RSS

Category Archives: Iron Age

SW African Bantu matrilineages

Prolific researcher Chiara Barbieri has put online another interesting study on African genetics, this time about the Bantu populations of Southwestern and Central-Southern Africa (i.e. Namibia, Angola, Botswana and Zambia).
Chiara Barbieri et al., Migration and interaction in a contact zone: mtDNA variation among Bantu-speakers in southern Africa. bioRXiv 2014. Freely accessible (pre-pub) → LINK

ABSTRACT

Bantu speech communities expanded over large parts of sub-Saharan Africa within the last 4000-5000 years, reaching different parts of southern Africa 1200-2000 years ago. The Bantu languages subdivide in several major branches, with languages belonging to the Eastern and Western Bantu branches spreading over large parts of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. There is still debate whether this linguistic divide is correlated with a genetic distinction between Eastern and Western Bantu speakers. During their expansion, Bantu speakers would have come into contact with diverse local populations, such as the Khoisan hunter-gatherers and pastoralists of southern Africa, with whom they may have intermarried. In this study, we analyze complete mtDNA genome sequences from over 900 Bantu-speaking individuals from Angola, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana to investigate the demographic processes at play during the last stages of the Bantu expansion. Our results show that most of these Bantu-speaking populations are genetically very homogenous, with no genetic division between speakers of Eastern and Western Bantu languages. Most of the mtDNA diversity in our dataset is due to different degrees of admixture with autochthonous populations. Only the pastoralist Himba and Herero stand out due to high frequencies of particular L3f and L3d lineages; the latter are also found in the neighboring Damara, who speak a Khoisan language and were foragers and small-stock herders. In contrast, the close cultural and linguistic relatives of the Herero and Himba, the Kuvale, are genetically similar to other Bantu-speakers. Nevertheless, as demonstrated by resampling tests, the genetic divergence of Herero, Himba, and Kuvale is compatible with a common shared ancestry with high levels of drift and differential female admixture with local pre-Bantu populations.

Figure 1: Map showing the rough geographical location of populations, 
colored by linguistic affiliation. Abbreviations of population labels are 
as specified in Table 1.

In spite of the Bantu-centric approach of the study, which also has its merits, my greatest interest is rather in the less typically Bantu lineages, which speak of admixture with several pre-Bantu populations.
In this sense I find the following highlights:

Fig. S2 (annotated in green by Maju): CA plots based on haplogroup frequencies. Left: all the dataset, right: excluding outliers.

L3d and L3f founder effect:
The Himba and Herero, as well as the non-Bantu pastoralists Damara make one distinctive cluster defined by the high frequencies of haplogroup L3d, as well as L3f (not present among the Damara but found among the Kuvale). As discussed in the paper, the Himba and Herero may be related to the Kuvale of SW Angola but they have notable differential levels (or directionality) of aboriginal admixture. 
As both L3d and L3f are present in West and East Africa alike, it is interesting to track the specific subhaplogroups implicated in this founder effect, something done in fig. 4. 
The main L3d sublineage is L3d3a1, whose haplotype network shows a largely Khoisan centrality (not Damara) although this node is shared also by some unspecified “other Bantu”. The Southern Africa specificity of L3d3a was already noticed in the past (see here). So it is very possible that we are before an aboriginal Southern African lineage, maybe arrived with the first Khoisan Neolithic (or whatever other ancient flow) rather than a Bantu-specific founder effect. 
The main L3f subhaplogroup is L3f1b4a, which seems more specifically Bantu, with a major branch concentrated among the Himba, Herero and Kuvale. This lineage is not found among the Damara in spite of the other strong affinity of this Khoisan population towards the Himba and Herero. L3f1b is found in Southern Africa, Kenya and Oman (per Bihar 2008), so we are probably before a distinctive East African element, not too likely to be genuinely Bantu but possibly just assimilated into Bantu ethnic identity. 
Even if both lineages converge in the Himba and Herero, they are almost certainly different inputs, one of Damara (herder Khoisan) origin and the other of Bantuized East African origin maybe.
L1b founder effect:
L1b is essentially a West African lineage concentrated in the Sahel area from Chad westwards (although L1b1a2 is from the Nile basin). A particularly high frequency population are the Fulani pastoralists, original from the Westernmost African plateaus, who ruled many kingdoms in West Africa between the collapse of the colonial rule by Morocco and the consolidation of the European conquest of the continent.
As this study does not dwell in sublineages, we cannot understand the most likely specific origins of it among several Southern African populations, specifically the pooled NE Zambians (13%) and the Fwe and Shanjo of SW Zambia (24-27%).
In any case it is a notorious founder effect, almost absent in other Bantus of the area (0-10%).
Typical L0d Khoisan admixture:
This element is concentrated in Botswana (~25%) and with highest frequencies in the SW Kgalagadi (53%). It is also important among the Kuvale of SW Angola (21%). Other Bantu populations in this dataset have frequencies under 10%, some even zero. The Damara have 13%.
We know from previous studies that it is also found at high frequencies among the Xosha of South Africa (L0d3).
While L3h appears marked in the graph, the lineage is in fact absent in all populations except at very low frequency among the Kuvale (2%), so it does not seem actually of any relevance. 
Less typical L0k around SW Zambia:
While L0k is generally considered an aboriginal Southern African lineage it has a much more northernly distribution than the more common and surely older L0d. Its area of greatest commonality seems to be SW Zambia (see here and here).
This study confirms this distribution:

