Greek Genes

15 January 2022

Gary also sent in the link… …  the Mycenaeans were real people that imposed themselves on the LB world. They are tangled up in the Homer stories and  the idea the Trojan War took place at the end of the LB era. Primarily, this is a story about genetic research in the Aegean world. Only a small proportion of Greek DNA is derived from later migrations, although no doubt they spread their own genes during the Hellenistic period. It was found that the Mycenaeans themselves were related to the Minoans of Crete and the various Aegean islands. The Minoan civilisation is usually dated from the EB to LB – and it looks like the Mycenaeans had a northern influx to their genes [possibly at the end of the EB age], but this has largely been hybridised out to just 16 per cent. The Minoans don't seem to have had this influx of newcomers, presumably from eastern Europe or the steppe. Of course, all this is known from old fashioned archaeology, as intrusive grey pottery people arriving, at various points south of the steppe zone. The DNA research came from 334 people including 30 modern Greeks. The basic DNA of the Greeks had antecedents in early farmers that arrived in Greece from SW Anatolia [modern Turkey]. In turn, they inherited DNA from farming groups further east [in earlier periods].

At… … which appears to be another misleading headline. Written sources are limited for the end of Roman power in western Europe, the so called dark age [nowadays defined in Britain as the sub-Roman phase]. However, once early Christians in monasteries began to put pen to paper, some knowledge begins to seep out. From an archaeological perspective, most of what we know is derived from graves and grave goods. Infuriatingly, once Christianity kicks in, grave goods dry up. Some of the pagan graves appear to have received post funeral attention. The article suggests that rather than grave robbers it was down to relatives seeking to restore lost heirlooms buried with ancestors. Only certain items were removed.

At … it has long been claimed that Vikings did not wear those iconic horned helmets that were repeated in pictures for many years. This has now led to some new research in order to establish when horned helmets might have been worn in Scandinavia. This piece of research claims they go back 3000 years ago – to the very beginnings of the Iron Age [further afield]. More exactly, to around 900BC. However, this is not that different from the Scandinavia of the Roman period, which was firmly Iron Age in culture deep into the first millennium AD. In other words, they still continued to make their swords and tools from bog iron [plentiful in the rivers and lakes of post-glacial Scandinavia]. The horned helmets featured go back to 900BC and were found in a Danish bog. The authors then go on to say the example was similar to horned helmets found in Sardinia, and the Mediterranean world. This, they further claim, is evidence of a trade route and the passage of ideas from the Mediterranean into the far north of Europe. This theory appears to be strangely muted as they ignore horned helmets in other parts of the world, or even horns sticking out of temples in the Middle East, horned altars of the Canaanites, and depictions of horned animals almost everywhere in the world. The problem is they are interpreted from a cultural angle – such as shamanistic practises, rather than from a physical point of view, something that was visible to a lot of people – the coma and tail of a comet, spread across the sky like a pair of horns. This sort of thing has occurred on multiple occasions and it may be that a particularly memorable passion of a large comet in the LB era played a role. After all, horned helmets are supposed to be one feature of the so called sea peoples.

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