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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Northern Marianas was first colonized from Philippines

Lapita pot from Tonga (source)
The first known colonists of Tinian (Northern Marianas) were people coming from Luzon and using a kind of red painted pottery which is also found in Northern Luzon, Philippines, similar to  Lapita (Island Melanesia, Polynesia).
However these people seem to have arrived to the Marianas a century or two before the Lapita carriers (precursors of Oceanic languages) reached Melanesia, according to Peter Bellwood.
Source and more details: Islands Business (interview with Bellwood), via Pileta.
See also:
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in archaeology, Neolithic, Oceania, sea

 

Maize was common in Peru 5000 years ago

It has been confirmed, after decades of debate, that the people of coastal Peru did not just live on fishing but also on farming.
Jonathan Haas et al., Evidence for maize (Zea mays) in the Late Archaic (3000–1800 B.C.) in the Norte Chico region of Peru. PNAS 2013. Pay per view (for six months) → LINK [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219425110]

Abstract


For more than 40 y, there has been an active discussion over the presence and economic importance of maize (Zea mays) during the Late Archaic period (3000–1800 B.C.) in ancient Peru. The evidence for Late Archaic maize has been limited, leading to the interpretation that it was present but used primarily for ceremonial purposes. Archaeological testing at a number of sites in the Norte Chico region of the north central coast provides a broad range of empirical data on the production, processing, and consumption of maize. New data drawn from coprolites, pollen records, and stone tool residues, combined with 126 radiocarbon dates, demonstrate that maize was widely grown, intensively processed, and constituted a primary component of the diet throughout the period from 3000 to 1800 B.C.

See also: Science Daily.
 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Latin America, Neolithic, Peru

 

Iberian script of Iruña-Veleia

A new study of the Iberian script findings withing the (partly disputed but most likely very real) ostraka graffiti at Iruña-Veleia (Basque-Roman city of Antiquity on which I have written extensively in the past) is freely available online.
Antonio Arnaiz-Villena & Diego Rey, Iberian-Tartessian scripts/graffiti in Iruna-Veleia (Basque Country, North Spain): findings in both Iberia and Canary Islands-Africa. International Journal of Modern Anthropology 2012. Freely accessibleLINK

Abstract


760 officially recognized scripts on ceramics from Iruña-Veleia excavated by the archaeology firm Lurmen S.L. (approximately between years 2002-2008)have been analyzed. A number of these ceramics contains scripts which may be assimilated to Iberian/Tartessian writings. This number may be underestimated since more studies need to be done in already available and new found ceramics. This is the second time that Iberian writing is found by us in an unexpected location together with the Iberian-Guanche inscriptions of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). On the other hand, naviform scripting, usually associated to Iberian rock or stone engraving may have also been found in Veleia. Strict separation, other than in time and space stratification, between Iberian and (South) Tartessian culture and script is doubted.

Source: Ama Ata[es].
 

Riel-Salvatore on the reality and hype of Upper Paleolithic burials

From A Very Remote Period Indeed:

On the variability of Upper Paleolithic burials: Hype, facts and fiction (and Neanderthals?)

A new study of mine (written with Claudine Gravel-Miguel of ASU) is getting a bit of press, and I really want to write a post on AVRPI to serve as a proper companion piece to it, since the narrative in the press is already slipping away from what the paper actually says. In short, our paper does not say that Upper Paleolithic burials were not more sophisticated than those of Neanderthals. Rather, it emphasizes how heterogeneous Upper Paleolithic burials are (a point I recently also mentioned in relation to ‘Venus’ figurines), and that many of them were fairly simple. As a result, we need to be very careful about using exceptionally lavish as representative of Upper Paleolithic burials as a whole, as emphasized in the official CU Denver press release “Early human burials varied widely,” which is a bit meta, being illustrated as it is by… one of the Sungir burials, arguably some of the fanciest Upper Paleolithic burials known!

Man in an Upper Paleolithic burial in Sunghir, Russia. The site is approximately 28,000 to 30,000 years old. 
Not a typical Upper Paleoilthic burial!

continue reading at A Very Remote Period Indeed.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in death, European prehistory, Upper Paleolithic

 

Algerian haploid genetics

This new study has particular interest for data miners willing to dig in the supplemental materials. It also has some other points of interest that I will discuss below and its general approach is loosely alright. However there are many nuances to be discussed in depth on the very complex NW African genetic landscape in which their tentative conclusions seem to lack enough depth of analysis (who grabs too much, squeezes little). Hence the complexity is too big for me to go issue by issue offering a criticism, so I will leave most of that open for the discussion, if the readers wish so.

