November 20, 2011

An Iberian criticism to 'Westward Ho!'

The paper of Peter Rowley-Conwy, Westward Ho!, (Current Anthropology 2011, open access) has become somewhat of a reference when discussing the Neolithic in Europe. It has some good points and very nice looking maps but it takes a radically one-sided bias in favor of the migrationist hypothesis, not just for this or that region but for all the European continent without almost exception. 

This has raised more than one eyebrow. 

The latest have been the authors of Neolítico de la Península Ibérica, a group of academics who sign collectively as Homo neolithicus, and who have extended their criticism of the discussed paper much longer than usual, making in the end a whole article that, because of its interest, I have translated to English as faithfully as possible (with some automaton's help). Here you have it:



Criticism: The starting point, the Near Eastern origin of the Neolithic elements is correct, as actually shown by DNA analysis of animals and cultivated plants. In contrast the issue is not so clear regarding the human DNA (for both cases see other entries in this blog). Therefore the debate on what or who traveled with the agricultural expansion makes good sense. This work favors the migrationist hypothesis in nearly every corner of Europe. Without a thorough understanding of the prehistoric dynamics in each each of the areas studied, we do not dare to make a rational criticism. However we are surprised, of the use of repeated arguments, as if these were universal, for each region. It is striking the case of milk: the research of lipids has indicated the presence of dairy products -not necessarily milk- in several Neolithic pots (see this blog's entry "Consumo de leche. ¿Qué queda de la revolución de los productos secundarios?"): The author considers this fact very much revealing because, with the milk, the stress of the first year of settlement in a new place would be avoided. Actually there is not yet enough knowledge of what these dairies meant in the diet of the Neolithic peoples, and its generalization as an argument can not be demonstrated (e.g., for the Iberian Peninsula there are still no studies in this regard).

The text points out the cases of presence of Neolithic elements at an earlier dates than expected -or in Mesolithic contexts- to mostly just discard them. We certainly believe that the cases that triggered the debate in France over the 1970s can hardly be taken into account, but the new ones -which come from safer field work often supplemented with laboratory research- must not be judged with the same criteria. And when the evidence appears most solid it is argued that instead of actual cattle they would be beef imports (a valid argument  for the Netherlands -where the documentation seems important- or for the British Isles). Again this is a hypothetical universal reasoning.

Other reasonings are arguable: a change of diet between the Mesolithic and Neolithic sites only indicates an economic reorientation, but not that it is caused by a migration process.

As for the pottery of La Hoguette, it has been noted its presence in areas free of LBK and at dates prior to this culture. Here the meaning of this pottery style and that of Limbourg have been simplified.

The case of Cardial, as it affects the focus of this blog, deserves a more detailed commentary. The text assumes as oldest dates of Peninsular Neolithic those of Cisterna and Calderao: not just there are older ones -as noted in this blog- but those listed belong to deposits with serious stratigraphic problems -especially Calderao-. On the other hand, the criticisms of Zilhao to Mendandia and La Lámpara appear to us as completely unjustified: actually Zilhao's text is an anthology of nonsense, offensive for Iberian prehistorians (we do not consider worth even discussing it). Let us recall also that neither the Upper Ebro, where Mendandia lays, nor the Plateau lands, which host La Lámpara, belong to the Cardial domain, nor does the Cantabrian region, whose alleged underdevelopment is more historiographical than real. Indeed the cases of Pendimoun, Arene Candide, Pont de Roque-Haute and Peiró Signado point to maritime movements, but we need to improve the information in order to obtain a more precise picture. For instance, the oldest date of Pont de Roque-Haute comes from a landfill that has other more recent datings (which of them should be associated with their wares? The oldest, the most modern or the one in between?). The case of El Barranquet seems absurd to us: how can a such a convoluted site, lacking a detailed publication and where has not been indicated the relation of date with content, be taken as paradigmatic? Does the work indicate a gap between the Iberian Mesolithic and Neolithic C-14? The entry in this blog "La transición Mesolítica - Neolítica según los datos de C14" seems to suggest otherwise.

In our opinion, the entry of migrants is plausible, but only as one of the tractor elements of the overall process.


Link to original source in Spanish (browse down to "Crítica" in golden type, first comes the exposition of the paper as-it-is in black type).

31 comments:

  1. "On the other hand, the criticisms of Zilhao to Mendandia and La Lámpara appear to us as completely unjustified: actually Zilhao's text is an anthology of nonsense, offensive for Iberian prehistorians (we do not consider worth even discussing it)."

    Maju, could you elaborate on that statement? Zilhao seems a respected researcher, yet "an anthology of nonsense" seems a rather strong statement of contempt.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm just translator in this case so I can't say much more of what the authors actually meant.

    However I imagine it goes more or less as follows: I know that Zilhao has been very despreciative of the work of so many different Spanish scholars, which have been in many cases vindicated in due time. He has tried to extrapolate his own peculiar conclusions (radical revisions of past research, always with the Neolithic replacement agenda) on the Neolithic of Portugal to all the Peninsula (without any clear support) and has been much favored by Anglosaxon (English language) media and academic circles.

    Personally I find Zilhao arrogant and a bit of a prick. He has been no doubt hyped by the influential Anglosaxon migrationist circles and while he's surely a respectable scholar (or was once) he is clearly overvalued. We can't just rely on Zilhao's one-sided views in any case.

