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Neolithic skull shapes and demic diffusion.

Neolithic skull shapes and demic diffusion> a bioarchaeological investigation into the nature of the Neolithic transition

Link broke, only HTML available!

ABSTRACT – There is a growing body of evidence that the spread of farming in Europe was not a single uniform process, but that it involved a complex set of processes such as demic diffusion, folk migration, frontier mobility, and leapfrog colonisation. Archaeogenetic studies, which examine contemporary geographical variations in the frequencies of various genetic markers have not succeeded in addressing the complex Neolithisation process at the required level of spatial and temporal resolution. Moreover, these studies are based on modern populations, and their interpretive genetic maps are often affected by post-Neolithic dispersals, migrations, and population movements in Eurasia. Craniometric studies may provide a solid link between the archaeological analysis of past events and their complex relationship to changes and fluctuations in corresponding morphological and thus biological variations. This paper focuses on the study of craniometric variations between and within Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic, and Early Neolithic specimens from the Near East, Anatolia and Europe. It addresses the meaning of the observed multivariate morphometric variations in the context of the spread of farming in Europe.

Fig. 2. Principal components analysis of craniometric measurements
of skulls from Early Neolithic sites.

This is another study that suggests an Anatolian center of dispersal for the Neolithic. It’s well worth a read if you are interested in the Natufians and other ancient farming groups from the neolithic. Interestingly, it observes that the Anatolians of Catal Hoyuk seem very different to thsoe of Cayonu.

Özdogan (1997) points out that the Neolithic communities of the Central Anatolian plateau form a distinct entity which differs from the south-eastern Anatolian, Levantine and Mesopotamian contemporaneous cultures in settlement pattern, architecture, lithic technology, bone tools, and other archaeological aspects. There is no simple corollary between specific cultural-archaeological entities and biological populations. However, in the case of the above analyses, the population of Çatahöyük differed biologically from the populations of the Near East and southeast Anatolia and were similar to the SKC and Nea Neikomediea cultures. Indeed in a previous publication (Pinhasi 2003), it was demonstrated that the Squared Mahalanobis Distance between Çatalhöyük and Çayönü is twice to three times the average distance between the former and any of the Early Neolithic southeast or central European Early Neolithic populations. The above analysis therefore confirms the archaeological observations made by Özdogan (1997) and reaffirms in this specific case a correspondence between cultural boundaries that define a prehistoric culture and its biological basis.

This would seem to support a population ‘boundry’, between the expanding Natufians (later Belbasi/Beldibi) with their moderate affinities to sub Saharan Africans, and the indigenous Eurasian people of Anatolia. It also states..

There are no grounds for believing that the settlement of mainland Greece, either by land or sea, can be compared with the slow movements of populations characteristic of the Cardial or Danubian ‘waves of advance’. On the contrary, it seems to relate to these long-distance expeditions, well exemplified in the Mediterranean by the colonisation of Crete, Corsica and the Balearic Iislands, for instance” (Perlès 2001).

However, the craniometric analysis indicates no morphological differences between Nea Nikomedeia and the Çatalhöyük populations, which contrasts with the differences between these and the PPN Levantine/ Anatolian samples.


It appears that a Neolithic dispersal from the Near East/Anatolia to Europe may have occurred at least twice: once as a PPN maritime expansion from the Levant/southern Anatolia, and later on during the Pottery Neolithic period as an overland dispersal from Central/Western Anatolia to southeast Europe (Perlés 2001; Özdogan 1997). This means that more than one founder Neolithic population dispersed out of the Near East/Anatolia to Europe, and that each
dispersal event must have left certain demographic and genetic signatures on modern Europeans.

Which supports other evidence from Franchthi and the cave of the Cyclops about sea colonisations from ancient Anatolia all through the Med (elsewhere on blog), with a slower overland colonisation following. That you have two very distinct populations present in Anatolia might explain how both Indo European and Afro Asiatic languages apparently expanded out from Turkey at about the same time (IE from the plateau Anatolians, and the Natufian derived AA speaking Southerners).

C.Loring Brace commented that all the sub Saharan traces vanished from the Levant about the time of the neolithic expansion, so it seems probable that the majority of the ancestry of the expanding wave of colonists was from the plateau Anatolians, not the Natufian’s descendants in the south.

Y chromosomes in North African populations

Y-chromosome DNA haplotypes in North African populations

The frequency distribution of Y-chromosome haplotypes at DNA polymorphism p49/TaqI was studied in a sample of 505 North Africans from Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. A particulary high frequency (55.0%) of Y-haplotype 5 (A2,CO,DO,F1,11 ) was observed in these populations, with a relative predominance in those of Berber origin. (E3b1b, probably)  Examination of the relative frequencies of other haplotypes in these populations, mainly haplotype 4 (the “African” haplotype), haplotype 15 (R1b probably) (the “European” haplotype), and haplotypes 7 and 8 (the “Near-East” haplotypes), permit useful comparisons with neighboring peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the Near East.

Because they relate to paternal ancestry, variations in DNA sequences that are specific to the nonrecombinant part of the human Y chromosome are particularly interesting from an evolutionary point of view. The probes 49f and 49a (locus DYSI ), located at Yq.11.2 (Quack et al. 1988), are able to identify 18 genomic TaqI fragments (named alphabetically, A-R), most of them being male specific. Among these the A, B, C, D, E, and I fragments can be either present or absent in males, or show variations in size (Lucotte and Ngo 1985). In the first group studied (Ngo et al. 1986), which included 50 Caucasians, 15 Africans, and 10 Asians living in Paris, 16 combinations of these DNA polymorphisms, or haplotypes (numbered 1-16), were detected. The present study examines haplotype frequencies in populations of North Africa.

