Tag Archives: Natufians

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.

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.

Ancient Natufian farmers in Syria, at Abu Hureyra

The first farmers grew wheat and rye 13,000 years ago in Syria and were forced into cultivating crops by a terrible drought, according to UK archaeologists.

Professor Gordon Hillman, at University College London, has spent over 20 years investigating the remains of ancient food plants at a unique site at Abu Hureyra, in the middle Euphrates.

“Nowhere else has an unbroken sequence of archaeological evidence stretching from hunter-gatherer times to full-blown farming,” he told BBC News Online.


The evidence for cultivated crops comes from seeds carefully sifted from the material excavated at Abu Hureyra. These had survived because they had been accidentally charred in domestic fires before eventually becoming buried. 

Farming crisis: drought drove the hunter-gatherers into cultivation
Many years of ecological field work assessing present day vegetation was also necessary to provide a basis for interpreting the material found.

“What we expected to find from the hunter-gatherer levels at the site was lots of wild cereals. These are characteristically very skinny and we found plenty of them,” explains Professor Hillman.

“But then, at higher and later levels, we found things that did not belong there. There were these whacking, great fat seeds, characteristic of cultivation.”

The cultivated seeds found at Abu Hureyra are the oldest yet found.

Grindstone from about 9500-9000 BC
Excavated at Abu Hureyra, northern Syria.

A dry death

Professor Hillman and his team found that, as they looked through the archaeological record, the wild seed varieties gathered as food gradually vanished, before the cultivated varieties appeared. Those wild seeds most dependent on water were the first to die out, followed one by one by the more hardy ones.

This was a clue to why the hunter-gatherer people turned to cultivating some of the foods they had previously collected from the wild, and prompted Professor Hillman to look at independent climate records for the period.

What he found was evidence for a terrible drought: “It was very sharp and would certainly have been felt within a human lifetime, perhaps even in the space of 10 or so years.”

Geologist call this period the Younger Dryas, a 1000-year spell of cold and dry weather with interrupted the planet’s gradual warming from the last ice age. 
The land had to be cleared before planting
Professor Hillman’s team suggest that as the wild grasses and seeds that the people relied on for food died out, they were forced to start cultivating the most easily-grown of them in order to survive.

Professor David Harris, also at UCL, said: “There came a point when this community had no option – they were stuck with agriculture.”

The archaeologists found no evidence that the irrigation was used to grow the first crops as the drought set it. Professor Hillman explains: “What they did was to take seed of the wild cereals from higher areas to the West, and sowed it close to Abu Hureyra in areas such as breaks in slope, where soil moisture was greatly enhanced naturally.”

“Wild stands of these cereals could not have continued to grow unaided in such locations because they would have been out-competed by dryland scrub. Therefore, these first cultivators had to clear the competing vegetation.”

Abu Hurerya, now under lake Assad, near the Turkish border in Syria.

These articles always ignore that the Koreans were farming rice about 15,000 years ago!

There does seem to be some dispute over the age of these grains, as the 12,700 BP date is so much older than the other grain domesticates and this doesn’t seem to have a sensible place in the chronology of the evolution of the Neolithic, it’s possible the dates are wrong (it happens) or that they were just an usually fat bunch of seeds. Also against this is that the Natufians generally show no other signs of agriculture at this era, and that the expanding Neolithic farmers who definitely were growing grain don’t show any cranial similarity to the Natufians.  And there’s the issue that Abu Hurerya is debatable as a Natufian site….

Also against this being agriculture is that the grain in question, rye, really doesn’t feature in the Neolithic expansion as a founder crop. So, hmmm. Reserving judgement here.

Abu Hureryae

Abu Hurerya  link 2

Abu Hurerya link 3

New evidence of Lateglacial cereal cultivation at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates

Just a Pdf I don’t want to loose…

F-81 Skeleton from Wadi Mataha, Jordan, and its Bearing on Human Variability in the Epipaleolithic of the Levant

ABSTRACT The discovery of a Middle Epipaleolithic adult skeleton (F-81) at the site of Wadi Mataha in southern Jordan provides new insights into human variability in the Epipaleolithic of the Levant. This paper analyzes the skeletal morphology of Wadi Mataha F-81 in the context of other Epipaleolithic remains from Jordan and Israel to assess the current evidence for morphological variability throughout this period.

The F-81 skeleton shares morphological features with earlier Epipaleolithic skeletons from Ohalo and Nahal Ein Gev, and later Natufian populations. Despite the morphological similarities, F-81 extends the range of known variability prior to the Natufian with its unusually small stature and unique combination of morphological characteristics. High levels of cranial and postcranial robusticity suggest that the F-81 individual was physically active and terrestrially mobile. Pronounced bilateral asymmetry in the upper limb suggests significant lateralization of habitual activity. In the context of Epipaleolithic remains, the F-81 skeleton provides preliminary evidence for greater morphological variability, terrestrial mobility, and lateralized habitual behavior prior to the Natufian, and skeletal gracilization between the Middle and Late Epipaleolithic in the Levant. Am J Phys Anthropol 128:453–465, 2005.