Supplementary Figure S3[A]: Haplogroup frequencies of important haplogroups in the populations studied here. A: Haplogroups L0d and L0k.(…)

The size of the circles is proportional to the sample size.

High frequencies of L1c (Pygmy admixture marker) among Southern African Bantus:
An interesting element is the commonality of L1c, typical of Western Pygmies and some other populations from Gabon (possibly representative of the wider West-Central Africa jungle region, not too well studied otherwise), among almost all Bantu populations in this dataset. 
The exceptions are the Herero, Himba, Kgalagadi and Tswana (0%), as well as the NE Zambians (4%). All the rest have frequencies between 12% and 30%. Even the non-Bantu Damaras have 11% of it.
In my understanding this almost certainly implies a notable level of admixture with Western Pygmies of the Bantus from especially Angola and West Zambia. A phenomenon that may be widespread in Central-West Africa. 
It is notable however that at least many of the populations with the highest likely Khoisan admixture (in its various forms, discussed in the previous sections) have the lesser frequencies of L1c (Pygmy admixture). So to a great extent these two aboriginal influences in Bantu mtDNA seem mutually exclusive and were probably produced after settlement rather than “on the march”. 
This in turn arises some interesting questions about the ethnic geography of Africa before the Bantu expansion. 

Update: I just noticed that Ethiohelix has parsed the haplogroups’ frequency into a very helpful chartLINK.

See also:
 

Ancient East Asian Y-DNA maps

I’m fusing here data from two different and complementary sources:
  • Hui Li et al. Y chromosomes of prehistoric people along the Yangtze River. Human Genetics 2007. → LINK (PDF) [doi:10.1007/s00439-007-0407-2]
  • A 2012 study integrally in Chinese (so integrally that I don’t even know who the authors are → LINK) but whose content was discussed in English (after synthetic translation) at Eurogenes blog. I deals with a variety of ancient Y-DNA from the Northern parts of P.R. China.

Update (Dec 25): much of the Northeastern aDNA is also discussed in an English language study (h/t Kristiina):

Yinqiu Cui et al. Y Chromosome analysis of prehistoric human populations in the West Liao River Valley, Northeast China. BMC 2013. Open access LINK [doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-216]

    Combining the data from both sources, I produced the following maps:

    Neolithic (before ~4000 BP):

    Metal Ages (after ~4000 BP):

