|Bell beaker from Hungary (source)|
This doctoral thesis by Christina J. Adler is a most important study on the formation of the modern genetic pool (and hence population) in Central Europe. Previously we knew of data from the Paleolithic (U*), Epipaleolithic (U5, U4) and Earliest Neolithic (much more diverse but not yet modern in any sense). Then we had a huge blank until Urnfields (late Bronze), when the genetic pool seemed to be modern already.
This thesis (found via Eurogenes) fills in the blanks at least to some extent.
Christina Jane Adler, Ancient DNA studies of Human Evolution. University of Adelaide (thesis), 2012. Freely accessible → LINK
The thesis is, as usual in this kind of studies, extremely long; even the abstract is too long to copy here. Just to mention that the hard data (graphs, tables) is from page 96 on, although there are some other aspects in the text that deserve mention.
Critically Adler could research the ancient mtDNA of Bell Beaker and Únětice culture populations from several German sites, adding important information about the genetic pools of the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. She also goes over previous studies on the same area.
The new data (table 2) can be synthesized as follows:
- Bell Beaker:
- Quedlinburg XII: 3 H-CRS (H1?), 1 J
- Rothenschirmbach: 2 H3, 1 H5
- Alberstedt: 1 H-CRS (H1?)
- Total (simplified): 7 H, 1 J
- Quedlinburg VIII: 1 U5a1a, 1 U2, 1 U*, 1 H7a, 1 T1
- Quedlinburg XII: 1 U5a1a
- Quedlinburg XIV: 1 T2
- Esperstedt: 2 I*, 1 I1, 1 U5a1, 1 U5b, 1 T2b, 1 T2*, 1 W, 1 X
- Total (simplified): 4 U5, 3 I, 3 T2, 1 T1, 1 U2, 1 U*, 1 W, 1 X
This extremely high apportion of mtDNA H is almost unprecedented in ancient (and probably also modern) mtDNA samples, in Europe only the Portuguese Neolithic and Epipaleolithic samples by Chandler 2005 seem to be comparable in any way, suggesting that this most important European matrilineage may have expanded from Iberia in the Chalcolithic (aka Late Neolithic in some Anglosaxon literature) with either Megalithism, Bell Beaker or both.
It also seems to contradict the quite mainstream theory of Central European origins (post Corded Ware) of the Bell Beaker phenomenon and instead support the less popular Iberian origin theory. Until this very day I have been adherent to the Bohemian “Corded” origin theory (with some doubts) but today I have to admit that this genetic data weights heavily for the Iberian origin model, which in turn would fit very nicely with Venneman’s Vasconic substrate theory.
Regardless of what I may think, Adler herself is clearly pushing for the Iberian origin model all along in her thesis, theory which she seems to find the best fit scenario.
Of course, the genetic landscape was not simply stabilized with Megalithism and Bell Beaker, more waves followed. The Western Indoeuropean Únětice culture seems to fit here as archetypal or potential source of other layers, resulting in modern genetic pools in many places (although as I have mentioned several times the Basque one seems stable since Early Neolithic). These Indoeuropean migrations (Tumuli, Urnfields, Hallstatt, La Tène, etc.) should explain the dilution of the extremely high apportion of H found in these Bell Beaker burials, as well as in Portugal (nowadays H is 40-50% in most of Western and Northern Europe).
The Únětice genetic landscape seems particularly interesting for including which is surely the oldest mtDNA I in Northern Europe (later very common in Viking Era Denmark). The only older case I know is again Early Neolithic Basque (same Paternabidea sample mentioned above) but I don’t see any plausible relation.
PS- I know still have in the “to do” department the paper of Qiaomei Fu, “A Revised Timescale for Human Evolution Based on Ancient Mitochondrial Genomes”, which several readers were so kind to send me a copy of weeks ago, encouraging me to write on it. My apologies but I’m on it and I promise to write a review this very week unless the sky falls on my head (or real life equivalent).