    My perception of the matter in any case.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Westward Ho!", certainly deserves credit for being open access and for being thick with citations, although individual citations aren't discussed heavily enough. The attention it gives to food plant and food animal DNA is also admirable and an important contribution.

    The article seems a bit sloppy about differentiating between the foraging-farming transition in which there may be isolated cattle primarily for meat, and true dairy farming, which seems to reach some locations in Iberian and elsewhere years later, and in neglecting the relatively ample data set related to LP genes in both ancient and modern DNA. The fact that a few cattle were present in early LBK sites does not "demolish" the notion that they were not predominantly dairy farmers and that most of them lacked LP genes.

    It is increasingly clear to me that there is no way to make sense of European DNA )prior to the historic era) without at least three layers - Mesolithic; early Neolithic; and one later wave probably Eneolithic but perhaps mid-Neolithic and perhaps Bronze Age.

    It is possible to come up with more layers and considerable regional variation (I am prone, for example, to collapse dairying and copper age technology bearers into a single package of a third wave, but one can make out scenarios where they are separate and there isn't definitive coincidence of the two technologies at all sites), but I don't see how one can come up with fewer layers (at least for most of Europe).

    They also overstate the importance of boats relative to beaches and river plains. There are good reasons to stay close to water apart from navigation. Rivers provide a drinking and bathing resource and clear out obstructions in the path and often provide dead wood for fires from driftwood. Coasts provide sequential outlets of freshwater streams and rivers and also provide maritime food resources, salt, and a cleared of obstruction path, in addition to often milder weather than not very much farther inland. Certianly, some boats may have crossed to islands like Sardinia. But, the genetic isolation of these locals makes the case that this was the exception, not the norm.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Andrew: what you say, I can't understand well if it's a criticism to Rowley-Conwy or to the criticism of Homo neolithicus. Sometimes it seems it's mostly stuff that is mainly in your head.

    Much of what you say anyhow is related to this accusation you make: "neglecting the relatively ample data set related to LP genes in both ancient and modern DNA". I think I can answer to that because I disagree very much with your narrative on this aspect:

    Some people of the so-called evolutionary school of genetics has argued that the known European-specific allele that seems to confer resistance to the quite normal lactose digestion disorders of adulthood is a product of dairying. I think that it is not (even if it may have got some help in achieving fixation from that) but that it is instead a randomly fixated gene of Paleolithic origin that, incidentally confers such advantage.

    A quick look at the real frequency of lactase persistance (which you indicated as LP but many people may have not recognized as such - bad Anglo custom of using acronyms all the time), shows us that not just Basques have the highest known global index of lactose tolerance (just as they have among the highest index of Rh- or R1b1a2a1a1-L11 frequencies) but that Spaniards also have very high lactose tolerance, much higher than most maps (typically with ridiculous Nordocentric bias, including the one accompanying the relevant article in Wikipedia) would allow you to see. Non-Basque Spaniards have levels of actual (not predicted) lactose intolerance that are similar to those of Austrians, North French or White North Americans or even some British (c. 15%). In other words: most people in Spain drinks raw milk with zero digestion problems, which is what my personal experience suggests (even if the custom of drinking raw milk is traditionally less common maybe than in some parts of NW Europe because they are more into the Mediterranean diet and all that).

    You are doing here like Rowley-Conwy (and others) but in a different aspect: extending conclusions arguably (very arguably) valid for certain North or Central European context to all Europe without any care. Contrary to what some maps would make you to believe, there is not a North-South cline in lactose tolerance but a West-East one if anything (and again this is similar to R1b1a2a1a1-L11 and Rh- and hence likely a leftover of Paleolithic, at least in principle).

    That lactase persistance is a leftover of Paleolithic should not surprises us because it is blatantly obvious that it has no distribution connection with anything Neolithic (Bedouins, who have been milking goats, ships and later camels since the very beginnings of Neolithic probably have only 55% of lactose tolerance, similar to that of Balcanic peoples, the best European representative of Neolithic peoples).

    Besides, as I mentioned in February 2010, observed lactose tolerance and known alleles of lactase persistance only correlate so-so (epigenetics and/or other unknown alleles are at play here quite clearly).

    Whatever the case you are building a narrative on still very anecdotal genetic evidence, read from a very peculiar point of view (bias, prejudice - notably your belief that massive demic replacements happen every other day). And that is not acceptable for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 65% of lactase intolerance amongst the "Southern French" when neighbouring Basque people are 0.3% intolerant ... and Spaniards are about 15% ... Another proof that the diversity of modern South France is neglected. Which population did they select for such results ? People from coastal Provence ?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Maju. I realize you cannot speak for the authors but your own critique does just as well.

    Why the fascination with population replacement theories? I don't understand it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Heraus:

    The "South French" datum has been around for quite a long time. The direct reference is a 2001 paper which cites two 1981 ones in regard to such claims on global lactase persistance frequencies: T.M. Bayles 1981 and J.D. Jhonson 1981 (which are probably not online for the checking).

    However there is a figure for Sicily with even higher alleged levels of LP. The whole matter is even more confused by the fact that the "predicted" apportions of LP in peninsular Italy are much lower than the real ones.