    Discussion
    I find particularly interesting the first map because it outlines what seem to be three distinct ethnic (or at the very least genetic) regions in the Neolithic period:
    • A Central-South region dominated by O3
    • An Eastern area around modern Shanghai dominated by O1
    • A Northern region dominated by N
    Later on, in the Metal Ages, a colonization of the North/NE by these O3 peoples seems apparent, followed, probably at a later time, by a colonization of the West (Taojiazhai).
    We do not have so ancient data for the West but we can still see a diversity of lineages, notably Q (largely Q1, if not all), C (most likely C3, also in the NE) and N (also in the NE). While the arrival of O3 to this area was probably late, the arrival of R1a1a is quite old, however it is still almost certainly related to the first Indoeuropean migrations eastwards, which founded the Afanasevo culture in the area of Altai.
    I find also very interesting the presence, with local dominance often, of N (including an instance of N1c) and Q in the Northern parts of P.R. China, because these lineages are now rather uncommon but are still dominant in Northern Asia, Northeastern Europe and Native America. The fact that they were still so important in the Northern Chinese frontier in the Neolithic and even in the Metal Ages should tell us something about their respective histories and, in the case of N, origins as well.
    It is also notable that no D was detected anywhere. However the regions with greatest D frequencies like Tibet, Yunnan or Japan were not studied.
     
    9 Comments

    Posted by on December 15, 2013 in aDNA, Bronze Age, China, East Asia, Iron Age, Neolithic, Y-DNA

     

    Are ancient mtDNA sequences from Syria of Indian origin?

    Honestly, I have all kind of doubts but that’s what a new study claims on the basis of just a few hypervariable sequence markers:
    Henry W. Witas, mtDNA from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman Period Suggests a Genetic Link between the Indian Subcontinent and Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization. PLoS ONE 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073682]
    The authors sequenced the HVS-I (and nothing else!) of the mtDNA of four individuals from Tell Ashara and Tell Ashaik sites of ancient Terqa and Kar-Assurnasirpal (Syria, Euphrates river). And then they proceded to establish a bit unlikely comparisons with East and South Asian M sublineages, of which only one is present today in the region.
    The sequences are (supp table 3, all numbers +16,000 and counting from the CRS, i.e. H2a1 underived, GenBank: NC_012920):
    • TQ28F112: 223-234
    • MK13G117: 223-234-311
    • TQ28F256: 223-234-270
    • MK11G107: 223-266-289
    The first two are attributed to M9, the third one to M61 (a quite rare haplogroup) and the last one to M4b (the only one to be found in West Asia nowadays, specifically in Arabia Peninsula).
    Now what do the markers actually say? All are highly variable sites and independently can be found in many lineages, however most typically:
    • 223 describes R, hence counting from the CRS, it should mean L(xR).
    • 311 describes L3, hence counting from the CRS it should mean L(xL3).

    So all four should be L(xR) and MK13G117 looks like L(xL3).
    Exceptions for 311 (consistent with the sequence above): L3b1a3, M4’65’67, M10, M29’Q, M31a1, M56, M57 and M74. However M9 does not make it because to begin with it needs a transition at the 362 site. 
    The authors got carried away by their own pre-conceptions and the marker 234, shared by three of the four sequences. However, while that marker is found in M9a, it also needs the 362 marker, which they both lack. So they are not M9 but something else. 

    More plausible candidates could be, at least for TQ28F112, M30d/e or M49.
    As for the rest, there are no modern sequences, at least via PhyloTree (but neither within the study’s own comparisons), that are good correlates. All we can say with certainty is that they are L3(xR), except in the case of MK13G117, which can only be described as  L(xR). 
    Maybe if they had tried sequencing the coding region, as in my understanding, they MUST (destroying or damaging valuable ancient bones to do this mediocre research is not anymore justified, if it ever was), they would have got useful and informative results. Now we just have again another frustrating set of nearly useless HVS-I sequences, which can only be ambiguous in the vast majority of cases.
    Ah, by the way, there’s no obvious correlation between these Metal Ages’ sites and ancient Sumerians, of course. Even if the lineages are South Asian by origin or affinity, which is possible but by no means demonstrated, they would at most suggest a relation between the Mid-Upper Euphrates and that area. The region was under intermittent Sumerian, Amorite, Babylonian, Kassite and Assyrian control but mostly is a distinct country within the greater Mesopotamian area.
    Notice that previous research (ref.) in the same area but from the Neolithic (PPNB) period has found (also HVS-I) large amounts of mtDNA K, some H and also some L3(xR).

    [Note: edited because some ethnographic assumptions I made initially seem to be quite wrong].

