Category Archives: Iran

New evidence from Luristan reveals that Neolithic Revolution was almost simultaneous across the Fertile Crescent

Wild barley from Chogha Golan
The new sites, in the Southern Zagros mountain country of Luristan (Iran), evidence local development of agriculture between 12,000 and 9800 BP:

The plant remains found at the Chogha Golan site document more than 2,000 years of the region’s land use and represent the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran, according to the researchers. The site’s excavation, which was conducted by archaeologists from the University of Tübingen and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research between 2009 and 2010, shows that Chogha Golan’s early inhabitants cultivated wild barley, wheat, lentil and grass peas—and eventually domesticated emmer wheat—during their occupation, which began about 12,000 years ago.

Plentiful findings of chaff remains of the cereals indicate that people processed their harvest within the sites they were living in,” Riehl said. “Mortars and grinding stones may have been used for turning the grain into some kind of bulgur or flour, which may have been further processed either by cooking or roasting.” (The author also notes, however, that chemical studies of the grinding tools showed that they were multi-purpose—not just for processing plant materials.)

Annotation on study’s map. 
Earliest Neolithic areas in red (previously known) and in blue (new ones). Notice that Jarmo is not usually considered (against what the legend says) part of PPNA, but a different locally rooted culture altogether. There are doubts on whether PPNA was a productive or just Mesolithic cereal-gatherer economy.
Consolidated Neolithic: The green dotted line marks the max. extension of PPNB, which was not the only consolidated Neolithic culture: earliest Balcanic and South Asian Neolithic were already ongoing by that time (8th millenium BCE), while in Africa it should be not much more recent. In lowland Mesopotamia the sediments have so far hidden any cultural phase prior to the already highly developed Ubaid culture, the first known civilization.
East Asia and Papua had their own distinct Neolithic developments of similar time-frame.

Source: Past Horizons.
Ref. S. Riehl et al. Emergence of Agriculture in the Foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Science Magazine 2013. Pay per viewLINK [doi:10.1126/science.1236743]
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Iran, Neolithic, West Asia


Iranian Y-DNA

There is a new study on Iranian Y-DNA:


Knowledge of high resolution Y-chromosome haplogroup diversification within Iran provides important geographic context regarding the spread and compartmentalization of male lineages in the Middle East and southwestern Asia. At present, the Iranian population is characterized by an extraordinary mix of different ethnic groups speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic and Turkic languages. Despite these features, only few studies have investigated the multiethnic components of the Iranian gene pool. In this survey 938 Iranian male DNAs belonging to 15 ethnic groups from 14 Iranian provinces were analyzed for 84 Y-chromosome biallelic markers and 10 STRs. The results show an autochthonous but non-homogeneous ancient background mainly composed by J2a sub-clades with different external contributions. The phylogeography of the main haplogroups allowed identifying post-glacial and Neolithic expansions toward western Eurasia but also recent movements towards the Iranian region from western Eurasia (R1b-L23), Central Asia (Q-M25), Asia Minor (J2a-M92) and southern Mesopotamia (J1-Page08). In spite of the presence of important geographic barriers (Zagros and Alborz mountain ranges, and the Dasht-e Kavir and Dash-e Lut deserts) which may have limited gene flow, AMOVA analysis revealed that language, in addition to geography, has played an important role in shaping the nowadays Iranian gene pool. Overall, this study provides a portrait of the Y-chromosomal variation in Iran, useful for depicting a more comprehensive history of the peoples of this area as well as for reconstructing ancient migration routes. In addition, our results evidence the important role of the Iranian plateau as source and recipient of gene flow between culturally and genetically distinct populations.

Figure 1. Frequencies of the main
Y-chromosome haplogroups in the whole Iranian population (inset pie), in
the 14 Iranian provinces under study and in East Turkey [23], Iraq [20], Saudi Arabia [26] and Pakistan [24]).

Azeris and Assyrians, (b) Armenians, Assyrians and Zoroastrians, (c)
Persians and Zoroastrians, (d) Bandari and Afro-Iranians. Pie areas are
proportional to the population sample size (small pies, N<50;
intermediate pies, 50<N<100; large pies, N>100) and the areas
of the sectors are proportional to the haplogroup frequencies in the
relative population.

See also the table of lineage frequencies inside the Iranian borders (for the rest of the region check supplemental materials).

