Impressed Ware

270px-Cardial_map 6400-

The question is, where did Europeans come from?  There have been a number of hypotheses, ranging from in-situ evolution from Neanderthal ancestors (mostly not),  directly from the earlier modern human settlers, from Near Eastern  farmers, from Indo-European steppe horsemen…   and from some of the above, or all of the above.  Or something stranger than we have imagined, or perhaps can imagine.

Looks complicated. So let me talk about one strand in the tapestry: the Impressed Ware Culture, characterized by a distinctive kind of pottery whose surfaces were decorated with zoned patterns before firing, often by the  shell of the Mediterranean cockle, Cardium.

These people had pottery and polished stone tools,  cultivated wheat, barley, and legumes, raised sheep, goats, cattle and pigs.  They were the first farmers along most of Europe’s Mediterranean coast.

These artifacts show up first in Epirus and Corfu, around 6400-6200 BC.  From there, they spread rapidly around the Adriatic, to Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia, Provence, Catalonia, and the Atlantic coast of Portugal.  Expansion from Greece to Portugal took little more than 500 years.

Almost all of the males in these cultures  had  G2a Y-chromosomes haplotypes.  Today G2a is much rarer: you tend to find it in mountainous regions, and in Mediterranean islands such as Sardinia and Corsica.  It seems that Sardinians are the closest extant  population.  Ötzi’s (the famous frozen guy) Y chromosome  fell into this category ( G2a2b), and his autosomal genes were close to modern Sardinians, although a bit more different from other Europeans than current Sardinians.

There is a genetic component, probably West Asian, that is found generally in Europeans, but not in Sardinians or Basques. It seems likely that this component is something that arrived later than the original farmers of Mediterranean Europe.  Sardinians and Basques look like a mixture of two populations, one from the Middle East ( the Middle East of the past, not exactly like the Middle East today) and a generic European component that may come from the earlier hunter-gatherers of Europe – although there are problems with that explanation , too: it’s hard to make the mtDNA data fit.

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34 Responses to Impressed Ware

  1. Is this genetic component also present in Lapps, or in Sumerian remains? Neither Lapps nor Sumerians were/are Indo-European.

  2. Ilya says:

    I, too, was about to ask about the link of “Middle Eastern” component to Sumerians. Are there any relatively pure DNA samples to compare against?

  3. d0jistar says:

    Beat me to it, linguistically, isn’t Basque the only extant pre-Indo-European language? The Celtic-type people eventually overran everything except central and southern Italy/Greece/Germany/Scandinavia, right? Maybe Germany also, and just displaced later by the Germanic peoples (I’m not sure about that)? I know Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian aren’t Indo-European, but I think they’re more post-Indo European brought by later horse peoples (like, duh, Huns). I did not know Sardinians were similar to Basques.

    I have a decent chunk of Basque ancestry, inherited some good recipes and perhaps a latent desire to live isolated and heavily armed in the mountains.

    • Ilya says:

      Finns/Estonians are autochthonic groups. I.e. they’re closer to the Neolithic hunter-gatherer groups (pre-Indo-Europeans), and their languages (Finno-Ugrian) reflect that. I’ve also read somewhere that Finns (and, possibly, non-Russian Estonians) contain the largest percentages of people with blond hair in the world.
      Hungarians are a different story. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. says:

    There is no reason to believe that the Huns had any strong relation to the Magyars. The most popular view seems to be that the Hunnish language was Altaic but there is little known about their

    One group of the Sea Peoples were called the Shardana. They were supposed to have migrated to Sardinia and given their name to that island. As with all the Sea Peoples their origins are totally obscure.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Sardinia has a unique history and is an archeological wonderland. We know it was densely populated in the 1800 to 1200 BC time frame because of the 8000 Nuraghe (they look like castles from the middle ages) built in this time frame and still standing on the island. We can assume there was little migration to Sardinia after the population pulse from the first farmers because their modern day genes show very little mixture after that period. It is likely that drought around 1200 BC caused the Shardana to leave Sardinia and ravage the Mediterranean world as Viking style raiders. As you say they were one group of the Sea peoples. Once the Phoenicians brought malaria to Sardinia the population collapsed and it was only in the 1950′s that malaria was brought back under control in the lowlands of Sardinia. Nobody wanted to migrate to Sardinia because of malaria in the lowlands and life was hard in the mountains. That is why Sardinia so perfectly preserves the first farmer genetics.

  5. says:

    Elijah – Why do you link Lapps and Sumerians? Other than the fact that neither are Indo-European what do they have in common?

    • That’s all I need. If this common genetic strain is West Asian, it likely comes from the Proto Indo-Europeans – who do NOT compose the ancestry of Lapps or Sumerians. Hence it would not be present in either group.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m not convinced that ruling out Lapps and Sumerians as the source of this West Asian component just leaves Indo-Europeans as the only other possibility.

  7. Matt says:

    On the origins of West Asian, for levels of ADMIXTURE where Sardinians and the Basques show as mixtures of components most common in the Middle East / the Mediterranean and Europe, and a separate West Asian component is present in Europeans and other West Eurasians, the West Asian component tends to be at least slightly more similar by fst distance to the components most common in Europe and particularly in Northeastern Europe, rather than components most common in the Middle East (the Mahgreb, Fertile Crescent, Arabian Peninsula). In a dendrogram West Asian diverges later from the European components than from the Middle East / Mediterranean component.