     
    4 Comments

    Posted by on September 12, 2013 in aDNA, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Kurdistan, mtDNA, Syria, West Asia

     

    Ancient West Siberian mtDNA

    Kristiina called my attention recently to this open access article on the ancient mtDNA of a district of South-Western Siberia known as Baraba.
    V.I. Molodin et al., Human migrations in the southern region of the West Siberian Plain during the Bronze Age: Archaeological, palaeogenetic and anthropological data. Part of a wider book published by De Gruyter (2013). Open accessLINK
    Fig. 1 – click to expand
    Quite interestingly we see in the data that before 3000 BCE this part of Western Siberia (see locator map at the right) shows already signs of West-East admixture, much earlier than Central Asia did.
    This fact is consistent with the apparently old admixture detected among the Khanty in autosomal DNA and also with the Epipaleolithic presence of East Asian mtDNA (C1) in NE Europe and the putative Siberian origins of the Uralic family of languages and Y-DNA haplogroup N in NE Europe.

    Fig. 2 (left) | Chronological time scale of Bronze Age Cultures from the Baraba region
    Fig. 3 (main) | Phylogenetic tree of 92 mtDNA samples obtained from the seven Bronze Age cultural groups from the Baraba region. Color coding of the groups as in Figure 2

    The Ust-Tartas culture is part of the wider Combed Pottery culture, usually thought to be at the origins of Uralic peoples in NE Europe and Western Siberia, and shows an almost balanced apportion of Eastern lineages (C, Z, A, D) and Western ones (U5a, U4, U2e), suggesting that the process of admixture was by then already consolidated. 
    However the Odinovo cultural phase shows a change in this trend, with a clear hegemony of Eastern lineages (notably D) and almost vanishing of Western ones. Trend that continues in its broadest terms in the Early Krotovo phase. 
    Odinovo is part of the wider phenomenon known as Seima-Turbino, initiator of the Bronze Age in wide parts of Northern Asia and believed to be original of Altai. However the lineages do not correspond at all with the Altaian Bronze Age genetic pool, fully Western in affinity, excepted those from Mongolian Altai, which are all D. Hence the apparent demic replacement happening in this period must have been from the Mongolian part of Altai or some other region and not the core Altai area.
    The oriental affinity of Early Krotovo is instead caused by a more diverse array of lineages (less D more CZ and A), which is interpreted materially as reflecting migrations from Northern Kazakhstan (Petrovo culture). However, as mentioned before the known mtDNA pool of Central Asia in that period is completely of Western Affinity, so we must in principle discard Kazakhstan as the origin of the probable demic flows.
    Let me here mention that the authors insist on continuity through these three phases, however I see a very different picture in the same data, with Western lineages almost vanishing with Odinovo and Eastern ones clearly changing in frequency well beyond reasonable expectations on random fluctuations.
    It is only in Late Krotovo when Western lineages reappear in significant numbers, probably reflecting, now yes, migrational flows from the South. This trend is clearly reinforced in the Andronovo, Baraba Late Bronze and transition to Iron Age phases, suggesting growing influence from Andronovo culture (early Indo-Iranians).
     

    Echoes from the past (May-9-2013)

    I am getting updated with a rather long backlog, so I will speed things up placing here in nearly telegraphic style the informative snippets that require less work. This does not mean that they are less interesting, not at all, just that I have to adapt to that elusive quality of time…

    Middle Paleolithic

    Toba supervolcano only had short-term climate effectBBC.
    Research on Lake Malawi’s sediments shows that the climate-change effect of the catastrophic eruption was limited. Droughts previously believed to be from that period have been revised to be from at least 10,000 years before, corresponding to the end of the Abbassia Pluvial rather than to Toba super-eruption.

    Upper Paleolithic

    Altai rock art and early astronomy from 16,000 BPSiberian Times, Daily Mail.
    Sunduki (Khakassia), here there are what are surely the oldest rock art of Northern Asia, representing people hunting or interacting among them, which are from just centuries ago, however other petroglyphs are apparently much older like this horse:

    Prof. Vitaly Larichev (Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences) has detected a whole astronomical structure implemented in the landscape.

    He claims to have found ‘numerous ancient solar and lunar observatories around Sunduki’.

    ‘This square pattern of stones on the ground shows you the place’, he
    told visiting author Kira Van Deusen. ‘I knew there would be an
    orientation point, but we had to search through the grass for a long
    time to find it.