In pre-Neolithic times (about 7000-3000 BP) the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts of North Africa were populated by white, Hamite-speaking peoples, who have come to be called Berbers and Egyptians. In Pharaonic Africa (3000 years BP) the population had suffered drastic changes, with agricultural Egypt having 1 million people. Climatic changes had dried northern Africa by around 8000-4000 years BP; the forest line had retreated towards the Equator from about the 16th parallel by 3000 years BP, and the Sahara had assumed the characteristics it has today. Heavy migrations towards the North sent people to the Mediterranean coast, the Iberian peninsula, and the Canary islands.

The population of North Africa has followed the general Maghreb demographic movements. In Neolithic times, a scattering of Berber pastoralists and cultivators existed there; however, they remained at a Neolithic level of civilization, while other Mediterranean peoples were evolving through the Bronze and Iron Ages. Around 1000 years BP, the Phoenicians came upon a stone-age Neolithic culture in the Maghreb; they established Carthage (in Tunisia) only to be overthrown by the Romans in 146 BP. At this time there were 100,000 Phoenicians and 500,000 Berbers in Tunisia, plus another 2.5 million Berbers in the rest of North Africa. During the 7th century CE, Arabs invaded North Africa, imposing their religion and language on the Berbers, a process that culminated with the Bedouin reaching the Maghreb in the 11th century. Later arrivals to North Africa in colonial times included the Portuguese and Spanish in Morocco; the French in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia; the Italians in Libya; and the Turks in Egypt.

A main problem of Mediterranean ethnography has been the lack of DNA markers from southern Mediterranean populations (Arnaiz-Villena et al. 1995). Bosch et al. (1997) have recently synthetized evidence from classical genetic markers in North Africa. In the present study, p49 TaqI Y– haplotypes were studied in a sample of 7 North African populations, and haplotypic comparisons were made with other African, European, and Asiatic populations previously studied for these haplotypes. (Persichetti et al. [1992] studied a small sample of 34 unrelated Egyptian males for this haplotype.) The approach in the haplotype diversity measures adopted here extends our previous work on Y-haplotype distributions in Europe (Lucotte and Hazout 1996), using Shannon entropy (H) as a measure of heterozygosity, numbers of haplotype equivalents as expected H, and genetic distances as the difference between 2 entropies: the first being calculated after grouping the haplotype distributions of two compared samples, and the second corresponding to the weighted sums of the entropies calculated for each sample.

Subjects and Methods

Samples and Populations. All 505 samples studied (Figure 1) correspond to unrelated adult North African males, whose origin is based on the birthplace of their fathers and (at least) grandfathers. The Mauritanian sample is composed of 25 males, collected previously for anthropological studies concerning African populations (Lucotte et al. 1994). The Berber sample consisted of 74 Berbers native to Morocco and living near Marrakech. The main part of the North African sample is composed of 102 unrelated males (excluding those of Berber origins) born in Morocco, of 141 males from Algeria, and of 73 males from Tunisia, all living in Paris. Also included are 38 Libyan and 52 Egyptian males (originating from the northern part of Egypt), from whom blood samples were collected in their countries of origin.

After haplotype 5, the most commonly found haplotype in our series is haplotype 11, with a frequency of 7.7%, rising to 21.1% in Egypt. Interestingly, this haplotype is relatively frequent in some Indian populations (Lucotte et al. 1990) and in populations of Semitic origin (Lucotte and David 1992; Santachiara-Benerecetti et al. 1993). The preponderance of this haplotype has probably contributed to the differentiation of Egyptian and Libyan populations from others.

The third most commonly found haplotype in North Africa is haplotype 12, with a frequency of 7.1 % in our series, rising to a maximum value of 26% in Tunisia). This haplotype has been shown to be the major haplotype in Sardinians (Persichetti et al. 1992), and indicates a shared component of North African peoples with more northern Mediterranean peoples.

Haplotype 4, confined to sub-Saharan Africa (Torroni et al. 1990; Spurdle and Jenkins 1992; Lucotte et al. 1994), was present at a low frequency (4.4%) in our series, the most elevated value (8.5%) being observed in Algeria (the largest country in North Africa). Haplotype 15, mainly present in Western Europe (Ngo et al. 1986; Lucotte and Hazout 1996), was rarely found in North Africa (4.2%); its most elevated value (10.7%) was found in Morocco (a country with a strong French presence since the beginning of the century).

Haplotypes 7 and 8, frequently found in the Near East (Lucotte and David 1992; Lucotte et al. 1993; Santachiara-Benerecetti et al. 1993; Ritte et al. 1993; Lucotte et al. 1996), were present in our series at a mean level between 3.2% and 6.3%, respectively. Together they represent, in the populations studied, 17.3% of haplotypes in Egypt (the most eastern of the North African countries), 12.7% in Morocco, and 8.5% in Algeria (these last 2 countries having an important Semitic component). For Egypt, a similar value of 15% was obtained by Persichetti et al. (1992).

