There is a new host of ancient DNA data, which seems to have been carefully analyzed, from the important Languedocine
site of Treilles
, which gives name to a whole “tribal” group of the Chalcolithic period, after the post-Epicardial Chassey culture broke up in pieces.
As I do not live in India nor Argentine, for example, I would have to pay for this paper or wait six months. I never ever buy anything online, so I will do the latter. Put up with me.
Regardless, the supplementary material
is freely available and most data is there. I have also read something online around what this paper has to offer.
Y-DNA: almost all cousins!
|Fig. S5 – Y-DNA G2a median joining network
The most striking finding is that almost all male members of this population belonged to a single Y-DNA lineage: G2a. Only two of them did not and they carried I2a instead.
This speaks volumes on this population being a patrilocal one and made up of closely related men. It is not just the haplogroup but also the haplotype: all the Treilles men belong to a relatively rare haplotype within G2a (left in red).
It is also suggestive of this population being of immigrant origin. Haplogroup G2a
is rather mysterious in this matter but it is one of the main candidates, along with J2 and E1b1b1a1, for being a Neolithic
immigrant lineage in Europe.
The secondary lineage I2a is also a possible case of Neolithic immigrant lineage but in this case it would come directly from the Balcans and not West Asia. However in this case a pre-Neolithic origin is also very possible, specially as I (likely I2a1) has been found in North African ancient DNA (specifically Guanche mummies
from the pre-colonial Canary Islands).
Mitochondrial DNA: quite more diversity
[Note: this section was corrected hours after writing it first time because it contained errors]
But, regardless of we may think of Y-DNA, what really supports a largely non-native origin of the population is the mitochondrial DNA, the female lineages. These (n=29) are as follows:
- H – 6 (21%)
- H1 – 3 (10%)
- H3 – 3 (10%)
- HV0 – 3 (10%)
- HV0 (undefined) – 2
- V – 1
- U – 8 (28%)
- U (undefined) – 1
- U5 – 5 (17%)
- K1a – 2 (6%)
- JT – 8
- J1 – 6 (18%)
- T2b – 2 (7%)
- X – 4
I estimate that there is a 45% of Neolithic immigrant lineages (X, J, T and K). On the other hand, there is still at least 41% of Paleolithic aboriginal lineages (H, V, U(xK) and I), what seems to be telling us of some level of continuity in nearby areas, where the women may have originated.
The relatively high diversity of maternal lineages reinforces the idea of this group being strongly patrilocal in any case.
No milk for the shepherds
While the title of this USA Today article
is very much misleading, because lactose intolerant
people can perfectly eat cheese in fact (it is raw milk which they find intractable but they can have most processed dairies), one of the findings of this paper is that they did not have the common variant that, in most of Europe, signals lactose tolerance.
In fact, modern Occitans are still largely unable to digest milk as adults (but they can eat cheese for sure): according to a 2001 paper
, 65% of Southern French
are lactose intolerant. While the exact sampling location(s) for these “Southern French” is not clearly identified, it is most unlikely that they are Basques or Gascons, because Basques are the population with less lactose intolerance on Earth (0.3%
Who were these people of Treilles
As I haven’t yet read the paper I am not very sure about the details of this necropolis, however Treilles gives name to an archaeological group (not quite a culture but almost). When the late Neolithic Chassey culture broke up c. 3000 BCE, several local groups arose from it. Treilles was one of them and maybe the most advanced and cosmopolitan one.
Inserted in the Megalithic phenomenon since its formation and later also in the overlapping Bell Beaker one, the Treilles group was intensely connected with the Iberian cultures but very specially with that of Zambujal (or Vila Nova de Sao Pedro
), a true Megalithic civilization and the first identifiable civilization on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
I made the following maps for your interest:
| My reconstruction of trade routes in late Chalcolithic SW Europe (green star is Treilles, solid ovals locate Iberian civilizations)
|A more concise map (source of the other one) showing the various cultural elements apparently traded (see legend below)
- Light blue dots: Palmela points (weapons originated in Portugal)
- Dark blue dots: turtle buttons (originated in Portugal?)
- Green dots: conical and Dufort buttons (likely from Languedoc)
- Orange dots: pyramidal buttons (Catalonia essentially)
- Stars indicate Treilles (green), Zambujal (blue) and Los Millares (black).
From Pellicer 1986 (himself on Harrison), several maps gathered in one here by me.
I got a copy thanks to a reader. Interestingly this is not a burial from nearby the modern town of Treilles, which gives the group its name (located with a star in the maps above), but from a cave further Northwest, towards the Massif Central, in the area of the Grand Causses[fr]
, near Millau
The cave is named Saint-Jean-et-Saint-Paul and hosts a collective burial dated by the authors of this paper to c. 3000 BCE, early in the Chalcolithic period (though the authors prefer to speak of Late Neolithic). This kind of collective burials are the same as those found in dolmens and other megalithic structures and are usually thought as clannic tombs (which is coincident with the findings, if we accept, as we must, that clans were then patrilineal). Many areas of Europe where Megalithism never took roots, used these kind of collective (or clannic) burials in caves. This was the case in most of the East and Center of the Iberian peninsula, and also in North Italy, which had strong connections with this area in the period just before this burial (Chassey-La Lagozza fusion culture, maybe proto-Ligurian).
So we are clearly before a patrilineal clan in a rather hidden spot of post-Epicardial Occitania.
The authors argue that:
The Treilles cultural group is a well identified archeological complex of the late Stone Age period, preserved of any major late Neolithic population movements as suggested by the absence of the Bell–Beaker culture influence in the second part of the third millennium B.C. The study of this cultural group should give a snapshot of the local genetic pool of the end of the Neolithic period in southern France before all recent migrations.
While not fully rejecting this claim, I doubt that they were so much isolated and I would instead argue that they had rather intense interactions with North Italy in the previous period and Iberia in the one to come. Chalcolithic long distance trade began long before Bell Beaker (it correlates best with Megalithism in fact) and even if the early date in the context of Chalcolithic justifies some of the claims, these are poorly argued. There was also trade and cultural interaction in the previous cultural period of Chassey-La Lagozza: even if it was more restricted to the region, the interaction with North Italy cannot be ignored.
But my most important caveat rests in the clannic (and arguably aristocratic
) nature of collective burials: it is clear that we are looking at the members of a single patrilineal clan, all related by a common male ancestor (excepting of course the two I2a individuals, who could be adopted, illegitimate or whatever). In this sense no single clannic tomb can provide a good snapshot of the wider region, at least for the Y-DNA.
Update (Jun 3): Heraus has written an entry on this particular district (Causse de Larzac) at his blog dedicated to the physiognomy of French citizens Anthrofrance.