    ‘Now look up to the top of that ridge. You see a place where there is
    a crack between the rocks? If you were here on the summer solstice, you
    would see the sun rise right there. Or you would if you were here 2,000
    years so. Now the timing is slightly differen’.



    High on one cliff wall is a rock engraving showing dragon heads in one direction, and snake heads in the other.

    ‘If the sun were shining, we could tell the time,’ he said. ‘In the
    morning the shadow moves along the snake’s body from his head to his
    tail, and in the afternoon it comes from the other direction along the
    dragon.

    ‘From the same observation point you can determine true north and south by sighting along the mountains’.

    Neolithic

    Vietnam: early cemetery dug in Thahn HoaAustralian National University.
    Some 140 human remains of all ages have been unearthed at the site of Con Co Ngua, estimated to be 6-4000 years old. Cemeteries of this size and age were previously unknown in the region. The site has also revealed a dearth of artifacts. 
    The people were buried in fetal position with meat cuts of buffalo or deer.

    Chalcolithic

    India: 4000 y.o. stone tools unearthed in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh, Narmada river)India Today.
    Details:
    • Some of them are decorated with aquatic animals.
    • 150×200 m. mound in Birjakhedi
    • Terracotta game pieces
    • Pottery (incl. jars, pots, dishes)
    • Stone and ivory beads
    Bell Beaker rich lady’s burial unearthed in Berkshire (England)Wessex Archaeology.
    The middle-aged woman wore a necklace of tubular golden beads, amber buttons on her clothes and a possible lignite bracelet. She was accompanied by a bell-shaped beaker of the “corded” type (oldest and roughest variant, of likely Central European inception).
    The chemical signature of the gold beads is coherent with deposits from Southern Britain and SE Ireland. 

    Giza pyramid construction’s logistics revealed Live Science.


    Caesar beat the Gauls.
    Was there not even a cook in his army?

    Bertolt Brecht (A Worker reads History)

    Now we know that at the very least the famed early pharaohs Khafra, Khufu and Menkaure, who ordered the massive pyramids of Giza to be built as their tombs did have some cooks in charge of feeding the many workers who actually built them, stone by stone. 
    These workers were housed in a village some 400 meters south of the Sphinx, known as Heit el-Ghurab. In this place archaeologists have found a cemetery, a corral with apparent slaughter areas and piles of animal bones. Based on these, researchers estimate that more than 2,000 kilograms of meat were eaten every day during the construction of Menkaure’s pyramid, the last and smallest one of the three geometric mounds. 
    The figures estimated for such a logistic operation border disbelief: 22,000 cows, 55,000 sheep and goats, 1200 km² of grazing land (roughly the size of Los Angeles or 5% of the Nile Delta), some 3500 herders (adding up to almost 20,000 people if we include their families). 
    A curious detail is that most of the beef was destined to the building of the overseers, while the common workers were mostly fed sheep or goat instead. Another settlement to the East of apparently local farmers ate most of the pork. There were also temporary tent camps closer to the pyramids.

    Iron Age

    Late Indus Valley Civilization was overcome by violenceNational Geographic.

    Harappa (CC by Shephali11011)
    The Late Indus Valley Civilization (Cemetery H cultural layer, usually attributed to the Indoeuropean invasions) was, unlike in previous periods, quite violent, new evidence highlights. 
    The evidence from the bones also highlights the arrival of many non-local men, who apparently married local women. But the most shocking element is the striking evidence of widespread violence:

    The skull of a child between four and six years old was
    cracked and crushed by blows from a club-like weapon. An adult woman was
    beaten so badly—with extreme force, according to researchers—that her
    skull caved in. A middle-aged man had a broken nose as well as damage
    to his forehead inflicted by a sharp-edged, heavy implement.
    Of the 18 skulls examined from this time period, nearly half showed serious injuries from violence …

    Gaming pieces of Melton Mowbray (England)Science Daily.

    Excavation of a hillfort at Burrough Hill revealed ancient gaming pieces, among other materials. 

    Funerary chamber found near the original location of the Lady of Baza (Andalusia)Paleorama[es].

