In last week’s post, I said I would return this week to the Yamnaya (AKA Yamna) culture and the Corded Ware culture to examine their DNA relationship. But, National Geographic’s August 2019 issue subsequently arrived in my mailbox and contains an excellent article on p.94, “The Birth of Europe: Who Were the First Europeans?” in which author Andrew Curry looks at the broader subject of the successive invasions into Europe which culminated with the arrival of the horsemen and the annihilation of Old Europe. As with all National Geographic articles, the stunning pictures tell much of the story, so I also give a shout out to the photographer Rémi Bénali (not a secure site).
Apparently, DNA is revealing that the prior invasion of Europe from Anatolia by competent Neolithic farmers wasn’t friendly either. So, I shall summarize this important article to you. If you can get your hands on the latest National Geographic, I urge you to read this article, because I’m just summarizing the major points, and a summary can’t do it justice. Most good libraries will have a copy of this magazine.
Here are the major points of the article in the order they appear, and as they stimulate my own wish list of future breakthroughs:
- The article begins with the “melting pot” idea, which I think we can foresee through the new science of DNA as being the case virtually all over the world. The successive waves “Out of Africa” hypothesis is proven statistically with increasing authority.
- The recent, “politically correct,” archaeological theory that invasion wasn’t a fundamentally important element of ancient people’s cultural changes is being gainsaid globally, and it’s hard to argue with the geometrically increasing data coming from the huge acceleration of DNA’s scientific methodology—like this case of ancient warfare’s impact on Europe.
- Today, using the latest DNA technology, we can measure and time the changes of specific physical people groups, and the invasion factor is already being revealed to be paramount in Europe, and I expect will soon be shown likewise in South Asia, Western Asia, North America, Mesoamerica and South America.
- What would be especially exciting is to see the DNA groups of ancient Mesopotamia, starting with the Ubaid. That, of course, is a tall order given the depth of DNA destroying wet mud at Ubaid depths between the rivers, but maybe not in the areas around the Gulf like Susiana, Dilmun, Mehrgarh, and the Indo-European speakers in Iran, Pakistan and northern India, and the Kurds and Armenians.
- The article summarizes what is happening in archaeology as “an explosion of new information that is transforming archaeology.” It points out the huge supply of prehistoric bones available in museums around the world now will provide DNA that provides “everything from hair and eye color to the inability to digest milk…from a thousandth of an ounce of bone or tooth…like personal DNA tests.”
- The article sees “Three main movements of people…shaped the course of European prehistory…Immigrants brought:
- “art and music, farming and cities,
- “domesticated horses and the wheel…
- “the Indo-European languages spoken across” Europe, Eurasia, and the Americas today.
- Yersinia pestis, related to Bubonic plague, seems to have had roots in the Eurasian Steppes, but we’ll see as the DNA revolution gallops into East Asia.
- The horsemen swept over the folks building Stonehenge 5,000 years ago and finished the job.
- This issue of National Geographic is dedicated to “Immigration” and this article fits into the global situation roiling the West today.
- The article points out that there were three waves into Europe:
- “Out of Africa” came in multiple variants and cohorts, not just Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH), but also the Neanderthals and Denosovians and others to be identified were out of Africa, at least as it stands today. Neanderthals left a “2 percent” genetic legacy in AMH genes as likely did all the rest.
- “Out of Anatolia” came advanced neolithic farmers entering southeastern Europe and from them the folks swinging north of the Black Sea became the Yamnaya making their homeland in Ukraine and southern Russia north of the Caspian Sea. This wave of farmers did not mix with those they found but remained separated on the same land i.e. in coexistence. Then, about 5,400 years ago, all across Europe, thriving neolithic settlements disappeared and there was a large population drop for 500 years. The reason remains unknown at this time.
- After a 500 year gap, the population again started to grow, but now mass graves in southeastern Europe were replaced by single large mounds containing single individuals—very different from the communal graves of the Globular Amphora culture we saw in Post 214. Further north, the Corded Ware culture had emerged.
- “Out of the Steppes” develops the relationship between the Yamnaya and the Corded Ware folks, and the constant encroachment upon Old Europe cultures to the west. We saw a bit of that encroachment upon the Globular Amphora folks in Post 214 (link above) “The Archaeology of a Massacre and its Story.”
- As my final exhortation, I highly recommend you read the excellent article in the August Issue of National Geographic. My summary doesn’t do it justice or properly evoke the excellent prose and photography.
Next week, we’ll resume with the Corded Ware folks moving west.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke