This Olalde et al. 2019 was a long awaited paper of which we had some glimpses over the past few months, and now it’s finally here with the full details. In fact, too many details to address in this quick post, so I’ll comment on just a few of them here and will continue with follow ups in the near future. Let me just say for now that this is a monumental paper, bringing 271 new ancient samples spanning from the Mesolithic to the early modern era. An amazing effort that brings the Iberian Peninsula to the highest level when it comes to ancient DNA. I can just hope that other countries will follow soon. As a Spaniard myself, big thanks to all the people involved in this project.
The Bell Beaker Culture(s) – Two cultures, one name?
This is really old news and relates to the previous Olalde et al. 2018 paper, but I still think it needs to be emphasized once more: I wrote “cultures” (plural) above because the name Bell Beaker Culture is still applied to two completely different and unrelated phenomenons, which keeps causing a lot of confusion. So very briefly:
The first one is a late Chalcolithic culture that developed as a continuation of the previous Iberian Chalcolithic ones (VNSP and Los Millares being the most important ones), without any significant change. This culture continues to be characterised by the collective burials seen for very long. There are burials that suggest some sort of warrior ethos, with lithic arrowheads, and of course there’s the bell-shaped pottery that gave it its name. (The “warrior” ethos mentioned is something more related to the zeitgeist than something that defines any specific culture. Just like the rise of patriarchy, the stratification of society, etc… Let’s not forget Gimbutas’ non-existent 1st and 2nd waves of invading steppe warriors that devastated “Old Europe”, the first one reaching as far as Ireland c. 3500 BC and the second one being a more sophisticated one referred to as the “Majkop people”, who formed the Globular Amphora culture, Baalberge, etc…).
The second one seems to have an origin in Central Europe, and its bearers were recently arrived migrants from the Western part of the Eurasian steppe. These people were genetically distinct from Neolithic Western Europeans, and brought with them a dominant male lineages in Western Europe since their arrival (R1b-L51). The culture itself can be distinguished by the single male burials (following the “steppe” kurgan tradition), and there inventory has significant differences, the main one in my opinion being the weapons made of arsenical copper/pseudo-bronze/arsenical bronze (tanged daggers, Palmela points,…).
So when in an Iberian archaeological site you see something like this:
You know that we’re talking about the second type of Bell Beaker culture (the R1b-L51 guys with steppe admixture). And you won’t find those things before ~2400 BC (while you can find the first type of Bell Beaker Culture with the eponymous pottery from c. 2700-2600 in Western Iberia). Two different cultures, different people, different origin. More importantly, this is the biggest discontinuity in the Iberian population history since the advent of the Neolithic (which was a big rupture itself), and the last one, since after it the basic genetic structure of Iberians was already met (with smaller impact events affecting it later). So with what we know today, to call the preceding and the succeeding people and cultures by the same name is clearly a bad idea and needs to be revised by historians quite urgently.
As for the samples in this paper, we got the earliest R1b-P312 sample so far in Iberia:
- EHU002, R1b1a1a2a1a2, 2562–2306 cal BCE (El Hundido, Monasterio de Rodilla, Burgos).
This looks pretty much contemporary with the earliest R1b-P312 from Central Europe (or anywhere else), which shows how fast these guys spread throughout Western Europe once they first appeared (even if in Iberia it took a while for them to take over and was more gradual than the abrupt replacement that happened in the British Isles). The archaeological details of the sample were previously described in Szécsényi-Nagy et al. 2018:
The site is integrated by a collective burial of the Late Neolithic-Chalcolithic of nearly a hundred individuals. The first funerary ritual ended with the deliberated destruction of the monument by fire (Alonso, 2015). About 500 years after, the site had new funerary use within Bell Beaker context, with the construction of three individual graves made of stone (Alonso, 2013). One of the tombs studied was constructed taking advantage of the small corridor from the collective burial. In the tomb a man (older than 55 years), was buried in fetal position with one Ciempozuelos style Bell Beaker, one Palmela point, one bone point and one sphere of pyrite as grave goods. A radiocarbon date from a human bone, places the grave at the transition between Copper Age and Ancient Bronze Age.