Acknowledgments. The authors acknowledge P. Galzot and N. Gerard for DNA extraction and hybridization experiments. We thank also F. Legrand for genealogical studies and blood samples of the Berbers studied here. We acknowledge also S. Hazout for help in the biostatistical treatment of data.

Two major population groups are found in North Africa, Berbers and Arabs. Berbers are divided into several subgroups, the most important one including Berbers from Morocco. Moroccan Berbers belong to 3 main communities: northern Berbers living in the Rif mountains, central Berbers living in the Atlas mountains, and southern Berbers living in the anti-Atlas and the Souss valley. Tuaregs are Berber people, and Berbers are also found in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and among some western residual groups in Mauritania and Senegal (Camps 1980). The origin of the Berber people has not been clearly established. They may be descendants of Capsian and later Neolithic peoples (Murdock 1959). We do know that the Berber kingdoms declined under the impact of Greek invasions, Roman Punic wars, and Roman settlements in the area (Julien 1978), and that the Arab presence dates from an Arab invasion of North Africa during the 7th century. All 16 Y-haplotypes were found in the 7 North African populations studied here, but with varying frequencies among groups. As has been found for Egypt (Persichetti et al. 1992) haplotype 5 is the major haplotype found in North Africa, being present at a frequency of 55% in our series. This haplotype is found at an elevated frequency (68.9%) in Berbers from Morocco, and at relatively lower frequencies in Mauritania (40%), Egypt (40.3%), and Libya (44.7%).These last 3 populations are characterized by a strong Arabic component. The non– Berber population from Morocco and populations from Algeria and Tunisia showed intermediate values (57.8%, 56.7%, and 53.4%, respectively). An apparently increasing east-west cline in haplotype 5 frequencies is shown from Egypt to Morocco in the present study, probably reflecting both the historical Arabic expansions and the preponderance of Berbers in western countries.

It looks like R1b was the first Caucasian male Y chromosome in North Africa in the Paleolithic, it managed to accompany the Mt DNA U southwards in the Bantu expansion. The current Berber DNA marker E3b1b (or whatever it’s being called now) has been dated to the Neolithic expansion, and has only really made it as far South as the Tuaregs in the Southern Sahara. It seems it’s quite a common DNA marker in Egypt though ( says here 40%) so it seems Egyptians are of substantial Berber ancestry, with mostly Arab and a little bit of Sub Saharan African. It seems that the Arab invasion of North Africa really just converted the indigenous people instead of wiping them out.

This would probably explain why ancient Egyptians have slightly lighter hair on average than modern Egyptians… Berbers are a little lighter haired than Arabs. Ancient Egyptians also group pretty closely to Berbers for just about all features like skull, hair and teeth.

Race maps.

So, I was surfing, and I spotted the old Huxley ‘race map’. And I do mean old, 19th century.

Then I remembered the Cavalli Sforza illustration…


As someone said on another site..

“Top: Map of the Distribution of the Principal Modifications of Mankind” by Thomas H. Huxley, 1870.

Bottom: Computer-generated map of human genetic diversity by L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, et al, 1994.

 Despite being separated by over a century and being created with radically different visual methods and in very different ideological and scientific contexts, the two maps bear an uncanny similarity to each other

For someone who ‘doesn’t believe in race as a valid concept’, a lot of his work does seem to support it, and is often used by others to support it.

This seems like as good a place as any to post the twig map of racial relationships.

As you can see, West Africans And East Africans aren’t closely related at all. Other than skin tone, they cluster better with North Africans. (Also morhologically, they are hard to tell apart if you just have a skeleton).

The Turkish/Northern Syrian origin of lentils.

Identification of the lentil’s wild genetic stock

  The origin of lentil from the taxon Lens culinaris subsp. orientalis has been proved by morphological evidence and breeding experiments. This wild form exhibits variation in many characters and is distributed over a vast area from the Middle-East to central Asia. Characters that are polymorphic in the wild progenitor but monomorphic in the cultigen can be utilized for better identification of the genetic stock which gave rise to the domesticated lentil. Three characters of that kind have been identified in lentil: chromosomal architecture, crossability potential and restriction pattern of chloroplast DNA. Nearly all accessions of the cultivated lentil tested to these three characters have been found monomorphic, but considerable polymorphism exists in the wild accessions. Three subsp. orientalis accessions have been shown to share the above characters with the cultigen and hence can be regarded as members of the genetic stock from which lentil was domesticated. These three accessions originated from eastern Turkey and northern Syria.

Also, the oldest lentils found were 11,000 years old from a Greek cave. Since the lentil is not native to Greece, it’s not a stretch to figure out these must have been cultivated. This would mean the growing of lentils predates cereals in Greece, meaning farming started earlier than believed in Europe (by about two thousand years) and that cultivation of lentils predates the cultivation of cereals.

A commonly ‘misunderstood’ paper by Dr C. Loring Brace.

The amount of times I’ve read work that thinks this paper proves …

  • The ancient Greeks were black
  • All the moors were black
  • etc
  • That the original Europeans weren’t Caucasians (yes, some people are that  dumb).

It’s really quite entertaining. Dr Brace recently said of the Cro Magnons…

I was able to get just under 20 measurements on Cro Magnon of the two dozen data set I have used to compare populations in the world and the statistics showed convincingly that while  Cro Magnon does not tie in with the recent French, it does indeed tie closely with our English and Scandinavian samples. What we have been able to show is that the Upper Paleolithic and subsequent Mesolithic of northwest Europe simply developed there in situ out of Neanderthal precursors. We published some of this in Human Evolution 19(1):19-38 (2005) and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(1):242-247 (2006). In the latter paper we showed that a picture of demic diffusion from the Middle East and subsequent absorption by the indigenous north and western Europeans can account for the appearance of living European form.

C. L. Brace

The conclusion reads that the Natufians in the Levant seemed to be a mix of Eurasian and Negroid, tending more to the Eurasian, and the African features had vanished into the population by the time of the Neolithic farming expansion. I’ll mark the most relevant quotes in bold.

So, here it is..

The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form

C. Loring Brace,*† Noriko Seguchi,‡ Conrad B. Quintyn,§ Sherry C. Fox,¶ A. Russell Nelson, Sotiris K. Manolis,** and Pan Qifeng††Received September 20, 2005.

Many human craniofacial dimensions are largely of neutral adaptive significance, and an analysis of their variation can serve as an indication of the extent to which any given population is genetically related to or differs from any other. When 24 craniofacial measurements of a series of human populations are used to generate neighbor-joining dendrograms, it is no surprise that all modern European groups, ranging all of the way from Scandinavia to eastern Europe and throughout the Mediterranean to the Middle East, show that they are closely related to each other. The surprise is that the Neolithic peoples of Europe and their Bronze Age successors are not closely related to the modern inhabitants, although the prehistoric/modern ties are somewhat more apparent in southern Europe. It is a further surprise that the Epipalaeolithic Natufian of Israel from whom the Neolithic realm was assumed to arise! ( slightly incorrectly, as Turkey is now looking good for the origin of the Neolithic revolution) has a clear link to Sub-Saharan Africa. Basques and Canary Islanders (Guanches) are clearly associated with modern Europeans. When canonical variates are plotted, neither sample ties in with Cro-Magnon as was once suggested. The data treated here support the idea that the Neolithic moved out of the Near East into the circum-Mediterranean areas and Europe by a process of demic diffusion but that subsequently the in situ residents of those areas, derived from the Late Pleistocene inhabitants, absorbed both the agricultural life way and the people who had brought it.

Among those who deal with the background of European history, there is a generally accepted view that the foraging way of life in the post-Pleistocene Mesolithic was succeeded by the Neolithic farming way of life. With the addition of metallurgy, the Neolithic morphed into the Bronze Age, which was succeeded by the Iron Age and the more recent European civilization (1–4). Further there is a general acceptance of the assumption that the farming way of life of the Neolithic arose in the Middle East ≈11,000 years ago and spread to the western edge of Europe by about 6,500 years ago (Incorrect. The Neolithic farmers seem to have arrived in Europe about 8,000 years ago, and the oldest founddomesticated grains are 13,500 years old in Abu Hurerya, Northern Syria. The original grains seem to be domesticated from a wild race of Turkish einkhorn wheat) (5–10). Researchers have questioned whether that spread took place by cultural diffusion to in situ people (11) or whether it was a “wave of advance” or a matter of “demic diffusion,” the actual movement of groups of people (see refs. 1, 8, and 12–15). Some researchers have observed that, although the two possible modes of Neolithic spread need not be mutually exclusive (see refs. 9 and 12), principal components analysis of allele frequencies in living humans shows a southeast–northwest cline that favors the idea that the spread had been the result of actual demic movement rather than by diffusion of cultural elements to pre-existing populations (see refs. 11–15).

Previous assessments of the Neolithic spread from the Middle East westward have been based on a consideration of tools and pottery on the one hand and genetically controlled aspects of living human populations on the other (14, 15). Here we offer an assessment based on a comparison of a set of metric dimensions of both prehistoric and more recent human craniofacial morphology. Craniofacial analysis has been previously applied to this question, but the comparison to living populations was not done (16). It has already been shown that the quantitative treatment of craniofacial form produces a picture of the movement of human populations from Asia into the New World that is largely compatible with the picture produced by the molecular genetic comparison of nucleotide haplotypes (17, 18).

The underlying reason that such different approaches yield comparable results is that neither the nucleic acid components identified nor the particular craniofacial dimensions used have any obvious adaptive value. Both evidently behave in a manner compatible with what has been called the “neutral theory,” where the traits assessed are under genetic control and the differences between groups are principally the result of genetic drift (12–22). What they show, then, is the extent of genetically shared relationships between adjacent populations. Here we offer a comparable treatment of samples of recent and prehistoric human populations running from the Middle East to the western edge of the Eurasian continent, north to Crimea, east to Mongolia, and southward through Nubia and Somalia plus samples from North Africa and representatives of the Niger-Congo-speaking peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa (Table 1). Teeth and the tooth-bearing parts of facial skeletons of course do reflect differences in response to the forces of selection on different populations (23), but they were left out of our analysis.