    The Itan paper does not list the data for SE France (probably borrowed from other papers, too lazy to check now) but it seems from the map to be (actual phenotype) 50-60% LP (40-50% intolerance) for what might be Avignon and 40-60% LP (50-60% intolerance) for what may be Nice. So there is a low milk tolerance factor in SE France (what is not the same as all "South France" - Gascons must have similar figures to Basques, no doubt), similar to that of neighboring parts of Italy.

    I can just imagine that when the Neolithic G2a et al. people arrived from the East, they brought their lactose intolerance with them, triggering that magnificent culinary phenomenon we know as cheese, for which that area is particularly renowned worldwide. There's often an elegant and efficient way around any (alleged) handicap.

    ...

    @Highlander:

    "Why the fascination with population replacement theories? I don't understand it".

    Me neither.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "bad Anglo custom of using acronyms all the time"

    The French, Spanish and Italian are every bid as bad on this score.

    I agree with your data points on lactase persistance, but not with your conclusion that it is Paleolithic which is contradicted by Mesolithic ancient DNA. The stark difference in frequency in the common European LP between Scandinavian hunter-gatherer and Scandinavian farmer ancient DNA (farming arrived here pretty much last of any place in Europe so it didn't really ever get the immature raw LBK Neolithic), for example, is pretty strong evidence of the correlation between this gene and exposure to dairying.

    The great variation in lactase persistance suggests strongly, indeed, that this is of fairly recent origin as it has not reached fixation even in subregional areas that are geographically close to each other - the Basque and Gascons, for example, are far too different in this trait for this to have its roots in the Paleolithic or early Neolithic (I agree that the G2a rich populations seem to be low in LP).

    Of course, as you know, I disagree with you on the timing of the dispersal of R1b1a2a1a1-L11 being Paleolithic as well; the evidence for a copper age dispersal of this Y-DNA haplogroup seems stronger, although I do agree that R1b1a2a1a1-L11 and LP do seem to have origins in the same era. (I don't know the Rh- data well enough to have an opinion on that.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Azerty: thanks a lot. Unsure of what coverage I will be able to give to that (long list of "to do" already, H. erectus not my main focus) but they will sure get a mention in this blog. It's certainly supportive of possible Gibraltar crossing by H. ergaster (= H. erectus 'senso lato'), which is an interesting option that would support early boating abilities by our genus Homo (not just our species).

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Andrew:

    "The French, Spanish and Italian are every bid as bad on this score".

    Not really, at least not in medicine. But never mind: I was just being grumpy. Whatever the case it's good custom in all languages to write the whole name the first time it is mentioned (with the acronym in brackets).

    Otherwise I'm quite perplex at your comments:

    "... not with your conclusion that it is Paleolithic which is contradicted by Mesolithic ancient DNA".

    How come? I do not know of this evidence. Can you cite a reference?

    AFAIK Neolithic peoples of Central Europe were mostly lactose intolerant (at least by genotype) but never heard of "Mesolithic" (Epipaleolithic) peoples being tested for the allele. In fact there's very few research on Epipaleolithic peoples, being it mostly restricted to a few Central European samples and a Portuguese one (but all mtDNA only anyhow - am I wrong?)

    "Scandinavian hunter-gatherer"...

    Do you mean the regressive Neolithic peoples of Götland island (Pitted Ware)? I do not consider them to be anymore "Mesolithic" than myself (i.e. not at all and probably with roots in Ukraine or Belarus, where the "hunter-gatherer Neolithic" phenomenon known as Pitted Ware originated as part of a colonization drive in NW direction). But I was not aware that they were tested for LP alleles. In all the site of Jean Manco only two reference papers mention lactase persistance and they deal with Neolithic Central Europeans.

    "the Basque and Gascons, for example, are far too different in this trait"

    Uh?

    Where did you get any info on Gascon lactase persistance? "South French" low lactase persistance refers to Provenzals, not Gascons. Gascons are most likely just like Basques in this matter (or almost).

    You should know all this anyhow.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "Some people of the so-called evolutionary school of genetics has argued that the known European-specific allele that seems to confer resistance to the quite normal lactose digestion disorders of adulthood is a product of dairying."

    Dairying by itself wouldn't be enough as cheese doesn't confer an advantage. There would need to be a specific advantage to drinking milk.

    I'd have thought the simple explanation would be the neolithic agricultural package becoming less efficient along a line from Greece to Denmark which shifted the balance of resources to produce.

    In very abstract terms say the farmer can work three resources in total out of a list of grain, sheep or cattle and he has to have a minimum of one grain and one of either sheep or cattle.

    Say also the food efficiency of grain goes from 1.0 to 0.6 along the Greece-Denmark line, sheep stay the same at 0.6 and cattle go from 0.4 to either 0.6 (just cheese) or 0.8 (cheese and raw milk).

    In Greece the most efficent combination would be two grain and one sheep for a total food production of 2.6.

    In Denmark the optimal combination would be one grain and two cattle for a total of 1.8 if lactose intolerant or 2.2 if you could drink milk.

    (For example if the quantity of milk produced in the rainy northwest would take too long to process into cheese but could be drunk raw by those with lactose tolerance.)

    So say the base lactose tolerance was 5% then now in Denmark you have 95% of farmers who are only producing 1.8 units of edible food and 5% producing 2.2 units. A clear basis for adaptive selection as the lactose tolerant farmers and their children survive better and indirectly also sexual selection as the lactose tolerant farmers are going to be bigger and healthier.

    That strikes me as a recipe for rapid growth in the frequency of lactose tolerance in the areas effected and likely some spread back along the SE-NW line also.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What you say makes some basic sense, Grey... but it's theoretical. I'd say that in order for an allele to become so dominant out of nearly nothing (hypothetical), it would have to confer an extreme advantage, a lesser advantage could not have been so decisive, specially as they could always eat cheese, yogurt or other processed dairies, not to mention other excellent sources of protein like fish (let's not forget most of the "lactose tolerant gene" peoples are coastal and have strong fishing traditions and had a protein-rich diet by necessity, as grain was, as you say, less productive here).

    Also how do you explain that the same allele is found as dominant among peoples which belong to different stocks from surely Neolithic times or before, like NW Europeans, Basques and Iberians? My best hunch is that the allele was fixed by accident (drift probably) before Neolithic arrival, just like Rh- and other such stuff.

    Because it's not enough that an allele confers a minor advantage: people do not die because of a mere lesser disadvantage: they adapt and bend their luck, for example becoming cheesemakers or mixing the milk with blood as do the Maasai, etc. Neither Maasai nor Mongols nor other peoples strongly dependent on milk, much more than Atlantic Europeans, show such a radical genetic takeover.

    I have the strong impression that in order to believe in such recent radical changes one has to have a lot of faith in the dominance of genetic destiny. Personally I think that is more often than not an a posteriori rationalization of mostly random accidents.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "but it's theoretical"

    True.

    "in order for an allele to become so dominant out of nearly nothing (hypothetical), it would have to confer an extreme advantage"

    Yes i agree, either
    1) a very large difference in total calories from switching to a focus on cattle in a particular climatic region
    2) the switch extended the range limit of the neolithic package i.e. they'd reached the geographical limit of viability of a grain focus and then someone figured out the range could be extended by switching from a grain focus to the cattle focus
    3) some indirect benefit from the high protein diet e.g. physical size, health.
    4) As well as any or all of the above a cattle focus might help with longer / harsher winters as cattle can be bled as well as milked and provide heat over the winter also.

    "Also how do you explain that the same allele is found as dominant among peoples which belong to different stocks from surely Neolithic times or before, like NW Europeans, Basques and Iberians?"

    I was thinking the strategy might be effective along most of the Atlantic coast. So either people figured it out in multiple places or someone figured it out and it spread along the coast.

    "I have the strong impression that in order to believe in such recent radical changes one has to have a lot of faith in the dominance of genetic destiny."

    Maybe. I like the idea of history being dramatically changed by...

    milk.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What particularly struck me from reading the "Westward Ho!" paper was the point about the northern and western boundaries of LBK staying put for a thousand years. He didn't suggest it was because that was the limit of viability but that seemed the most obvious explanation?

    Similarly the point about Villeneuve-Saint-Germain moving to agriculture and then retreating.

    Looks may be deceiving but just looking at the map it's easy to imagine a viability line that follows the edge of the LBK zone and then down which excludes a lot of the atlantic coast as well as Denmark, Sweden, Britain and Ireland.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What you say makes a lot of sense: the several Neolithic cultures seem to have got certain ecological specificness, that being specially true of those with their origin in the Balcans: Danubian (LBK) and Mediterranean (Cardium) neolithic traditions.

    However LBK did not just stay put, its influence is specially important in Britain and maybe also to some extent in Denmark/North Europe (Funnelbeaker/TRBK).

    However LBK also disassembled itself quickly in regional groups. Most are clearly direct evolution from core LBK but, specially in the West (Belgium, North France, and even in much of Germany - La Hoguette) it appears together with local farming cultures, which it blends with later on.

    We also see some of that climatic conditions in some of these groups, with the Western Danubian group (most of Germany and areas to the West) quickly specializing in scattered inhabitation in small semi-excavated wind-protected dwellings, quite distinct from those of the Danubian plain.

    In Britain we see two influences that merge in the local Neolithic: Danubian from Northernmost France and Megalithic from Brittany and Normandy. Notably the henges (but not Stonehenge, which is a stone ring and not a true henge) are derived from Danubian (in the continent the monuments are known as rondels), while the stone rings, dolmens, etc. come from the SW Atlantic cultural area, which had more impact towards the West. This duality may indeed have to do with climatic conditions (colder and drier for Danubian, warmer and wetter for Megalithic).

    Anyhow the arrival of "Danubian" to Britain is very tardy: 2000 years after its rapid expansion in Central Europe, so there was surely a barrier such as climate but also maybe that original Danubians were not seagoing at all, having very few, if any, coastal sites.

    You may want to check these:

    http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/2009/12/demographics-of-central-north-european.html

    http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/2009/12/demographics-of-british-neolithic-2.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. "What you say makes a lot of sense"

    Thanks. The more i think about it, the more extending the climatic range makes the most sense in terms of being a population bottle-neck / divider / something.

    In terms of climatic distance (as opposed to geographical distance) from the origin three of the main factors might have been
    - northern (colder)
    - mountainous (colder)
    - atlantic coast (various negative aspects but also possibly a positive one i.e. rain -> grass -> cattle)

    If so then you might have a kind of arrow shaped range beyond the edge of (unmodified) neolithic farming viability with the left arm of the arrow going from somewhere in Iberia up the Atlantic coast to somewhere below Denmark and then southeast from there to the Black Sea.

    If so then Dieneke's northern european component might match that arrow distribution rather than strictly northern.

    A range possibly hinted at in things like:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-CIYjZ7kJTwY/TtKPjfHf_yI/AAAAAAAAArQ/7wYoSl5z0Nw/s1600/H1+mtdna+Argiedude.gif

    The distribution above might fit even better if the solution to the range problem was different along the atlantic coast part of the arrow (cattle) to the solution along the northern part of the arrow - pigs?

    (Pigs is just a wild guess based on Tacitus (i think) mentioning German tribes herding pigs using semi-nomadic slash and burn techniques.)

    A further guess:
    If you relabel Dioneke's mediteranean and northern components to be neolithic package range and extended range instead then the connection with Bauchet's iberia / southeastern / northern split might be
    - southeastern = neolithic package range
    - northern = extended range
    - iberia = mixed neolithic package and extended

    ReplyDelete
  17. "You may want to check these:"

    Yes i will, ty.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I tend to think that the three Western components of Bauchet 2007 are pre-Neolithic (reflecting three distinct Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic regions maybe) and that Neolithic influence is represented by the "red" SE component, while the "blue" NE component may actually reflect a number of East to NW migrations of which the Indoeuropean-Kurgan is the best known but not the only one (prior to them there was a wave of Neolithic "hunters" from Ukraine culminating in stuff like Pitted Ware, influencing the genesis of Funnelbeaker and probably paving the way to the IE-Kurgan wave which almost went on their wake).

    "mountainous (colder)"

    In general high mountain areas were only occupied gradually as Neolithic (and surely populations in general) expanded. This is particularly true for the Alps but on the other hand areas like Transylvania or Moravia were inhabited by farmer-herders since early on.

    "atlantic coast (various negative aspects but also possibly a positive one i.e. rain -> grass -> cattle)"

    It's bad for most of the Neolithic package cereals (but not legumes) because the rain makes it hard for most of them to grow properly. Today here the most common cereal is not wheat nor rye, which require of drier climates but maize. There was no maize back in the day, so there was a time when the economy of the Atlantic zones was probably dominated by sheep, cattle and fishing. However cereal, legumes, apples and a host of veggies were also grown without doubt. Unsure if this applies to areas further North like Scotland and such.

    Whatever the case, I'd bet that fishing and shepherding were major vectors for the distribution of the Dolmenic Megalithic cultural phenomenon, which has its ultimate origins in Portugal.

    "German tribes herding pigs"...

    Pigs are excellent cattle for forested areas. But I wonder how accurate was Tacitus description, after all these classic accounts often limit themselves to a few impressions and we all know how misleading these may be. I'd be more confident if archaeological data ratified his account.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The rapid peaks and troughs noted in the leherensuge posts might tie in with the range idea.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_x6Y4ZgFsZdY/Sx8qRRzRBOI/AAAAAAAAAMM/5WRfOWW0IK8/s1600-h/NeolithicDemography_anotated.png

    Picking arbitrary numbers purely for illustration say the neolithic package at its origin has a population density (PD) value of 400 and this value declines with latitude, altitude and regional climatic effects (e.g. atlantic coast).

    Say for the sake of simplicity hunter-gathering has a constant PD value of 100 then as the neolithic package expands out from its origin it will reach an equilibrium line where the PD of neolithic package farming is the same as the PD of hunter-gathering and there's no benefit in switching.

    If that was so then i think it (very likely) follows that:

    1) The neolithic package farmers would have overshot the dividing line i.e. a settlement at PD 120 starts another settlement downriver which turns out to be only 80 PD and they have to retreat or perhaps more likely a settlement at 160 PD leapfrogs the settlement at 120 PD with the same result.

    1a) If farming degrades marginal land then the longterm equilibrium line might not be 100 PD, it might 140 PD (or some other higher value) because the process of farming reduces it by 40. If so this could mean a much larger overshooting of the line and a consequently much bigger decline back to the true equilibrium point.

    2) At the margin, minor climatic changes could push the line back and forth +/- 40 PD or +/- 40 miles numerous times.

    3) At the edge of the neolithic package range there might be a zone where a modified package worked better e.g. a cattle-focused package which gave a PD of 200 i.e. better than hunter-gathering and better than the neolithic package at the margin (especially if lactose tolerant).

    3a) If so it might spread backwards along the line of the neolithic package advance to a second equilibrium point i.e. the neolithic package advances down the Danube with it's PD value declining from 400 to 100 where it hits the equilibrium line with hunter-gathering. At some point the cattle-focused package is developed with a PD of 200 which pushes the 100 PD hunter-gathering line back in suitable places but also pushes the neolithic package margin back to a new 200 PD equilibrium line.

    4) A major climatic event might shift both the neolithic package vs cattle package equilibrium line and the cattle package vs hunter gatherer lines where a dramatic overshooting process could happen again.

    A separate thought i had concerning the British post

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_x6Y4ZgFsZdY/Sx2GdGDofbI/AAAAAAAAAL8/hhBf6du7wZ4/s1600-h/Britain+Neolithic+apogee+%285500-5600+calBP%29.png

    is i wonder if it had anything to do with mining i.e. if you have a mining colony the miners need to be fed.

    There may have been a hundred good reasons but on the face of it it seems odd to pick central Scotland for the second site unless the people were trying to run as far away as possible from an enemy or there was something nearby they were after.

    Just some thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "In general high mountain areas were only occupied gradually as Neolithic (and surely populations in general) expanded. This is particularly true for the Alps but on the other hand areas like Transylvania or Moravia were inhabited by farmer-herders since early on."

    Yes. A cattle-focused package could have been developed vertically first i.e. in mountainous terrain, and only later found to work laterally, i.e. along the atlantic coast.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Another thought on the recurrence of rapid population expansion and decline.

    Assuming the neolithic package was created somewhere in SE Turkey and drawing a line of latitude that runs along the north of Turkey then you could only be sure of the package working in say Greece and Southern Italy.

    http://geology.com/world/europe.jpg

    It seems likely there would be latitudinal limits where the expansion - up the Danube or west of the Black Sea - halted for a while as crops or techniques were adapted.

    If there were a series of these limits where expansion stopped for a while and assuming people always overshot the limit at first i wonder if there might be a series of those sharp population peaks and declines like

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_x6Y4ZgFsZdY/Sx8qRRzRBOI/AAAAAAAAAMM/5WRfOWW0IK8/s1600-h/NeolithicDemography_anotated.png

    but along the Danube or along the route west of the Black Sea marking spots where expansion halted temporarily.

    ReplyDelete
  22. That map uses conical projection, which is a better approximation to represent surfaces than cilindrical (your usual Mercator map that draws a Greenland many times larger than Australia) but must curve the latitude lines. I immediately spotted that because I know for a fact that both the southernmost and westernmost points of mainland Europe are in Iberia (Trafalgar cape and somewhere near Lisbon).

    It's not a problem of mere latitude, because there is also some latitude (the other meaning) in the acclimation of crops. Apparently at some point, an acclimation to temperate continental climate (Koppen's Dfb) was achieved without much problem (probably benefiting of a warm spell and extensively using cattle as complement). Of course, acclimation to the various Mediterranean peninsulas was less problematic, almost natural.

    However it is the Cfb or oceanic climate which causes most problems, because of humidity. By comparison the temperate continental and the mediterranean climates are dry, much closer to the conditions of West Asia in general, even if the temperate continental area is quite colder in general, specially in Winter.

    "It seems likely there would be latitudinal limits where the expansion"...

    It does seem that there was a transition in North Hungary, where the two linear pottery cultures (one restricted to the Tisza basin, the other much more widespread, usually known as "Danubian" Neolithic or LBK) had their first precedent. I have always wondered if this transition, precisely where the farmers would have met the Epi-Magdalenian hunter-gatherers does not imply some sort of "mestizaje" (admixture, both biological and cultural) because even if much is retained from the Balcan Neolithic package (for example burial style in crouched position), notable innovations also happen (very marked change in pottery style, no more tells/magoulas as result of sedentary inhabitation, long houses instead of smaller more compact ones, although to the West small huts of different style would used).

    "i wonder if there might be a series of those sharp population peaks and declines like ... but along the Danube or along the route west of the Black Sea marking spots where expansion halted temporarily".

    We don't know because these studies, highly reliant on the density of research, have not been done for anywhere in Southern Europe, at least not for the Neolithic (there's one for all Europe but only studies the Upper Paleolithic). It's possible that there were expansions and contractions as you suggest also because at least in some areas the slash-and-burn method of agriculture is known to have been used, and this system eventually reaches a limit. Also climatic fluctuations seem to have been influential, at least for North-Central Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "That map uses conical projection"

    doh, yes.

    "However it is the Cfb or oceanic climate which causes most problems, because of humidity. By comparison the temperate continental and the mediterranean climates are dry, much closer to the conditions of West Asia in general, even if the temperate continental area is quite colder in general, specially in Winter."

    Interesting ty. Three zones but the western one more fundamentally different to the north-south two than the north-south two are to each other.

    "It does seem that there was a transition in North Hungary"

    That was the sort of area i was thinking about. When you see illustrations like

    https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-jlbeVbzKSH8/TQYgeeg9NxI/AAAAAAAAAeY/m52Daww6MME/Neolithic1.png

    it makes you think the leading edge could have hit some limit where expansion stopped for a while for some reason. And like you say it's in that kind of area where you might think

    "I have always wondered if this transition, precisely where the farmers would have met the Epi-Magdalenian hunter-gatherers does not imply some sort of "mestizaje""

    is most likely.

    That also makes me wonder if there might have been marked founder effects at the transition point(s). For example:

    1) Population A expands upriver to some limit where they halt for a while and settle down.
    2) Away from the margin population A mostly in-marries but at the margin, population A mixes with the adjacent population B creating a hybrid population AB.
    3) Later, when the limit (whatever it might have been) is removed further expansion is mainly derived from the hybrid AB population at the margin.

    This could perhaps explain some of situations where a new clade suddenly becomes prominent?

    ReplyDelete
  24. "Three zones but the western one more fundamentally different to the north-south two than the north-south two are to each other".