The sample in question is modelled in Table S15 as 37.1% Iberia_CA + 62.9% Germany_Beaker, more or less average of those early Bell Beakers labelled as Iberia_CA_Stp (the average of the 13 induvuduals reported in that table is 66.74% Germany_Beaker).
To pinpoint the origin of these Bell Beakers is still quite difficult. From a genetic point of view they do look like a continuation of the Corded Ware Culture people, with the exception of their Y chromosome (R1a-M417 in CWC vs. R1b-L23 in BBC). There are some cultural similarities too, but also notable differences. For example, the typical prestige item found in the male burials of the CWC is a stone axe (Battle Axe). That’s quite more primitive than the tanged daggers mentioned above, and the latter cannot be derived from the former (especially when CWC didn’t work arsenical copper, something that is not a trivial technique that can be learned by copying, but requires significant cultural exchange). The earliest tanged dagger made of arsenical copper with a modern C14 dating (3951-3759 cal BCE) can be found in the Leila Tepe Culture:
These type of daggers also appear shortly after in the NW part of the Black Sea, in the Usatovo Culture (though some up to date paper on this culture would be very welcome to clarify a few things. In any case, Rob’s previous post discusses in more detail what was going on in that area at that time), but how and why it appears later with the BBC in Western Europe is something that I honestly don’t know.
A glimpse into the Iron Age in Iberia
I’ll skip the Bronze Age proper and go directly to the Iron Age. The short story is that there are no big surprises. The details seen in the paper basically confirm the bits of information that we already had from abstracts, talks, etc… The Iron Age is from a genetic point of view an continuation of the mixing/replacement of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic populations by the incoming Bell Beakers from Central Europe/Steppe. The mixing was with the females almost exclusively, while the replacement was of the males (almost completely). By the Iron Age we don’t see any sample that still clusters with the Neo/Chalcolithic ones (all have 25% or more Steppe_EMBA admixture), and all the male samples belong to R1b-M269 except one that belongs to I2a.
So let’s take a look at those whose cultural affiliation is known:
There are 16 samples labelled as Iberian Culture and 1 as Pre-Iberian Culture. This one Pre-Iberian sample does belong to an important Iberian center (Font de la Canya, Barcelona, Spain), and the label should mean something like proto-Iberian, in the sense that its date (700-500 BCE, no C14) is in the initial stages of what is usually considered the Iberian Culture, which formed under the influences of Eastern Mediterranean cultures. The sample in question (I4556) is a female (mtDNA K1a12a) and it’s modelled in Table S15 as 41.2% Iberia_CA + 58.8% Germany_Beaker.
Nevertheless, the oldest Iberian Culture sample with a C14 date (I12641) is also from nearby (Can Roqueta, Barcelona, Spain) is actually older (791–540 cal BCE), so I’m not too sure why the former is labelled as Pre-Iberian. This latter sample is an R1b male, modelled as 57% Germany_Beaker. This same site of Can Roqueta has also provided 4 Bronze Age samples (2000-1400 BCE), two males and two females, with only one male yielding enough coverage to get this Y HG (R1b1a1a2a1a2). The average of this male and the two females in that same Table S15 is 38.63% Germany_Beaker, while the average of 3 of the 4 individuals from the Iberian period (790-400 BC) is 47.7% Germany_Beaker, with the 2 males being R1b. So it shows a clear continuity from the Bronze to the Iron Age (the date from the other male -I12640- is actually taken from equus bones buried alongside the human skeleton. Iberians had this thing about horses).
From the 16 samples 13 of them (plus the Pre-Iberian) are from the NE (Catalonia), while 3 are from the SE (Castellón). No difference in these last 3, with the 2 males being R1b (in fact all the 11 Iberian Culture Y chromosomes sequenced are R1b-M269) and an average of 51.46% Germany_Beaker admixture.
Tartessian is a more or less mythical name that is used to refer to the inhabitants of the South Western part of the Iberian Peninsula (mostly the valleys of Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers) who lived during the Iron Age (predating the Roman period, when we have the Turdetani people in that area, considered descendants of the Tartessians). The Tartessian language is pretty much unknown. While Iberian can now be quite safely related to Basque, Tartessian remains more obscure. Generally speaking, it’s a non-IE language, more likely than not related to Iberian, but still uncertain.
