I recently came across a new publication: Krause-Kyora e.a. “Neolithic and medieval virus genomes reveal complex evolution of Hepatitis B”.
The main message sounds familiar: Hepatitis B viruses present in Central Europe during the EN/MN went extinct, to be replaced sometimes between the LN and the High Medieval with the strain haplogroup that is dominating Europe to date. When exactly, and how that happened requires further analysis. Apparently, more studies of this kind are underway and may one day provide a more detailed picture.
Somewhat hidden, and poorly discussed, the paper also provides 3 new samples of human aDNA that deserve further exploration. Data has been uploaded to the European Nucleotide Archive, accession No. PRJEB24921.
The earliest of these samples, LBK, Karsdorf (Saxony-Anhalt), 5056–4959 cal BC, clusters closely with other LBK samples, so there is not much surprise to be expected from in-depth analysis.
Things are different with the next one, TRB-Tiefstichkeramik, Hildesheim-Sorsum, 3335–3107 cal BC: It closes an important geographical, chronological and cultural gap, and holds several surprises – enough to devote a separate posting to it.
The last one is from the Petersberg Abbey (SE Bavaria), 1020–1116 cal AD. The Abbey, located on the German-Austrian border, overlooks the Inn valley where it leaves the Alps. Given that strategic position on a major North-South corridor (today’s E45 Norway-Sicily), the sample’s character is also unexpected. It clusters amidst Unetice, and certain BB samples from Augsburg, proposing a surprising extent of population continuity between the BA and the High Medieval. In terms of modern populations, the sample comes across Western-Balkans like, with the closest modern populations being Bulgarians, Albanians and Tuscans, plus a single Basque (see the PCA below).
Contrast this with the early Medieval (Migration Period) Bavarians reported in the recent K. Veraamah “Elongated Skulls” paper, which were found only some 75-150 km away from the Petersberg. Those that not posessed elongated skulls came out as tendencially NW European (“Frankish”).
What may explain this contrast?
- Genetic pull towards the E. Balkans, effected by the “females with elongated skulls” analysed by Veeramah ? I wonder whether the latter were numerous enough to bring about such a strong “pull”. Moreover, would admixture between W. Germanic (Frankish) and E. Danubian (Gothic/ Alan) populations really have brought about a population that appears virtually indistinguishable from Unetice?
- Slavic immigrants? The Bavaria Slavonica is well documented, but mostly confined to E. Franconia, plus certain monasterial areas further West, where Slavs were called in to colonise vacant farmland (“free”, weapon-bearing Germanics were typically unwilling to subdue to monasterial control and taxation, apparently, this was less of an issue with immigrating Slavs). However, for the Inn valley, where the Petersberg is located, no Slavic settlement is documented or indicated by toponymy. Moreover, (descendents of) Bavarian Slavs should plot close to modern Czechs, which is not the case with the Petersberg sample in question.
- Long(er)-term population continuity? IMO, the most likely scenario. The region in question holds quite a number of pre-Germanic toponyms. Madron, the alternative name of the Petersberg, e.g., is believed to derive from Celtic mat “big, high” & rin “mountain” (c.f. the Rhön mountains in N. Bavaria / SE Hesse). Erl/ Tirol, less than 10 km to the SE, is acc. to P. Anreiter, Austria’s most reknowned toponymic researcher, originating from a Roman (Villa) Aurelia. And a bit further south follows Ebbs/ Tirol, first recorded in 788 CE as ad EPISAS. Episas is being connected to the Celtic horse goddess Epona and interpreted as “horse creek”, and, in fact, through Ebbs flows the Rossbach (“horse creek”). Further up the Inn, between Wörgl and Innsbruck, there are even various pre-Celtic (para-Venetic) toponyms preserved.
Hence, the Petersberg sample appears to demonstrate a substantial degree of population continuity in the middle and lower Inn valley, in spite of being a major transit corridor, and Celtic (La Tène), Roman and Germanic immigrations/ conquests during the IA and the Early Medieval. The Petersberg was already inhabited in the Bronze Age (Urnfield and LBA) [it even contains a Late Paleolithic burial]. I don’t know whether recent excavation there provided BA bone material that may yield aDNA. If so, I would be curious about the results – did Unetice-like populations already settle there during the Urnfield period ?