Tag Archives: Greece

Inhabited for 17,000 years. Franchthi cave, Greece.

A cut-and-paste for-the-record, frankenblog entry.

Franchthi Cave is on the very Southern part of Greece, easily accessible from Anatolia (sea levels were a lot lower about 11,000 years ago). From another source, I’ve found out the lentil seeds found at Franchthi are slightly larger than the wild kind, indicating an early stage of domestication. One of the Y chromosome studies I have on file suggests that an early population movement from Turkey to Greece, and I think that this place is a good possible site for their arrival. The caves suddenly gain four of the Neolithic founder crops simultaneously, and I think this is a giveaway for some kind of major cultural change.

Franchthi Cave is located in south eastern Argolid, across a small bay from the modern Greek village of Koilada. It is by far the longest recorded continuous occupational sequence from any one site in Greece. It is unique for having unbroken series of deposits spanning the period from ca. 20,000 B.C. down to ca. 3000 B.C. Excavation at the site began in 1967 and ended in 1976. The dates for the various phases of occupation in the cave are from radiocarbon analysis of a total of over fifty samples, the largest number of radiocarbon samples from any prehistoric site in Greece. The earliest radiocarbon date is ca. 20,000 B.C. for the Upper Paleolithic, the latest near 3000 B.C. for the Final Neolithic.

In the Paleolithic Period (ca. 20,000 � 8300 B.C.) inhabitants of the cave were probably seasonal hunter-gatherers. There is no definite evidence of plant gathering before ca. 11,000 B.C., although large numbers of seeds of the Boraginaceae family were found which may have come from plants gathered to furnish soft “bedding” or for dye, which their roots may have supplied. First appearing at ca. 11,000 B.C. are lentils, vetch, pistachios and almonds. Then ca. 10,500 B.C. and still well within the Upper Paleolithic Period appear a few very rare seeds of wild oats and wild barley. Neither becomes common until ca. 7000 B.C.At this time there is no evidence for habitation of the cave during the winter. The typical tool of this time is the backed bladelet, a tiny multi-purpose-cutting tool, but small end-scrapers (for removing the flesh from hides) are also common. There is no pottery or architecture at this time and also no burials have been found.

In the Mesolithic Period: (ca. 8300 � 6000 B.C.) the plant remains are much the same as in the preceding Paleolithic Period, with the exceptions that wild pears and a few peas begin to appear ca. 7300 B.C. and that wild oats and barley become common after 7000 B.C. The disappearance of the equid and caprine bones from the faunal assemblage, as well as an increase in the number of pistachios, all taking place ca. 8000 B.C. suggest a change of environment to open forests. There is also the possibility, however, that the change in the animal bones represents a change in the hunting preferences or practices of the cave�s inhabitants.

The second phase of the Mesolithic is characterized by the appearance of large quantities of large fish bones and the appearance of substantially larger quantities of obsidian from Melos as a material in the local chipped stone industry. These two developments imply that deep-sea fishing may have been done for the first time. Small, geometrically shaped tools (microliths) now characterize the chipped stone industry. There is still no pottery or architecture.

The earliest burial found at Franchthi is of a Lower Mesolithic date: a 25-year-old male was buried in a contracted position in a shallow pit near the mouth of the cave. The pit was covered with fist-sized stones but there were no burial goods. Further examination in 1989 of the human bone found throughout the cave resulted in the realization that there were five other burials throughout the cave. The bones were of different age groups, which leads to the conclusion that the inhabitants of the cave lived there on a permanent basis.

The beginning of the Neolithic Period (6000 � 5000 B.C.) at Franchthi Cave is characterized by the appearance of domesticated forms of sheep and goat, and the appearance of domesticated forms of wheat, barley and lentil. Also there was the appearance of polished stone tools and a significant increase in the number of grinding stones (for grinding grain) and sickle elements along with other edges used for cutting plants. Pottery had finally appeared in this era. The pottery of this time was dark and monochrome and mostly consisted of hole-mouthed jars and deep bowls. Judging by the size and shape of the pottery it was not used for cooking or storage but rather for display.

During this time, occupation began outside of the cave which brought the first signs of architecture, a sort of retaining wall. Blades seem to be more popular and fishhooks appear for the first time. An infant was also found buried with a clay vase, which may signify some sort of status system.

The wild oats, barley, lentils, pears and peas disappear; emmer wheat and cultivated or domesticated forms of barley and lentil occur for the first time. It is unknown whether the new plant forms were brought from elsewhere or developed locally from wild forms.

The Middle Neolithic (ca. 5000 � 4500 B.C.) is distinguished from the proceeding period by minor changes in the pottery. Potters had learned to purify their clay more thoroughly and to fire their products at higher temperatures and in larger batches, which required the stacking of vessels during the firing process with more carefully controlled conditions. There was also the use of a finer more lustrous, reddish slip or wash on the pottery. Patterns also became more linear although, 50% to 65% of the total pottery of this time still remained solid colored. For the first time, truly coarse clay pastes were used to produce pots fired at lower temperatures than the finer wares and having less carefully finished surfaces. These “course wares” seemed to function as cookware.

