Claim that Danubian Neolithic people had classes

29 May
Or so is what new research has led many to think.
R. Alexander Bentley et al., Community differentiation and kinship among Europe’s first farmers. PNAS 2012. Pay per view (for six months or depending on your world region).


Community differentiation is a fundamental topic of the social sciences, and its prehistoric origins in Europe are typically assumed to lie among the complex, densely populated societies that developed millennia after their Neolithic predecessors. Here we present the earliest, statistically significant evidence for such differentiation among the first farmers of Neolithic Europe. By using strontium isotopic data from more than 300 early Neolithic human skeletons, we find significantly less variance in geographic signatures among males than we find among females, and less variance among burials with ground stone adzes than burials without such adzes. From this, in context with other available evidence, we infer differential land use in early Neolithic central Europe within a patrilocal kinship system.

Many details on the burials are freely available in the supplemental material. The necropolises (many individuals each) are from a diversity of sites between Slovakia and Alsace: Aiterhofen, Ensisheim, Kleinhadersdorf, Nitra, Souffelweyersheim, Schwetzingen and Vedrovice.
The key relevant finding seems to be that most males buried with adze have lower Sr87/Sr86 ratio in their tooth enamel than those buried without grave goods, suggesting that they were more likely be original from the more fertile loess lands than the others, the preferred location of Linear Pottery Culture sites (also Danubian Neolithic or LBK by its German acronym). 
Women overall also had lower Sr87/Sr86 ratio, suggesting that most had come from other less fertile districts. This last also implies patrilocality, surely dismantling the idea of Gimbutas of a matrilocal “Old Europe”, which was already very much discredited (notice that this is not important in regard to her most important theory: the Kurgan model of Indoeuropean expansion, which is only very tangentially related to this matter). 
However my first impression is that drawing such radical conclusions from evidence which is only somewhat significant (I see many non-adze men who have below average strontium ratios and also a good number of adze men with high Sr ratios) and not at all absolute, seems a bit risky on first sight.
Whatever the case that is what they claim: that Danubians had classes or castes or some sort of social hierarchy and differentiation since the very beginnings. Sadly they have not researched what could have been a complementary source of information: DNA. 
Sources: Eureka Alert, Science, BBC, Pileta[es].

Western Danubian overlapped with pottery styles
that can be aboriginal or Cardium-derived
(source: Westward Ho!)

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