I've hypothesized in a previous post that Y-DNA R1b may have a Bell Beaker culture source in Western Europe. New ancient DNA data showing two Bell Beaker men with Y-DNA haplogroup R1b support that conjecture, although the sample size is too small to be definitive. These are the oldest European Y-DNA R1b samples of which I am aware and were found in Germany.
Update (May 4, 2012): Maju's post on the study notes that R1b is a contrast with early Neolithic ancient DNA from the vicinity of this find stating that "we do
know that some local precursors were of other patrilineages: F*, G2a3 (local
Danubian) and R1a1 (from Eulau, right across the Elbe)."
Maju also expressed some skepticism about the identification of the remains which are near an interference between the Bell Beaker "phenomena" and the Corded Ware culture the flourished in Europe to the east of the Bell Beaker area (the dates would be consistent with either), on the grounds that the grave goods found with these remains don't seem to be a great fit to the prototypical Bell Beaker grave good package.
For approximately a thousand years sometime around the second or third millenium B.C.E., almost all of Europe was divided between these two cultures who had an ongoing hot and cold armed stalemate, with the Bell Beaker associated peoples generally on the West and the Corded Ware peoples generally one the East. Eventually, the civilizations on the Bell Beaker side of the divide lost.
My hypothesis is basically that the Basque people and language, and the Vasconic substrate evidenced in typonymns in much of the historically Bell Beaker parts of Europe may be the most direct linguistic legacies of the Bell Beaker people, which is otherwise more Indo-European in origin, although their population genetic legacy may have been more persistent and widespread than their linguistic legacy.
We don't have enough evidence and some does not fit.
While there is not enough mtDNA H in Neolithic Northern and Central Europe for them to be considered modern populations, the case is completely different in Iberia and the Basque Country, where genetic pools seem totally modern since early Neolithic if not even before.
For example the Basque sample of Paternabidea, near Pamplona, could well be a modern one but it is from 7000 years ago. Also ancient Basques are the first ones to show some lactase persistance genotypes, for example.
But the testing of Y-DNA in all that key area of SW Europe so far has been lacking (excepted a few Mediterranean Cardium Pottery sites which look not very modern by mtDNA either).
We also lack Y-DNA from anywhere West of the Elbe before this one. So while it establishes a terminus ante qua non, it cannot be used to determine the origin or mechanism of spread of this haplogroup.
You are certainly correct that this only proves the latest date at which R1b could have arrived in Europe.
But, it is also notable because it is consistent with a conjecture that previously didn't have any ancient DNA evidence to support it; any other result would have crushed that conjecture.
The existence of archaeological cultures and physical anthropology remains from which we can derive data other than ancient DNA also gives the thin ancient DNA data we have more meaning, by putting it in context.
The diversity of the mtDNA in the sample is suggestive of population that is become a melting pot as women from more than one population are integrated into Bell Beaker society.
Not really: there is a nearby site (Eulau) of the same age that is 100% R1a1. Nobody said that this one crushes any conjecture.
Have you noticed that no mtDNA H is reported? This is odd, specially considering that there was some in the previous cultural layer. The Y-DNA sequence may be roughly modern but the mtDNA one is not at all.
"The Y-DNA sequence may be roughly modern but the mtDNA one is not at all."
Good point. While the mtDNA in the R1b carriers can be excepted to be representative of the R1b source population, the case seems less clear for the others, who may be recently indigeneous women incorporated into Bell Beaker society.
Or it may be a fluke.
Also there's nothing particularly "Bell Beaker" in this tomb, as I discussed in my blog. They are not Corded Ware either but they look more like Danubian residual cultural elements in the wider Corded Ware/earliest Bell Beaker generic context.
Bell Beaker burials have much richer and specific grave goods. This are just generic Chalcolithic.
Danubian Chalcolithic that isn't Bell Beaker with R1b would itself be quite significant.
It would, I guess. But we can't really consider these people Danubian proper either: they are chronologically too late and the dominant cultural landscape is Corded Ware/Bell Beaker, even if I can't place these burials as either because they lack the highly standardized grave goods.
In any case proto-Corded IEs were already influenced by Danubian culture. After a first penetration with Baalberge (a Kurgan and Funnelbeaker culture at the same time, on a Danubian substrate) there was a period in which the late Danubian culture of Baden (geographically roughly as Austria-Hungary from a century ago) was most important for several centuries and clearly influenced the post-Baalberge IE cultures north of it in East Germany and Poland (and later also Western Ukraine).
These would evolve, maybe with some kickstarter Eastern IE influx into Corded Ware, which did mean the end of distinct Danubian and Funnelbeaker cultures but not necessarily (nor probably) of Danubian nor Funnelbeaker genetics.
But classifying these tombs seems problematic at the best. Unless you have more info (I could not find any).
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