    (CC by P.A. Salguero Quiles)
    The tomb has an access gate and is estimated to be from the 5th or 4th centuries BCE (Iberian culture) and, unlike most burials of the time, the corpse was not incinerated. 
    The finding highlights the need for further archaeological work in all the hill but the severe budgetary cuts threaten this development. 
    Baza (Granada) hosts a dedicated archaeological museum inaugurated in 2011. 

    Tocharian mummy buried with marijuana hoardPaleorama[es].

    Some 800 grams of the psychedelic plant, including seeds, were found at the burial place of a Tocharian man, presumably a shaman, at Yanghai (Uyghuristan), belonging to the Gushi culture and dated to at least 2700 years ago. The plant belongs to a cultivated variety.
    Some of the oldest cannabis evidence are also from that area (Pazyrk culture c. 2500 years ago) and also from Nepal (Mustang, similar dates). Later in Southern Central Asia it was used in combination with opium and ephedra, from where soon migrated to South Asia and many other parts of Eurasia.

    Genetics

    New device radically reduces costs and time in DNA extractionScience Daily.
    Researchers from the University of Washington and NanoFacture Inc. have developed a device, which looks like a kitchen appliance, able to extract DNA from tissues (like saliva or blood) in minutes at low cost and without using the toxic chemicals habitual in the field.
    The prototype is designed for four samples but can be scaled for the lab standard of 96 samples at once.

     

    SE Iberian pollution in the Metal Ages

    One of the earliest cases of overexploitation and pollution in Europe has been found in SE Iberia, a key center of Early Bronze in Western Europe (Argaric civilization). The sediments of a lake in Sierra Nevada (Andalusia), known as Laguna de Río Seco (pictured), have provided the evidence for important pollution c. 3900 years ago, just when the Bronze Age began in the region. This is attributed mostly not to industry but to increase in fires and deforestation.
    However, as we get into the Late Bronze (post-Argaric culture) and Iron age (Iberian culture), the evidence speaks of a type of pollution which can only be attributed to manufacture: lead. This kind of pollution reached a peak c. 2900 years ago (beginnings of Iron Age) and then again in the Roman era (as well as in the Industrial Age).
    It is worth mentioning that lead pollution has decreased in the last decades, caused no doubt by the environmental awareness of these times and derived normative, like banning lead from gasoline.
    Sources: SINC[es], Paleorama en Red[es].
    Ref. A. García Alix et al., Anthropogenic impact and lead pollution throughout the Holocene in Southern Iberia. Science of the Total Environment 2013. Pay per viewLINK [doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.01.081]

     

    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].
     

    Ancient Cantabrian fortified town: conquered and burned by Rome

    Paleorama[es] has an interesting article on how the Ancient Cantabrian castro (fortified town) at Monte Ornedo, located in the modern municipality of Valdeolea (Cantabria, near Palencia, Spain) was captured in fierce battle by the Roman legions in a key battle of the Cantabrian Wars, burned and on top of the remains a Roman fort was built instead (Octaviolca?)

    The aboriginal castro covered 19 Ha (=190,000 m², ~47,000 acres), being the largest of its kind known in all Ancient Cantabria. Many brooches (fibulae), characteristic of the indigenous horsemen’s clothing are concentrated near the main gate, suggesting that a key episode of the battle took place there. Around the castro, the Romans built their characteristic siege fortifications. Caligae sole nails, tent holding pins and weapons have been found all over the place, including a dagger with silver decorations and even a catapult fire projectile.
    After the capture the Romans built there their own fort. First a campaign one with earth walls and then another more consolidated one with stone walls. Milestones defining the pastures assigned to the Legio IV Macedonica from those of the nearby town of Iuliobriga further North have also been found.

    See also:

     
     

    Guest article by Gail Tonnesen: Comments on “Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA”

    When discussing a recent revision of the ancient Etruscan mtDNA sequences, it became evident that haplogroup assignation was not really being dealt with by the authors, so Gail Tonnesen has dug on the matter further:

    Comments on “Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA”