Asmadan Bekada et al., Introducing the Algerian Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Profiles into the North African Landscape. PLoS ONE 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056775]
Mitochondrial DNA
The mtDNA landscape of Algeria and Northwest Africa is dominated (using HVS-I only to estimate it) by R-CRS (“H/HV” in table S2) with levels of 18-34% (29% in Algeria) almost comparable to Western Europe (~45%). This fraction we know from previous studies to be composed almost only by H1, H3, H4 and H7, all them attributed by Cherni to be originated (judging on diversity) in SW Europe (Iberia, France). Along with them HV0/V (7% in Algeria, 5-9% regionally) must be mentioned as also plausibly to be from that part of Europe (4-7%).
Another notable lineage is U6 (typical and most diverse in NW Africa), which reaches frequencies of 11% in Algeria (somewhat less in neighboring countries). Outside this area is only notable in Levant (~1%) and Iberia (~1,4%).
M1 reaching 7% in Algeria (~1-4% elsewhere in NW Africa, <1% in Europe and Highland West Asia, 1.2% in Levant, 2.4% in Peninsular Arabia) is also very much worth a mention, especially because the authors find an specifically NW African node centered in Algeria (HT2):

Figure 3. Reduced median network relating HVS-1 sequences of subhaplogroup M1.
(…) Black circles correspond to haplotypes observed in Algeria, whereas grey triangles pentagons correspond to lineages found in Egypt. Haplotype observed both in Algeria and Egypt are indicated using a black triangle. Grey circles indicate haplotypes observed in other geographical regions. (…)
The pattern suggests an Egypt-centered expansion for this lineage, however notice that East African M1 was not considered. 
Synthesis of mtDNA haplogroups or paragroups found in NW Africa at frequencies >2.5% (see table S2 for details and the many low frequency lineages as well), nomenclature as in table S2 (but some annotations in [square brackets] by me), frequencies for Algeria first (in brackets NW African range):
  • HV/H[R-CRS]: 28.8% (17.9-34.2%)
  • HV0/HV0a/V: 6.7% (4.6-8.3%)
  • R0a: 0.8% (0.8-3.2%)
  • U3*: 3.2% (1.1-3.2%)
  • U6a[U6a*]: 1.9% (1.9-7.8%)
  • U6a1’2’3: 9.4% (2.6-9.4%)
  • K*: 1.6% (0.7-4.8%)
  • T1a: 3.5% (0.0-5.6%)
  • T2b*: 1.9% (0.0-2.2%)
  • J[*]/J1c/J2[*]: 3.8% (1.3-3.8%)
  • M1[*]: 7.3% (0.7-7.3%)
  • L3b[*]: 0.3% (0.3-2.8%)
  • L3b1a3: 1.3% (0.0-2.8%)
  • L3e5: 1.6% (0.0-2.9%)
  • L2*: 0.5% (0.0-4.1%)
  • L2a[*]: 0.8% (0.0-3.2%)
  • L2a1*: 1.3% (0.7-4.8%)
  • L2a1b: 1.3% (0.8-3.5%)
  • L2d: 0.0% (0.0-2.8%)
  • L1b*: 3.0% (2.7%-9.0%)
Notice that in nearly all cases L(xM,N) highest frequency correspond to West Sahara. The exceptions are L2a* (Tunsian “Andalusians”) and L3e5 (Tunisians), suggesting maybe a local NW African deep rooting rather than ancient or recent flows from Tropical Africa. There are other lineages in the low frequency range in similar situation.
For this and other reasons I decided to color-code the list above according to my best guess about the origin of each lineage: NW African in deep red, Tropical African in brown, Egyptian in light brown, West Asian in green and European in blue. Unclear cases I left in black type.
Y chromosome DNA
Algerian and NW African Y-DNA is overwhelmingly dominated by E1b1b1b (M81), reaching 44% in Algeria (44-67% in the region), which is a NW African specific lineage. The second most important lineage by frequency is J1 (M304) with 22% in Algeria (0-22% in the region, 6-22% if we exclude Libya). None of the rest of the lineages reaches 7%, excepted E1b1b1c (M123) but only in West Sahara (11%, elsewhere it is very minor).
List of Y-DNA haplo-/paragroups with frequencies above 2.5% anywhere in NW Africa follows (based on table S6). Same notation as with mtDNA (Algerian frequency first, NW African range in brackets):
  • E1a (M33): 0.6% (0.0-5.3%)
  • E1b1[*] (P2): 5.2% (0.7-38.6%)
  • E1b1b1[*] (M35): 0.6% (0.0-4.2%)
  • E1b1b1a4 (V65): 1.9% (0.0-4.8%)
  • E1b1b1b (M81): 44.2% (44.2-67.4%)
  • E1b1b1c (M123): 1.3% (0.0-11.1%)
  • F[*] (M89): 3.9% (0.0-3.9%)
  • J1 (M267): 21.8% (0.0-21.8%)
  • J2a2 (M67): 3.9% (0.0-3.9%)
  • R1b1a (V88): 2.6% (0.9-6.9%)
  • R1b1b1a1b[*] (U198): 2.6% (0.0-2.6%)
  • R1b1b1a1b1 (U152): 2.6% (0.0-2.6%)
For more diverse samples of NW African Y-DNA (from previous studies), Wikipedia has a nice table.
I would like to highlight the problematic of J1 in Africa in general (including NW Africa). While there is no reasonable doubt that J1 as a whole originated in West Asia, it is found at rather high frequencies in East/NE Africa (Sudan, the Horn, Upper Egypt) and NW Africa with only very limited (at best) company by J2. Instead West Asian populations show a much more balanced apportion of the two major J sublineages, even in Saudi Arabia the J1:J2 proportion is of 8:3, almost 2:1. We do see this kind of apportioning in Lower Egypt, suggesting a “recent” (Neolithic or later) demic colonization from West Asia but we see exactly but nowhere else in Africa, where J1 is found always much more frequently than J2 (if the latter is found at all). 
In my understanding this excludes colonization from West Asia after the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, which seems the most plausible scenario for the spread of “Highlander” J2 into “Lowland” West Asia (probably dominated by J1 initially). So J1 in Africa (excepted Lower Egypt) cannot be argued easily to be of “recent” Neolithic, much less Semitic or Arab origin: it must be older. 
Also Ethio Helix commented in this very interesting discussion at his blog that Tofanelli 2009 found low diversity on NW African J1. However, to my knowledge, nobody has looked at NE/East African J1 diversity nor a proper study has been done on the substructure of this lineage in Africa. This leaves wide open the possibility that NW African J1 has a NE African origin, surely related to the expansion of Capsian culture or internal African Neolithic flows. 
While this matter is not properly addressed, researchers will oversimplify and imagine J1 as simply West Asian influx. It is ultimately of course but I strongly suspect that it has a secondary and distinct NE African center at the Nile basin and this is being totally ignored. 
Comparisons
This study offers several rough comparisons with nearby regions (but not West Africa), however they oversimplify some stuff (the already mentioned Y-DNA J1 or assigning all mtDNA L(xM,N) to East Africa, when it seems obvious that some lineages may be deeply rooted in NW Africa or others probably come from West Africa). For whatever it is worth anyhow, here there are two such questionable comparisons:

