» Home > In the News

Beaker chaps and all that

17 February 2014

There is an interesting article at the Daily Mail Online. It is featured  elsewhere but there are some nice images on the newspaper web site – and the link was sent in by Clark Whelton. He asked if the changes had anything to do with Julian Jaynes theory of the bicameral mind. This appears unlikely as it is genetics being referred to – a distinct modulation of the genetic signature of Europeans. However, the paper, and other sources, appear to overegg the pudding and more or less claim one lot of Europeans died out and another group took their place – which is clearly not what the research is suggesting. Go to www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2313677/Why-did-European-DNA-sud…

  Well, actually it was the makers of these pots that hold the key – but it is difficult to unravel. These are Beaker pots, a very distinctive pottery type that spread around western and central Europe with a possible origin in Iberia. They turn up at Stonehenge around 2500BC.

This story has already been reported on In the News a week or so ago – but here we come from a different direction. A team of Australian researchers analysed skeletal material from central Euope (including Germany) and they found evidence of a change in the DNA towards the end of the thrid millennium BC. They blamed this on the rapid expansion of the Beaker folk, an archaeological oddity known for many years (going back to the days when pottery style ruled the roost when it came to dating sites). In those days the idea of diffusion was rife – and migrations were accepted. In recent years, archaeologists were and are not so keen to point a finger at Beaker pots and say – migrating people. Now, they won't be able to do otherwise – the DNA modification seems to hint very strongly that a new people had arrived on the scene.

An article in an early SIS publication proffered the theory that bell beakers represent, not so much the movement of people but the movement of a new belief system, or cult. It was suggested it had something to do with catastrophism, which was a novel idea at the time as certain cult objects are associated with Beakers.

Mind you, the period from 2500 to 2000BC witnessed some very long migrations of people, especially by those who had domesticated the horse. A difference in DNA in central Europe may reflect a migration of people from the steppe, for example, although it is suggested that it was people from Iberia, the proto Celts, that had been set in motion. No mention of the DNA of skeletal material of Iberians is made – so this is a hypothesis yet to gain traction, whilst we do know that people with an origin in the steppes, or even in Europe, turned up in the Near East (the Gutians for example). In the Daily Mail piece the Beaker people are described as warlike, brandishing weapons and enslaving the natives – and passing on their genes in the process. All very predictable – but is it true? The Beakers appear contemporary with the use of metals in Europe, especially bronze and gold. In other words, metal starts to appear in archaeological contexts, and is obviously a major item of trade with a focus in central Europe. It turns up near Stonehenge around 2500BC, including in contexts associated with Beakers. Analysis of the Amesbury Archer burial indicates he grew up somewhere in central Europe, possibly near the Alps. Therefore migration was a common occurrence – although we don't know why the Amesbury Archer came to the Stonehenge locale. What his motivations were. It is too easy to point a finger at the Wessex Culture and say – newcomers lording it over the earlier farming communities. Great changes in farming and settlement patterns occurred after 2000BC – but this period, as noted yesterday, coincides with the Nordic Warm Period when grapes were being grown in what is now southern Sweden. It was a climate agreeable to the growing of arable crops, and an expansion of population and field systems. The density of people must have increased considerably during what is known as the Early and Middle Bronze Ages (in Britain) and thus archaeologists regularly turn up evidence of them when digging their holes in the ground.

However, it is 2500BC and the remainder of the 3rd millennium that are interesting in a catastrophic perspective. This is when Stonehenge and other major monuments were being erected all over Europe – and the wider world. In a succession of SIS Review journals Moe Mandelkehr laid out his hypothesis of a major event at around 2300BC, involving a massive meteoric encounter that plunged the world into a colder phase of climate, changing the weather in Europe (wet and cold) and in Egypt, the Near and Middle East (dry as a result of a shift in the monsoon rain belt). It coincides with the First Intermediate in Egypt, the fall of the Sumerians, and a bit later, the Akkadians (newcomers from Syria), and the destruction event that razed cities and towns in a great swathe of the Levant, Anatolia, and the Mediterranean basin. A huge tsunami wave overcame the temple building culture people of Malta – and they disappeared from history (and so on). Part of the Mandelkehr thesis was that these events set in motion large movements of people, all around the world, from Eskimos on the rim of Canada to horse riding tribes on the steppe. Some of these moved to the borders of China, and archaaeologists have teased out evidence another group even reached SE Asia. One movement that has been caught by archaeologists is a long ride from central Asia below the tree line, penetrating as far as the Urals and beyond. Hence, we can see there is nothing odd in this study and a modification of European DNA around 2300BC fits the game plan as laid out in the pages of SIS journals (and back copies are available, or even individual articles, photo copied). 




Skip to content