 Table 1.
Samples and numbers used in the analysis

Sample No.
1. Norway 40
2. Finn/Sami 21
3. Denmark 19
4. Iceland 34
5. England 39
6. France 67
7. Basque 22
8. Canary Islands 24
9. Switzerland 50
10. Germany 27
11. Czech 25
12. European Upper Palaeo. 8
13. France Mesolithic 4
14. Denmark Neolithic 40
15. England Neolithic 12
16. France Neolithic 44
17. Swiss Neolithic 22
18. German Neol. (Mühl.) 9
19. Ger. Neol. (Tauberbisch.) 7
20. England Bronze 26
21. Portugal Mesolithic 12
22. Portugal Neolithic 18
23. Italy 80
24. Sicily 9
25. Sardinia 15
26. Etruscan 38
27. Italy Eneolithic 32
28. Italy Bronze 7
29. Greece 22
30. Franchthi (Greek Mesolithic) 1
31. Nea Nikomedea (Greek Neolith.) 7
32. Greek Bronze 16
33. Middle East (Iran/Iraq) 16
34. Morocco 24
35. Algeria 25
36. Berber 15
37. Tunisia 12
38. Egypt 28
39. Israeli Fellaheen (farmers) 15
40. Taforalt/Afalou (Morocco) 10
41. Natufian 4
42. Algerian Neolithic 6
43. Egypt Bronze (Naqada) 52
44. Jericho Bronze 4
45. Kurgan Bronze (Crimea) 30
46. Mongolian Bronze (Chandman) 54
47. Somalia 30
48. Nubia 64
49. Nubia Bronze 15
50. Congo (Gabon) 36
51. Dahomey (Benin) 32
52. Haya (Tanzania) 36
    Total 1,282


References Neighbor-Joining ComparisonsA battery of 24 craniofacial measurements (Table 2) was used to compare the similarities and differences of living human populations and their prehistoric predecessors where possible throughout the area in question. The significance of the difference between any pair of the total sample can be assessed from Mahalanobis D2 figures (24), and a graphic depiction of the similarities and distinctions of the various groups tested can be seen from the dendrogram produced by using the D2 figures as input for the neighbor-joining procedure (Fig. 1) (25). To compute the Mahalanobis distances, we used a pooled within-group covariance matrix derived from all groups and weighted by sex and group sample size. The neighbor-joining method can be used for discrete differences, as is done with molecular data, or it can be used on continuous data, as we have done here (25). Assessments can also be made with canonical variate plots, which have the added advantage that single individuals can be placed in relation to the other samples used (Fig. 2) (29–32).

 Table 2.
 Craniofacial measures used in the UMMA data set

Variable no. Description
1 Nasal height
2 Nasal bone height
3 Piriform aperture height
4 Nasion prosthion length
5 Nasion basion
6 Basion prosthion
7 Superior nasal bone width
8 Simotic width
9 Inferior nasal bone width
10 Nasal breadth
11 Simotic subtense
12 Inferior simotic subtense
13 FOW subtense at nasion
14 MOW subtense at rhinion
15 Bizygomatic breadth
16 Glabella opisthocranion
17 Maximum cranial breadth
18 Basion bregma
19 Basion rhinion
20 Width at 13 (fmt fmt)
21 Width at 14
22 IOW subtense at nasion
23 Width at 22 (fmo fmo)
24 Minimum nasal tip elevation

Figure 1

Neighbor-joining dendrogram for a series of prehistoric and recent human populations running from the western edge of the Eurasian continent and North Africa to the Middle East and down East Africa as far as Somalia, plus a sampling of Niger-Congo-speaking people from Gabon, Benin, and Tanzania in Sub-Saharan Africa. The samples used and the number for each are spelled out in Table 1. The kinds of measurements used to generate the dendrogram are listed in Table 2.

 Fig. 2.
Placement of the samples used in Fig. 1 determined by the values of canonical variates 1 (30.0%) and 2 (16.2%).

It is no surprise to discover that individual samples of recent humans tie more closely with other samples of extant people from the same part of the world than with more distant peoples. What does come as a surprise is that the Neolithic samples tend to tie with Neolithic samples across the entire range from east to west but do not cluster with the living people in many of the areas tested. There is more of a link between the prehistoric and modern samples in southern Europe as opposed to the picture in central and northern Europe. Much the same is true for the Bronze Age samples, although these do tend to tie to the preceding Neolithic in the same part of the range tested.

Unlike the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and modern samples, the Palaeolithic samples are not from single sites. There is no single European Upper Palaeolithic sample large enough to run as a single twig in a dendrogram. Instead, we had to use Cro-Magnon 1, La Ronde du Barry, Abri Pataud, Saint Germain-La Rivière, and Le Placard, all from southwestern France, plus Obercassel 1 from western Germany, and Předmostí 3 and 4 from the Czech Republic. Measurements of the latter two specimens were taken on casts because the originals had been destroyed by retreating Germans near the end of World War II (33). The same kind of problem of finding more than one individual in a burial site also tended to be true for some of the available Mesolithic of Europe. Individual specimens from Brittany to Monaco (Gramat, Rastel, Recheril and Téviec) were lumped together to make the European Mesolithic sample. There are larger Mesolithic samples, but we were not able to get permission to work on them. The North African Epipalaeolithic sample was made on the basis of specimens from Afalou in Algeria and Taforalt in Morocco. The Natufian sample from Israel is also problematic because it is so small, being constituted of three males and one female from the Late Pleistocene Epipalaeolithic (34) of Israel, and there was no usable Neolithic sample for the Near East.