  8. HLA haplotypes are informative. Basques and Sardinians share the highest European frequencies of paleo-North African/West African A30-B18 haplotype:
    While Basques have highest European frequency of Paleo-North African/West African A29-B44 haplotype:*16#A29-Cw.2A16-B44
    Note that both of these haplotypes likely arrived into Europe not earlier than the Neolithic due to their lack of equilibration relative to other common European HLA haplotypes. And that neither of these haplotypes is found in the Middle East/Near East [at least not as far as I can tell]:

  9. dave chamberlin says:

    We need a billionaire to fund the building of the Black Sea Super Duper Shipper Scooper. The floor of the Black Sea is a maritime museum preserving every boat and the cargo within it that sunk into its depths thanks to the lack of oxygen below the surface waters.
    Using the principle of the super duper pooper scooper that picks up your pooch’s poop this would just be two claws that drop open down to the black sea floor and are large enough to scoop under the entire ship and bring it up and to shore for slow and careful archeological examination. It would have to be huge, quite a bit larger than boats of that period so that it could scoop up the entire boat with as little disturbance as possible. I’ll let engineer types argue over the particulars of the custom boat that could support such a contraption and how it could be designed for minimal disturbance of the contents. Quite sadly for us history buffs time does an amazingly good job of erasing our past except in a few oddball places like the bottom of the Black Sea.

    Now come on Mr. Billionaire, we know there are plenty of you out there, set up a minimal trust fund for your spoiled children and your tiresome trophy wife and put your name on a project that will greatly add to European history.

  10. Jim says:

    Call Ron Unz.

  11. Jim says:

    Maybe that’s enough.

  12. TWS says:

    Is there a breakdown of Neandertal ancestery by population? I’ve always been suspicious of those hairy Swedes.

  13. kingofmen says:

    > Almost all of the males in these cultures had G2a Y-chromosomes haplotypes.

    Wait wait, how do you know that?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Ancient Y-DNA: of those thirty-some individuals sequenced, (in Languedoc, Catalonia, and Otzi in Italy) about 90% were G2a

      • kingofmen says:

        Thirty individuals is not a very high sampling rate for such a large area, especially if any of them are clustered. Were they all found separately? Do they cover the impressed-ware area reasonably evenly? You only mention two sites plus Otzi, but the orange in the map covers Italy; if you don’t have samples from Italy, then for all you know all the Italian impressed-ware types had a different variant.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Want to bet? Look, we know the rough chronology and geography of this expansion. Impressed ware settlements gave birth to new settlements. From what we know, settlers would have been smallish in number, and likely male-dominated. That’s a recipe for decreasing genetic variation, especially on the Y-chromosome, where the effective population is automatically four times smaller. Extrapolate that and you get very little Y-chromosome variation.

        But we’ll see.

  14. Jim says:

    Dave – Interesting about the Shardana having come from Sardinia rather than going there as I had read was the traditional view.

  15. Greying Wanderer says:

    Oxen were originally primaritly used as draft animals in the neolithic and yet by Celtic times cattle were pre-eminent. If you add European lactose tolerance into the mix then it seems to me that clearly points to a dramatic shift in food-getting at some point between those two times.

    A plausible explanation for that might be the crop-centric cardium first farmers from the middle-east spreading along the coasts and rivers into Europe during the climate optimum

    but as that ended a change in food-getting methods became neccessary in central and northern Europe and that led to a rebound from populations that had developed a more cattle-centric food-getting package. The cowboys then over-ran the first farmers in a Euro version of the Bantu expansion.

    The question then would be where did the rebound population come from or if maybe there was more than one direction i.e. maybe more than one out of of Iberian, Western, Northwestern or Northeastern?

    • free thinker says:

      It wasn’t a rebound population but a new wave of immigration–the Indo-Europeans.
      They came originally from the Eurasian Steppe. Some of them probably came during the Bronze Age, bringing their cattle-centric economy and the gene for lactase persistence with them. There was a larger migration during the Iron Age which is pretty well documented in the archeological record. By the time this latter group got to Central Europe, they had given up pastoralism in favor of mixed farming and were using draft oxen and iron axes to clear the heavy oak forests that covered the flood plains of major rivers. Earlier Neolithic immigrants had tended to avoid such areas because of the difficulty of felling such large trees with stone implements. It was a gargantuan task, but once accomplished, it left the Indo-Europeans in possession of the most fertile farmland in Europe, and their numbers increased accordingly. Southern Europeans are still largely descended from Neolithic immigrants. Northern Europeans are mostly Indo-European, but there seems to be some paleolithic ancestry among them as well.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “It wasn’t a rebound population but a new wave of immigration–the Indo-Europeans.”

        I think there was more than one coming from more than one direction.

  16. diana says:

    So what the hell happened to those cave-painting hunter gatherers who forged into Europe 45K years ago? Just died off? That would make them as dead as the Neandertals, and actually less successful in terms of sustainability.

    • reiner Tor says:

      I think there was admixture with later immigrants.

      RE sustainability, they were probably not any less (or more) sustainable, but had to cope with increasingly sophisticated (and populous) waves of immigrants/colonizers/conquerors, and they weren’t completely exterminated either. So they were probably still stronger than the Neanderthals – if their extermination/driving out of the latter wouldn’t be sufficient evidence in itself.

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