Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in Northern Europe, the Russian Steppe and Armenia

Figure 13, Hartz paper (pdf link), showing chronology of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga.

If you're back here reading my blog, then welcome back.  (I've been busy with other things in the last six months, and wasn't able to maintain the blog, which is the reason that I turned it off.)

I noticed recently an article by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times that discusses research in David Reich's lab at Harvard.  It proposes that there was a wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" that "moved into Europe after 7,000 years ago."

Needless to say, the idea that a massive wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" arrived from Lake Baikal only starting 7,000 years ago is quite deceptive.

Thinking about the Northern European Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, it's illustrative to look at the record of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga. (See the graph on page 165 of the Hartz paper, referenced below and shown above.)

The Hamburgian-Swiderian-Epi-Gravettian technocomplex extended all the way across Northern Europe (from Scotland to the Russian Steppe).

So, to be blunt, those "Ancient North Eurasians" and "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", who, by the way, were very closely related, were probably in Europe since the Epi-Gravettian . . . and probably since the Gravettian.

Regarding Armenia, where the genetic data is showing some influence from "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", there's preliminary archaeological evidence showing that Armenia has some Epi-Gravettian influence.  (See the reference 6 on Kalavan 1, below).  In fact, there's quite a bit of ethnographic evidence that Armenians maintained diplomatic ties with the Russian Steppe into the Neolithic. The Pazyryk Carpet is a good example (References 5 and 7.)

Let's just say that the process of population exchange between the Russian Steppe, Northern Europe and even Armenia, has very likely been going on long before the Neolithic.

Update December 21st, 2014:  If you're interested in looking at how an admixture run and a PCA plot represent population movements associated with Northern Europe, feel free to have a look at the blog post I wrote up on January 6th of 2014. (Link)  (The Hamburgian is strongly associated with reindeer hunting.)

Please note that I know that many professional population geneticists and evolutionary anthropologists read this blog.  I would love to have joined you professionally in those fields.  But frankly, I'm too highly compensated as a Silicon Valley design engineer to allow me to go back to school and get a PhD in your field.  So, for now, this is an amateur endeavor.  However, do not fool yourself.  I've put thousands of hours into the research behind this blog.  If you do think that you've gained something from reading this material, please be kind enough to cite me.  There is a copyright notice at the bottom of the blog.  If I see a publication that I think uses my work without citation, I will be writing a letter to your institution and to the journal or conference publisher.

I'll comment further on the topic of Northern European genetic prehistory as more ancient DNA data is published.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday.


1.  Hartz et al., New AMS-dates for the Upper Volga Mesolithic and the origin of microblade technology in Europe (pdf link).

 2.  Riede, Felix, "The Resettlement of Northern Europe", in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers, Oxford University Press, 2014.

3.  Ballin, Torben Bjarke, "An Upper Paleolithic assemblage from Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire" (pdf link)

4.  Felix Riede blog post discussing the Hamburgian

5.  Pazyryk Carpet blog post

6.  Montoya, et. al., The Upper Palaeolithic site of Kalavan 1 (Armenia): An Epigravettian settlement in the Lesser Caucasus (link)

7.  Schurmann, Ulrich, The Pazyryk:  a 2500 year old knotted rug found in an ice grave in the Altai, It's User and Origin (link)

8.  This blog (Marnie Dunsmore), Mesolithic Western European Hunter Gatherers Partly Descended from Upper Paleolithic Reindeer Hunters (link)

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