Some notes:
  • B is found only in Hormozgan province and in Arabia. This is interesting specially in relation to the presence of this African lineage among Hazaras of Afghanistan, probably the Northern and Easternmost extension of this lineage. 
  • E(xE1b) is also concentrated in Hormozgan and Arabia but, unlike B, it is only found in the Bandari community and, in Arabia, in coastal states and not Saudi Arabia. Notice that neither lineage is found among Afroiranians, suggesting that their presence in the area is pre-Modern.
  • E1b comes in several flavors among Iranians:
    • E1b1b1a1 (M78) – particularly common among Tehran Zoroastrians
    • E1b1b1b2a (M123) – most common among Kurds and nearby peoples
    • E1b1b1b2a1b (M2) – concentrated in the South
  • G among Iranians is mostly G2a, mostly G2a* and G2a3b1 (P303).
  • J1 is seldom found above 10%, while J2 is quite common, sometimes even dominant, what locates Iranians among what I call Highland West Asians, dominated by J2. The main exception is Khuzestan (ancient Elam and nowadays Arab-speaking).
  • Both R1a1 (M198) and R1b1a2 (M269) are common in Iran. R1a1 has only been found in its “asterisk” variant (i.e. not belonging to any subhaplogroup known so far). 
The authors suggest an original demic base of mostly J2a people, enriched since Neolithic (???) by Western and Northern gene flows mostly, with less important fluxes from Africa and South Asia. They also propose a post-LGM colonization of much of West Asia from a refuge in or near Kurdistan, specially J1 flows southwards.
I strongly suggest to take these ideas with the proverbial tablespoon of salt and other spices. It is very possible that the suggested flows are much older (for example the J1/J2 split could well be from the original colonization of West Eurasia c. 50 Ka ago in my opinion, while some of the other flows may be also much older than the authors imagine). 
While there are some diversity indicators suggesting that J1 could be original, ultimately, from Iraq maybe… the reality is that Palestinians remain an ill-researched population which may hide many surprises, specially considering their high autosomal diversity and uniqueness. Palestine has been continuously occupied by our species since at least that “Aurignacoid” colonization of some 55,000 years ago (Emirian culture).
Also, excepted the Indoeuropean invasion from the steppes in the Iron Age, that gives the country name and main language, there are no particular reasons to imagine any major gene flows from elsewhere in West Eurasia, excepted maybe some localized ones. Instead the possibility of flows from Europe at the end of the Upper Paleolithic (rock art of Turkey, alleged Epigravettian influences on Zarzian culture) remains open.
Update: IJ* at the Caspian shores!
Waggg makes a couple of interesting remarks in the comments section, one being the high basal diversity of haplogroup Q (not really new but worth underlining because this lineage so important among Native Americans probably coalesced in or near Iran, something that many do not seem to realize). 
[Edited!] But the big hit is the finding of IJ(xI,J) in 1/42 of Fars Persians and 1/74 Mazandarani, what is surely a clue for the origin of the macrohaplogroup IJ or at least one of its offshoots (it could still be J* or I*). It does seem to underline the notion of IJ and its local variant J being originated from that area of Iran or surroundings.

Important: it is clear in the Molecular Analysis section of the paper that the authors tested for both defining SNPs P209 (J) and M170 (I), so it is genuine IJ(xI,J), the first to be found on Earth as far as I know. 

Thanks for noticing to Etyopis (see comments).


Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Iran, population genetics, West Asia, Y-DNA


Archaeonews: South Iran and South China Neolithic findings, London’s oldest artificial structure

Some interesting snippets from Stone Pages’ Archaeo News section:
Southern Iran’s findings from 5000 years ago
Teheran Times reports the finding of a a site related to Jiroft culture.
The site, Kajeh Askar, near Bam (Kerman province) was discovered during emergency digs because of a road construction. Part of the site was damaged while excavating. 
Among the findings are pottery and two burials, one in fetal position and another in extended face up position.  These bodies had been interred with diverse artifacts, including a seashell apparently used to store cosmetics. 
New Neolithic culture from Jiangxi, China
A new Neolithic culture has been named in South China as Terracotta and Painted Pottery Culture. The site is known as Lahodun and is near Gaohu (Jiangxi). 
The finding includes stone walls and tools (hatchets, adzes, ploughs) as well as pottery and are preliminarily dated to c. 6000 years ago. Archaeologists also report a large sacrificial table made of high purity yellow clay (3000 m², up to 80 cm thick), 114 so-called sacrificial tombs and a structure made of red scorched earth.

London’s top secret

The nickname comes because the newly found wooden structure is right in front of the headquarters of the infamous British secret service MI6. The archaeologists even had some trouble when the wannabe James Bonds suspected that they were planning some sort of attack.
Fortunately the dig and topographical measures could proceed normally after the misunderstanding, revealing a wooden structure, which is neither straight nor round but could well have served to support a platform on what was then a small island within the Thames river. 
The site is dated to c. 7000 years ago, in the Epipaleolithic period and is the oldest known structure in the English capital.
As always you can discuss these news and more at Archaeo Forums.
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 8, 2011 in archaeology, China, Epipaleolithic, Iran, Neolithic, UK