The difficulty in making comparisons with Neolithic and Palaeolithic samples is the result of the very different treatment of the deceased. Neolithic communities established cemeteries where the remains of the departed accumulated in some numbers. Most Upper Palaeolithic peoples tended to bury the dead singly and in widely separated locations. Furthermore, Neolithic pottery became fractured with considerable frequency, leaving potsherds in quantity at Neolithic sites. Consequently there may well have been a tendency to overestimate the size of Neolithic populations vis-à-vis the contemporary surviving foragers (6, 35, 36). Despite the small numbers and scattered locations of the Late Pleistocene specimens, they tend to cluster with each other rather than with any groups of more recent date.

In dendrograms such as Fig. 1, the little Natufian sample clusters with the Mesolithic of France, the North African Epipalaeolithic, and the European Upper Palaeolithic, but the lengths of each of these twigs show that the relationships are comparatively remote. These are all Late Pleistocene or very early post-Pleistocene groups, and they are also noticeably more robust than more recent human groups. The three Niger-Congo-speaking groups (the Congo from Gabon, the Dahomey from Benin, and the Haya from Tanzania) cluster together away from most of the other samples. They do show a somewhat more distant link to the Nubians and the Nubian Bronze Age, who are so close to each other that they were combined for subsequent analyses.

When the samples used in Fig. 1 are compared by the use of canonical variate plots as in Fig. 2, the separateness of the Niger-Congo speakers is again quite clear. Interestingly enough, however, the small Natufian sample falls between the Niger-Congo group and the other samples used. Fig. 2 shows the plot produced by the first two canonical variates, but the same thing happens when canonical variates 1 and 3 (not shown here) are used. This placement suggests that there may have been a Sub-Saharan African element in the make-up of the Natufians (the putative ancestors of the subsequent Neolithic), although in this particular test there is no such evident presence in the North African or Egyptian samples. As shown in Fig. 1, the Somalis and the Egyptian Bronze Age sample from Naqada may also have a hint of a Sub-Saharan African component. That was not borne out in the canonical variate plot (Fig. 2), and there was no evidence of such an involvement in the Algerian Neolithic (Gambetta) sample.

References Combining SamplesWhen groups that are close to each other in the dendrogram in Fig. 1 are combined to make a single dendrogram twig, the picture is simplified, but much the same conclusion is supported. Czech, Denmark, England, Etruscan, Finn/Sami, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sardinia, and Swiss samples are combined to make a sample designated as “Modern Europe.” Algeria, Berber, Greece, Iran/Iraq, Italy, Morocco, Sicily, and Tunisia samples were combined to generate a “Modern Mediterranean” twig, and the Algerian Neolithic was run as a separate twig. Next the Congo, Dahomey, and Haya samples were run as a “Niger-Congo” twig. Then Neolithic samples from Denmark, England, France, Germany, and Portugal were combined with Bronze Age samples from England, Jericho, and Mongolia to make a “Late Prehistoric Eurasia” sample. Mongolia is a long way east of any of the other samples used, but it has previously been shown that the Mongolian Bronze Age sample is unrelated to modern Mongols and has more in common with prehistoric Europeans and the Native Americans of the United States–Canada border (17).

Next the Portuguese Mesolithic, Greek Neolithic, Italy Eneolithic, and Swiss Neolithic samples and the Italian and Greek Bronze Age samples were combined to make a “Prehistoric Mediterranean” twig. Then Naqada Bronze Age Egyptian, the Nubian, Nubia Bronze Age, Israeli Fellaheen (Arabic farmers), and Somali samples were lumped as “Prehistoric/Recent Northeast Africa.” The Natufians and the Algerian Neolithic samples were run as separate twigs, and there were separate twigs for Basques and Canary Islanders. Figure 3 shows the results of running all of these twigs in a single neighbor-joining dendrogram. Only 18 of the 24 variables were used to construct Fig. 3, allowing us to add the Basque sample. When the Basques are left out and all 24 variables are used, the main twigs in the resulting dendrogram relate to each other in exactly the same way as those in the 18-variable version shown in Fig. 3. The D2 figures that were used in the construction of Fig. 3 are printed in Table 3.

 Fig. 3.
Neighbor-joining dendrogram of combined adjacent groups from Fig. 1.

Mahalanobis distance figures for the twigs in Fig. 3

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. Modern Europe                  
2. Modern Mediterranean 3.34                
3. Niger-Congo 16.42 16.26              
4. Late Prehistoric Eurasia 1.87 2.52 12.15            
5. Prehistoric Mediterranean 4.19 3.90 15.60 2.65          
6. Prehist/Recent NE Africa 5.16 5.22 6.67 4.54 5.78        
7. Canary Islands 3.58 7.22 19.16 4.68 5.90 7.01      
8. Basques 7.16 8.81 30.77 10.98 14.31 11.82 7.94    
9. Natufian 21.00 19.93 14.66 14.00 16.59 15.31 20.62 33.97  
10. Algerian Neolithic 8.20 7.62 12.84 6.71 5.71 5.14 6.47 14.98 17.60

 There are some generalizations that are apparent from the picture presented in both the greater individual numbers of twigs shown in Fig. 1 and the combined pattern shown in Fig. 3. When the maximum number of twigs is plotted, despite the very small numbers involved, the Late Pleistocene samples from Israel, Europe, and North Aftica tend to link to each other before they tie to the modern representatives of each of the areas in question, as shown in Fig. 1. In that run, the Natufian of Israel ties to the French Mesolithic and then to the Afalou/Taforalt sample from North Africa. These then link with the European Upper Palaeolithic sample and, somewhat surprisingly, with the Chandman (the Mongolian Bronze Age sample) and finally, at the next step, with the Danish Neolithic. One of the things that these geographically diverse groups clearly have in common is a degree of robustness that sets them apart from the recent inhabitants of the areas in which they are found.

