (Freudenburg et al. 2008, p. 5). Hence, the risk is that archaeology somewhat uncritically adopts scientific observations that are in fact ‘empirically underdetermined – based largely on evidence that is in the category of the “maybe,” being inherently ambiguous rather than being absolutely clear-cut’ (Freudenburg et al. 2008, p. 6).

As I said recently on the article Massive Migrations…, by Martin Furholt, we are living a historical debate on essential questions for the future of all these disciplines.

And, as always, there is no shortcut to reading the texts. Unlike in Science, you cannot write a table with a summary of findings…

Discovered (again) via a comment on this blog by Joshua Jonathan.

Featured image from Allentoft et al. “They conclude that the Corded Ware culture of central Europe had ancestry from the Yamnaya. Allentoft et al. also show that the Afanasievo culture to the east is related to the Yamnaya, and that the Sintashta and Andronovo cultures had ancestry from the Corded Ware. Arrows indicate migrations — those from the Corded Ware reflect the evidence that people of this archaeological culture (or their relatives) were responsible for the spreading of Indo-European languages. All coloured boundaries are approximate.”

Related:

The Great Hungarian Plain in a time of change in the Balkans – Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age

hungary-yamna-burials-map

I wrote recently about Anthony’s new model of Corded Ware culture expansion from Yamna settlements of Hungary. I am extremely sceptic about it in terms of current genetic finds, and suspicious of the real reasons behind it – probably misinterpretations of the so-called ‘Yamnaya ancestral component’ in recent genetic papers, rather than archaeological finds.

Nevertheless, it means a definitive rejection by Anthony of:

  • The multiple patron-client relationships he proposed to justify a cultural diffusion of Late Indo-European dialects from Yamna into different Corded Ware cultures in the forest-steppe and Forest Zone (see one of his latest summaries of the model in 2015). Now the language change is explained as a pure migration event, and cultural diffusion is not an option. Ergo, if no migration is found from Hungarian Yamna into Lesser Poland, then Corded Ware cultures were not Indo-European-speaking.
  • Ringe’s glottochronological tree for Proto-Indo-European languages (Ringe, Warnow, and Taylor 2002). An early and sudden split of Late PIE dialects in all directions is substituted by a common, Old European language that expanded from a very small area of settlers, in the Carpathian Basin. This is coincident with the current view on North-West Indo-European, and I think that his final acceptance of a sound linguistic model is essential to solve Indo-European questions.
  • The simplistic assumption of Yamna -> Corded Ware -> Bell Beaker migration found in genetic papers of 2015. The new model implies Yamna->Yamna settlers (Eastern Hungary). Yamna settlers are known to have developed into East Bell Beakers (as described by Gimbutas and accepted by Anthony originally, and now also found in the adoption of Heyd’s theory for his new model); therefore a Yamna settlers (Hungary) -> East Bell Beaker evolution is evident and mainstream, now clear also in genetics. It remains to be seen if the additional Yamna settlers (Hungary) -> Proto-Corded Ware migration proposed by him as a novelty in this new model is also right, i.e. if Yamna settlers from Hungary did in fact migrate into sites of Lesser Poland (to form a Proto-Corded Ware culture). If not, then only Heyd’s model remains.

This new model offers thus a more suitable time frame for usual proto-language guesstimates, that would be compatible with a spread of Late Indo-European with Yamna settlers (of R1b lineages) from the steppe into a small region, where North-West Indo-European would have been spoken, and then a potential cultural diffusion through (or founder effect in) a Proto-Corded Ware culture (of R1a-M417 subclades) of Lesser Poland, which is compatible with the Corded Ware Substrate hypothesis.

Since Anthony has stuck his neck out in favour of this new theory – changing some of his popular theories, and rejecting what many geneticists seem to take as certain – , and because of his previous impressive improvements over Gimbutas’ simple steppe theory (now apparently fashionable again), I think he deserves that his proposal of Yamna/Late Indo-European expansion in the Balkans be further investigated, if only to be improved upon.

I recently found the paper 4000-2000 BC in Hungary: The Age of Transformation, by T. Horváth, in Annales Universitatis Apulensis. Series Historica, 20/II, 51-113. While it deals mainly with the potential survival of the Baden culture into the late third millennium BC, it gives some interesting quite early dates for Yamna (‘Pit’) graves in the Carpathian Basin, and potential cultural (and population) movements within the Balkans.

A note about the Corded Ware culture in the Carpathian Basin:

Many researchers may assume that it is unnecessary for us to deal with the Corded Ware and Globular Amphorae cultures of north Germany, Poland and Denmark, and if so it does not matter what the names of the periods are. It actually matters a lot. It is true that in these areas there was no Baden complex, but the period had many Baden (and other) culture “period phenomena”. These seem to part of a larger formation than cultures – evidenced by traces such as cattle burials, the relationship between copper metallurgies and jade – which link these territories even when the culture complexes were different, because these phenomena appear not just in the Baden, but in the Corded Ware and Globular Amphorae area as well (and these cultural complexes partly overlapped each other both in space and time!). Even the characteristics of sites show many similarities: e.g. in the northern part of corded ware distribution area, mainly burials have been discovered (similarly to the Pit Grave culture in the Great Hungarian Plain) and in the southern part only settlements appear.