The Late Neolithic Period (4500 � 400 B.C.) is also distinguished by its changes in pottery. The pottery of this period is dull when compared to the lustrous paint of the previous period. The dullness is from the manganese-based paint, which has no luster and also does not vary in color when fired whereas the iron-based paints used in the previous period did. A new class of pottery appears referred to as Fine Black-burnished Ware, which was often decorated with fugitive white paint which usually survives only as a “ghost” or “negative” on the black-burnished surface.

In the chipped stone, barbed or barbed-and-tanged arrowheads appear, but are also seen as late as the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

The last period at Franchthi Cave is the Final Neolithic (ca. 4000 � 3000 B.C.) and is viewed by many scholars as no more than a later stage of the Late Neolithic. The pottery of this period is a variety of odd handle types and a preference for plastic, as opposed to painted, decoration. Small amounts of odd wares for example, red-on-white painted, crusted, dark slipped-and-burnished and pattern-burnished also occur during this period.

In chipped stone, large triangular arrowheads of flint, bifacially flaked, are characteristic. Obsidian now accounts for 95% of the chipped stone at Franchthi. For the first time at Franchthi, the buried population of this time consists both of adults and children and both female and male. In the earlier periods the adult burials appeared to be secondary while the child burials were primary.

A few odd bits of Bronze Age material suggest that the cave had been visited sporadically over the next two millennia. Finds of specialized votive material at the back of the cave show that it served some sort of cult purpose in Classical times, but never was of residence to anyone after that. Franchthi Cave was abandoned around 3000 B.C. because of the steady rise in sea level. The broad terrace below the cave on which both the settlement and the harvest fields of the Neolithic inhabitants existed are now buried.

There are some terracotta figurines found in Franchthi cave, some dating back to the early Neolithic. For a good page with lots of artifacts from Franchthi including stone tools, go to this page, I have shamelssly stolen photos from it.

Burials at Franchthi

Burials of a unknown individual. Burial of an infant, buried with half a clay vase and a marble dish.

 Burials of a middle aged woman and a 25 year old male.

Greek Y chromosomes by Dienekes.

So I have no idea what his qualifications are, but every time I chase down something he quotes I find it in a proven reliable source.. I added the pie chart. The E3b would  mostly be E3b1a, specific to the Balkan area, and E3b3, origin unknown.

Greek Y-chromosomes

The most comprehensive study of Y-chromosomal diversity in Europe thus far is Rosser et al., [1]. The human Y chromosome is passed on from father to son. One can thus study one half of a population’s ancestry (along the paternal line) by studying the Y-chromosome. Greek Y-chromosomes belong to haplogroups HG1, HG2, HG3, HG9, HG21 and HG26. None of the 35 Greek Y chromosomes are of non-Caucasoid origin.

by Dienekes Pontikos
Last Update: 1 May, 2008

A second Y-chromosome study including Greeks have also shown similar results. Helgason et al., [2] reports one HG16 sequence of North Eurasian provenance in a sample of 42 Greeks (at least 97.6% Caucasoid). To put this in perspective, eight HG16 chromosomes occur in 110 Swedes (at least 92.7% Caucasoid) and three HG16 sequences in 112 Norwegians (at least 97.3% Caucasoid) were also found. HG16 is shared by many populations ranging from Europe to Mongolia. Its origin has been placed by [7] in the Eastern range of its current geographical distribution.

A third Y-chromosome study, by Malaspina et al., [3] which included a sample of 28 continental and 83 Cretan Greeks (total sample size of 111) found no evidence of the presence of non-Caucasoid Y chromosomes in Greeks.

A fourth Y-chromosome study, by Semino et al., [4] included 76 Greeks and 20 Macedonian Greeks. One Eu6 lineage, corresponding to HG10/HG36 [5] is probably of East Asian origin. One Eu17 lineage corresponds to HG 28 which is frequent in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent [6]. In total, admixture of 2.1% is detected (if we label HG 28 as non-Caucasoid).

A fifth Y-chromosome study, by Weale et al., [8] included 132 Greek students from Athens. The same haplogroups found in [1] were detected in this study. No non-Caucasoid chromosomes were found.

The most recent and comprehensive study of Greek Y-chromosomes, by Di Giacomo et al., [9] included 154 individuals from continental Greece and 212 from Crete, Lesvos and Chios. In total, Greeks from thirteen separate locations were examined, thus giving the most complete picture of variation so far. A single haplogroup A chromosome was found (in Lesvos) which is usually found in Africa. The remainder belonged to haplogroups found in Caucasoid populations. The breakup (in percent) of the haplogroups observed) based on the set of markers typed is as follows.