Apart from the quantitative relationships shown in Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, most of the Neolithic samples in Europe share nonmetric features of the lateral edge of the orbit, the shape of the gonial angle of the mandible, and the configuration of menton that are present even when degrees of size and robustness vary between the regions represented. These nonmetric attributes all support the view that most of the Neolithic inhabitants of Europe tie more closely together with each other than with the living representatives of the areas in question. The principal exception to this generalization is one of the two small samples of the German Neolithic, the Mühlhausen sample, which ties closer metrically to the living inhabitants of the Middle East and North Africa. Metrically the other German Neolithic sample, Tauberbischofsheim, links with the living Central European samples. Nonmetrically, those two small German Neolithic samples also appear strikingly different from each other.

 Fig. 4.
Canonical variates 1 (58.1%) and 2 (16.2%) for the same groups represented in Fig. 3.

The Niger-Congo speakers (Congo, Dahomey, and Haya) cluster closely with each other and a bit less closely with the Nubian sample (both the recent and the Bronze Age Nubians) and more remotely with the Naqada Bronze Age sample of Egypt, the modern Somalis, and the Arabic-speaking Fellaheen (farmers) of Israel. When those samples are separated and run in a single analysis as in Fig. 1, there clearly is a tie between them that is diluted the farther one gets from Sub-Saharan Africa. The other obvious matter shown in Fig. 3 is the separate identity of the northern Europeans. This matter is treated in the next section.
The Basque language is a linguistic isolate unrelated to any other language (37), and there is a long-held idea that the Basques may represent a modern survival of the Pleistocene human inhabitants of western Europe (38). Our measurements were made on the sample gathered from the French side of the French/Spanish frontier that runs through Basque country in southwestern France. These specimens were stored in the Broca collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Paul Broca himself had promoted the view that the Basques represent the continuing existence of the kind of Upper Paleolithic population excavated at the Cro-Magnon rock shelter in the village of Les Eyzies in the Dordogne region of southwestern France in 1868 (38–41). Shortly thereafter the “old man” (“le vieillard”) found in that rock shelter was elevated to the status of typifying a whole “Cro-Magnon race” regarded as ancestral to not only the Basques but also the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands (38, 42–45).

When the Basques are run with the other samples used in Fig. 1, they link with Germany and more remotely with the Canary Islands. They are clearly European, although the length of their twig indicates that they have a distinction all their own. It is clear, however, that they do not represent a survival of the kind of craniofacial form indicated by Cro-Magnon any more than do the Canary Islanders, nor does either sample tie in with the Berbers of North Africa as has previously been claimed (38, 45–46). This is particularly well documented when the 18 variables are used to generate a plot of the first two canonical variates as shown in Fig. 4. In this figure, one can see a clear link between the Niger-Congo sample and the Natufians. The Prehistoric/Recent Northeast African sample also has a subsequent link to the Niger-Congo sample in Fig. 3. Yet the D2 values in Table 3 show that it is slightly closer to Late Prehistoric Eurasia than to the Algerian Neolithic, Modern Europe, and Modern Mediterranean and that it is farthest from the Niger-Congo, the Natufians, and the Basques. Although the Algerian Neolithic sample has an even more residual link to this cluster, the D2 figures in Table 3 show that it is almost as far from the Niger-Congo twig as from the Basques and Natufians. The generally high D2 values for the Natufian sample in Table 3 are almost certainly a reflection of the very small sample size.

To test the analysis shown in Fig. 3, Cro-Magnon (Fig. 4, ×) was removed from the European Upper Palaeolithic sample and run as a single individual. Interestingly enough, Cro-Magnon is not close to any more recent sample. Clearly, Cro-Magnon is not the same as the Basque or Canary Island samples. Fig. 4 plots the first and second canonical variates against each other, but that conclusion is even more strongly supported when canonical variate 3 (not shown here) is plotted with variate 1. The probabilities of Cro-Magnon’s ties to any of the groups in Figs. 3 and 4 are shown in Table 4. If this analysis shows nothing else, it demonstrates that the oft-repeated European feeling that the Cro-Magnons are “us” (47) is more a product of anthropological folklore than the result of the metric data available from the skeletal remains.

 Table 4.
Probabilities and squared Mahalanobis distances between Cro-Magnon 1 and reference samples 

   Probabilities and squared Mahalanobis distances between Cro-Magnon 1 and reference samples
  ModEur ModMed NigCon LPEurasia PrehMed P/RNEAfr CanIsl Basq Natuf AlgNe
Posterior probability 0.49 0.01 0.00 0.39 0.03 0.01 0.07 0.01 0.00 0.00
Typicality probability (F distribution) 0.26 0.04 0.01 0.25 0.10 0.04 0.19 0.09 0.07 0.04
Squared Mahalanobis distance 21.72 30.53 36.35 22.15 26.80 30.10 24.42 28.30 35.00 36.00


