Category Archives: Caucasus

Echoes from the past (Sep 16)

A. sediba

Is Australopithecus sediba in fact Homo sediba? Both brain and hand (but also pelvis and ankle) make, in the opinion of some researchers, this australopithecine the best candidate for ancestor of our own principal ancestor: Homo erectus. Science Daily has a whole series on this theory and the facts that back it: 1, 2, 3 and 4 articles. Also at PhysOrg and some of the original papers at Science (pay per view of course): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

More on the Southern Iberian Neolithic idols (in Spanish but with many nice photos) at Neolítico de la Península Ibérica.

The oldest ‘pub’ of Scotland? Chalcolithic or Neolithic (c. 4600 years ago) building at Jarlshof (Shetland) was at least a beer brewery and bakery. It is possible that the site was also used as tavern of some sort ··> Daily Record.

The Jarlshof brewery

Reproduction with Neanderthals was rare ··> France24 (and, update!, a criticism by John Hawks).

Ötzi, the Chalcolithic herder from La Lagozza culture, was also Y-DNA G2a according to a video reported by Dienekes. This is the second time that G2a (a relatively small haplogroup today of quite clear West Asian origins) has been reported in post-Cardial Neolithic peoples in Mediterranean Europe. Earlier this year it was reported in the majority of a related population of Occitania (SE French state), together with some I2a. It is notable that both populations were culturally related, not just because of their shared Cardium Pottery roots, but also because of the ChasseyLa Lagozza cultural fusion, which I’d dare suggest as precursor of the historical Ligures.

Still it is hard to explain the apparent high frequency of the lineage back then and the low one today (c. 5% on average across Europe). As for high tier exceptions, nowadays G (usually G2a in Europe) reaches 12% in mainland Italy,  14% in Sardinia (reaching as much as 21% in some locations), 12% in Corsica, 7% in Austrian Tyrol, up to 14% in some locations of Croatia, up to 11% in some locations of Greece, 13% in Moldova, 12% in Portugal and 8% in Spain. It may be a fluke that 2/3 known lineages from the Chassey-La Lagozza cultural complex are in this category (it is statistically quite reasonable) but we can’t of course avoid rising an eyebrow.

Caucasian and European peoples are not really very much related. A new paper confirms that Caucasus peoples are on their own (maybe related to Anatolia, not sampled) within the West Eurasian macro-population, clustering better with West Asians than Europeans in any case, even North Caucasus populations like Chechens and such. The paper by B. Yunusbayev is also PPV, so I’ll refer to Dienekes again, who includes nice, rather informative, graphs like this one:

Amber-trapped feathers show light on the evolution of birds and dinosaurs ··> BBC.

Astronomy and cosmology:

  • Preferred direction of spacetime challenges the Cosmological Principle which claimed that everything was equally boring ··> PhysOrg.
  • Fifty new exoplanets discovered in a row ··> BBC.
  • Star rips exoplanet to shreds with X rays ··> Discovery News.

And soon to come in this blog (in separate articles to be written later):

  • Is West African skull from Late Upper Paleolithic ‘archaic’ (meaning another species than Homo sapiens) ··> PLoS ONE.
  • Gene influences behavior but… culture influences the gene that influences behavior ··> Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Grape domesticated West Asia

Kambiz mentions today this paper at
Archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 y ago (1, 21). Our analyses of relatedness between vinifera and sylvestris populations are consistent with archaeological data and support a geographical origin of grape domestication in the Near East (Fig. 4 and Table 1).
He also mentions that the oldest known wine barrel is from Armenia
I understand that the data of fig. 4 suggest a domestication area between Turkey and Pakistan, with emphasis in the Caucasus region: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Daghestan specially. However Pakistani wild varieties cluster well also and I’d say it cannot be discarded that at least part of the development of this delicatessen crop happened maybe in the context of South Asian Neolithic.

Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Caucasus, Neolithic, South Asia, West Asia


Bronze Age culture discovered in the North Caucasus

The Telegraph reports (via AiE) that a previously unknown Bronze Age civilization has been discovered in the North Caucasus, after locating some 200 sites via air photography from the Soviet era. 
The Russo-German archaeological team found the sites all following a similar architectural plan, centered around an oval courtyard, and connected by roads. In some cases the foundations of the buildings retain up to a meter of their original height. 
The decorations and artifact styles are clearly related to the Kuban culture (axe at the left, from the Hermitage Museum), but this one is older by some 500 years, lasting from the 16th to the 13th century BCE. The sites are located rather high on the mountains, between 1400 and 2400 meters above sea level.
Approximate location of the findings
The sites stretch from the Kuban river to the west to the city of Nalchik by the East, in the autonomous republics of Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria. While Russian and Turkic languages are now spoken in the area also, a natural thought is to imagine the inhabitants of these settlements speaking NW Caucasian languages.

One detail I notice in the Wikipedia reference is that so far it was believed that the Kuban culture was derived from the, slightly older Colchian culture of Abkhazia and West Georgia, however this discovery would suggest that the opposite is true instead. This in turn may provide a frame for the migration of NW Caucasian towards the South (but notice the possible affinity with extinct Hattic), or alternatively for the arrival of Kartvelian languages maybe. It looks too recent anyhow to be related to the expansion of the Indoeuropean Hittites, which are known to have been in Anatolia since at least the 18th century BCE. This matter is admittedly complicated and surely warrants further debate in any case.

Update (Oct 13): Jean points me to this other small article at the Kyiv Post, which includes several images of the sites and the air photos that allowed their localization:

The phrasing of the relationship with the Kuban culture is significantly different (merging instead of precursor) and also the description of the area (eastern limit is said to be Kislovodsk instead of Nalchik), but I’d say that the Telegraph article seems better informed, even if it lacks images.


Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Bronze Age, Caucasus, NW Caucasian languages, Russia