The site from where the 4 samples come from is in Seville, and it’s been excavated quite recently revealing new information about this civilization (an “Amazon” archer woman and a big male warrior made in into the news), but the paper does not have a detailed description of the burials in question.
Genetically speaking, they are in line with the Iberians, though the low sample count (only one male, R1b-M269) does not allow for further conclusions. They are dated to 700-500 BCE, and in Table S15 the average of the 2 samples with enough coverage to be analysed is 45.65% Germany_Beaker.
Here again we have a low sample size of 3, dated to ~400-200 BCE and coming from La Hoya, a site in the south of the Basque Country that was an important Celtiberian center until it got violently devastated by their enemies (Ibero-Vasconic speakers? Nah, it could be anyone and there’s no need to invent legends based on no real facts).
The name Celtiberian refers to the Celtic tribes that lived in the Central part of the peninsula (the Meseta, roughly speaking), and the Iberian suffix refers to the cultural influence they got from their Iberian neighbours, and more importantly their borrowing of the Iberian alphabet to write their Celtic inscriptions (something that didn’t reach further west to the Lusitanians, whose language is only recorded at a later time already in the Roman alphabet).
Celts and Celtiberians (plus Lusitanians) occupied a large part of the Iberian peninsula (maybe 70%?), but it was the least populated part. It’s difficult to estimate the populations and I don’t know of any recent serious attempt at it, but I guess that most people would agree that the non-IE speakers represented more than 50% of the Iberian population, in turn the largest one in Western Europe at the time.
On to the samples: We have two females and one male. This one male is, curiously, the only non-R1b one among the IA samples, belonging to HG I2a1a1a. This is probably a matter of luck, since most Celtiberians should be R1b too, but it’s still funny how elusive R1 seems to be among early Indo-Europeans. At an autosomal level, the samples average 60.63% Germany_Beaker. A slightly higher percentage possibly due to the geographical location and maybe the low sample count (though it could be due to real Central European admixture from Celtic tribes too).
The Greek colony of Empúries
One of the important events that occurred during the Iron Age in Iberia was the strong cultural connections with the Eastern Mediterranean. The contacts existed since the Chalcolithic (the presence of Ivory of Asian elephant in Chalcolithic Iberia leaves no doubt about it), but in the Iron Age they reached a different level with the foundation of colonies by Phoenicians and Greeks. They brought to Mediterranean Iberia things like Iron metalworking, the use of the alphabet and of coins, and introduced the vine and the olive tree.
This paper brings the first samples from one of such colonies: Empúries (Girona, Spain), the most important Greek colony in Iberia. And the samples are really interesting, showing clearly two clusters of local Iberians (labelled as Empuries1) and Greek colonists (Empuries2). The samples go from early after the foundation the foundation to the Roman period (500 BCE – 200 CE). The locals are just like the other samples labelled as Iberian Culture: the males are R1b-M269, and they’re all a mix of Iberia_CA and Germany_Beaker. The colonists from the Greek and Hellenistic period “cluster with Mycenaeans” according to the paper (I didn’t find specific models), while one of the Hellenistic period seems admixed between both populations (there are a few other admixed ones from the Roman period). The two Hellenistic period males in the Empuries2 cluster belong to Y chromosome haplogroup J, while the other in that cluster is a female from the Greek period. There is another male from the Roman period (also HG J) and a female (see Aegean_BA PCA below).
UPDATE: Davidski, from Eurogenes, has updated his Global 25 datasheets with the new samples. Great job, and big thanks from here. I’ve done a quick run on the Empúries samples:
And that’s it for now. There are still a lot of things to comment about this paper, but it can’t be done in just one post. Early next week probably Robert will write about the Mesolithic and Neolithic part, and when Frank get back on track we’ll see about the rest. I’ll also start to prepare a post about linguistic substrates that I planned to write long ago but postponed until the publishing of this paper. That one will take a bit longer, but I hope not too long. So many things will be coming from now on. Stay tuned!