    In an analysis of Etruscan mtDNA Ghirotto et al. (2013) evaluated haplotype diversity in 30 samples of ancient remains from Etruscan burials that date to between 700-200 BCE. However, the authors did not identify haplogroups for these ancient remains. Analysis of the mtDNA data by haplogroup could provide additional insight into relationships among the ancients samples and to modern populations in the region, so we attempted to identify haplogroups for the 30 ancient mtDNA haplotypes listed in Table S1 of Ghirotto et al. These include 14 samples tested by Ghirotto et al. (2013), and 16 samples tested by Vernesi et al. (2004).
    Ghirotto et al (2013) reported results in the mtDNA the control region at markers 16024-16384. Results were reported relative to the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence. These results should be sufficient to identify those haplogroups that have defining mutations in this region. We compared the ancient mtDNA haplotypes to Phylotree version 15. Seven of the haplotypes appear to be U5, however, the U5 defining mutation 16270 was identified in only two of these seven samples. Key defining mutations for U5 subclades that should be present were not identified in several of these samples. For example, samples Hap4 and Hap5 both appear to be U5a2a (based on the combination of 16114a and 16294). U5a2a should also have mutations at 16256, 16270 and 16526, but the test results did not report any of these 3 mutations in Hap4, and only found 16256 was reported in sample Hap5. Reversions at marker 16270 occur infrequently in U5, and it is possible that some of the ancient mtDNA samples could have a reversion at 16270, however, the probability is extremely low that that 5 of 7 samples would have this relatively rare reversion. Thus, based on these probable U5 samples, the reported results for the ancient mtDNA samples appear to have a high error rate of missed markers in their results.
    Eight of the samples appear to be JT, based on the mutation at 16126. Two of the samples might be H1b based on the mutation at 16356. We were unable to identify haplogroups for any of the remaining 13 samples. Six of the samples are CRS, but given an apparent high rate of missed identification of 16270 in most of the apparent U5 samples, it is not possible to predict haplogroup for the CRS samples.
    Figure 3, the median joining network, has the haplotypes connected in a way that is inconsistent with their probable relationship in the mtDNA phylogeographic tree. We recommend re-evaluating the median joining network using the probable phylogenetic relationships among the samples. We also recommend that the coding region be sequenced for these samples to better determine their haplogroups and subclades, especially for the 13 of the 30 samples whose haplogroup cannot be determined from the control region results. We also recommend sequencing control region more completely because important defining markers for several of the haplogroups tentatively identified here are found in the region from to nucleotide markers 16385 to 16569.
    Based on the 17 samples for which we were able to predict haplogroups, JT and U5 are the most common haplogroups in the ancient Etruscans samples. These do not appear to be related individuals because there is considerable diversity in haplotypes among the JT and U5 samples. However, these results are uncertain because of the possibility that the some markers were not reliably detected in the ancient mtDNA samples. Additional testing of the coding region and re-testing of the control region are necessary to fully evaluate the ancient Etruscan samples in the context of ancient and modern populations.
    References:
    Ghirotto S, Tassi F, Fumagalli E, Colonna V, Sandionigi A, et al. (2013) Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55519.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055519

    Vernesi C, Caramelli D, Dupanloup I, Bertorelle G, Lari M, et al. (2004) The Etruscans: a population-genetic study. Am J Hum Genet 74: 694-704.
     
    2 Comments

    Posted by on February 15, 2013 in aDNA, European history, European origins, Iron Age, Italy, mtDNA

     

    Were the Etruscans after all native Italians?

    Etruscan sarcophagus
    (CC by Ecelan)

    A new study casts doubt on the Anatolian origin theory of Etruscan origins.

    As you may know, two main theories have been proposed for the origins of the ancient Italian civilization that taught Romans nearly everything, especially in the field of architecture: on one side that they were Bronze Age arrivals from Anatolia, maybe related to ancient Trojans, which had some support on art aesthetics, the historical presence of a close relative of Etruscan language in the island of Lemnos, some classical theories and, more recently, an ancient mtDNA study (Vernesi 2004), which found the mtDNA of ancient Etruscan aristocrats to be closest (by FST) to Turks than to any other studied population, excepted (by slight margin) modern Tuscans.
    The main alternative theory proposes that Etruscans were a local development, what would be also consistent with an Anatolian genetic affinity because the Italian peninsula, including Tuscany, shows repeated waves of cultural influences from the Western Balcans first (Neolithic) and from the Aegean later on (Chalcolithic especially).
    The debate seems however far away from reaching any strong conclusion, notably now that a new study revising Vernesi’s data finds a different and rather puzzling set of affinities for ancient Etruscans.
    Silvia Ghirotto et al., Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA. PLoS ONE, 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055519]
    Abstract

