Category Archives: Poland

Revisiting the demographics of Northern and Central Europe in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods

Stimulated by the discussion at another entry, yesterday I made a little graph, almost a mnemonic, on the demographics of Northern European Neolithic and Chalcolithic, based on academic data which I discussed back in 2009.
This is the result:

The very simplified graph is nothing but a version of another one, used in 2009 (and reproduced below), which in turn is an annotated and composite version extracted from two different studies (references also below).
For convenience I have marked the millennia marks at the bottom (meaning 5000, 4000, 3000 and 2000 BCE, from left to right) while the unmarked vertical scale ranks from 0 to 100 (marked by the lowest and highest dots, not the frame, which is actually outside of the graph itself). The dots mark population level at any time as proportion of the maximum (100) in discrete intervals rounded up/down to 10 ppts and taken at intervals of 250 years. Notice that I ignored monuments in the case of Britain, only considering the habitation and other productive sites.
Not sure if it will result useful to you but it did help me to visualize the demographics of Northern Europe in these four millennia of surely dramatic population changes. If you don’t like this version the more detailed original double graph is below, scroll down.
Something quite obvious is that while Danubian Neolithic first caused an important population expansion, it later declined to quite low population levels, maybe because of climatic cooling and the exhaustion of the lands because of poorly developed agricultural techniques. 
This late Danubian collapse lasted for about a millennium, when (1) Funnelbeaker (TRBK) in Denmark, (2) Megalithism in Britain and Denmark especially (later also in parts of Germany) and (3) Kurgan cultures in Poland (later also in Germany and Denmark) seem to have brought with them very notable demographic expansions.
But decline seems to set on again all around at the end of the Chalcolithic period, much more notably in the continent (in Poland the rate of archaeological findings decays to zero!) than in Britain and especially Denmark. 
And now indeed the original “verbose” graph:

And the sources:

Echoes from the past (May 17 2013)

Some interesting news I cannot dedicate much effort to:

Human intelligence not really linked to frontal lobe.

New research highlights that the human frontal lobe is not oversized in comparison with other animals. Instead the human intelligence seems to be distributed through all the brain, being the network what really matters → Science Daily

Ref. Robert A. Barton and
Chris Venditti. Human frontal lobes are not relatively large. PNAS, May 13, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215723110

Early hominin ear bones found together in South Africa.

The three bones, dated to c. 1.9 Ma show intermediate features between modern humans and apes → PhysOrg.

New hominin site in Hunan (China).

The sediments of Fuyan cave, in which five human teeth (Homo erectus?) were found, along with plenty of animal ones, are dated to 141,700 (±12,100) years ago. → IVPP – Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The five human teeth

Neanderthal workshop found in Poland.

In Pietrowice Wielkie (Silesia), which is at the end of a major natural corridor from the Danubian basin → PAP.

Ancient Eastern Europeans ritually killed their pets to become warriors.

In the Bronze Age site of Krasnosamarkskoe (Volga region, Russia) more than 50 ritually pieced skulls of dogs have puzzled archaeologists, who have reached the conclusion, after researching Indoeuropean accounts from India, that the animals may have been killed in adulthood rituals: the boys who were to become warriors had to kill their most beloved pet in order to be accepted as such, and did so in a precise and macabre ritual → National Geographic.

Ancient log boat found in Ireland.

In the Boyne river, which was in the past a major artery of the island. Not yet dated: it could be from prehistoric times or the 18th century. → Irish Times.


Mitochondrial DNA of some Slavic peoples

With emphasis on haplogroup H5 and H6.
Marta Mielnik-Sikorska et al., The History of Slavs Inferred from Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequences. PLoS ONE 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054360]

Most interesting is maybe table 1 (right), which lists two Polish populations (Kashubia, at the Baltic coast, and Podhale: the Carpathian piedmont), Ukrainians and Czechs.
We can see here that the most common lineages among these Slavs are not different from other European populations, namely H*, H1, U5a, U5b and also the, arguably Neolithic, lineages J1 and T2. I find relevant in this sense that there is a significant amount of T(xT1,T2) among Kashubian Polish especially.
Another point of interest is the minor presence of North and Central Asian lineages A, C, D and G, for which the authors present an elaborate rationale:

… we were able to pinpoint some lineages which could possibly reflect the relatively recent contacts of Slavs with nomadic Altaic peoples (C4a1a, G2a, D5a2a1a1).

They also suggest that the L2a1l2a, found among the Polish, is of Ashkenazi Jewish origin. L1b1a8 found in Polish and Russians belongs to the wider L1b1a, recently argued to be European-specific.
Another point of notice may be the rare HV0(xV) found at significant frequencies among Ukranians (4.5%).
But the authors make a particular effort to discern within haplogroups H5 and H6, which they find of particular interest. H5 might be (with doubts) of Italian origin and they consider its coalescence age (on the dubious molecular clock estimate methods) as clearly pre-Neolithic.
Based on these speculative methods they argue that several Slavic-specific clades within H5 may be contemporary in origin with U4a2, common in Central and Eastern Europe. They consider both to be roughly from Early Neolithic times.

Figure 1. Complete mtDNA phylogenetic tree of haplogroup H5.
Green: Polish, Czech, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Russians
Red: German, Dutch and Austrians
Yellow: Italians and Spaniards
Blue: Irish, British, Danes and Finns
Magenta: Tunisia
→ Black: Levant
Grey: USA
White: unknown geography
If they are correct in their interpretation of the tempo of H5, the hypothesis of H sublineages migrating Northwards, from Southern to Central Europe, within Neolithic would seem to gain some support.
However H5 is less common in the Czech Republic and Austria than in Poland or Ukraine and the Neolithic colonization of Poland should have gone via the Czech Republic and, previously, Austria. Of course we cannot reject upfront a founder effect specific to Poland but what about Ukraine, which was almost totally oblivious to the Balcano-Danubian Neolithic phenomenon?
The other focus is H6, which is found almost only among Ukranian and Czechs of the four target populations. Generally speaking H6a and the most rare H6c are European, while H6b is Central and West Asian. In spite of its extreme rarity, the authors detected H6c in three individuals (one Czech, one Pole and one Slovak), all non-Slavic H6c are from Central-West or NW Europe (or from unknown locations). This seems to define H6c as a rare Northern-Central European haplogroup (excluding Eastern Europe apparently).

The remaining H6 samples sequenced in our study belong to different H6a subclusters being identified as singletons (H6a1a*) or as members of subclusters H6a1a4, H6a1a9 and H6a1b3. Subcluster H6a1a9 is novel, comprising of two haplotypes found in Russians and Ukrainians. Subcluster H6a1b3 is also interesting because it contains, except for European individuals of unknown origin, a founder haplotype of Czech origin and two Polish haplotypes.

Figure 2. Complete mtDNA phylogenetic tree of haplogroup H6 (legend as above).


Play was central at class-less Indus Valley Civilization… and other Archaeo News

As they do regularly, the people of Stone Pages bring us some archaeological news from around the world.
Most interesting to me this time is that, according to Elle Rogersdotter, one of every ten artifacts at the intriguing Indus Valley Civilization, the first civilization of South Asia, was for fun, including dice and gaming pieces.
The magnificent civilization, unlike others of its kind, does not include anything that can be interpreted as a temple or palace, confusing researchers used to think that elites were necessary for social organization. However other early civilizations of West Asia (Jericho, Çatalhöyuk) were also classless it seems. 
Besides the many toys and games, the people of Mohenjo Daro also enjoyed other recreations like this huge public bath or swimming pool:

Other items I found notable in this newsletter are: