September 11, 2012

"Late Neolithic" mtDNA from Germany

Wartberg culture pottery (CC by Athinaios)
A new paper on ancient European mtDNA:

Esther J. Lee et al., Collective burials among agro-pastoral societies in later Neolithic Germany: Perspectives from ancient DNA. Science 2012. Pay per view ··> LINK [doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.08.037]


Ancient DNA research has focused on the genetic patterns of the earliest farmers during the European Neolithic, especially with regards to the demographic changes in the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. However, genetic data is relatively lacking after this earliest transition period, when societies had fully adapted to new agrarian lifestyles specific to their local environment. During the later central European Neolithic (ca. 3600 - 2800 cal BC), large-scale collective burials and monumental architecture appeared within the landscape of many agricultural societies. This phenomenon has been argued to represent the emergence of a “collective” identity. With the aim of exploring genetic-based relations among individuals collectively buried, we obtained human skeletal remains of nearly 200 individuals from four later Neolithic collective burial sites in Germany: Calden, Odagsen, Großenrode, and Panker. We successfully reproduced reliable mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes from eight Neolithic individuals, which were assigned to haplogroups H, HV0, and X2. Shared haplotypes observed among individuals within Calden and Odagsen suggest genetic relations may have shaped the arrangement of the deceased within later Neolithic agricultural groups.

As the study is pay per view I have no idea yet of the details beyond the abstract. However collective burials means Megalithic or similar (clannic burials), distinct from the original Danubian style, which was individual. This and the dates rather speak of the Early Chalcolithic, rather than Neolithic proper, when the Western Danubian culture of Rössen split into several groups, sometimes influenced by the Funnelbeaker phenomenon and most of them also by the meantime the collective (clannic) burial phenomenon, often in megalithic tombs (dolmens).

For what I could muster Calden, Odagsen and Großenrode belong to the Wartberg culture of Central Germany, while Panker could be from a more northernly location (Deeply Impressed Pottery, Tiefstichkeramik (TSK), culture probably). Wartberg culture is of clear Danubian derivation (via Michelsberg) but with influences from the likely first Western Indoeuropean core of the Baalberge culture; they practiced collective (clannic) burial in both non-megalithic and megalithic tombs (gallery graves) .


After reading the paper, I can add some details to the already mentioned data. The authors successfully sequenced HVS-I plus some standard coding region sites of eight individuals from Panker (1), Calden (4) and Odagsen (3) but none from Großenrode, whose geographical location I inferred correctly above.

The haplogroups are:
  • Wartberg culture:
    • Calden (n=4): H2 (2 individuals, same haplotype), HV0 and X2
    • Odagsen (n=3): H2 and HV0 (2 individuals, same haplotype)
  • TSK (or other Funnelbeaker, also Globular Amphorae):
    • Panker (n=1): H1
While it is not explicitly addressed in the paper, I understand that there is strong likelihood of these HV0 being actually its main subhaplogroup V.

TSK pot (source)
The dominance of H2 and HV0 (V?), as well as the lack of H1, in Wartberg culture individuals is also interesting and may be an ethnic marker. X2 is just a typical Neolithic lineage, surely only arrived to Europe with the Neolithic and has been found often in ancient DNA from Neolithic groups from Central, Northern and Southern Europe.

In turn the northernmost individual, from a more "aboriginal" group arguably, sports the most common European haplogroup today: H1, widespread in Atlantic areas from the Sahara to Finland.

While haplogroup H in general (H* and H6) is now known to have existed among Paleolithic Europeans (link 1, link 2), H1 as such has only been detected with some certainty (as H1b via HVS-1) in Epipaleolithic Portugal (Chandler 2005, reported as H) and, after that, in the Neolithic of Franchti Cave (Greece), Santimamiñe (Basque Country) and Nerja (Andalusia). In the Chalcolithic period H1 is known in Languedoc, Basque Country and Andalusia, as well as in contemporary Kurdistan but this sample of Panker is the first known individual to carry this lineage, now dominant, in Northern Europe.

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