    The Etruscan culture is documented in Etruria, Central Italy, from the 8th to the 1st century BC. For more than 2,000 years there has been disagreement on the Etruscans’ biological origins, whether local or in Anatolia. Genetic affinities with both Tuscan and Anatolian populations have been reported, but so far all attempts have failed to fit the Etruscans’ and modern populations in the same genealogy. We extracted and typed the hypervariable region of mitochondrial DNA of 14 individuals buried in two Etruscan necropoleis, analyzing them along with other Etruscan and Medieval samples, and 4,910 contemporary individuals from the Mediterranean basin. Comparing ancient (30 Etruscans, 27 Medieval individuals) and modern DNA sequences (370 Tuscans), with the results of millions of computer simulations, we show that the Etruscans can be considered ancestral, with a high degree of confidence, to the current inhabitants of Casentino and Volterra, but not to the general contemporary population of the former Etruscan homeland. By further considering two Anatolian samples (35 and 123 individuals) we could estimate that the genetic links between Tuscany and Anatolia date back to at least 5,000 years ago, strongly suggesting that the Etruscan culture developed locally, and not as an immediate consequence of immigration from the Eastern Mediterranean shores.
    The study finds that ancient Etruscan mtDNA is closest among modern populations (by FST) to Southern Germans and, following closely, a varied array of other Europeans (totally the opposite to Vernesi’s findings), and rather not too close to Turks or other Eastern Mediterranean populations.
    Annotated version of Fig. S3-B, FST distances of ancient Etruscan mtDNA
    (red: 0.4-0.6, orange: 0.6-0.8, yellow: 0.8-1.0)
    See also Fig. S4 (multidimensional scaling graphs)
    = Click to expand =

    Among ancient populations, ancient Etruscans are found to be closer to Neolithic farmers from Central Europe and then to ancient Lucchesi (from Lucca, including those from the Chalcolithic era, i.e. Eneolithic):

    Fig. S4-C Multi Dimensional Scaling summarizing genetic affinities between the Etruscans and (…) (C) 9 ancient populations of Europe. Population labels and sample sizes are provided in Table S2 [Neo_Farm: Neolithic Central Europeans, Med: Medieval Tuscans]

    Among the study’s conclusions are:

    A model of genealogical continuity across 2,500 years thus proved to best fit the observed data for Volterra, and especially Casentino, but not for another community dwelling in an area also rich with Etruscan archaeological remains (Murlo), nor (as expected) for the bulk of the current Tuscan population, here represented by a forensic sample of the inhabitants of Florence. Therefore, the present analysis indicates that the Etruscan genetic heritage is still present, but only in some isolates, whereas current Tuscans are not generally descended from Etruscan ancestors along the female lines.

    Notice that this is always in relation to the ancient Etruscan mtDNA data, which comes from the tombs of aristocrats, not commoners. However they insist:

    Because Medieval Tuscans appear directly descended from Etruscan ancestors, one can reasonably speculate that the genetic build-up of the Murlo and Florence populations was modified by immigration in the last five centuries.

    Villanovan urn
    (CC by Sailko)

    An intriguing issue not considered apparently by the authors is the appearance of greatest genetic similitude with some populations of Central Europe. I would consider preliminarily that a possible line of interpretation of this data might be that the Etruscan elites might have arrived with the Urnfields expansion peoples (Indoeuropeans most probably) but were culturally and linguistically assimilated by the native substrate (proto-Etruscans did participate of the fashion of corpse incineration and burial of the charred remains in urns, which even led some to propose that they were Indoeuropeans in fact).

    However this clashes with the fact that they also appear extremely close to Central European Neolithic peoples, which are not at all similar to modern nor Urnfields period Central Europeans. So I have to admit that a local Neolithic origin may be the most reasonable hypothesis with this data and that the irregular Central European affinities may have other explanation (such as local preservation of a mtDNA pool closer to Neolithic one than usual).

    Update (Feb 15): Gail Tonnesen has researched in greater depth what haplogroups could the ancient Etruscans have specifically → LINK