    Well, depends on what, Oceanic climate (West) is closer to both Continental and Mediterranean ones than these are to each other in raw temperature: it's warmer than Continental but fresher than Mediterranean. I've traveled from almost unbearable -12C in Belgrade and even as low as -24C in Skopje (the coldest temperature I am aware to have experienced ever!) to some very comfortable +9C in Thessaloniki overnight... and it's all "Macedonia". You don't find such extreme changes in Western Europe unless you climb mountains. But the perpetual fresh-warm humidity of Atlantic Europe may be more challenging for crops, favoring fungus and such.

    Then what you say about marrying with local (epipaleolithic I understand) women and such, it may be the case but it is extremely hard to evaluate a posteriori. What is clear to me is that we can't just consider, as is often assumed, that the European Neolithic begins in West Asia and its expansion Westward (and Northwards) is homogeneous and amorphous, in fact it is a very heterogeneous process and there are a number of local coalescence processes, very specially in SE Europe (Thessaly, Dalmatia-Albania, Panonnian basin), that need to be explained in their own mostly European terms. This also applies surely to the diverse Eastern European cultures (most of which appear to be rooted in the local epi-gravettian) and may be also the case in various West European processes, Epi-Cardial and La Hoguette, the various Belgian/NW French local Neolithic cultures, the extremely early innovation of Dolmenic Megalithism in Portugal, later expanded to all Atlantic Europe... It is almost impossible, I understand, that most (if not all) of these local differentiation processes did not involve some sort of participation of the pre-existent Epipaleolithic peoples.

    We would have to look at them in detail, case by case, and still there is a great degree of uncertainty.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "What is clear to me is that we can't just consider, as is often assumed, that the European Neolithic begins in West Asia and its expansion Westward (and Northwards) is homogeneous and amorphous"

    Well this is the thing. It seems to me that if the agricultural package developed in West Asia "worked" along the whole length of advance, for example along the Danube SE to NW, hopping from one good site to the next along a river or coast then in theory it *could* have been very fast, homogenous and amorphous - at least on the good sites, with foragers in the gaps between the good sites.

    However, as you say, when you look at the archaeological divisions that doesn't really fit.

    So i'm wondering at a model more like:

    Say you have five adjacent regions initially populated by foragers and some farmers arrive with a particular farming package at region 1 which works fine in region 1 because that region is very similar to the region where the package was developed.

    So in the 1st stage of those five regions you get (F = farmer, HG = forager):

    F - HG - HG - HG - HG

    Say the second region supports the package fine as well so the farmers move along and you get:

    F - F - HG - HG - HG

    Now it turns out there's a climatic shift of some kind between regions 2 and 3 so the farmers expand upriver to 3 but the package fails. The crop part of the package doesn't work as well as it did so you get an expansion to region 3 followed by a retreat (marked R):

    F - F (crop limit) R - HG - HG

    If that model was correct i was wondering what would happen at the R point from a human point of view. Now some of the farmers at that point might physically retreat back downriver but for some i think the retreat would take the form of reduced reliance on crops and increased reliance on whichever one of the domesticated animals was best suited to the region i.e. a clinal shift from crop-dominated farming near the viable zone to pastoral-dominated farming in the middle and fully semi-nomadic pastoralism mixed with foraging at the forager edge of the region.

    So now you get (P for pastoralism)

    F - F (crop limit) P - HG - HG

    And maybe if the pastoral package provided higher population densities than foraging you'd get the pastoralism advancing first i.e.

    F - F (crop limit) P - P - HG

    After a time new crop strains are developed and farming advances again, except if the new crops are developed where they are needed - at the first P region - then the restarted farmer advance might come from that same transition population. So you might get

    F - F - F - P - HG

    where the third F is mostly descended from the the P population.

    So you have farming population A expanding to regions 1, 2 and 3. In region 3 the package fails and the population shrinks as they shift to a more pastoral dominated package. In this transition zone population A may intermix with the indigenes but even without that it seems to me the shrunken population could still create founder effects if

    a) they expand with their pastoral package before new crop strains are developed

    and/or

    b) the same shrunken population develops the improved crop strains and shifts back to 2/3 crops and 1/3 animals again and expands again as farmers.

    ReplyDelete
  26. If the above speculative model was correct some of the things you might expect to find:

    1) rapid farming expansion along a climate line similar to the one where the package was developed e.g. Greece -> Southern Italy -> Southern Spain and Portugal, followed by a halt somewhere when going north from those points i.e. very fast then slow

    2) a more staggered expansion when moving along clines away from the original climate i.e. fast-slow-fast-slow

    3) the *edges* of distinctive archaeological divisions like the early Balkan one or later LBK would be where the transition zones existed where the population shifted to a more pastoral balance for a time while improved crop strains were developed

    4) these transition zones (if they existed) would also be marked by transitions in crops

    5) these transition zones might also be marked by jumps in Y-DNA clades due to the repeated founder effects of populations in the transition zone first shrinking down and then expanding again from a smaller pool. (It was older posts about specific clades of R1b along the atlantic coast that made me wonder about this.)