At the moment we have no explanation regarding the nature of the relationship between them (it is supposed that as a result of geographical conditions the people of the same culture lived in different ecological conditions and they adapted differently to their environment). In considering the whole of Europe around 3500-3000 BC, easily observable settlement signs disappeared (Milisauskas and Kruk, “Late Neolithic/Late Copper Age,” 307), similarly to Hungary, even though in Hungary this occurred from the end of the Middle Copper Age to the Early Bronze Age, between 4000 and 2000 BC. If we do not take into account that the cattle burials of the Baden culture between 3600 and 2800 BC, and possibly even longer than that, have analogies with the cattle burials of areas in the Early and Middle Neolithic Corded Ware culture (because “logically” analogies would be sought in those areas in the Bronze Age but this period is not analogous with that period in those areas), we would not find any spiritual resemblance in their relationships that lies behind their spatial and temporal analogies; cf. comp. Niels Johannsen and Steffen Laursen, “Routes and Wheeled Transport in Late 4th-Early 3rd Millennium Funerary Customs of the Jutland Peninsula: Regional Evidence and European Context,” PZ 85 (2010): 15-58; Horváth “The Intercultural Connections of the Baden „Culture,” 118. It is painful to think about how many relationships we have not explored or even assessed yet!

hungary-yamna-corded-ware-map
One version from both maps shown in the article, by T. Horváth: “Since the two cultures surely lived together in the Late Copper Age, their collective map represents the Late Copper Age (supplemented with Vučedol sites). Since the direction of diffusion of the Kostolac ceramic style is still unclear, two map versions were made. On one the Kostolac followed the Danube River, on the other they diffused in the opposite direction. In northeast Hungary, Coțofeni III appeared. On this map Kostolac sites are not depicted as dots but, in light of their position and density, proportionately sized arrows are used.”

On Yamna culture and burials in the Carpathian Basin:

Looking at Pit Grave kurgans on the distribution map, it is apparent that burials are the densest where there were no Boleráz or Baden occupations (in this respect this was a kind of “no man’s land”, but from the whole Late Copper Age perspective it was not: the sites of the Baden complex and Pit Grave complemented each other and even partially overlapped). Apart from burials, no Pit Grave settlements or other types of Pit Grave sites are known in Hungary, therefore we do not know whether Pit Grave settlements were situated near the kurgans or whether were somewhere else entirely and we simply have not found them yet.

Since the Pit Grave people had a different lifestyle from the Baden, we can assume that, up to the line of the Tisza River, small animal-keeping mobile groups (Pit Grave) met more populated and settled, agriculturalist, indigenous Boleráz-Baden groups. Animal keepers (Pit Grave) settled in areas where agriculturalists (Boleráz and Baden) did not; in some places, however, they crossed each other’s paths (Fig. 5, 7). Sometimes their sites are very close to each other, sometimes they appear on one site and they can be identified in the stratigraphy of a site. In the latter case the kurgan is always situated on top of a Baden settlement, indicating that Pit Grave not only followed the Baden at these sites but may have represented a somewhat higher social power and belief system than the Baden.

The relationship between pastoral, patrilineal, combatant nomadic tribes and agriculturalist communities is often described as some sort of patron and client relationship. In reality, the signs of such assumption are not visible in the Pit Grave-Baden relationship. There are cases when more aggressive herders conquered more developed agriculturalist communities, but there are also cases when the conqueror’s culture was more developed or stronger than that of the conquered. Always, the conquering nomads are the patrons, the rulers and the empire builders.

In our case, timing is important. How much time had passed on those common sites where a Baden settlement was followed by a Pit Grave kurgan? In these cases, it is certain that the kurgan is younger, but how much younger?

hungary-yamna-settlements
From the article, by T. Horváth. “On the 10 locations analysed, surviving Baden can be assumed after 2800 BC. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict which sites would survive further scrutiny of radiocarbon dating in this respect; only a few dates are available so far. Therefore, on the map of Baden that still existing after the Late Copper Age, I have also represented all sites (up to the Danube River line) and combined them with Early Bronze Age sites. Since the majority of Makó sites are represented by only one find (scattered finds), and the majority of sites have just one grave, it is impossible to ascertain whether it was part of a cemetery, was within a settlement, or was an individual burial without any further features. Therefore, following Dani 2005, I utilized subdivisions: perhaps in the future this fine subdivision will provide a meaningful explanation (1). Since the radiocarbon dates of Pit Grave kurgans clearly show that the Pit Grave survived at least until 2500 BC, I combined the previous map with that of the Pit Grave. This map would show a realistic picture of cultures after 2800 BC east of the Danube River (2).”

To sum up, the Pit Grave and Baden in the Late Copper Age were certainly contemporary from 3350 BC in the Great Hungarian Plain, and they had common sites, sites which were very close to each other, sites which were far from each other, and also independent sites. The Pit Grave culture surely survived in the transitional period, and into Early Bronze Age I, but perhaps even longer. For the most part, the Baden had ended by 2900 BC in the Great Hungarian Plain. Mapping and some other data (e.g. the discovery that Younger-type, not Mondsee-type, metal objects, which can now be considered to be Baden, even appear east of the Danube River) does not exclude the possibility of searching further for traces of Baden surviving in the Great Hungarian Plain together with or alongside to the Pit Grave. On the common Baden-Pit Grave sites, even without carbon dating, we can assume from already known stratigraphical data that they closely followed each other in time.

For those of you interested in more detailed radiocarbon analysis and assessment of Yamna burials and settlements, from the steppe to the Balkans, to investigate Anthony’s theory further – apart from those authors referenced by him – , I can recommend reading Y. Rassamakin (e.g. Import and Imitation in Archaeology, 2008), S. Ivanova, or Claudia Gerling (e.g. Prehistoric Mobility and Diet in the West Eurasian Steppes 3500 to 300 BC).

Featured image, from the article, by T. Horváth: Distribution map of the Pit Grave.

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