P*(xR1a) R1a DE G2 I-M170 J2(DYS413= 18) J2*(xDYS413= 18) J*(xJ2) A Y*(xA,DE,G2,I,J,P)
12.8 9.8 20.2 6.6 14.8 20.2 4.9 2.7 0.3 7.7

A newer study by Semino et al. [10] has studied two samples of Greeks of size 84 and 59 (Macedonian Greeks). The focus was on two specific haplogroups E and J which are frequent in the Mediterranean region and can be used to detect population movements between Europe, Africa and the Near East. 2.4% of Greeks belong in haplogroup E-M123 and 21.4% in E-M78. Clades of E prevalent in Northern or Sub-Saharan Africa were not found. According to Cruciani et al. [11] most Greeks and other Balkan people belong to a specific cluster a within haplogroup E-M78 that is found in lower frequencies outside the Balkans and marks migrations from the Balkan area. E-M123 and its daughter haplogroup E-M34 originated in the Near East in prehistoric times. As for haplogroup J, most Greeks (22.8% Greeks/14.3% Macedonian Greeks) belong to J-M172 and its subclades which is associated with Neolithic population movements. Only 1.8%/2.2% of Macedonian Greeks/Greeks belonged to haplogroup J-M267 which could potentially (althought not certainly) reflect more recent Near Eastern admixture.

Bosch et al. [14] studied Y chromosome variation in the Balkans, including a sample of 41 Greeks. Greeks belonged to the major Caucasoid haplogroups. The identity of the K*(xP) chromosomes is not clear, but they could belong to the minor Caucasoid haplogroups K2 and L which have been previously observed in Greeks, or to other K-related lineages.

E3b1 E3b3 G I J2 K*(xP) R1a1 R1b
17.1 2.4 4.9 19.5 19.5 2.4 22.0 12.2

Firasat et al. [15] tested 77 Greeks as part of a study of the purported Greek origins of certain ethnic groups of Pakistan. The breakdown of the observed haplogroups is given in the table below. One haplogroup H2 was observed, which is more typical of South Asian populations.

E3b*(xE3b1,E3b3) E3b1 E3b3 F*(xG,H1,H2,I,J,K) G H2 I J1 J2 K*(xK2,L,NO,P) K2 R1*(xR1a1) R1a1
1.3 16.9 2.6 1.3 9.1 1.3 19.5 1.3 15.6 1.3 2.6 11.7 1 5.6

Martinez et al. [16] has studied a sample of 168 Greek men from Lasithi and Heraklion in Crete. No Sub-Saharan African influence was detected, and 2 Q chromosomes, which could conceivably be indicative of Asian influence were detected. The exact origin of these is uncertain, since no downstream markers were typed. The Y chromosome haplogroups detected in this sample are listed below (click to magnify).


King et al. [17] sampled 193 Cretans and 171 mainland Greeks from Central Macedonia near Nea Nikomedeia, Thessaly within the southeast Larissa basin and near Sesklo/Dimini and Northwest Peloponnese near Franchthi Cave and Lerna. No non-Caucasoid haplogroups were found, and the results indicate a relationship between the Cretan samples with Anatolia and the mainland Greek ones with the Balkans, with the Peloponnesian sample showing a closer affinity to Crete. The authors interpret their findings as indicative of separate sources for the Neolithization of mainland Greece and Crete. Interestingly, the age of haplogroup E-V13, the Balkan clade of haplogroup E3b makes it a candidate for being present in the Mesolithic rather than being introduced in the Neolithic. E-M81, the North African clade of E3b is found at 1.8% in Nea Nikomedeia and in Sesklo/Dimini and not in Greece, confirming the limited influence of Africa to the Greek population; its absence from Crete is inconsistent with ideas of an African origin of the Minoan civilization.

Thus, at present, in a total of eight studies, in which 1,575 Greek males were tested, one HG16, one HG28, one HG10/HG36, one H2, one haplogroup A, and two haplogroup Q chromosomes have been found, for a total of 0.44% possible non-Caucasoid contribution to the modern Greek male gene pool. Additionally, the latest studies [9, 10] with a more refined version of the Y chromosome phylogeny indicate that influences from the Near East and North Africa in historical times are unlikely (perhaps in the order of ~2%). Additionally, Y chromosome haplogroup R1a which is very frequent in Slavic populations (>50%) is found in only around 9.8% of Greeks, and is also found at comparable frequencies further East (10.8% in Iraq; Al-Zahery et al. [12]) indicating that its presence in Greece need not be associated with medieval intrusions by Slavic speakers. The emerging picture of Y chromosome variation in Greece indicates genetic continuity, with slight influences from neighboring Caucasoid regions and virtually no influence from non-Caucasoids.

Flores et al. [13] have compiled haplogroup and sub-haplogroup data from three of the afore-mentioned studies which included Greek samples [4, 9, 10]. The total sample size of this meta-analysis is 442. An error has resulted in the false inclusion of 0.2% frequency of haplogroup B which was not reported in the original sources (A.M. González, personal communication). The table of haplogroup frequencies reported in [13] is given below:

A C E3b3 E3b1 F*(xG,H,I,J,K) G I J1 J2 K2 L R1*(xR1a1) R1a1
0.2 1.3 2.0 18.6 3.4 5.9 13.6 2.5 24.5 1.1 1.1 15.4 10.2

Future studies with larger samples and more detailed founder analyses will allow us to obtain a better pictures of Y-chromosome variation in Greece, Europe and the world at large. At present, it appears that modern Europeans share many of the haplogroups, while there is also geographic structure in the distribution. With the exception of the Northeast corner of Europe, all other European populations have very small traces of extra-Caucasoid genetic input(a).