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Concept: Iron Age


The relative chronology of the Aegean Iron Age is robust. It is based on minute stylistic changes in the Submycenaean, Protogeometric and Geometric styles and their sub-phases. Yet, the absolute chronology of the time-span between the final stages of Late Helladic IIIC in the late second millennium BCE and the archaic colonization of Italy and Sicily toward the end of the 8(th) century BCE lacks archaeological contexts that can be directly related to events carrying absolute dates mentioned in Egyptian/Near Eastern historical sources, or to well-dated Egyptian/Near Eastern rulers. The small number of radiocarbon dates available for this time span is not sufficient to establish an absolute chronological sequence. Here we present a new set of short-lived radiocarbon dates from the sites of Lefkandi, Kalapodi and Corinth in Greece. We focus on the crucial transition from the Submycenaean to the Protogeometric periods. This transition is placed in the late 11(th) century BCE according to the Conventional Aegean Chronology and in the late 12(th) century BCE according to the High Aegean Chronology. Our results place it in the second half of the 11(th) century BCE.

Concepts: Time, Chronology, Iron Age, Mycenaean Greece, History of Greece, 2nd millennium BC, Helladic period, Mycenae


Fifty-nine dental non-metric traits were scored using Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System on a sample of teeth from 350 human skeletons excavated at three sites in the lower middle Euphrates valley. The dataset was divided into six chronological subsets: Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Early Iron Age with Neo-Assyrian period, Classical/Late Antiquity, Early Islamic (Umayyad and Abbasid) period and Modern period. The matrix of Mean Measure of Divergence values exhibited temporal homogeneity of the sample with only dental non-metric trait scores in the Modern subset differing significantly from most other subsets. Such a result suggests that no major gene flow occurred in the middle Euphrates valley between the 3rd millennium BCE and the early 2nd millennium CE. Only after the Mongolian invasion and large depopulation of northern Mesopotamia in the 13th century CE a major population change occurred when the area was taken over in the 17th century by Bedouin tribes from the Arabian Peninsula.

Concepts: Bronze, Iraq, Bronze Age, Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, Tumulus, Ancient Near East


Present day lead pollution is an environmental hazard of global proportions. A correct determination of natural lead levels is very important in order to evaluate anthropogenic lead contributions. In this paper, the anthropogenic signature of early metallurgy in Southern Iberia during the Holocene, more specifically during the Late Prehistory, was assessed by mean of a multiproxy approach: comparison of atmospheric lead pollution, fire regimes, deforestation, mass sediment transport, and archeological data. Although the onset of metallurgy in Southern Iberia is a matter of controversy, here we show the oldest lead pollution record from Western Europe in a continuous paleoenvironmental sequence, which suggests clear lead pollution caused by metallurgical activities since ~3900cal BP (Early Bronze Age). This lead pollution was especially important during Late Bronze and Early Iron ages. At the same time, since ~4000cal BP, an increase in fire activity is observed in this area, which is also coupled with deforestation and increased erosion rates. This study also shows that the lead pollution record locally reached near present-day values many times in the past, suggesting intensive use and manipulation of lead during those periods in this area.

Concepts: Copper, Erosion, Tin, Neolithic, Prehistory, Bronze Age, Smelting, Iron Age


Near Eastern wild boars possess a characteristic DNA signature. Unexpectedly, wild boars from Israel have the DNA sequences of European wild boars and domestic pigs. To understand how this anomaly evolved, we sequenced DNA from ancient and modern pigs from Israel. Pigs from Late Bronze Age (until ca. 1150 BCE) in Israel shared haplotypes of modern and ancient Near Eastern pigs. European haplotypes became dominant only during the Iron Age (ca. 900 BCE). This raises the possibility that European pigs were brought to the region by the Sea Peoples who migrated to the Levant at that time. Then, a complete genetic turnover took place, most likely because of repeated admixture between local and introduced European domestic pigs that went feral. Severe population bottlenecks likely accelerated this process. Introductions by humans have strongly affected the phylogeography of wild animals, and interpretations of phylogeography based on modern DNA alone should be taken with caution.