Table 2. Geographic components (%) considered in Y-chromosome and mtDNA lineages.

Figure 2. Graphical relationships among the studied populations.
PCA plots based on mtDNA (a) and Y-chromosome (b) polymorphism. Codes are as in Supplementary Tables S2 and S6.

See also:

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in African genetics, mtDNA, North Africa, West Eurasia, Y-DNA

 

Screw stoppers of Upper Paleolithic Dordogne

While not really a novelty, I bet that most readers have never heard of this (I had no idea myself admittedly). David Sánchez discusses this week at his (Spanish language) blog Noticias de Prehistoria – Prehistoria al Día the existence of several most intriguing conic screw pieces found in Gravettian and Magdalenian sites from Dordogne (Aquitaine, French Republic), a district that (because of its great density of findings and cultural centrality for Middle and Late UP European prehistory) I have sometimes dubbed the Paleolithic Metropolis of Europe.

Drawing of two ivory stoppers from Combe-Capelle and Fourneau du Diable
(from Don’s Maps, ultimately from S. Lwoff 1968)

Stopper of bone
from Laugerie-Haute
(Magdalenian)
What are these magnificent pieces of Paleolithic craftsmanship? Apparently they are nothing else that that waterskin stoppers. Don’s Maps suggest (scroll down) that the waterskin’s neck hole would be made with a long bone hollow piece (just get out the marrow and tie it tightly to the skin’s neck with a couple of thin ropes after performing two grooves on the external surface of the bone piece), then just apply the screw stopper forcing the bone (which is hard but somewhat flexible) to adapt to it. Naturally the inner groove would be created as you repeat the process once and again, surely having to push a little more each time (the bone tends to expand somewhat under the internal pressure).
Why are they conical and not cylindrical like modern ones? Surely because the same stopper (hard high quality work) was expected to serve many different waterskins, with different neck sizes. Also the very process of creation of the neck’s perfect fit requires of an initial process of expansion for which a cylindrical stopper was not fit.
It never ceases to amaze the ingenuity and creativity of our Paleolithic ancestors, right?
 

Bronze Age cremation necropolis found in Romania

A large and informative necropolis dating to c. 1300 BCE has been found at Păru (Banat, Romania).

“Particularly important are the graves that shed new light on the funerary ritual at the end of the Bronze Age in north-eastern Banat. It was found that the dead were deposited on a pyre where items from the funerary trousseau were also burned.” This included “a table-altar of clay on which they brought funerary offerings, stone grinders and various pots that were used for the funeral banquet. Modern methods of radioactive carbon dating method shows that the necropolis at Păru dates between 1300 and 1200 BC” Ph.D. Florin Drasovean told  www.tion.ro.

“In terms of inventory, there were discovered pots that were used in the funeral banquet and various fragments of altars, on which the deceased was cremated. Subsequently, the funeral was done in circular pits of 1 meter diameter, grouped in nests, probably because individuals came from the same family,” explained Professor Drasovean.

Part of the excavated necropolis

Contextualizing

This cremation funerary fashion is
also found further West, where it is most strongly associated to the Urnfield culture (as well as others more or less related ones), later, in the Iron Age, cremation is also associated to stone circle burials in Scandinavia and the Pyrenees. Therefore one could fathom that the transition between the Bronze and Iron Age in Europe North and West of the Balcans could well be described also as the Age of Cremation, even if (of course), there are also many areas where such practice never caught up.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in archaeology, Bronze Age, European prehistory, Romania