The Natufians.

The Natufians were one of the earliest agriculturalists. The jury is still out on who holds the title for ‘the first farmers’ as the East Asians are also looking good for it, but Turkey and the Zagros region is more likely to be the home of western agriculture, not Israel or Syria.  It’s rather telling that the very earliest Natufian agricultural sites are right on the edges of their territory (Abu Hureyra) and growing a more Northerly crop (ry. They gathered wild grains for a long time after farming was introduced. They seem to share some cultural ties to the Turkish culture of the time, such as removing and decorating skulls, and burying their dead inside their houses. They also have the habit of incisor evulsion shared with the Ibero Maurussian Culture of Morocco. Interestingly, their genetic legacy in the near East seems to be a male contribution (v13), but no L Mt Lineages came out of Africa to accompany it.

There has been some bickering over their race, as they show a mix of features. Unfortunately there haven’t been that many burials found, so the sample sizes have been a bit to small to make definite conclusions about who they were. They seem to show a mix of racial features, and this varies in each era and site, so there was probably a fairly fluid population at that time. Loring Brace’s paper that measured them said they were slightly closer to to the Eurasian population, and all the Sub Saharan traits seem to vanish before the beginning of the Neolithic farming era.

Brace on the Natufians..

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

In that run, the Natufian of Israel ties to the French Mesolithic and then to the Afalou/Taforalt sample from North Africa

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

The second quote suggesting a closer relationship to Eurasian population than African, and the final that the Natufians were overcome by the expansing Neiolthic farming revolution, and not it’s source.

Another sources on the Natufians;

Analysis of morphological variability in the Near East and Europe (here and in Pinhasi 2003) suggests that the Epipalaeolithic populations from the Natufian Levant were noticeably different to the Mesolithic populations described from the Danube Gorge, the western Mediterranean, and central Europe. No close similarities were observed between Early Neolithic and Mesolithic European groups in any of the regions studied, with the possible exception of Mediterranean Europe. However, neither were clear affinities observed between Epipalaeolithic Near Eastern groups and any other Neolithic or Mesolithic groups.

Essentially, from other reading the neolithic expansion seems to have happened into Europre from the Catal Hoyuk area, and most likely from the Zagros area of Iran, which would seem to be the Tarzian culture, who are in the correct time and place to have domesticated sheep, goats, cattle and barley. It’s more likley that the Tarzian culture expanded into the Natufian area bringing agriculture with them.


Necklace picture by courtesy of Pictures of Record, Inc.

The first picture has a puppy  found buried with an elderly woman in this grave. Beside it is a necklace found at a Natufian burial at El Wad.

They liked to make animal figurines, like this pig carved out of limestone.

Animal figure in carved limestone found in the Judean desert and dated at 10,500-8,300 bce.  From the Natufian culture which ranged from Southern Turkey to Sinai.

The Natufian culture is the name given to the sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the Levant region of the near east between about 12,500 and 10,200 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers, foraging for food such as emmer wheat, barley and almonds, and hunting gazelle, deer, cattle, horse, and wild boar.

For at least part of the year, Natufian people lived in communities, some quite large, of semi-subterranean houses. These semi-circular one room structures were excavated partly into the soil and built of stone, wood and perhaps brush roofs. The largest Natufian communities (called ‘base camps’) found to date include Jericho, Ain Mallaha, and Wadi Hammeh 27. Smaller, short-range dry season foraging camps may have been part of the settlement pattern, although evidence for them is scarce.

The Natufians were hunter-gatherers, and they located their settlements at the boundaries between coastal plains and hill country, to maximize their access to a wide variety of food. They buried their dead in cemeteries, with grave goods including stone bowls and dentalium shell.
Natufian Artifacts
Artifacts found at Natufian sites include grinding stones, used to process seeds, dried meats and fish for planned meals, and ochre for likely ritual practices. Flint and bone tools, and dentalium shell ornaments are also part of the Natufian assemblage. Specific tools created for harvesting various crops are a hallmark of Natufian assemblages, such as stone sickles. Large middens are known at Natufian sites, located where they were created (rather than secondary refuse pits). Dealing with refuse is one defining characteristics of the descendants of the Natufians, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

Some scarce evidence indicates that the Natufian people may have cultivated barley and wheat. The line between horticulture (tending wild stands of crops) and agriculture (planting specific stands) is a fuzzy one. Most scholars believe that it was not a one-time decision, but rather a series of experiments that may well have taken place during the Natufian or other hunter-gatherer subsistence regimes.

The direct descendants of the Natufian (known as the pre-pottery Neolithic or PPN) were among the earliest farmers on the planet.
Natufian Archaeological Sites
Important Natufian sites include Mt. Carmel, Ain Mallaha (Eynan), Hayonim Cave, Wadi Hammeh, Nahal Oren, Rosh Zin, Rosh Horesha, Wadi Judayid, Beidha, Jericho, and Skhul Cave, Abu Hureyra