The assessment of prehistoric and recent human craniofacial dimensions supports the picture documented by genetics that the extension of Neolithic agriculture from the Near East westward to Europe and across North Africa was accomplished by a process of demic diffusion (11–15). If the Late Pleistocene Natufian sample from Israel is the source from which that Neolithic spread was derived, then there was clearly a SubSaharan African element present of almost equal importance as the Late Prehistoric Eurasian element. At the same time, the failure of the Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in central and northern Europe to tie to the modern inhabitants supports the suggestion that, while a farming mode of subsistence was spread westward and also north to Crimea and east to Mongolia by actual movement of communities of farmers, the indigenous foragers in each of those areas ultimately absorbed both the agricultural subsistence strategy and also the people who had brought it. The interbreeding of the incoming Neolithic people with the in situ foragers diluted the Sub-Saharan traces that may have come with the Neolithic spread so that no discoverable element of that remained. This picture of a mixture between the incoming farmers and the in situ foragers had originally been supported by the archaeological record alone (6, 9, 33, 34, 48, 49), but this view is now reinforced by the analysis of the skeletal morphology of the people of those areas where prehistoric and recent remains can be metrically compared.

How this actually works in plain English… The Natufians were slightly more of Eurasian ancestry than African, and by the time the Neolithic farming expansion started, any Negroid features had been diluted to invisibility, and you are left with with an essentially Eurasian population. The African Niger Congo (included only as an outlier) never comes anywhere near the measurements of stone age/bronze age Europeans or bronze age North African and near East .

The worlds oldest mural, at Djade al-Mughara.

  Djade al-Mughara

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – French archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old wall painting underground in northern Syria which they believe is the oldest in the world.

The 2 square-meter painting, in red, black and white, was found at the Neolithic settlement of Djade al-Mughara on the Euphrates, northeast of the city of Aleppo, team leader Eric Coqueugniot told Reuters.

“It looks like a modernist painting. Some of those who saw it have likened it to work by (Paul) Klee. Through carbon dating we established it is from around 9,000 B.C.,” Coqueugniot said.

“We found another painting next to it, but that won’t be excavated until next year. It is slow work,” said Coqueugniot, who works at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.

Rectangles dominate the ancient painting, which formed part of an adobe circular wall of a large house with a wooden roof. The site has been excavated since the early 1990s.

The painting will be moved to Aleppo’s museum next year, Coqueugniot said. Its red came from burnt hematite rock, crushed limestone formed the white and charcoal provided the black.

The world’s oldest painting on a constructed wall was one found in Turkey but that was dated 1,500 years after the one at Djade al-Mughara, according to Science magazine.

The inhabitants of Djade al-Mughara lived off hunting and wild plants. They resembled modern day humans in looks but were not farmers or domesticated, Coqueugniot said There was a purpose in having the painting in what looked like a communal house, but we don’t know it. The village was later abandoned and the house stuffed with mud,” he said.

A large number of flints and weapons have been found at the site as well as human skeletons buried under houses.

“This site is one of several Neolithic villages in modern day Syria and southern Turkey. They seem to have communicated with each other and had peaceful exchanges,” Coqueugniot said.

Mustafa Ali, a leading Syrian artist, said similar geometric design to that in the Djade al-Mughara painting found its way into art throughout the Levant and Persia, and can even be seen in carpets and kilims (rugs).

“We must not lose sight that the painting is archaeological, but in a way it’s also modern,” he said.

France is an important contributor to excavation efforts in Syria, where 120 teams are at work. Syria was at the crossroads of the ancient world and has thousands of mostly unexcavated archaeological sites.

Swiss-German artist Paul Klee had links with the Bauhaus school and was important in the German modernist movement.

The pyramid builder’s DNA.

Who were the pyramid builders?
After comparing DNA samples taken from the workers’ bones with samples taken from modern Egyptians, Dr Moamina Kamal of Cairo University Medical School has suggested that Khufu’s pyramid was a truly nationwide project, with workers drawn to Giza from all over Egypt. She has discovered no trace of any alien race; human or intergalactic, as suggested in some of the more imaginative ‘pyramid theories’.

Effectively, it seems, the pyramid served both as a gigantic training project and – deliberately or not – as a source of ‘Egyptianisation’. The workers who left their communities of maybe 50 or 100 people, to live in a town of 15,000 or more strangers, returned to the provinces with new skills, a wider outlook and a renewed sense of national unity that balanced the loss of loyalty to local traditions. The use of shifts of workers spread the burden and brought about a thorough redistribution of pharaoh’s wealth in the form of rations.

Almost every family in Egypt was either directly or indirectly involved in pyramid building. The pyramid labourers were clearly not slaves. They may well have been the unwilling victims of the corvée or compulsory labour system, the system that allowed the pharaoh to compel his people to work for three or four month shifts on state projects. If this is the case, we may imagine that they were selected at random from local registers.

But, in a complete reversal of the story of oppression told by Herodotus, Lehner and Hawass have suggested that the labourers may have been volunteers. Zahi Hawass believes that the symbolism of the pyramid was already strong enough to encourage people to volunteer for the supreme national project. Mark Lehner has gone further, comparing pyramid building to American Amish barn raising, which is done on a volunteer basis. He might equally well have compared it to the staffing of archaeological digs, which tend to be manned by enthusiastic, unpaid volunteers supervised by a few paid professionals.

The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh’s Workforce by AR David (Boston and Henley, London, 1986)

I’d be a lot happier if I could see the DNA results from the source.