Concepts: Wild boar, Ancient Egypt, Western Asia, Bronze Age, Levant, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, Ancient Near East


British population history has been shaped by a series of immigrations, including the early Anglo-Saxon migrations after 400 CE. It remains an open question how these events affected the genetic composition of the current British population. Here, we present whole-genome sequences from 10 individuals excavated close to Cambridge in the East of England, ranging from the late Iron Age to the middle Anglo-Saxon period. By analysing shared rare variants with hundreds of modern samples from Britain and Europe, we estimate that on average the contemporary East English population derives 38% of its ancestry from Anglo-Saxon migrations. We gain further insight with a new method, rarecoal, which infers population history and identifies fine-scale genetic ancestry from rare variants. Using rarecoal we find that the Anglo-Saxon samples are closely related to modern Dutch and Danish populations, while the Iron Age samples share ancestors with multiple Northern European populations including Britain.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Europe, Immigration, Germany, English language, Great Britain, English people, Iron Age


Scholars have for generations recognized the importance of wine production, distribution, and consumption in relation to second millennium BC palatial complexes in the Mediterranean and Near East. However, direct archaeological evidence has rarely been offered, despite the prominence of ancient viticulture in administrative clay tablets, visual media, and various forms of documentation. Tartaric and syringic acids, along with evidence for resination, have been identified in ancient ceramics, but until now the archaeological contexts behind these sporadic discoveries had been uneven and vague, precluding definitive conclusions about the nature of ancient viticulture. The situation has now changed. During the 2013 excavation season of the Kabri Archaeological Project, a rare opportunity materialized when forty large storage vessels were found in situ in an enclosed room located to the west of the central courtyard within the Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palace. A comprehensive program of organic residue analysis has now revealed that all of the relatively uniform jars contain evidence for wine. Furthermore, the enclosed context inherent to a singular intact wine cellar presented an unprecedented opportunity for a scientifically intensive study, allowing for the detection of subtle differences in the ingredients or additives within similar wine jars of apparently the same vintage. Additives seem to have included honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper, and perhaps even mint, myrtle, or cinnamon, all or most of which are attested in the 18th century BC Mari texts from Mesopotamia and the 15th century BC Ebers Papyrus from Egypt. These additives suggest a sophisticated understanding of the botanical landscape and the pharmacopeic skills necessary to produce a complex beverage that balanced preservation, palatability, and psychoactivity. This new study has resulted in insights unachievable in the past, which contribute to a greater understanding not only of ancient viticulture but also of Canaanite palatial economy.

Concepts: Tin, Wine, Ancient Egypt, Minoan civilization, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, 2nd millennium BC, Canaan


The Great Hungarian Plain was a crossroads of cultural transformations that have shaped European prehistory. Here we analyse a 5,000-year transect of human genomes, sampled from petrous bones giving consistently excellent endogenous DNA yields, from 13 Hungarian Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron Age burials including two to high (~22 × ) and seven to ~1 × coverage, to investigate the impact of these on Europe’s genetic landscape. These data suggest genomic shifts with the advent of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, with interleaved periods of genome stability. The earliest Neolithic context genome shows a European hunter-gatherer genetic signature and a restricted ancestral population size, suggesting direct contact between cultures after the arrival of the first farmers into Europe. The latest, Iron Age, sample reveals an eastern genomic influence concordant with introduced Steppe burial rites. We observe transition towards lighter pigmentation and surprisingly, no Neolithic presence of lactase persistence.

Concepts: Gene, Human Genome Project, Europe, Stone Age, Hungary, Bronze Age, Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures, Iron Age


Early human societies and their interactions with the natural world have been extensively explored in palaeoenvironmental studies across Central and Western Europe. Yet, despite an extensive body of scholarship, there is little consideration of the environmental impacts of proto-historic urbanisation. Typically palaeoenvironmental studies of Bronze and Iron Age societies discuss human impact in terms of woodland clearance, landscape openness and evidence for agriculture. Although these features are clearly key indicators of human settlement, and characterise Neolithic and early to Middle Bronze Age impacts at Corent, they do not appear to represent defining features of a protohistoric urban environment. The Late Iron Age Gallic Oppidum of Corent is remarkable for the paucity of evidence for agriculture and strong representation of apophytes associated with disturbance. Increased floristic diversity - a phenomenon also observed in more recent urban environments - was also noted. The same, although somewhat more pronounced, patterns are noted for the Late Bronze Age and hint at the possibility of a nascent urban area. High percentages of pollen from non-native trees such as Platanus, Castanea and Juglans in the late Bronze Age and Gallic period also suggest trade and cultural exchange, notably with the Mediterranean world. Indeed, these findings question the validity of applying Castanea and Juglans as absolute chronological markers of Romanisation. These results clearly indicate the value of local-scale palaeoecological studies and their potential for tracing the phases in the emergence of a proto-historic urban environment.