    For example taking the Barley map and seeing how it might tie to the model:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-XZyecBlVZF0/TrIbSS1D2XI/AAAAAAAAApU/TDSyNMItVe8/s1600/BarleyPopulations.png

    Populations 9, 8 and 5
    Pop. 9: early southernmost med coast expansion, Greece, South Italy, South Spain, Portugal.
    Pop. 8: transition to north Italy
    Pop. 5 transition to south France

    Populations 9, 6, 1, 2, 7
    - 9: Balkan start point
    - 6: Danubian transition
    - 1: central europe transition
    - 2: Britain and Ireland transition
    - 7: Scandinavian transition

    - mountain transition, populations 3 and 4, could be connected to either of the two main paths.
    - Britain and Ireland transition could be part of the southern path?

    similarly looking at

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_x6Y4ZgFsZdY/THgPi2xnlbI/AAAAAAAAAZA/fQ9CRVXNv2A/s1600/R1b+sub-structure+V2.png

    You can see the ancestral to south transition along the med coast and the ancestral to north along the Danube with new clades being created or coming to more prominence.

    I wonder if a repeated process of
    1) farmer expansion beyond crop viability
    2) switch to a more pastoralist model with reduced total productivity and a consequent drop in population
    3) later expansion from that reduced population

    could create that effect as the process would act like a filter where the clades that randomly(?) got through the filter become more dominant upstream.

    Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Well, I do NOT think that R1b-L11 has anything to do with Neolithic but it should rather be pre-Neolithic. In fact all Neolithic samples so far tested for Y-DNA have shown zero R1b, so claiming that R1b expanded or exploded with Neolithic is at least hard to defend. It could still have expanded with Megalithism (i.e. Atlantic Neolithic) but I'm still with the pre-Neolithic model because R1b-S126 (the "South clade" and the most important one) appears to have most of its diversity concentrated in SW Europe, possibly in the Paleolithic Franco-Cantabrian region specially. This can only be consistent with Paleolithic (possibly Magdalenian) expansion. In turn, its "brother" clade of the North (U106) would correspond maybe with the Hamburgian-Ahrensburgian-Maglemösean cultural area around Doggerland or alternatively/complementarily with the Central European Paleolithic province in general.

    I would not hype the climatic limits too much: climate played a role for sure but there is more continuity with Thessaly (and hence SW Anatolia) in fact in the interior Balcanic region than in the Mediterranean one. The Mediterranean Neolithic has the peculiarity of being attached not just to climate but also to seafaring (strong evidence of high seas fishing) and also shows often evidence of Epipaleolithic continuity: there are true colonies but much is mere assimilation (continuity of local Epipaleolithic tool kits while incorporating the Neolithic package). While the continental (Balcanic, then Danubian) Neolithic is rather homogeneous and does not show signs of such assimilation, the Mediterranean one does, so the climatic condition is just one of many: for example, it seems that the main direction of true farmer colonization was by land and into ill populated areas (the Balcans).

    Similarly in Eastern Europe, regardless of climate, the archaeological evidence strongly suggests Epipaleolithic continuity. The main exception in all Europe is the continental (Balcano-Danubian) zone, and some spots in the Mediterranean area (though this one is a bit confusing, admittedly).

    But even in Central-North Europe, we see phenomena that have been interpreted as re-paleolitization, such as the Funnelbeaker phenomenon (a cultural current from North to South affecting a large array of diverse cultures). We also see return to hunter-gathering in the Pitted Ware complex, ultimately derived from Eastern European Dniepr-Don Neolithic culture but where all evidence of farming has been gradually abandoned as they moved northwards towards the Baltic.

    It's complex and while climate no doubt played a role, maybe a crucial role in many cases, it is not the only factor: after all people are not robots that just react to their environment but instead actively decide in dynamic interaction with it. In the same conditions one person or group may decide something totally different than another: maybe certain type of farmer may decide to retreat or may just be unable (because of cultural background) to come back with a solution and dies off, while certain other type may find a good solution instead and thrive in spite of the difficulties. It's not merely mechanic, so instead of just drafting speculative models we should pay attention to the real facts.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Apologies for using your blog to think aloud...

    but i just had another thought.

    If there was a pattern of
    - farming advance
    - overshoot viability
    - temporary retreat

    then effectively it would be equivalent to a series of starvation events. Two things might follow:

    1) For the sake of argument say forager population density is x and crop-dominated farming package population density (on suitable terrain) is 4x.

    So initial farming population in a viable region expands to 4x. Farmers move into the adjacent non-viable region and also expand to 4x maybe through compensating for lower yields by over-farming and not leaving land fallow. Yields decline, population switchs to a more pastoral package which can only support 2x population, starvation event.

    If those recurring starvation events selected for lactose tolerance then you'd get increasing clines of lactose tolerance (possibly associated with certain Y-DNA?) going
    - south to north from Thessaly
    - SE to NW along Danube from Thessaly
    - south to north along line of similar climate stretching from Greece to South Italy -> Southern Iberia
    - vertically also up mountains along the way with some kind of relationship y miles north = z thousand feet up

    (with the clines overlapping in places)

    2) These retreat events wouldn't neccessarily require starvation. They could have been the trigger for backflow events e.g. Phrygians.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "It's not merely mechanic, so instead of just drafting speculative models we should pay attention to the real facts."

    I'll stop for a while :)

    ReplyDelete

Please, be reasonably respectful when making comments. I do not tolerate in particular sexism, racism nor homophobia. Personal attacks, manipulation and trolling are also very much unwelcome here.The author reserves the right to delete any abusive comment.

Preliminary comment moderation is... ON (sorry, too many trolls).