Concepts: Bronze, Prehistory, Bronze Age, Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures, Mesopotamia, Iron Age, Tumulus, Three-age system


Central Africa includes the world’s second largest rainforest block. The ecology of the region remains poorly understood, as does its vegetation and archaeological history. However, over the past 20 years, multidisciplinary scientific programmes have enhanced knowledge of old human presence and palaeoenvironments in the forestry block of Central Africa. This first regional synthesis documents significant cultural changes over the past five millennia and describes how they are linked to climate. It is now well documented that climatic conditions in the African tropics underwent significant changes throughout this period and here we demonstrate that corresponding shifts in human demography have had a strong influence on the forests. The most influential event was the decline of the strong African monsoon in the Late Holocene, resulting in serious disturbance of the forest block around 3500 BP. During the same period, populations from the north settled in the forest zone; they mastered new technologies such as pottery and fabrication of polished stone tools, and seem to have practised agriculture. The opening up of forests from 2500 BP favoured the arrival of metallurgist populations that impacted the forest. During this long period (2500-1400 BP), a remarkable increase of archaeological sites is an indication of a demographic explosion of metallurgist populations. Paradoxically, we have found evidence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) cultivation in the forest around 2200 BP, implying a more arid context. While Early Iron Age sites (prior to 1400 BP) and recent pre-colonial sites (two to eight centuries BP) are abundant, the period between 1600 and 1000 BP is characterized by a sharp decrease in human settlements, with a population crash between 1300 and 1000 BP over a large part of Central Africa. It is only in the eleventh century that new populations of metallurgists settled into the forest block. In this paper, we analyse the spatial and temporal distribution of 328 archaeological sites that have been reliably radiocarbon dated. The results allow us to piece together changes in the relationships between human populations and the environments in which they lived. On this basis, we discuss interactions between humans, climate and vegetation during the past five millennia and the implications of the absence of people from the landscape over three centuries. We go on to discuss modern vegetation patterns and African forest conservation in the light of these events.

Concepts: Africa, Demography, Climate, Climate change, Democratic Republic of the Congo, World population, Archaeology, Iron Age


La Hoya (Alava, Basque Country) was one of the most important villages of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages of the north of the Iberian Peninsula, until it was violently devastated around the 4th century and abandoned in the 3rd century B.C. Archaeological evidences suggest that descendants from La Hoya placed their new settlement in a nearby hill, which gave rise to the current village of Laguardia. In this study, we have traced the genetic imprints of the extinct inhabitants of La Hoya through the analysis of maternal lineages. In particular, we have analyzed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region of 41 human remains recovered from the archaeological site for comparison with a sample of 51 individuals from the geographically close present-day population of Laguardia, as well as 56 individuals of the general population of the province of Alava, where the archaeological site and Laguardia village are located. MtDNA haplotypes were successfully obtained in 25 out of 41 ancient samples, and 14 different haplotypes were identified. The major mtDNA subhaplogroups observed in La Hoya were H1, H3, J1 and U5, which show a distinctive frequency pattern in the autochthonous populations of the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Approximate Bayesian Computation analysis was performed to test the most likely model for the local demographic history. The results did not sustain a genealogical continuity between Laguardia and La Hoya at the haplotype level, although factors such as sampling effects, recent admixture events, and genetic bottlenecks need to be considered. Likewise, the highly similar subhaplogroup composition detected between La Hoya and Laguardia and Alava populations do not allow us to reject a maternal genetic continuity in the human groups of the area since at least the Iron Age to present times. Broader analyses, based on a larger collection of samples and genetic markers, would be required to study fine-scale population events in these human groups.

Concepts: DNA, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial DNA, Spain, Archaeology, Bronze Age, Haplogroup, Iron Age